Let’s Talk Feminism, No Bra-Burning Required

By Katie, 5:33 am

I am a feminist.

When I was in undergrad, I was the co-founder and president of a feminist organization on campus. It was fun and sassy but also incredibly intellectual, and it quickly became one of the most active groups at the college.

Today that feminist organization is alive and as active as ever thanks to a current student named Teddi. I’ve yet to meet her in person, but I know we’re kindred spirits.

Here Teddi breaks down the myths and misconceptions about what it means to be a feminist. I hope you’ll share your thoughts on the topic as well! _______________________________________________________________________________

It’s the f-word.

Feminism.

It’s a word you may not want to say on a first date. It’s a word that may make some of your friends cringe—especially your guy friends. It’s a word that is sometimes condemned in conservative circles, praised in academia, and thrown around by celebrities. It’s a term people love and hate, but especially love to debate. Tied up in it are countless arguments and assumptions. 

And it’s a word I love.

As the Student Director of our college’s Women’s Services & Gender Resource Center, I come in contact with countless students who are hesitant to claim the identity of “feminist” simply because they are afraid of how they might be labeled. While I understand this fear, it’s about time we get over it. So, before I even start talking about the “f-word”, let me clear up a few stereotypes:

I do not burn bras. I am not a lesbian (though I deeply care about LGBT rights). I enjoy baking, doing crafts, and dressing up. I don’t hate men. I believe in equality for all people and I care about the harsh expectations put on men in this culture just as much as I do women. My greatest dream is to one day be a mother. And yes, I am a passionate feminist.

Why? Most simply, because I believe that the war for equality is not yet won and because “women’s issues” are still at the heart of almost every social tragedy. Lest we forget, 80% of all human trafficking victims are women. In other countries, women are stoned to death or buried alive for adultery, forced into sex, and executed or exiled from their village if they even consider reporting rape. In the Congo, a girl is often raped before she is even six years old. 70 million women have undergone the practice of genital mutilation. Here in America, 7 million women suffer from eating disorders and 1 out of every 6 women will be a victim of rape or sexual assault.

When I read this laundry list of sad realities, it makes me realize that contrary to popular belief, to say we live in a “post-feminist” world is a false sense of security. Feminism is not an out-dated movement. It’s still very much needed. And if you are interested in or enraged by any of those issues above, then you are most likely a feminist.

According to Webster’s, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality for women.” I don’t see how any of us could argue with that.

What is your definition of feminism? Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

**Teddi is a feminist writer and blogger at She Was Write.

24 Responses to “Let’s Talk Feminism, No Bra-Burning Required”

  1. I like the line:

    Acknowledging your’re a feminist is an act of gratitude for those that came before you….

    paraphrased, of course:)

  2. Yes, I am a feminist!

    ( a feminist who happens to be thrilled to hear that the group on campus is thriving! Yay! :) Keep it up, LVC!

  3. Kelly says:

    I think being a feminist means you believe in equal rights for men and women. I do. End of story.

  4. “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Count me in.

  5. Alexis says:

    I was around in the early 70s. Heard the speeches made by Gloria and Betty. Did the demonstrations even though I was in jr. high. Also protested the war, knew who the weatherman were, and the SDS, watched the Chicago 7 trial during dinner. I would never ever call myself a feminist. Sadly, I saw first hand the abuse suffered by women from women, under the banner of feminism. Too much of the feminist “war” was fought between “us”.
    IMO, the economic rollercoaster that starting in the mid-70s did more for a woman’s right to work than the feminist movement. No more one income families for this country. 30+ years later women still have to sue for equality and equal pay.
    Still little funding for woman’s health issues.
    I don’t aline myself with any group, not even PETA or GREEN PEACE. I will be active for issues but would never call myself a member of an organization. I don’t agree 100% with any group. I won’t be a percentage point member. I’m not a 70% member in good standing.

    • Katie says:

      I definitely see where you’re coming from, Alexis. The feminist movement has certainly had its fair share of conflict. I’ve witnessed it mostly generationally, in terms of older and younger feminists wanting to work on very different issues, having very different goals and agendas, etc.

      Still, for me it is very important to claim the title of feminist, on a very personal level. I don’t really care what anyone else’s definition of the word is, I don’t measure my feminism by my membership in NOW or any other group. For me, the label is simply a personal banner displaying what is important to me, on my terms.

      Not sure if I’m making any sense here! But overall, I very much hear and respect what you’re saying, and yet would still choose the title of feminist for myself.

  6. peacebeme says:

    I thought the video was going to be kind of corny, but I surprisingly loved it. I love seeing celebrities in PSA-type clips like that (for lack of anything better to call that). I think I am a super idealistic feminist and then I believe women should be able to to anything man can do, and receive all the benefits of chivalry at the same time! ;) I don’t think we have to give up one for the other. I think women go through so much in life that is harder than what men go through and we deserve to be princesses and leaders at the same time. :)

    • Katie says:

      I agree that the either/or mentality can be harmful and limiting.

    • Teddi says:

      I showed that video to a freshman Gender Studies class and they all remarked that it was amazingly “not corny”. I think it’s awesome to stress that ANYONE can be a feminist–black, white, male, female, etc. As far as the either/or mentality goes, I agree completely. That is why I emphasized that while I am a feminist, I still love dressing up, being maternal and nurturing, etc. I think feminism is all about CHOICE and the ability to decide who you want to be. If you want to maintain all the traditionally feminine characteristics, then you should have the right to. And if you don’t, you should have that right too. :-)

      http://www.shewaswrite.com

  7. Fantastic.

    I recently wrote a post (the one you commented on!) in which I ate made a quick clarification that I’m not a feminist. I’m not one to stereotype & I definitely don’t believe in the feminist stereotype, but looking back, I think I made that clarification with that stereotype in mind. And you know what? I think I am a feminist. I care very deeply about women’s issues of all kinds & am a huge supporter of empowering women–which, I’d say, is what feminism is all about, right?

    • Woops, that should say “in which I made a quick clarification”…haha don’t know how the word “ate” go in there!

      • Katie says:

        Haha, I make typos like that all the time and always notice them the second AFTER I hit publish! :)

        I appreciate you sharing your thought process. I think many people don’t call themselves feminists because of the myths and misconceptions out there, even though they support the core message. I also think there’s great power in taking the word back from the negative place it’s been put in our society.

    • Teddi says:

      Yes, I would definitely say that is feminism! I think it is cool that you are able to go back and re-define what you thought a movement was. I’ve considered myself a feminist for years, but my understanding and definition of it is daily evolving and changing!

      http://www.shewaswrite.com

  8. Sarah says:

    I’m a feminist in the sense that I believe that men and women are equal. I have huge issues with women being treated as commodities to be bought and sold. Woman trafficking has increased in the United States as Asian and South American women are sold into brothels mainly in the border countries. Which absolutely sickens me! I’ve donated to the Women’s Funding Network which helps aid the monement for women equality throughout the world (http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org). But I’d like to get more involved.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I’m not familiar with the Women’s Funding Network, but I’m heading over to check it out now.

  9. Aunt Becky says:

    Yes, I am a feminist. Always have been, and always will be. Became one when it was still a new term. Didn’t burn my bra, but it was sure a good excuse to not wear one some days! Seriously, I believe feminism is about elevating and celebrating women in their full potential and actualization. That doesn’t mean doing so at anyone else’s expense. Life is not a zero sum game.

  10. Dave says:

    I’m a feminist, too.

  11. Jannifer says:

    This was a great post. I don’t know a lot about feminism and I think people in our country misconstrue feminism. I feel like I learned a lot and understand the issue more. Thanks!

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