10 February 2017


I can't tell you when I became a feminist any more than I can tell you when I realized I was human. It's an innate part of who I am and who I've always been. I've shed many layers of myself, as we all do over the years, distancing myself from the leanings of others and teachings I grew up with, and finding my footing in beliefs I feel to be more secure, but the ideals and mindset that might define a feminist, should we need to define such, have stayed.

While I can't pinpoint exactly when I first identified as a feminist, I can tell you when I realized people have a problem with feminism. It was in a gender studies class in college. The class was heavy on discussions, and the discussions were heavy on male fragility, voiced by the men and women that defended it.

People were visibly frustrated to the point of anger when asked to consider the idea that women are not, in fact, equal.

"But there's a woman trying for the democratic nomination. What more do we need?" (This was 2007.)

"My mom was happy to stay home and raise kids and help my dad with his business."

"But my wife doesn't think that way."

"I'm a woman and I don't see the point to any of this."

I wasn't typically outspoken in lectures, but the final grade in this particular class was comprised largely of participation in discussions. So I spoke up, not in a way that was confrontational, but I did state my opinions. I was labeled a femi-nazi, argued with, and maturely glared at (I wasn't alone, if you count the professor and, at most, three other like-minded students). I was stunned, to be honest. I found it all incredibly bizarre, which, I really shouldn't have. I knew the views I held were different from others, but I hadn't known they were views so strongly opposed.

Ten years worth of hindsight later, I can see that the realization that feminism makes people uncomfortable should have come sooner. Nevertheless, I have been keenly aware since, because folks are clearly still bothered.

Enter every comment from a woman disparaging the women's march and belittling the women they state do not represent them.

Enter every sentence that starts with, "but I don't," or, "I'm not," and especially the ones that begin, "but my wife doesn't," and, "my wife isn't."

Enter every misconception that construes equality to be a farce, oppression as mythical, and the pursuit of either a threat.

There seems to be a common belief that feminists are vulgar, angry women who hate men as much as they hate bras, wanting nothing more than to pay for their own dinners, get drive-through abortions at will, and ridicule stay at home mothers from the office of the company they run (likely having stolen the position from a man who is now left with no way to provide for his family).

Some are.

Most aren't.

I tend to stay in the camp of "It's better to let people know what you are than to tell them what you aren't," but I struggle to lend insight into a part of me that is so hardwired, any introspection takes effort.

So, while I've defended my position many times, it's usually by way of correcting misinformation and misconceptions, and explaining how many feminists, myself included, are simply not what they are made out to be.

I'm realizing, though, that feminism isn't something that defines me, so much as it's something I need.

I need feminism because I have two daughters that love to explore outdoors, jump in mud, watch sports, dress up in tutus, and get into my makeup. They shouldn't have to choose between any of it.

I need feminism because I have a son who is either carrying a basketball or a baby doll. He shouldn't be made to feel less male because he is more nurturing than he is tough.

I need feminism because hyper-masculinity and exaggerated femininity are part of a spectrum, not the norm. My children do not owe the world the beauty and strength cultural standards demand of them.

I need feminism because my children deserve to be talked to about more than how they look (and, quite frankly, we all do). They deserve to grow up without the mentality that men work and women take care of babies. They deserve to not have limits and expectations placed on them based solely on the chromosomes they carry.

I need feminism because I want my children and their children to have more options, more opportunities, and less stigma.

My children are no more deserving than anyone else's.

I need feminism because I am a mother, and I love being a mother, but being a mother does not define me.

I need feminism because I choose to stay at home to raise my children, but I also have professional goals and aspirations. I would still need feminism if I chose to only pursue one or the other.

I need feminism because I know from experience that patriarchal systems are incredibly damaging- both to men and women. I need feminism because it's taking courage and strength beyond my own to break free from oppressive structures.

I need feminism because I refuse to apologize for simply taking up space. I refuse to change parts of myself that others don't like to make them comfortable. I refuse to be interrupted, silenced, and not taken seriously.

I need feminism because, just as I insist my children are to be regarded as more than just their looks, I deserve the same. No women should be made to feel she needs to look a certain way or dress a certain way to be respected. Makeup or no makeup, conservatively dressed or not, tattooed or not, waxed or not, overweight, underweight, at peace with her body, or not- these can only be decided for oneself, as that's really the only party it concerns.

I need feminism because my worth is not tied to my husband. I do not belong to him. We are a team, yes, and we share the responsibilities that come with sharing a family. As his accomplishments stand on their own without question, so should mine.

I need feminism because, aside from using a urinal, women do the same things men do, and should be compensated us such. Despite those that claim they aren't less than, facts dictate women are paid less and treated differently.

I need feminism because I believe that our lived experiences vary greatly, but we need one another-straight, trans, queer, cis, black, latina, asian, white, native; religious, or not; educated, or not. Women need the support of other women. I believe that some situations and circumstances create privilege, and that those in a position of privilege have a responsibility to exercise it to the benefit of those without.

I need feminism because women shouldn't have to silently connect over knowing exactly what it's like to walk quickly to your car with your keys out.

I need feminism because generations of feminists before me have made it possible for me to make the decisions I'm faced with today. I need feminism to equip me to better face the unknowns of tomorrow.

I believe in equality.

I believe in human decency.

I believe in respect.

I believe in fighting for a better world, not just for me and my children, but for all of us.

I need feminism because we will never come anywhere close to achieving such a world without it.

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