"Would you describe yourself a feminist?" I was recently asked. Yes, was my knee-jerk reaction to the above question. I am a FEMINIST (in caps, no less. ) I went to an all-women's college, I support reproductive rights and signed petitions to protect Roe v. Wade as the decision approached its 30 th anniversary, I believe that women deserve respect, that women's lives have value independent of men, that equal pay for equal work is a given.
I've read Gloria Steinem, Aud re Lorde and Andrea Dworkin. I'm a feminist, all right. But then doubt starts to creep in. I do wear lipstick, I don't hate men, I've never felt inclined to burn a bra, I am not anti-sex.
So does this mean I am not a "real" feminist? In the interest of answering the question "Would you describe yourself a feminist?" as honestly as I could, I decided to do a Google search for the official definition of "feminist." The sheer quantity of sites I found dedicated to the "f-word" was dizzying. I discovered sites on radical feminists, revolutionary feminists, liberal feminists, reformist feminists, lifestyle feminists, power feminists, white feminists, black feminists, First Wave Feminists, Second Wave Feminists, Third Wave feminists, post-modern feminists... By the end of it all, I was more uncertain than before. But then I thought about it. Like movements before, and movements to come, the feminist movement is constantly evolving and shifting to reflect the environment, values and needs of the person and of the moment. As a result, to identify as a feminist is simultaneously personal and universal.
My personal definition of feminism emerged from a multitude of factors that include not only gender, but ideas of self-worth, my cultural heritage, my socio-economic background. Feminism for me is first and foremost saying that fighting for social justice is fighting for feminism. Seeking justice through debunking myths and stereotypes surrounding poverty, race, and gender, is to provide everyone with the right to be treated as fully functional human beings. While feminism is about being a woman, it is also about being human. My definition of feminism would probably not be embraced by feminists across the board.
The feminist movement 150 years ago was dedicated to different causes than the feminists of the 21 st century. Back then, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were still fighting for women's suffrage, black emancipation and suffrage, and the ability to wear "bloomers" in public. Today's feminists are focused on fighting pornography, protecting women's right to legal abortions, and ending violence towards women. However, that is one of the most amazing things about the feminist movement.
While everyone has their own take on what it means to be a "real" feminist, and the issues at hand have changed over the years, the drive and the passion to secure the equal rights of women through fighting the status quo has not diminished. So, yes, while I do wear lipstick, don't hate men, and still am not inclined towards burning bras, I am a feminist, and I will bear that moniker proudly.