With feminism being a hot button topic of 2014 it seemed important to take a look at it in terms of myself and even more importantly in terms of this blog. When I wrote my Jill Scott piece a month or so back, I pointed out the separations in feminism and their historical roots. When The Root quoted my piece they referred to it as “published feminist analysis”, as flattering as it is to be titled as such, I was a little surprised. Nowhere in the post or on my blog did I ever state that I was in fact a feminist. I’ve never stated it, not because I’m afraid of the word or the label, but because I never thought I qualified for the honor or being one. It was never my goal to be a feminist.
Sometime in the late summer I was on somewhat of an awkward group date with a girl friend of mine, an old high school classmate, and the friend he was trying to set me up with. We were waiting to go into the movie and chatting about old times when my friend reminded me of a book I had lent him in highschool, Assata. He turned to his friend and said, “Ari’s really into that, she’s always been kind of feminist.” The words were so foreign to my ears, I never said I was a feminist. I panicked as I searched my girlfriend’s face for help in a response. She looked at me blankly and shrugged her shoulders. I quickly brushed over the whole thing, asserting that I wasn’t a feminist and advising my friend to chill with his statements. When I got in the car later with my girl friend I turned to her and before the words were even out of my mouth, she looked at me and said “yea you are a feminist.” I was surprised at her blunt statement of fact and quickly began to argue that I was not a feminist. I argued that just because I thought people should be treated equally, that women should be respected for achievements, and are entitled to do whatever they pleased did not make me a feminist. As the words left my mouth I realized how ridiculous I sounded, so I started the car turned up the radio and drove us home.
Define It For Me
I’ve always had a hard head and a strong will. In elementary school I hung with the boys because I always wanted them to know I could do anything that they could. While girls dreamed about Mr. Perfect and a white picket fence, I dreamed about a loft on the upper east side, a droptop silver convertible, and my adopted daughter. I’d never thought about my life or future in terms of my relationship with a man, not to say I wasn’t a slightly boy obsessed teenager. My parents always encouraged my independence, my belief that I could literally do anything I wanted to, and how important being a woman was to me. The word feminism was never used in my house, so for quite a few years it was foreign to me. As I began to learn about feminism it was all very academic, not so much a social understanding of it. So I always viewed feminists the way I viewed activists, I assumed them to be like Dr. King and Malcolm X, extraordinary people. I typically only studied feminism when it intersected with race, since my minor was in African American studies. I never took a class specific to feminism. I never went out of my way to find personal readings on feminism, everything I knew about feminism was what I’d learned in experience or passing.
2014 seems like it was the year for feminism. Everywhere I turned everyone wanted to be a feminist, everyone knew a feminist, and the definition of feminism changed so many times I just couldn’t keep up. I disagreed with people’s obsession with “Beyoncé feminism”, I felt like there was so much missing from people’s assertions that her music had switched to a feminist nature. Feminism became murkier and murkier as the feminist t-shirts and apparel rolled out 10 fold. Everywhere I turned there were hints of feminism, it was overwhelming and frustrating, because I genuinely felt that so many people were taking on a title they really knew so little about. For so long society has asserted an “othering” of feminism; it existed as a counterculture. Now all of a sudden it was the culture. I understood the push to include more people in feminism, to encourage everyone to embrace it as a positive, but what I felt was missing was the education. So many women who I saw repping feminism and wearing feminist apparel, couldn’t tell you much of anything about bell hooks, the Seneca Falls Convention, feminist theory, Gloria Steinem, or gender oppression.
I never neglected a title as a feminist, because I thought it was a bad thing. I’ve left men who believed that because I wanted equality in the relationship, I was a feminist. Not because they called me a feminist, but because they didn’t think equality in a relationship was the norm. Just as I was frustrated with girls who knew so little about feminism claiming to be feminists, I didn’t want to become that girl. I never set out to be a feminist. I never set out to study and understand feminist theory and history. I don’t like to talk about anything that I don’t have knowledge on, like they say, “try being informed, instead of just opinionated.” So I still don’t call myself a feminist, I don’t think I’m educated enough in feminism to be considered a feminist. What I’ve realized though, is that people are probably going to continue to label me as a feminist. Since that seems to become more and more unavoidable, I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to be educated in feminism, so I can support that title. I’ve purchased a few of bell hooks works, I’ve started reading up in-depth on feminist theory, I’ve even contacted some professors from my alma mater who specialize in feminism and women’s studies. I think feminism is an important thing, it should be a cornerstone in society, every girl should want to be a feminist, but every girl should want to be a feminist for the right reasons. Feminism isn’t about the awesome t-shirt slogans or the interesting mainstream feminist articles. Feminism to me is about freedom, it’s about a new and deeper understanding of yourself as a woman, taking back your identity from years of a patriarchal oppressive societal stance, and learning about who you are as a result of the women who came before you. I stumbled into feminism and I am still ambling around, but I’m glad and honored to be an accidental feminist and I wear that title proudly.