This week’s Ask SHUrly question: Feminism
“I’ve recently started to become more aware about feminism and the #metoo movement, etc. I’m worried about labeling myself as a feminist though, because of all the negative backlash. What should I do?”
The dictionary definition of feminism, according to the Merriam-Webster, is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” If you agree entirely with this definition and connect to it, then you are technically a feminist. That’s not to say you have to go announce this every time you introduce yourself to someone like, “Hi, I’m M and I’m a feminist.” However, you can give this label to yourself solely because you believe in its value.
Being a feminist is so much more than a label. Some people exercise the value of feminism in everything they do. Some study it, teach it, and give speeches about it. The idea that feminism holds negative connotations comes from years and even decades of people misinterpreting its meaning. Just the name itself, “feminism” sounds like “feminine,” so some people automatically assume it means favoring female ideals over anything else. Which is not true at all! (Refer to definition above). It is about the equality of sexes, not segregation of them.
To go back to your point about labeling yourself, so many different feminist scholars debate on what it means to be a feminist. Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist” talks about the idea of being a feminist in her book, a collection of various essays by the feminist icon herself. In this sense, what she means by being a “bad feminist” is when one could believe in feminism, but do things that don’t necessarily align with the values down to a perfect T. And that’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with being a so-called, “bad feminist,” it’s just owning the fact that no one is perfect.
Besides that, the decision is entirely up to you. Call yourself a feminist, bad feminist, or not at all. If you connect to the feminist ideals then, who cares? Those who don’t understand or try to educate themselves on what it means assume it’s negative, even though it isn’t. And that’s on them, not you. I think, as you become more aware of feminism and everything under its umbrella, then you will eventually realize you are a feminist. Try surrounding yourself around people who you know call themselves feminists. You might learn a thing or two from them and maybe even become more comfortable with the idea of calling yourself a feminist. At the end of the day, it’s just a label. What matters most is what feminism means to YOU and only you.