The Feminist Mystique

“Are you a feminist?” These four tiny words often leave a sour taste in my mouth. Not because I don’t know my answer, but because usually I find this question masks a million other loaded questions. Questions designed to drum up heated responses. To create “sides.”

After all, the definition of feminism [and feminist] can very greatly on who you are talking to.

If you ask 1920 it’s the right to vote.

If you ask the 1970s it might be Gloria Steinem.

If you ask Beyonce [via Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie] you may hear:

We raise girls to see each other as competitors, Not for jobs or for accomplishments, Which I think can be a good thing, But for the attention of men

If you ask Urban Dictionary:

Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be  intellectual equals regardless of gender. However, you should still hold the door for a feminist; this is known as respect or politeness and need have nothing whatever to do with gender discrimination.

If you ask The Feminine Mystique you are presented with a picture of an empty suburban housewife denied choices and fulfillment.

If you ask Women Against Feminism:

It’s a “ ‘movement’ that advocates for the rights of one gender over another [it] is sexist and inequal by nature… If feminists were striving for equality, then they wouldn’t be FEMinists.”

If you ask Buzzfeed you’ll most likely find a collection of tumbler threads interspersed with Jennifer Lawrence gifs telling the press off about asking her weight and expressing her love for pizza.

If you ask Rebecca West she’ll say:

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.

But for some reason this seems to be the definition we discuss the least:

Feminism: The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. [Websters]

Which is honestly mind boggling to me. Because at the end of the day when you strip away all the labels, misconceptions, and bickering, we should all be able to agree on this one thing. I hate seeing these different definitions used to pit people [especially women!] against each other. Part of me wanted to let you know exactly where I stand on each of those quotes and ideas mentioned earlier. But I realized this focuses on the problem and not the solution [Plus, let’s be honest, the Internet has already done this for us]. Instead let me share these wise words from Emma Watson about the word feminist:  “[I]f you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have been afforded the same rights that [we] have.” [20 September 2014 UN Women speech]

This statement rings all to true to me. And while we’re talking about definitions, for me feminism also means embracing womanhood and seeking to build up women. Not at the price of anyone else or saying one gender is better than the other. But understanding matters that are important and often unique to women. It’s Manal al-Sharif campaigning for women in Saudi Arabia to have the right to drive. It’s organizations like Days for Girls that work to ensure girls are not denied access to education and job opportunities because of a scarcity of feminine hygiene products. It’s all the strong, smart women role models in my life who have showed me that my potential is limitless and my “glass ceiling” is breakable.

So if presented with those four little words, “Are you a feminist?” I will always answer yes. I will always treat you with respect and hope you will do the same for me. But at the end of the day I’ll always be disappointed that you even had to ask.

Currently: In need of a new read, so send me any picks you have, ok?


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