Here’s the prompt:
“On Tuesday, February 26, link up at J.R. Goudeau’s blog, and write about these questions: What is your experience with feminism? What’s a story or a memory or a person that you associate with that word? Why does it have negative or positive connotations for you? How do you define the term, either academically or personally? What writers have you read whose definitions you want to bring out? Or, if you don’t have a definition, what are some big questions you have?”
Here’s my answer:
The person whom I associate with feminism is someone who probably wouldn’t identify with the label – my mother. She’s the strongest woman I know, and her strength cannot be contained by the boxes of gender roles. She taught me the importance of education (insisted on it, really), the value of honesty (even when it’s not popular or “nice”), and that there is nothing that I want that should be out of my reach. She reminds me of the quintessential Southern woman – self-controlled and genteel on the surface; hell-raiser and in control in reality.
One morning, while helping my sister get ready for church, Mom caught her singing Let’s Go All the Way.
She told her, in the drawl only possible from native West Texans, “T., nice girls don’t sing songs like that.”
My sister quickly ratted us out, as little sisters are prone to do. “S. and G. sing it.”
My mother didn’t miss a beat, as she said, with a barely noticeable smirk of pride, “S. and G. are not nice girls.”
I like that. I’m not sure she meant for me to like it, but I do. I embrace it. She is the voice in my head, and that voice is a glorious troublemaker.
It was that voice that set the stage for my pursuit of a graduate degree in Communication Studies with an interest in gender. Those two years at UNT introduced me to the trailblazers and writers whose work shaped feminism, and I fell in love with all of them. Betty Friedan and bell hooks, Simone Weil and Simone de Beauvoir – their words painted my world. I discovered in Eve Ensler the kind of person I want to be.
I am not an easy feminist. I am one of those annoying ones who see everyone’s voice as important, even those voices that disagree with me. They are all feminism to me. They are all essential. They should all be required reading in any worthwhile education.
I am also a Christian, and this informs my feminism, to a point. This is often confounding to both Christians and feminists. I feel the same need to put an asterisk after “Christian” when talking to feminists that I do to put an asterisk after “feminist” when talking to Christians, because both seem to always want an explanation as to why I’ve chosen to engage with the enemy. I don’t really see them as mutually exclusive, though. I think that feminism and Christianity, at their roots, have more commonalities than differences. I won’t deny that they are often unkind to each other. Maybe that’s what the asterisk is for –to indicate the “not the jerkface kind” footnote.
My definition is not an easy definition. It’s a general definition with infinite applications. My definition of feminism begins at the understanding that all are not born with equal opportunity and thus implies the exhortation that to be a feminist is to equalize, not just for myself but also for others, in any and every way imaginable.