What Feminism Means to Me

As someone who identifies as a feminist, I feel the need to define what feminism means for me. The best I can do is explain my beliefs concerning feminism as they currently are, with the knowledge that they will evolve and probably end up differently from what I now believe.

As I type this, my fingernails are painted red, my hair is styled and I am wearing makeup and a push-up bra. Can I still be a feminist? While I agree with Jessica Valenti that everyone can create their own definition of feminism that works for them, according to my personal definition that is only meant to dictate my own brand of feminism, yes. I am still a feminist, even with all the accoutrements of a woman victimized by the patriarchy.

My definition of feminism (for myself only) is this: Embracing traditionally feminine characteristics while simultaneously working to empower and better the lives of other women, whether that empowerment be through example, action or the written word. My belief is that “femininity” (as defined by our patriarchal culture) is a powerful tool for advancing the cause of feminism. Sexists and misogynists need to see that a stereotypical woman can also be a feminist. In this way, femininity and feminism would no longer seem to be at odds with each other.

My personal experience being one such feminine feminist has been that I come off as a strong woman, not just a strong person. I think that identifying as a strong woman is imperative to combat sexism, an issue that directly concerns gender. Furthermore, the stereotype of the “butch,” “dyke-y” feminist only encourages disdain from others, which does feminist ideology itself a great disservice. Thus, the gender I perform is integral to my personal definition of feminism.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Amanda! I thought your post/definition was really interesting. I’m assuming I can comment critically since you concede that your definition is up to change, so no offense, but I’d like to point out two things:

    One is that this definition comes from society. In other words, you observe society and how it defines feminism (and it may not necessarily have a written definition similar to yours – but it sets the notions for how and why YOU define it), and in turn, you define feminism. (I know that this won’t make sense to you when you read it, so PLEASE email me or talk to me in person and I will gladly explain it better to you.)

    The other is that this definition doesn’t end with you. This definition appears unconsciously outside of you, within your actions and mannerisms. Even further, it’s not even a definition if you can’t acknowledge this: it defines YOU. You think that you’re defining feminism, but what’s really going on is that you’re just observing how you act based on your perceptions without realizing that you do so unconsciously.

    Basically: your definition of feminism controls you. This definition comes from society, which basically means that society is still in control of your identity through your feminism, since your feminism defines your actions and thoughts without your conscious awareness or consent.

    I just want to mention that this is an inference based on observations that I made about your post. In no way am I saying that your definition is wrong, but all I’m really trying to prove is that society still controls your definition, and in turn your identity. I identify as a feminist, and our definitions are different, but I don’t have the full capacity to claim that one definition is more “correct” than the other because we’re both biased based on our societal interactions (I too am controlled by my definition). If you have issues with a difference in opinion, then that’s a-okay (in no way am I going to define my definition of feminism here).

    I do acknowledge that I’m writing this comment close to midnight; my thoughts probably don’t come out 100% in writing. Please email me if you disagree/have questions.

    • Broski, I would love to talk to you about this in real life. I just wanted to address your point that I am controlled by my definition of feminism, and that it is a definition, in essence, created by society. Here’s the thing: Unlike a lot of people, I am not constantly railing against “society” whenever I need to place some blame. I have no problem with the fact that my defiition of feminism stems from being socialized in a certain way. In no way do I claim to have escaped socialization–if anything, I embrace it, because it’s there, it exists, and there’s no way to separate myself from it. So why not use it as a tool to further the feminist cause?

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