My first assignment

28 Aug

for Introduction to Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies was to articulate what feminism means to me, if I identify as a feminist, what my associations with feminism are, etc. Here’s my response:

“I’ve been calling myself a feminist for literally as long as I can remember. I’m not sure when or where I first heard the word, but something about it stuck with me; it’s been a key personal identifier ever since. Looking back, I realize my identification as feminist developed organically, without any pressure from my mother or other adults in my life. In fact, I’m not even sure if my mom calls herself a feminist. Despite that, my mom is the very reason I became a feminist so early in life. From the beginning, she taught me (and my brother) that we were equal, both in her eyes and in life. We played with the same toys, we dressed up, and my mom never scolded me for wanting to build towers or my brother for playing with me and my dollhouse. She wanted us to feel comfortable being and doing what felt right – what was fun.

When I was 7, my parents decided to get divorced. From that point on, I was effectively raised by my mother – a single parent with two children and her own business. My dad has remained in my life, but my mom is the person I turn to for everything. Her struggle to keep a business afloat, her decision to return to law, her tireless efforts to help my brother and I become the best we could possibly be; those are just a few of the (literally) countless reasons my mother inspired me to feminism. My entire life, I’ve witnessed the power of one woman triumphing over every obstacle in her path. In the face of that kind of strength, how can I deny the value of women and their contributions to society?

I’m constantly struggling to understand and define exactly what feminism means. Until very recently, I defined feminism as equality among genders. My definition was called into question about a month ago as I read a post on one of my favorite feminist blogs, Feministe. Maia, the blogger, wrote about her experiences with feminism, as a woman of color. She made some fairly inflammatory statements about the failings of feminism and her issues with commending feminists for victories that they did not achieve alone, or that they did not achieve on behalf of all women. To me, her most compelling statement was this: “if the common definition for feminism [is] to be treated equal to a man. im not interested in feminism. that is not the goal of the women with whom ive worked. 1/3 of black men are in the prison industrial system. i am working for a different world for my daughter.” Upon reading that, I realized that the struggle for “equality” does not make sense in the eyes of many, especially women of color for whom equality with men means higher rates of imprisonment, violence, drug use. Equality is not what these women are after.

I now define feminism as the quest to ensure every person’s freedom to come into their own power and truth. I am no longer searching to be equal to men, but to break down the barriers put in front of all genders, so that we may all have the opportunity to be the best versions of ourselves.”

On a side note I feel like taking a class called “Introduction to GWSS” is mildly hilarious. My whole life feels like an introduction to GWSS, given the friends, family and experiences I’ve had.

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