Yes, Of Course I Am

I remember when I realized I was a feminist. I am completely genuine in saying that; I actually remember the day. It was an "Aha! moment," one thing that happened that made me realize that that "f-word," the one I'd artfully dodged for years because "I don't do labels," did in fact apply to me.

It was back in 2012. I was a bit over a year out of college and in my first real-world, using-my-degree office job. My desk was situated near that of the office manager/customer service manager/executive assistant/etc. who was a sweet, smart girl named Sam. Sam had degrees in women's studies and political science. Sam was not afraid to call herself a feminist.

Sam and I were often the only people around for each other to chat with, and we could practically whisper from one desk to the other. We spoke a lot. We spoke about things that happened in the world while we sat sheltered from it behind our desks. We were both news junkies and admitted progressives, and we both got breaking news alerts sent to our phones and Twitter feeds.

It would usually go something like this: *news alert comes in, something regarding the right's latest attack on female autonomy* "JEEZ, ARE THEY SERIOUS?" *hyperspeed conversation about all the problems with this ensues.*

So anyway, after several of these chats, Sam sent a tweet out into the universe. Believe me, I tried to hunt it down, but it's pretty buried back there. Anyway, it said something to the effect of this: "When you find our your new coworker is a feminist too [some expression of excitement, maybe an emoji?]."

At first I recoiled. And then I thought about it.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. Why would I be afraid to say that? I'm not afraid to label myself a woman, a writer, a Jersey Girl, a daughter. What's the flaw in the word "feminist" that has me hesitant to embrace it? It's a descriptor of me as much as the other things. It's a term that encapsulates my worldview, my sympathies, and my passion for social justice. Wearing it proudly encourages others to do so too—like Sam just did for me. And the more people who identify with the word, the closer we get to an equal society where we're all pursuing a fair and just experience for all.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I educate myself on feminist issues for fun. I'm kept awake at night in fear for the women with poor resources in rural Middle America who are having their rights and autonomy stolen right out from under them. I fear the future we're leaving to our daughters, and that fear is part of what makes me believe I may never have daughters or sons.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I believe men and women are of equal merit to society. I believe they are intellectual equals. I believe they are equally deserving of success, respect, opportunity, and kindness without consideration of their assigned or assumed gender.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I know that I am capable of contributions that, while they may differ in content, are equal in value to the contributions of my male counterpart. I know that my worth does not lie in my appearance or my relationship status. I know that I am whole and worthwhile as I am, without the definition of a male in my life, be that my father or a husband.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I understand, sadly, that centuries of deference to male-centric issues and judgments have given an unfair advantage to men of a certain status, and that women of my generation and of those that will come after me will continue the work to reduce the habitual nature of sexism and misogyny that infects various aspects of our modern culture. I know that thousands of women have gotten us this far, and that we—male and female feminists invested in this struggle—owe it to them, ourselves, and future generations to continue pursuing across-the-board equality.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I see a sickening trend of slut-shaming that feeds rape culture and prevents women and particularly young girls from having certain contributions valued because of aesthetics and other qualities that are elevated in importance by those who choose to judge them unfairly. I see that the victim-blaming culture we live in is born out of disdain for women and has infected psyches of those who lead the pack, perhaps beyond repair. I see the damage that this does to young women and young men.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I know that certain attitudes that collide with the feminist movement are as harmful to males as they are to females. I know that feminism helps us all. I know that feminism accepts young men as more than sex-crazed piles of hormones who lose their humanity at the sight of a bra strap, and instead encourages them to be their best, most respectable, most respectful selves. I know that the lack of feminism reduces men to animals and women to their prey. I know not all women are good and not all men are rapists. But I know there are rape apologists among both genders, and I know there is no excuse for that.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I know my gender is doing extraordinary things left and right. I know we are breaking free of the need for male approval and rewriting rules in the work force, in the home, in politics and government, in education and academia, in thought leadership, in the arts, in STEM. I know my gender is shattering new glass ceilings every day. I know my gender is earning more, contributing more, and demanding more. I am proud to be a woman in the age of Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Dodai Stewart, Jessica Valenti, Amy Poehler, Kathryn Bigelow, Oprah Winfrey, and too many more people of note to name here.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I have seen that for every stride these women and their peers make, there is someone ready to call them sluts, whores, bitches, or worse. For every victory toward equality, there are a thousand verbal lashings including threats of stalking and rape. There is a woman who doesn't understand the millions who need other women to speak up for them, because their ability to speak for themselves has been stolen. There is a man who wants to and attempts to silence her by any means necessary. There is a generation of lawmakers working around the clock to literally turn it back decades and steal away rights and protections they don't understand my gender's need for. There is nearly an entire governmental party working to reduce these women and the entire rest of their gender to nothing more significant than a bug crawling across the road. For every step forward, there's another step to be taken still.

Yes, of course I am a feminist. I don't let casual sexism and mindless misogyny slide. I call people out on their harmful comments, because I can't not. I speak up for women and men who I see are afraid to speak up for themselves. I don't tolerate being treated badly or unfairly because of my gender. I won't let my friends do so either. I educate when I can, and share my beliefs to increase awareness of what the "f-word" really means. I know embracing the word, whether you're male or female, can only do good for the future of the world. Sometimes, I'm pushy. But I'm not pushy because I'm a feminist and not all feminists are pushy. (I'm pushy about everyone giving yoga a try and New Jersey being the best state too.) I'm pushy because I'm pushy, and I'm loud about feminism...can we afford to be quiet?

Yes, of course I am a feminist. Why wouldn't I be?

Comments

  1. Well first of all the way you wrote this post is just beautiful!! I personally don't think there is anything negative about being a "feminist" - I personally don't even think it should be a matter of being a bad thing - why should being proud to be a woman or trying to protect our rights as well is a bad thing?! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  2. I don't think I ever real thought much about feminism or feminists until I started blogging. I read one article about a feminist group complaining about skimpy outfits on Disney characters (think Ariel and Pocahontas), associated feminists with that ridiculousness, and forgot about it. But I've always believed strongly in gender equality, and been determined to not be restricted to my gender role. It's only recently that I realized that that's what feminism is supposed to be. People use the word to describe all sorts of positive and negative things, but I don't have to let it be a negative word just because others use it that way.

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  3. I especially like the point that feminists don't (or shouldn't at least) reduce men to sex crazed animals. A lot of people who claim to be anti feminist or not feminist use this a a sticking point which never really made sense to me. It does certainly happen but I think that has less to do with feminist movement then people would like to think. Great post!

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  4. I love this post. Huge thumbs up emoji.
    I think several years ago I was all like ew labels and ew feminists (don't stone me) because I didn't understand. I was obviously misinformed and stupid and I thought it was all .. negative stuff. I don't even know how to explain it without inserting more of my foot in my mouth. but as I got older and (hopefully) wiser, I realised what actual feminism is and that if you are a woman - or a man for that matter - and you are not a feminist.. that is effed up.
    KC and I have had heated discussions about this. Because he was slightly misinformed too. He listens to comedians podcasts and stuff and there was this one thing that happened and this blogger or something made a huge deal out of something that wasn't a huge deal - I don't remember specifics of what was said or what KC and I talked about, but basically he was like 'ugh feminists' and I was like, excuse you child. I am a feminist. He was like what?! I explained. He was like 'well yeah that's not what I meant' and I was like well that is a feminist. Yes those people are rude and annoying and negative and ruining your comedian's joke but that is on their personality not because they are a feminist. does that make sense? then we had a huge discussion about rape and who is at fault and stuff like that. i don't believe that men are always to blame, and i think that common sense should be used by everyone. i'm not saying that if you don't have any common sense, you deserve to be raped (NO ONE deserves to be raped) but if you drink obscene amounts and go home with a random guy.. why would you get yourself in that situation? of course like i said, no one deserves it, and that doesn't give the random guy any right, every girl should be able to drink as much as she wants without fear of being raped. i'm kind of rambling right now and probably should save this for an email but hopefully it all makes sense.
    to sum it all up - i believe in gender equality. end of story. if you want to wear skimpy outfits, go right ahead. if you want to be a housewife or a CEO, go right ahead. male or female, everyone should be able to do what they want (as long as it doesn't hurt anyone!) and no-one should judge or treat them any differently because of their choices.

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  5. Amen! If we don't stand up for our own rights, who will? Why, as a man, are the doors automatically opened for you and not for me just because I'm a woman?

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  6. I love that this was a moment in time you can look back on and pinpoint-- at least when you started using the label of a feminist for yourself-- and you should definitely be proud of who you are and what you believe in! It really bothers me when people associate negativity with a group of people because of one experience they've had or one extreme they've seen.

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  7. Yes of course you are wonderful. I don't feel like I even have words intelligent enough to comment on this. Thanks for always being so passionate with your written word and your good intentions.

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  8. LOVE THIS. I think what's so frustrating to me is seeing people out there fighting against feminism when it's obvious they don't even understand what it truly is.

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  9. So I was reading and nodding along with this...and I'm still afraid of the f-word. Not even afraid of it, just....I don't know, it's just not a term or a quality I associate with myself for some reason? Even though I do believe in the things you talked about. Sometimes I think it's because I'm surrounded by people, male and female, who also believe in those things and I just forget how scary the world can be and that not everyone believes in the things I think and know in my heart to be right.
    Thanks for sharing this so honestly and so eloquently because you're right, we can't afford not to.

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  10. Bravo, Alyssa. Just the phraseology "Yes, of course, I am a feminist" is so powerful in itself. I don't know why there is such a "recoil" (as you mentioned) from the f-word, but I do personally believe that we're on the upswing towards it being more an accepted and normal thing, which is why your stance ("yes, of course...") is so powerful. I just started "Lean In" this week, and I feel like I will have even more feedback on this topic and post after finishing it. Great post, as always!
    - Alyssa with an A

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  11. I love this post. And I hope you don't hate me after this comment. The thing is while I'm a lot of this, I still don't know that I am feminist because of the non-feminist traits I do have. I believe in equality, as a female attorney the "women paid less" thing is blatantly clear and annoying, and I genuinely cannot do certain areas of law because rape crimes etc keep me up ... BUT I wouldn't sit in a taxi driven by a woman for some reason because I find that most women drive terribly and I make stupid statements like "how much would you bet its a woman driving" when I see a bad driver or slow driver. And thats just one example. The thing is I should be a classic feminist - I only had sisters and went to all girls' school for all of my education prior to college. Im just .. not. At least not fully - if I was i would shout it from the rooftop though!

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  12. Love this! It took me until I was in college to really claim the label "feminist." It seems so silly now, but back then, I really bought into that idea that the word was too "strong."

    And hey, I host a monthly feminist linkup with some blog friends - the next one is May 7 and we'd love you to add your posts! The next topic is feminism and religion, check out some details here: http://theladyerrant.com/tag/f-word

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  13. I am not really one to label myself as anything. I don't really claim a political party either...but I will say that I feel that most of America misunderstands the word feminist. Essentially it just means you believe in equality and don't view the world like a cave man. What is so wrong with that? Why is the title negative to so many people? You put it so eloquently, as always.

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  14. I like so many others balk at the word feminist, but you got the point across perfectly. There's so many negative connotations surrounding the word (where the heck did all that come from!) it scares me, but like you I of course support women and believe we are equal and in some ways do more amazing work than our male counterparts. I guess the extreme cases freak me out enough to distance myself from the term. But again, love this post!

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  15. This is a FABULOUS post! Have you ever seen the movie PCU? There's a stereotypical feminist group in it and I think that's what a lot of people think of when they hear the "f word". Flannel wearing women who hate men. {as a side note, I love flannel :) }

    Unfortunately, that stereotype lends to people not understanding and wanting to, as you said, recoil when someone labels them that way. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am a feminist in the way that you are. I don't keep up with the news or anything like that. But I do believe in equality and that politics and reproduction should never be mixed.

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