Feminism. A word that holds a lot of weight. There are a lot of emotions and mixed feelings attached to it. Many people have definitions of feminism. So I asked everyone I knew what feminism means to them and how they define it. The responses have been interesting. I have received the common expected answers and some unusual ones that have given me a new perspective.
The first wave of responses dealt with the usual perspectives. How feminism is an outdated concept, that is unnecessary for the time we live in. That it sets us back and makes every little thing some type of oppression, when it really isn't. The other typical perspective is, "Screw the patriarchy, women need to be in power and control." These are the perspectives we are used to and that are usually presented in the media. We don't usually see the views that meet in the middle or offer a unique take. Those were the views greater in number that took me by surprise and challenged my view.
A close friend of mine, who is not a stranger on Odyssey, is Aasha. She told me how she defines feminism as "the promotion and protection of equity for all women and their intersectional identities." Her definition stems from the fact she is someone who is the embodiment of kindness and wisdom. It also stems from her experience of living in India her freshmen year of high school and exposure to serious gender issues globally.
My other friend, who happens to be a male, shared with me that he believes in women coming together to support one another and gain equal opportunity. However, it can be taken into an extreme when it doesn't have to be. Men need to be open and accepting towards feminism, but as a society, these extreme measures undermine the real issues that need to be front and center.
Along those same lines, a friend of mine agreed but feels that the extreme measures taken overshadow the real issues at hand. Allowing for feminism to become something that is for the betterment of women and not equality. A view shared by many of the people who contacted me was that they were not a feminist or do not like to associate with the movement.
A person that I hold in high regard told me what they thought about the topic. They said, "to me, feminism is the understanding that all women deserve not just equality, but liberation. All women, as in women of color (black women in particular) and queer women and disabled women and transgender women and working-class women and women that fit more than one of these categories.
Feminism is not just showing up to one march or sharing articles on Facebook and calling it a day. It’s holding the people you love accountable when they say, “Oh, she looks like a man” or “She’s dressed like a slut.” It’s not necessarily the female CEO or solider.
After all, what about that CEO’s exploitation? Feminism shouldn’t seek to uphold existing oppressive structures, and it should be predicated on the idea of collective liberation. No one is free until everyone is free. By extension, no woman is free until every woman is free." I know it is a lot, but I think what they had to say was important and went beyond the general ideas that exist regarding feminism.
I wanted to explore this topic because I do not think it's something that is really discussed. I feel that there are two categories formed and people are placed into them. That should not be the case because there are never two sides. I know as human beings we are fascinated with making everything simple, but sometimes we just need to accept and embrace that things are complex and messy. There is a beauty to it and even when it's hard to confront, we should try to listen and understand. That should always be our goal.
I identify as a feminist and I define feminism as the support and respect for all women, their identities and to have the same equal opportunities as men. It does sting a bit when I hear other women say that they are not feminists or that they don't really support feminism, but I realized that it does not make them terrible people. They have valid reasons that I tried to listen to and understand. Although I have my own views and stand strongly by them, I recognize other views on this topic and give them the same respect and weight that I give to my own. Because for us as a society to make change, we need to realize there is not just one way or right way to do things.
We need to realize that we will have disagreements and different views. But through listening and understanding, we can achieve real change.