Tucked in the mountains of Colorado stands my favorite bookstore of all time. Every time I go exploring in there, I always leave with a new book in hand just waiting to wow me. This time, I left with "Bad Feminist"
If you don’t have time to read the book before you continue to read this article, I recommend watching her TED Talk .
I will not bother to be shy when I say, I am a really bad feminist. I’ve been told so, often, by other women who proudly proclaim the label of feminist. I read Dr. Gay’s collection and often snapped in affirmation (because, yes, that is how I show my appreciation for something). There were parts of her argument that I did not identity, nor agree, with. It is not that I believe feminism is wrong because she defines it differently than me, but rather because I see equality from a different lens. Now, to be sure, part of that lens is me being a white, middle-class, heterosexual female, who also happens to be Christian, so I'm not really doing that well with the whole intersectionality thing... That does not take away from the validity of my right to be a feminist, it just creates a different challenge in an effort to be open to new ideas and views and people.
Again, I am a very bad feminist. In fact, I’m very bad at a lot of things; being a Christian, wearing high heels, eating healthy food, calling my parents regularly and reaching anything from the top shelf. But I am a really bad feminist.
This is not a review of "Bad Feminist," nor is it a critique. I have no authority to do either. I was simply so excited to see someone else take the label of “bad feminist” and run with.
There are times when I judge a woman based on how she is dressed. There are times I laugh along to offensive jokes. There times when I define a woman based on the men in her life rather than herself. There are times when I question the choices of women because I do not agree with them, rather than any valid reason. There are large parts of my behavior that I definitely recognize as contradictory to the way I define feminism. For that, I am a bad feminist.
I also struggle with being labeled a feminist, by any definition. Now, that is not to say that I am not for equality, nor that I do not understand that there is still a hell of a long way to go, it’s just that I too have been called a feminist as though it was an insult.
“Ugh. You’re one of those damn feminists, huh?”
“What are you still fighting about? You get to vote can’t you? You feminists will never be happy.”
“Maybe if you got laid all this anger would be released, that’s all feminism really is, anger towards men who won't fuck you.”
Sometimes, it's easier to deny the feminist label when explaining my beliefs, in order to make my point without being seen as an angry, man-hating woman. Not because those are bad, just because they are not me.
Similarly, I have often been told that I hold views that are anti-feminist; that I hurt the feminist movement; that I am not allowed to be a feminist if I do not believe that an unborn child should be withheld the right to life, or if I intend to take my future husband’s last name, or if regularly attend church, or if I haven’t had a sexual awakening because I want to wait until I’m married, or because I want to be married period, or because I prescribe to typical gender roles and desire to be a teacher. I have been both accused of being a feminist as well as been accused of being an anti-feminist. Do not get me wrong, I am a bad feminist based on my definition of feminism, I constantly fail myself in that. However, I am not a bad feminist because of how I define feminism.
I suppose I can elaborate. To me, feminism is being able to walk down the street without being called a bitch for telling the charming gentlemen (read: sarcasm) outside the bar to shove it when they try cat-calling. To me, feminism is my right to equal pay for an equal job. To me, feminism is my right to stay at home and raise my children if I choose to, without being looked down on by society. To me, feminism is my right to continue working after I have children, without being called cold and manipulative. I need feminism in my life because my "no" means more when I say I have a boyfriend because men respect other men more than they respect my right to refuse them. I need feminism because I shouldn't have to be nervous when I walk to my car alone in the city. My feminism has been shaped by my upbringing, I recognize that. My upbringing has been flawed, and, therefore, my feminism is also flawed, and that is okay.
I like to imagine that I get to define my feminism for myself. I am a feminist. Truly, I am. By my definition of it, I am a bad feminist. And by the definition that often is often spread at rallies and protests, I am a really, really, really bad feminist. That doesn’t make my feminism any less valid, or worthy of acknowledgment and discussion, it just means that I represent a different view for what equality for women looks like.
Dr. Gay and I would probably disagree on a lot. And to be honest, I think she would probably unintentionally intimidate me a bit. Unfortunately, I’ve grown up in a culture that says strong women should be feared, though not necessarily respected. (However, Dr. Gay, if you’re ever in Austin and would be willing to grab coffee, I would be honored.) I do not have to agree with every woman’s definition of feminism in order to agree that every woman has a right to define feminism for herself. So, yes, I would like to call myself a feminist, and yes, I recognize that I am really and truly, a very bad one.