I Advocate Feminism

It came to my attention during my blogging break, courtesy of Emily Heroy – Founder of  the Gender Across Borders blog and fellow Equality 101 writer – and Liza DonnellyCartoonist Extraordinaire – (If you’re not at least following these ladies on Twitter or reading their work, you should be.  Now!) that maybe saying “I am a feminist” is maybe not the exact correct thing to be saying.  It’s no secret that feminists throughout history have worked extremely hard towards equal rights for women.  But it’s also no secret that they haven’t historically worked very hard towards equal rights for all women.  bell hooks noted this (I can’t remember the exact essay in which she noted this, so forgive my lack of citation.  If anyone knows, feel free to drop a comment.), especially in the way feminism tended to be for the white, upper-middle class women, not for poor women or women of color.

Today, we see people claiming to be feminists and actively working against women – see anything written about Sarah Palin in the past month.  We see women actively excluding other human beings from the fight for equal rights (Emily didn’t exclude other people in this post, but I refuse to link to the post that did).  We see women telling other women how to be feminists.  Apparently, my feminist card was taken away from me when I chose to get married and have a big wedding.  It’s going to be torn up into little pieces when I write later about the crisis we’re seeing with boys and education and how we need to work to catch them up.  Or when I blog about how my future husband and I are going to share money.

I can’t remember the last time I was so disillusioned with a community of people.  If you read through some of my earlier archives, you’ll see how enchanted I was with this blogging community; I even chose to write my Master’s thesis about it!  It was so wonderful to finally be surrounded by women who supported one another.  And now it seems like these women supporting one another are just doing it in the same way as they did in high school – they’ve formed little Twitter-cliques and feminist groups, only worried about who is tweeting whose links or who is saying things that can be attacked or disagreed with or about who to criticize next for voicing opinions.  This isn’t activism.  This is cattiness masquerading as activism, which, in my opinion, makes it even worse than just plain old nastiness.

It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty disappointed with this community for a while.  But I don’t think I’m disappointed with feminism in general.  In fact, there are some really great women out there writing some really great things, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to highlight some of those posts (let’s start with Sophia’s blatant sarcasm regarding the Rules of Feminism).  I’m honored that these people even give this blog the time of day, but I’m not so much honored to call myself a feminist anymore.  Saying “I am a feminist” makes being a feminist all that I am, and makes it tough to do anything that anyone might consider “not feminist.”  So, like bell hooks, I’m no longer going to say I am a feminist, but more simply that I advocate feminism.  I advocate lots of things: human rights in general, better treatment of teachers, equity in education…. and the list goes on.  These things aren’t wholly what I am – although they can be all-consuming.  They are simply things I stand for.  I’ll stand for feminism, or for a feminism that is inclusive and intersectional.  But I won’t let it become all of me.

3 thoughts on “I Advocate Feminism

  1. Hey girl, I want to commend you on your stance, your being unafraid to voice an opinion that might be under-spoken in the greater feminist community. You are brave and I think you are totally, totally right about what you’re saying. Feminism has historically had problems with being exclusionist, and I think it still can be today. But, I have a few thoughts.

    Cliques and groups are part of the way we function as people. It’s one of those “hang your head in shame” sorts of things that people do, but I don’t think we’ll ever stop doing it. Even feminists. I hate cliques, but I am going to accept that they’re a part of life. That doesn’t mean I will withdraw from the people who have the cliques, and it also doesn’t mean I’ll stand by and let them happen without calling them out, either.

    I’m still a firm believer that “feminist” doesn’t have to mean the exact same thing to every single person who identifies as one. As long as I advocate for feminism, I will call myself a feminist. But, that’s just me. I just don’t want to see you give up on feminists. :(

  2. I totally advocate feminism. I’m tired of living by other people’s rules and judgments about what’s feminist or not. Thank you so much for this post, Ashley. Maybe when I’m back from my posting hiatus at GAB I will compose my thoughts on “feminist” and “advocate for feminism.”

  3. ashleyrebeccah on

    I am glad you’re speaking out, but also that you’re not disappointed with feminism in general. There are plenty of people out there like the ones you describe and maybe they are the ones who get the most attention but their ideas are not inclusive of all feminists.

    I still call myself a feminist but I call myself lots of things- none of the things I call myself will ever be inclusive of all of my beliefs or be my entire identity. I also don’t think feminism has to mean the same thing to everyone…but to me feminism means believing women are equal in every aspect of life and should be treated as such but should also have the ability to choose how they want to live their lives and exercise their right to equality. I realize it means different things to different people, but if you want to have a big wedding or wear makeup or high heels or have 17 children then who is anyone to tell you not to? I don’t see how any of those things makes you unequal as long as you are not being forced to do any of them. I think feminists need to be supportive of each other’s decisions instead of coming up with a rule book on what feminists should or should not do. But hey, that’s just me. :)

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