March 8, 2011


Today is the 100th International Women's Day.

I am a feminist.  I can say that unequivocally, because I know the definition. Feminism is defined, in every dictionary you will look in, as something like "the  belief in the political, social and economic equality of the sexes." (It is worth noting that the word is equality. Not sameness, since the sexes are not the same, nor superiority, since that's not true either. Nor does it even define the gender of the person who would believe in this equality.)  Since we do not yet have any of those things, I'm still a feminist, and I feel like were I to say I was not, I would be saying that I don't believe in equality, which I do. Firmly.

I had a talk recently with a young woman who said several things to me about feminism. She said first, that she absolutely believes in the ideas of feminism, but doesn't want to say she's a feminist, because she thinks the word has negative associations with a minority group of radicals.  Second, she said that she thinks things are much better than they were for women, and that maybe we don't need feminism as much, because things are better. 

We had a talk.

I asked her if she thought things were, indeed equal.  She didn't, and we talked about how even if things were better  (which for her, seemed to mean good enough) for women here, that what about the International nature of human rights. Was it good enough for things to be better here, but not elsewhere? Even if things were perfect here, with equality up one side and down the other, don't women in Africa and the Middle East need her feminism?

We talked then about the associations that she thought people made with the word feminist.  This young woman said that it was her conviction that the sexes should be equal, that she thought equal pay for equal work was something that she would like to see in her lifetime, and that of course she wanted the right to own property or vote for all women, but that really (and here I'm paraphrasing) she was not willing to publicly state her convictions by labelling herself a feminist (even though she meets the definition) in case people made a bad association with that aforementioned tiny minority of extremists.

Another talk.

We talked about convictions, and principles, and how the power of all of that was in being true to your belief system, whether or not other people liked your beliefs, and then we talked about the Westboro Baptists (although really, you can insert the extremist-nut-jobs of your choice.) Is there anyone that you know, I asked her, who is walking around saying that they absolutely believe in the ideas of Christianity and believe those principles to be important and true, but don't want to use the word Christian to describe themselves? People who instead of using the actual word that describes them, are instead saying "Well, yes.  I believe in Christ and all everything that Christianity is defined as, but I'd rather be called something else because of those Westboro Baptists."

No.  Instead- they, we, all of us - define the extremist-nut-jobs as the ones who aren't entitled to the word, and don't allow them to corrupt it's meaning. A few extreme Christians don't make Christianity extreme. A few bad Muslims don't make Islam bad, a few bad men don't make all men bad, a few shifty plumbers don't make all plumbers corrupt, and by extension, the beliefs of some women don't get to define my principles or the word and what it means. They can have their beliefs,  but they can't change the dictionary - at least not without a qualifier, like "extreme" or "radical" in front of it. 

Feminism means you believe in equality.  I am a feminist. I like the word, because I know what it means.

Today's pictures are my mum, my sister, my daughters. They are my favourite feminists, and the best reason I know for the word.

Posted by Stephanie at March 8, 2011 12:41 PM