What is a feminist?

My brother and I have been having a small disagrement about what exactly a feminst is. In simple terms, I believe it is people who are fighting for gender equality and he believes they are people fighting for womens rights. I think both are right, but there is a slight difference between the two. The truth is, that my brother and I are both feminist (I hope that’s okay that I made that assumption Jimmy) even though we have a different view of what it means. There is certainly no one way to be a feminist. I believe this can be said about any title you own. I say this all the time about being a Christian. “There is no one way to be a Christian.” With any title you own, you have to discover what that title means for you. However, i do also think it’s important to know how others view it and learn everything you can about it, before you can know what it means for you. I am still learning what it means to be a feminist. So…below I’ve compiled several videos/articles that I found onthe internet that show how others view feminism. I don’t agree with all of them, but as I said, it’s important to know how the world views feminism before I can discover what it means for me.

Definitions Of Feminism
Linda Chapman

“Feminism – I myself have never known what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” -Rebecca West, 1913
“Feminism–the belief that women are full human beings capable of participation and leadership in the full range of human activities–intellectual political, social, sexual, spiritual, and economic.” -Pearl Cleage, Deals with the devil, p.28. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.)

“Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free _all_ women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women–as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement.” -Barbara Smith (reprinted in Gloria Anzaldua’s Making Face, Making Soul, 25.)

“Feminism is an assertion that women as a group have been historically disadvantaged relative to men of their race, class, ethnicity, or sexual identity; and a commitment to changing the structures that systemically privilege men over women.” Journal of Women’s History

“I define a feminist as a self-empowering woman who wishes the same for her sisters. I do not think the term implies a certain sexual orientation, a certain style of dress, or membership in a certain political party. A feminist is merely a woman who refuses to accept the notion that women’s power must come through men.” — Erica Jong, Fear of Fifty, p.286

“I define feminist consciousness as the awareness of women that they belong to a subordinate group; that they have suffered wrongs as a group; that their condition of subordination is not natural, but is societally determined; they they must join with other women to remedy these wrongs; and finally, that they must and can provide an alternate vision of societal organization in which women as well as men will enjoy autonomy and self-determination.” — Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, p. 14

Are You a Feminist?
Six Seniors Respond
Issue date: 3/2/09 Section: Student Life

Chennette X. Barreto: No
I agree that women should be on the same level as and have the same rights as men. However, with that said I don’t consider myself a feminist. I don’t believe that wanting equality for women defines one as a feminist. Though I could still be wrong, I understand the main idea as being adamant, but not hostile, about changing some of laws to bring about equality between men and women.. Many people define feminists as being hard, childless and husbandless women. That is simply a myth as there are many women who consider themselves active dedicated feminists who are proud mothers and wives.
One of the things that differentiates myself from a feminist is the fact that I believe the rights of men should be advocated for and represented for just as much as a woman. It’s not to say that feminist don’t believe a man’s rights shouldn’t be advocated for, it’s just not something they are placing on their agenda above the rights of women. Another thing I feel differentiates me from a feminist is the campaigning that they do to advocate for equality and to improve social relations between men and women. I understand that you don’t have to be out actively campaigning, but to me a feminist should participate or contribute in some way. My lack of these things is what I feel is a big part of why I say that I am not a feminist.
In reading about feminism I have found that more men are supporting feminism. While I’m not used to thinking of men as feminists, it isn’t something that is bad. I have taken into account that times have changed and so have the definitions and faces of feminism. Men are welcomed allies in the feminist fight. I was raised to believe that men and women are capable of many of the same things. A woman can head a Fortune 500 company while her husband stays home and raises the children and takes care of the house, just as there is nothing wrong with a woman taking a man out on a date and paying for everything. With all of this said I don’t call myself a feminist, simply because I am a person who believes in equality for the masses.

Kyle Lockett: Yes
I consider myself a feminist, because seeing first hand the strength that women possess is believing. My feminism is product of default cultivation due to the fact that since my father was absent my mother, grandmother and a slew of aunts raised me. I’ve grown up respecting the sensitivities of women. Being a woman is as hard as being black and in some cases harder if you’re a black woman. Everyday you face the world knowing that you’re viewed as less than equal.
Certain life experiences have set the foundation for my feminist beliefs. One cornerstone that helped buttress these feelings are embedded in memories from my early childhood. My mother and I lived in the small town of Ossining on a very obscure block, so obscure that remembering it invokes feelings of being swallowed. I remember so vividly those early years when my mother, tired after working a grueling 12 hour shift at a dead end job, would come home and fearlessly argue with drunk, belligerent, chauvinistic men about her parking space. As long as someone was in her space she’d be there arguing; out-numbered, and out-gendered. I often look back on those times and wonder how a small country girl could face those odds bravely. Even at such a young age I was acutely cognizant of the danger she faced–that’s what made what she did even more heroic. That she never backed down, ever, showed me that women have a different type of strength. It showed me the strength of a woman ready to deal with life and the cowardice of men who are brave in bunches but can’t stand solo.
I am a feminist and proud to say it. Being a feminist has made me strong enough to admit as much.

Sidra Lackey: Maybe
Feminist is a familiar term to me as a woman but I admit I don’t fully know what really makes someone one. Is it actively fighting for women’s rights? Or simply believing that women and men should be treated equally? Both? Something else?
An article called What is Feminism? from the site yoursdaily.com says “Feminists can be anyone in the population, men, women, girls or boys” and says feminism is a philosophy in which women and their contributions are valued based on social, political and economic equality for women. Another article with the same title, What Is Feminism? from feminist.com quotes a woman saying, “Feminists are just women who don’t want to be treated like shit.” I agree with these ideas, but still if asked if I’m a feminist, I would hesitate to answer.
My hesitation comes from my feeling that believing something is different from taking action on that belief. The online dictionary Merriam-Webster.com states one definition of feminism as “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” This definition is what I think of when I hear the term feminism: activity or action. To be honest, when I think of feminists I immediately think of the cliché image of a group of women protesting or rallying. Therefore if I say I’m a feminist but I’m not doing anything to help the movement, is it right for me to call myself one?
I recently heard a woman say being a feminist means “being connected to every woman on the planet.” That’s a simple, beautiful way of looking at feminism and I’ve always felt that way. …Maybe I’m a feminist after all.

Neisha-Anne Green: No
I have never defined myself as a feminist, though I would never say that I’m not; maybe I’ve resisted or rejected the term because I did not want to appear to be against my own sex, or just because I had never really given it a great deal of thought. Ignorance is not bliss. When people hear the word feminist they envision picket signs in massive waves of purple, held by women chanting catchy phrases that are no doubt against men. What a stereotype! But just like every other stereotype, although it may define some people, it does not define me.
I believe in social, political, and economic equality for all. I do not denounce men and I am not an activist, but I do believe that women should stand up for themselves and be empowered. Being a feminist is more common and relatable than we sometimes think it is. We all, both men and women, enjoy the benefits of what the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd waves of feminists fought for, to make sure that women could vote, get equal pay and have legislation to stop violence against women. If it were not for these pioneering women, our mothers would not have had the option, as do I today, to sit in a classroom and earn a degree. Feminism is about everyone and it is for everyone.
So ask me again. Feminist? Why or Why not? I would never stand aside and watch other women be disadvantaged. I would also tell you that I believe that the playing field between men and women should be level, with equal pay and opportunities for both. By definition I guess that makes me a feminist, but I would stand up for men, as well as children, so I’ll also tell you why not. I am a feminist because of a chromosome, but I am a humanist first.

John Infante: Sometimes
For me, feminism is not just a tag, a label or a baseball hat you wear that determines which team you’re rooting for, but rather a way of life. I’m not always a feminist, especially when I think about my ex and troubled times. I rap “bitch” and “ho” along with hip hop lyrics, the same way I say “nigga this” or “nigga that”. The words don’t mean anything to me, although they’re full of meaning. Therefore I’m a pseudo-feminist or a part time-feminist because the machismo does come out at times. For example, in high school I suffered from Hemingwayitis, which had me creating flat female characters who were either Virgin Mary or the singer Madonna.
The machismo inside me- the jokes and grunts of agreement as a man whistles while a woman exits the bodega- is something that I’m constantly working on because sometimes I’m the one whistling. The reason I’m a part time feminist is the reason I’m a part time homophobic. I’m not a zealous protester, but support the cause while simultaneously suppressing the Archie Bunker and old Dominican man inside.
A real feminist will respond to a sexist slur by saying, “That’s not funny”, or, “You’re only saying that because she dumped you”. Instead I’ll say nothing or say something using words light enough to roll over eggshells. And although I’m not a real feminist I call myself one, maybe because I’m not as machista as my friends or because it makes me feel better about myself.

Rosemary Tineo: Yes
I have always believed in the feminist movement and consider myself a feminist, even though I was never exposed to a prototypical woman who spoke about women’s rights and social balances. My mother was a great inspiration for this ideology. She chose to be free of a relationship that was not healthy for her or her children. She took it a step further and entered the competitive business of restaurant ownership that was by no means the easiest path to solidify her economic life. She made choices that developed her character as a determined and ambitious woman. Although my father was a role model for my brothers and me, he was supportive of her decisions. Our lives are a reflection of her values and morals. And yet, I have plenty of men in my life who are involved fathers, supportive husbands, and great feminists.
I can review what feminism means, and build my own interpretation without the stereotype that most of my classmates have. I did not think of the bra-burning or loose hair. On the contrary, I see an executive, sitting in a neat office, with her hair tightly bundled at the back of her neck and a few Post-its splattered on her computer screen. I say to myself that no one can tell me that my work is inferior to theirs because they are of a certain sex, ethnicity, or race. No man can say he will be a better example to his son because he is a man just as no woman can say she will be a better example to her daughter because she is a woman. The flexibility of the title is what will help define its objectives. I believe it takes a special person, man or woman, to fight for women’s independence and free expression.

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