Feb 032003
 
Authors: Ashley Wheeland

I am a feminist. This is clear in my writing and how I choose to act in my own life. However, when I defend being this, many people tell me that being a feminist means I hate men, and that I think women are better. People say they enjoy my points, but hate when I mention being a woman, and make my writing about this point of view.

What do I say in response? I say my identity creates my point of view. And in today’s society, sex happens to be one of the signifiers that people use to understand their own identities. I also explain that I only understand the context of society that I find myself within. And I am a woman. I can never change this.

When I go to job interviews, I will be seen as a woman first. When I achieve something in my life, people will say that I did it even though I am a woman. Women still make up the minority above that glass ceiling. And when women get above that glass ceiling they become exceptions or scapegoats.

What is being a feminist? Is it being a man-hater? Is it being someone who says that women are better? Are all feminists women?

According to feminist theorist bell hooks “feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexual exploitation, and oppression.” So anyone can be a feminist. They can be someone who is “feminine,” or they can be the opposite. Anyone who can acknowledge that historically and socially women have faced different and often overwhelming obstacles in gaining equality, and can also acknowledge that the problem still exists, is a feminist.

So where does this perception that makes feminism so problematic come from? It comes from a society in which the people with voices that are acknowledged and sought out fail to see the real meat of feminism. Instead they use sex to continue to divide people and not see the bridge that many feminists are attempting to build. Men are not alone in maintaining this division; there are many women out there that continue to support this understanding of feminism.

Where did I get my understanding of my identity and come to consider myself a feminist? In all truth it came from my father. My father never placed me into a box by my sex. I was never the pretty princess or the mother-to-be, unless I wanted to be. I was this person who was allowed to define myself. My father was the male role model that made me believe that men and women are truly equivalent. It was my father who said that I could be a lawyer, a cop, a writer or even the president.

So feminism does not come out of men-haters or dominant women personalities. Feminism is rooted in the belief that all people should have the chance to prosper, to learn and to become what they want to be. Many men have chosen to take part in ending sexism, by making an effort to not be sexist. Many men have realized the history of sexual exploitation, and choose not to consume it. Even though it is still everywhere even today. And many men have chosen to give women opportunities and stop participating in societal norms that continue to oppress women. One of those men is my best friend, and the person that taught me to be the feminist I am.

So feminism is about believing that all of us can take part in ending the oppression and bigotry. For those of you who question feminism, I hope you know what it is really about. It is not about one sex dominating the other. It is about finding the best in every person and understanding that we all have a role in society and have a voice in the future. So I suggest stop asking me why I am such a feminist and start looking at what feminism really represents.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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