So, I've been meaning to write this post for a week or so, but I needed time to put my thoughts in order first. (Read: procrastination)
Franca wrote a blog post a while back about what feminism means to her, (which I thought was brilliant), so I decided that I should write a similar post myself, especially since I'm blogging every day this month and this is a topic I have a lot to say about.
Last month a woman came into our Shakespeare class-- she's one of the English teacher's daughters, and she's directing a modernized version of The Taming of the Shrew in April-- and one of the first things she said was, "I don't consider myself a "feminist", but as a woman in the 21st century, I am." Everybody smiled and laughed, because "feminist" to many people still seems to mean bra-burning and excessive body hair, which isn't necessarily true. I loved that a really awesome grad student was proclaiming herself a feminist, but not in the way that people automatically assume.
I consider myself a feminist, at least in the way that I see world. My fascination with sociology means that I spend a lot of time thinking about the way society affects individuals; how we are poked, prodded, molded into one thing or another at the bidding of the world around us. It's not as though we don't have a choice in the matter, but for the most part, it seems like individuals can be powerless. I think feminism is a necessity in our society: there are still barriers to overcome, issues to discuss, stereotypes to change. That's what I think feminism is.
I consider myself a feminist because I look at the way I see myself-- and the way other women see themselves and I see how fragile we are. Not because we aren't strong-- on the contrary, most women I know are incredibly strong individuals-- but because we aren't always allowed to see ourselves as strong or beautiful or smart or any number of things.
We are told to be a certain way (thin, pretty, etc.) and then we're told that we're not enough of one thing or another.
We're supposed to be strong and independent but we are told that we need to be looked after because we don't know how to handle ourselves (coughTwilightcough). We're supposed to be talkative, loud, and outgoing-- but only if what we are saying is mindless or unimportant. Otherwise we should be quiet.
We should be studious/good at sports (but not the Dangerous Ones, the ones reserved for boys)/ be confident/be humble/give time to charity and family and friends.
We're supposed to be helpful/volunteer/dedicated to a particular goal, so long as it is Good.
We should be interested in fashion/skinny/not have an eating disorder/wear makeup/try harder.
If we're single, we're not good enough/need to wait for boys to ask us out/hopeless/unattractive/too much of one thing or another and guys are idiots/jerks/can't think, yet we shouldn't be able to live without them/should want a boyfriend/should date by the time we're in high school/have a perfect first kiss/not have sex until we're married/be flirty but not suggestive and we aren't allowed to make stupid mistakes.
Basically, there are lines and expectations and limits everywhere. For some, the lines are thicker or more faded than others, but the restrictions and stereotypes are everywhere. To me, feminism is seeing these things and making an effort to change them. Defying stereotypes or allowing yourself to see not through the eyes of society, but through your own eyes. I think feminism is thinking of yourself as strong and capable of more than is expected and recognizing that you do not have to be what people think you should be.
I think being a feminist is hearing people say things like "make me a sandwich!" and getting angry at the insult (it may be in jest, but it still perpetuates the idea that women should STAY IN THE KITCHEN, where they "belong"). It's learning how to respond to statements like that and accepting or denying the implications. It's taking control over your own life and ideas, supporting other women.
I consider myself a feminist because I want to change how women are viewed and the expectations society has of us. I believe I can be anything I want to be and I will not allow myself to be restrained by what I should be. I will make choices out of what is best for me, rather than what the proper reaction would be.
I am a feminist because I know that women are so much more than society wants us to be.
...Well, that didn't turn out quite as thoughtful as intended (or philosophical), but that's okay. I just started writing and this is what happened.