What It Means to Be A Feminist

First of all, let me tell you what feminism is not. Feminism is not a dirty word. It is not advocating that women are better than men. It is not giving women more rights or privileges than men. It is not about men. Feminism is not just suffrage, not anymore. It is not stagnant. Feminism does not mean throwing away your makeup bag, unless you want to. Feminism is not Simone de Beauvoir, Rosie the Riveter, Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, or Beyoncé. It cannot be wrapped into a single person or take on a single form. Feminism is not “just a bunch of lesbians.” It is not particular or stingy. It is not ridiculing the girl on Instagram that only posts bikini pictures or the new girl your ex is dating. Feminism does not hurt or degrade people. It is not sitting back in a meeting or classroom or court or voting booth and letting your voice be stifled, your power muted. Feminism is fighting back.

Throughout history, feminism has evolved from a suffrage movement into an intersectional battle for equality. First wave feminism strived for legal protections of women in the late 19th century and eventually gained women the right to vote in 1919. Second wave feminism in the 1960s through the 1980s fought for equality in society, aiming to dismantle sexist stereotypes against women. Many felt that this wave of feminism focused on upper-class white women. As a response, the modern feminist movement seeks to challenge gender norms and include ideas of race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, and gender when definifing feminism. This is not to say that suffragets accepted societal discrimination or that there is no legal gender discrimination in the modern era. Each wave loosely defines the prominent ideology of that time, though aspects of each wave can be found within one another. The definition of feminism has evolved over time.

Feminism also looks different depending on where you are. For example, it is nearly impossible to file for domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia. Their ideas of feminism might center around achieving basic human rights for women. In India, the system of arranged marriage is still very prominent. Some feminists argue that this tradition perpetuates and systematizes sexism. Other feminists argue that western countries must respect other nation’s traditions instead of imposing western feminism ideology on them. Understanding these differences is integral to support the many different battles fought by women across the world.

Someone once asked me, “What is the point of the women’s march?” The point is to no longer be silent. Women want to make noise, whether it is screaming in anger or celebration. We deserve the opportunity to do both. Looking back at history, the suffragettes are remembered as pioneers for gender equality. Feminism’s core fight remains the same, it has just changed forms. Today, feminism asks all women to embrace every part of themselves, regain and retain their power, and wield it well. Hairspray said it best: Celebrate the women in your lives who have fought and come so far. And after that, plan how you are going to make noise, because we’ve got so far to go.