- Izzy Brake ’21
We all believe in something. Whether it be second chances, karma, family, a particular cause, person, or religion; we all have something we believe in so deeply that we are willing to shape our entire lives around it. We are labeled as vegan, activist, Muslim, Christian, nationalist, feminist, and so on. These titles can empower us to do amazing things, introduce us to people with similar values, and open numerous doors and windows.
Nevertheless, whenever multiple people are organized into neatly categorized groups, we are faced with a question of identity. People involved in large movements are likely to be stripped of their individuality and stereotyped. I had always been aware of this process, but I never fully understood its harmful nature until my own feminist beliefs were brought into question.
Recently a friend told me that although she believes in the ideals that the feminist movement protects and works to institutionalize, she, however, would not define herself as a feminist. When I asked her why she told me that it was because she didn’t fit the typical mold of what a feminist looks like. Now, I doubt that she meant to send me spiraling into a philosophical reflection that made me question my own beliefs and identity, but she did nonetheless. I spent countless hours perseverating on this. I had always considered myself a feminist, though I had never thought of myself as fitting into any particular mold. So what mold was I supposed to be fitting into? What was the stereotypical feminist supposed to be like?
I realized that people seem to envision feminists as all sporting pixie cuts, only wearing pants, refusing to wear makeup, and acting preachy, pushy, and loud. People seem to think that all those that claim to be sincere and serious feminist hold a deep hatred for all men. Now, if you have ever met me, you might understand why this was a cause of much confusion for me. And for those of you who have no clue who I am, let me explain.
I wear dresses, have long hair, do my makeup nearly every day, dream of being a mother someday in the very far future, and to the best of my knowledge, have never forced anyone to accept my beliefs as their own. Am I somehow not a feminist because I do not fit the typical description of how a feminist should look or act?
That is the type of question I forced myself to consider when this image of who a “typical feminist” is, caught my attention. I had never thought that my clothes or the way I present myself discredited my claim to being a feminist. I embraced my “girly” side because I wanted to, not because some outdated, socially normalized narrative had shoved it down my throat. I do not hate all men, nor do I think that they are all evil, lowlifes who all look to take advantage of a woman. Suggesting that all men fit that profile is an act of pure ignorance. I was taught that my self-acceptance and belief in women’s equality is what made me a feminist. Not my hair, heels, or lack thereof.
To proclaim yourself as a feminist does not mean that you now surrender to a commonly thought image. Feminism is not an image. It is a movement. Being a feminist means that you stand behind the women that sacrificed so much for a cause they believed was worth dying for. Yes, I’m sure there is a specific group of extreme feminists who have led themselves to believe that women are better than men and who advertise their beliefs vehemently. This, however, is not what feminism means to me.
As a feminist, I believe in equality of the sexes. Meaning that men are not above women and women are not above men. Men should be able to fearlessly express their emotions in the same way women should not be shamed for their expressing their sexuality. Calling yourself a feminist means that you stand alongside those that fought for the vote, the right to an education, equal pay for equal work, and who advocate against sexual assault. You do not need to be an extreme feminist who doesn’t shave her pubic hair, in order to call yourself a feminist.
If you believe in the goals that the feminist moment strives to achieve and want to help reach those goals, congratulations, you are your own version of a feminist. Feminism is not defined by gender, age, sexual orientation, or race. You may choose to label yourself as a feminist or you may not, either way, the decision is yours; however, I hope that while you are making that decision you remember that you are not required to change yourself to fit into the stereotype of what a feminist is supposed to look like.
Photo from Dictionary.com