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On being a feminist. January 12, 2006

Posted by Winter in feminist theory.
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I’ve been ruminating on this post for a while so apologies for my recent drought in posts, although the lovely winter woods has more than amply held the fort on that respect. I wanted to write something on what being a feminist means to me personally and so I’ve spent some time over Christmas and New Year trying to gather up my thoughts on what can be, at times, a fairly non-descript feeling. Sometimes I find being a feminist can be fairly depressing as more and more young girls hold glamour models up as serious role models and the reproductive rights and freedoms of our friends in America comes under threat. I know that poverty, inequality, violence against women and men, and oppression means there is a desperate need for feminism and these play no small part in my calling my self a feminist. The wonderful Gender Geeks (I spelled in right this time!!) had this fabulous post just before Christmas and for me this was a great summation of many of the reasons why everyone should be a feminist. But in this post I wanted to get at what does being a feminist mean to me. So here goes.

I’ve been a feminist for three years now and came to feminism under the careful guidance of Siberian Falls (Thank you). Becoming a feminist has given me a lot of confidence, but it has also opened my eyes to the world around me and how depressing the state of affairs can be. I fell that once you have fem-vision, you can’t switch it off , you se inequality and sexist messages for what they are and you can no longer just laugh it off when people check out your breasts before listening to what you have to say. As someone who studies the psychology of persuasion and attitude change, I’ve begun to see these messages everywhere, and I find them difficult to ignore, how sneaky they sometimes are, how underhand and hidden some of the adverts can be. This may sound that my experience of feminism is a negative one, but that is not at all true. Feminism has given me confidence in my self and that’s just for starters.

Feminism means many things to many people but the most important aspect for me is that it requires that you take responsibility for your own actions and decisions, and to recognise when the situation requires you to stand up for your self. This may seem paradoxical to some of the commentators we have had on this blog, and who comment on feminist blogs in general, who quite often imply that feminists blame men for their problems. I think feminism teaches you to do just the opposite. While feminism exposes injustice and oppression it also motivates you to actually do something about those injustices. Feminism is about being an active member of society and acting to improve that society. It’s not about a bunch of women sitting around drinking tea and whinging (well not all the time), it’s bring, vibrant women getting out there and changing the world so that it is more inclusive for everyone (yes, men too). Feminism can change passive consumers of life into active participants who think about their choices and take responsibility for them, even the bad ones. For me feminism is about women having confidence, about behaving confidently as a woman, not by taking on the stereotyped behaviours of men. When women get involved with business, with politics, with practically anything they bring to these areas new ideas and new strategies to solve problems and generally improve things. Feminism is about those ideas and strategies being respected for the good ideas that they are, and about the women who have them being respected for the intelligent, creative beings that they are, not just written off because they have different anatomy.

So, that’s a small taste about what feminism means to me, I’m sure I will continue this theme in the future. Now I’d really like to know what does feminism mean to you?

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Comments»

1. deedles - January 13, 2006

“For me feminism is about women having confidence, about behaving confidently as a woman, not by taking on the stereotyped behaviours of men.”

Fab! Excellent! And so true. Naiades: in those few simple words you’ve turned around a popular misconception of feminists – that we’re a weak and miserable bunch of no-hopers.

Feminism, for me, is such a positive thing for women, men and children everywhere. It’s about making changes for the better in our lives and the lives of those we love. It’s about recognising everyone’s humaniity and basic human rights no matter how the individual may be presented.
It’s about human integrity being worth more than money.
It’s about women and children being recognised as people.
It’s about broadening the definition of who, exactly, constitutes the human race and recognising the history (hersory?) of all those people.
It’s about winning the freedom and safety – the room to just ‘be’ – for everyone without judgement or harm.

2. Chameleon - January 13, 2006

Excellent post! It is always worthwhile as an intellectual exercise to remind oneself in cogent, crystallised written form why feminism is relevant in spite of the constant onslaught of the apathetic who claim that now we have the vote and a handful of us are paid wages almost on a par with men that we should shut up and stop whingeing. You are absolutely spot on when you say that once your eyes have been opened you can never see anything in the same way again: what once appeared trivial or harmless is revealed as a small component of a series of representations reinforcing the status quo, however subtly (in fact the very subtlety is what renders the effort so successful, as it assumes the appearance of being “natural”, that is, “meant” to be or “the way things are”, beyond the reach of social intervention). Becoming a feminist reminds me of the scene in The Matrix when neo is given the choice between two coloured pills: feminism is definitely the red pill, ripping you out of whatever uneasy compromise you may have had with your oppression and plunging you into a harsher environment of constant struggle. Hell, I don’t regret it. Sooner or later I will answer your question in a post chez moi 🙂

3. Winter - January 13, 2006

Feminism means many things to many people but the most important aspect for me is that it requires that you take responsibility for your own actions and decisions, and to recognise when the situation requires you to stand up for your self.

I agree absolutely. Feminism requires that we take responsibility for our lives and our actions.

Becoming a feminist reminds me of the scene in The Matrix when neo is given the choice between two coloured pills: feminism is definitely the red pill, ripping you out of whatever uneasy compromise you may have had with your oppression and plunging you into a harsher environment of constant struggle.

I LOVE this comment!

I was going to say that, for me, feminism represents (among many other things) freedom, but not an easy freedom, oh no. Perhaps becoming a feminist is coming to the realisation that having freedom is not going to be easy.

4. Jo - January 13, 2006

…once you have fem-vision, you can’t switch it off , you se inequality and sexist messages for what they are and you can no longer just laugh it off when people check out your breasts before listening to what you have to say.

Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for articulating that for me – I’ve been trying to define it for years and have never come close. It’s wonderful but frustrating – and so bloody difficult!

And I agree with the idea of taking feminism with us, whatever we are doing. That’s how we win things – by never switching the “fem-vision” off but instead applying our values and beliefs to everything.

Excellent post.

5. Naiades - January 13, 2006

I think winter has a really good point there, the freedom isn’t going to be easy. Absolute freedom in what we do is never going to be an option for me as a feminist as being a feminist means that you appreciate the connection my life, and consequently my choices have on women around the globe.

As a trivial example I love milky bar chocolate which is made by Nestle, but I don’t eat it because of their (un)ethical policy of selling baby milk to women in africa where they don’t have access to clean water and can’t read the labels because they arn’t printed in the native language. I choose to buy fair trade chocolate instead, which is just as tasty, but at least goes some way to give a fair deal to the people growing the cocoa. My choice of chocolate effects families across the globe, so I feel I have to make a good one.

6. Siberian Fall - January 13, 2006

Fantastic post Naiades, I loved reading it. It reminded me of why I had become interested in feminism so thank you!

7. The Huntress - January 14, 2006

I agree that it is sometimes depressing, and looking at the world with a feminist view can make me angry a lot. Like you, I find it impossible to now switch off that feminist view. Which I think is a good thing.
Feminism is about confidence, I agree. It gives me hope that there are so many of us, and my recent discovery of all the feminist blogs has made me feel much less alone. Feminism to me is about standing up for what I believe in (equality in all areas of life) and has given me the courage to challenge people I meet who say anti-feminist or sexist things.

8. Winter - January 14, 2006

Hi Huntress, the feminist blogsphere has become a great support network I think. It has also made it possible for feminists around the world to communicate and discuss together in a way that just was not possible before. Amazing really.

9. The Huntress - January 14, 2006

Exactly. I’ve always been a feminist, but it’s reading the plethora of feminist blogs out there are realising there are so many more of us that’s given me the confidence to start talking about it in my everyday life, and to start my own blog. There are places I can go now to read other views and realise that feminism is alive and active, especially here in the UK where it seems less so.


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