Thoughts From A Quiet Feminist
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Thoughts From A Quiet Feminist
Tumblr: Centipedes

There are a ridiculous number of injustices in the world, and everyone is affected differently. Feminism, of course, focuses of issues of gender inequality. The wage gap, gender roles and expectations, discrimination based on gender or sexual identity, stereotyping, polarizing media, representation, rape culture, generally, The Patriarchy™: these are some issues feminists address, at least among those that affect Western society. There are also issues like trafficking, lack of education, mutilation, child wives and a more Extreme Patriarchy™ in other parts of the world (and, to some extent, in the Western world as well.)

Amazingly, despite the ubiquity of these inequalities, some people are rarely, if ever, affected directly. This will lead prominent figures to declare that they aren't feminists because they've never needed feminism, so the time for feminism is done. This attitude is analogous to saying, "I ate three meals today, so world hunger must be a hoax."

Arguably, I'm one of those people who hasn't faced any considerable discrimination. I grew up in a largely homogeneous, middle class, small-town New England community. I had a stable and supportive home life, as well as access to resources and community at school, both of which led me to attend, somehow, a world-class university. I'm a cis/het white girl, and I'm insanely privileged. But at the same time, I can't imagine myself being anything but an ardent feminist.

Feminism today is not about me. It's intersectional, which means that it focuses not only on "women's issues" (which too often became "white women's issues" in the past) but also on nonbinary folks' issues, disabled people's issues, POC gender issues, LGBTQ+ issues and issues that impact everybody — one example being outdated and unhealthy gender expectations that have varying effects on women, men, trans and nonbinary people. It's hard to have so many conversations, but there are a lot of conversations to have. Sometimes they'll bubble up to the national audience, like the recent discussion on gender-neutral bathroom access, I usually hear about issues first on Tumblr.

Even though feminism isn't really about me, it isn't difficult to care immensely about the problems facing people. But when I don't face these issues directly, it is hard to know what to do about them or even how to talk about them. I don't know the nuances of what's happening. I don't want to speak over someone whose voice has already been ignored for too long, especially when they know more about the situation than I ever will.

So I prefer to listen.

I will gladly step back and let someone else share their experiences, and equally importantly, I will believe them. I want to learn about what's happening, and I especially want to learn the reasons that these instances stick out in a person's mind as wrong. Of course, sometimes it's obvious.

One anecdote from high school sticks out to me. I took a class in Gender Issues in Literature, and the class was discussing our personal experiences. I didn't talk, but one person, an outgoing girl who dressed fashionably and was a member of the dance team, mentioned that, somewhat often, guys would grab her ass in the hallway between classes, but she wouldn't talk back because she didn't want to seem bitchy even though they made her uncomfortable. Even though I didn't face harassment in high school, not everyone shared my experience. I didn't speak in class that day, so others would have space to share their stories.

I try to remember stories like these. I'll collect them and apply the lessons I learn from them to how I act. I'll refer to people by their preferred pronouns, and learn that hair can be a political statement.

And this way, if there isn't a more qualified person to speak up, I will speak up to the best of my ability. Not for myself, but I'll speak up to share the stories I've heard, the experiences of real people who I've met, or read about, or lived with at school. Yes, statistics provide a concrete and basic foundation for understanding the problem, but they're all the more heartbreaking when you know the story behind each count. To begin considering solutions, we need to listen to the people affected by these problems because they'll have ideas that are more focused on effective change at the root of the problem, compared to the ideas thought of by someone far removed from the situation.

Feminism isn't about running around naked or female supremacy or hating men or being 100 Percent Independent™. It's about intersectional equality. It's about remembering that the oft-quoted 77-cents-to-the-dollar figure applies only to white women, while the numbers for women of color and disabled women are even lower and trans people are too often fired outright, or worse. It's about remembering that victims are never to blame no matter their outfit, location, sobriety or gender; it's about stepping back and listening actively.

Feminism, for me, is about being compassionate, and believing the truth and pain in the experiences of others, so together, we can better act to prevent it from happening again.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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