I remember when it was pretty common for people to insist, “if you believe in gender equality, then you’re a feminist.”
But is feminism really that simple? Sometimes, feminism is treated as a one-size-fits-all label, as though identifying as a feminist is an obvious choice for everyone. However, even among people who identify as feminists, there are differences in opinion about what feminism is. There’s a lot of discussion about the importance of intersectionality and the dangers of white feminism. There are also women who, for various reasons, might not identify as feminists.
When talking about feminism and gender equality, I believe it’s important to think about different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences. I asked women about whether or not they identify as feminists, how they define feminism and whether or not they think the feminist movement is inclusive. Of course, I cannot begin to outline the views and experiences of all women, but I aim to shed some light on some different perspectives that exist.
Advocating for women’s rights — and…
“I identify as a feminist because the feminism I subscribe to believes that patriarchal society is harmful to people. On a personal level, I don’t like how patriarchal values have tried to keep me from excelling in STEM fields and made it so doctors are less likely to believe I’m ill or in pain when I say so.
Feminism is advocating for women’s rights by looking at multiple perspectives, including race, class, gender and sexuality. I think the feminist movement is starting to get more inclusive but isn’t there yet. I don’t think it’s there yet because although we have started to talk about other factors that influence misogyny, like race, class, gender and sexuality, we’ve only started. Like, just five years ago, I remember there being an actual discussion among kids in my class about whether trans women should be included in feminism.”
– Tiha, 22
Learning more about gender roles
“I’m probably under the boat of rejecting feminism yet not truly understanding what feminists stand for. I grew up in a very Republican and conservative household, where I was told there is no such thing as a wage gap and feminists have no reason to complain. Since becoming an adult, I have struggled to identify what my own stance on this is. I like to say I support women in these fights, but I don’t call myself a feminist because it sounds too political for me.
I think that there’s a lot of change that needs to happen in terms of what a woman’s role is and what a man’s role is and the expectations we have for both. While women want to feel respected, I also stand with men who feel like their feelings are not validated. I’ve worked with kids so I know this starts at a very young age — girls are comforted, while young boys are told to be tough. I’m still developing my own stance because I grew up in a strictly conservative home.”
– Amy, 22
Rejecting white feminism
“I identify as a feminist because I appreciate and enjoy my agency and disrupt the patriarchal system. In general, if there is systemic inequality, I am for the movement. Oftentimes, feminism in America focuses on white experiences and it’s frustrating to see this because identities are intersectional. To be more specific, white feminism is almost as frustrating as toxic masculinity.
Although inclusivity may occur on the national level or within leadership, this does not always translate to the public and as mentioned, white feminism is widespread in the American context. There is an erasure of non-white experiences and the general public does not get it. In my opinion, the movement can be improved by educating the public about intersectionality and other overlapping topics within identity politics.”
– Quyen, 21
“I identify as a feminist, and the shorter answer would be because I believe in equality between all genders. The longer answer is because I recognize that we live in a patriarchal society that targets femininity and promotes masculinity, a fact that hurts both men and women. I also understand that as a white woman I have a direct advantage, because women POC or non gender conforming individuals have a much harder time and have less opportunities.
By definition, feminism is inclusive, but in practice we have a long way to go. I’m talking largely about white feminism and celebrity feminism — women who are quick to call themselves feminists but won’t defend their POC counterparts or only speak up when convenient for them.”
– Emma, 21
Including all genders
“I would say I am a feminist because I do think that all genders should be equal. However, I advocate for black women because I am a black woman. I realize that as a black woman it is an added barrier.
I think the movement is inclusive to women but not everyone. (Everyone) can definitely be a part of it but if they do not identify as a woman, they may feel like feminism is an exclusive thing only for women, when that’s not the case. I think since it has the name ‘feminism,’ which begins with “fem,” it pushes other genders away because they either do not understand or don’t think they have a say in it.”
– Bria, 20