The more I read and write about feminism, the more I observe communities of feminists interacting, and the more I participate in discussions about feminism with my friends and colleagues, the more I realize that feminism is incredibly complicated. It is a movement with a long and contentious history, it has morphed and changed over the decades, and it is currently being championed by people who seldom agree on … anything. It is inextricably tied to countless other issues including racism, ableism, classism, and many other forms of discrimination. It is enmeshed in concepts of privilege. It means many different things to many different people, and most of those people are both passionate and articulate. Which can be quite intimidating.
And because of all that, many of my friends have sworn it off. They feel frustrated by the in-fighting, feel like nothing they say or do measures up, feel like the beliefs and passions that drive feminists are lost in the shuffle of misinterpretation, accusation, and correction. Many of my friends who could be supporting this amazing, important, historic movement have dispensed with feminism because they can’t seem to find a place in it for themselves.
I can understand that. It can be disheartening to stand up and declare yourself a feminist only to be told that you’re not feminist enough, or in the right ways, or that so much of what you’re doing is contrary to feminist beliefs and until you change you aren’t allowed to apply that label to yourself. I’ve been told all of those things over the past five-plus years. Many times. They make me ponder and consider change, but they also chafe and rankle.
Yet I’m still a feminist. Now and always. And I may not be feminist enough, or in the right ways, and so much of what I’m doing is contrary to feminist beliefs, if you ask certain people. And that’s just fine. Because, just like any far-reaching philosophy or movement, feminism encompasses so much more than what any one group believes or declares. Just like any concept that has shifted and grown over decades of consideration, discussion, and implementation, feminism constitutes an ENORMOUS spectrum of ideas and beliefs. And there’s room on that spectrum for me, for what I believe, and for what I can contribute.
Some of my fellow feminists will shout me down and call me out at every turn, accuse me of selling out or contributing to social norms or feeding the patriarchy. And that’s just fine. I’m still a feminist. Now and always. I will never stop believing that women deserve equal rights and opportunities to men, and I will never stop doing everything I can to support and empower the women I meet. And I know in my heart that those two things make me an ardent feminist.
So maybe feminism isn’t all that complicated after all.
Image via The Lilith Effect.