The F-word. Men despise it. Women dissociate themselves with it. The fashion world has co-opted it until its meaning has been rendered almost useless. Feminism has become a hotly debated topic in the neverending anger-gasm that is the 24-hour news cycle.
People distance themselves from the word and say “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist”. Well, why the hell not? For some, it’s the ‘-ist’ suffix that causes discomfort. What good comes from an ‘ist’? Ists are radical ideologies. Just think of all the ists in the news: communist, socialist, Islamist. Who wants to be associated with an ist?
But let’s break down that ‘-ist’ suffix, shall we?
–ist is a noun suffix that denotes a person who practices, is expert in, or is concerned with something, or holds certain principles, doctrines.
We don’t seem so afraid of other ‘-ists’ like artists or bicyclists or botanists. So why are we so afraid of feminists?
Feminism prescribes to the radical notion that women deserve political, social and economic equality. So yes, I am a proud to call myself a feminist. Does being a feminist mean that I hate men? No. Being a feminist means what being a feminist means, no matter how co-opted or distorted the word itself becomes.
Indeed, there are just reasons to criticize modern feminism. Feminist writer Jessa Crispin gave a scathing takedown of modern feminism in an interview with Jezebel:
There used to be an understanding of what the word “feminism” meant. Now it’s been used in so many marketing campaigns and to justify so many terrible things. Now I could say “I’m a feminist” and that doesn’t necessarily convey anything to you. That word is not going to give you an understanding of where I’m coming from. And so, while I’m a feminist in the sense that I believe in the philosophy, I am not a feminist in that I don’t think the word is useful anymore.
But that leads to a problem. What’s the rallying cry? If we’re not feminists, what are we fighting for? How can we describe our mission? If a bicyclist cannot call themselves a bicyclist, then what are they? A-two-wheeled-human-powered-pedal-driven-single-track-vehicle rider? That’s a ridiculous way to describe oneself when a simple ‘ist’ would suffice.
I am a feminist for many reasons. One being, I am female. I was born with XX chromosomes and present as female. I am happy being female. I am not happy with the bullshit that comes with being female in a male-oriented world. I’ve been degraded in the workplace. I’ve been sexually harassed on the street. I’ve been down-talked, and man-splained. My opinions have been ignored. My worth has been questioned. My body has been objectified. All because I am female.
One particular bit of information I learned that really put it all into perspective for me is this: there are more CEOs named John in the United States than ALL women put together. In fact, there are more CEOs named John AND more CEOs named David than ALL women from Anna to Zoe put together. Are people named John or David simply more adept at CEOing than the ladies? Is there something about the name John or David that primes babies with the leadership and problem-solving skills needed to become successful adult CEOs? Or is it simply the fact that men are named John and David, and women are not?
If men don’t want to call themselves feminists. That’s fine. I mean, it’s not fine but I understand when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. (What will all the Johns and Davids of the world do when women are considered for CEO positions?!) But for the women who refuse to align themselves with the feminist cause, there’s something I’d like to say to you. There will always be women who work against their own interests. When women’s suffrage came to the United States in 1920, there were women sitting in the upper gallies of the Tennessee State Legislature during the 19th amendment vote with red roses pinned to their chests — a symbol of the Anti-Suffrage movement. They were actively particpating in their own subjugation. So if you don’t want to call yourself a feminist just remember that feminists fight and will continue to fight for your right to vote, to work outside the home, to further your education, to earn your own money, to open your own bank account, to take out your own loans, to not be considered the property of your father or husband, to wear pants, to ride bikes, and to make your own life choices.
Suffragette and first-wave feminist Abigail Scott Dunaway said it best, “The young women of today—free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation —should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price… the debt that each generation owes to the past, it must pay to the future.”
In honor of Halloween and for the entire month of October, I will be posting pics of my daughter in empowering feminist icon Halloween costumes to my Instagram page (@mylittleparislife) with the hashtag #DontBeAfraidOfFeminism.
TODAY, Norah is dressed as Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, or as I like to call her “Ruth BABY Ginsberg”. Justice Ginsburg is one of four female justices of the Supreme Court and was only the second woman appointed to the court after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Justice Ginsberg was a wife and mother (worth noting because she was demoted from her job at the Social Security Administration after becoming pregnant with her first child) before beginning law school at Harvard where she was only one of nine women in a class of over 500. She then transferred to Columbia Law School where she graduated at the top of her class. Justice Ginsburg is a human rights champion who devotes her life to expanding the definition of “We the People.” Justice Ginsberg is especially well-known for her blunt and intellectual dissents, earning her the nickname ‘Notorious RBG’.