Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Feminism

I call myself a feminist.

However, I think that the words "feminist" and "feminism" mean a great range of things to a great range of people, and it is important to explain what I mean when I say it (and refer to it on this blog).

One website offers this definition of feminism:
"Feminism is a range of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women."

I care a lot about those ideas, but when I think of "feminism", those are not exactly the words that come to mind. In fact, there are many more words that come to mind, and the word "feminism" doesn't always seem to capture what I care about.

Feminism is a somewhat exclusionary term, I find, due to its root being "fem" and its beginnings being based in advancing the rights of women. However, I do embrace the term and the way I have come to understand it as something much larger than an ideology that focuses on women's rights.


When I break down what "feminism" means to me, this is what I see:

  • Gender equality (for women and for men and for non-binary folks)
  • An end to racism
  • No more patriarchy
  • Deconstructing systems of power and oppression
  • Understanding colonial histories
  • My positionality with regards to ethnicity, gender, class, physicality, and as a settler
  • Challenging "the way it is/the way things are"
  • Being thoughtful, critical, and celebratory more often
  • Asking people what their preferred pronouns are
  • Unlearning, relearning, repeating
  • ETC.!
When I think of my feminism, I do NOT see these things:
  • A hate for men
  • Being angry all of the time
  • Saying "man up" or "lady-like"
  • Making any essentialist assumptions based on someone's physical appearance (i.e., assuming things because someone is male- or female-bodied in appearance)
  • Recommending people/activities/places based on someone's race/gender presentation/income (i.e., not saying "you would like this movie with this [ethnicity] actor" because that person's ethnicity matches)
  • Thinking that Indigenous peoples are solely responsible for negative aspects of living on reserves or the disproportionate number of crimes associated with Indigenous peoples
  • Accepting information at face value or letting mildly sexist/racist/classist/etc.-ist comments slip because it is tiring to always challenge people's thinking (and my own)
  • Being silent because it is easier to do so short-term

"Feminism" doesn't seem to fully capture my mindset for the world - my studies in "gender, race, sexuality, and social justice" seems to be a bit better, but that's also very long. When people ask if I am a feminist, I say "yes" and if they get to hear more, they'll learn about what I've described here (and more). If those people are satisfied with my response and make assumptions about my personality, beliefs, and behaviours as a result of that response, then so be it.

Simply put, I really care about people. 
I want the world to be a healthy place (mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally) where anyone feels welcome to go in whatever direction they choose in life.

Unless the direction they choose makes the world a less healthy and welcoming place. Then I don't support it as much, but it makes us all a little more well-rounded, right?

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