Finding Your Feminism on the Feminist Spectrum

originally published on 30 Jan 2015 via blogspot

I was thinking about this while walking to the store today…

I think what I love most about feminism is that there’s no structure to it beyond fighting individual and systemic gender oppression and working toward gender equality. Feminism is an ideology, and mindsets can’t be worn or bought. They’re believed. Feminism doesn’t mean stop wearing your bra. It doesn’t mean stop shaving. It doesn’t mean to throw all your makeup away. I choose to do those things because once I learned about certain issues, that was my response. (Or wasn’t my response — I still have all my makeup).

I try to read as much as I can about feminism on a global scale, but in my day to day life in the first world, my little acts of feminism include explicitly telling a man “no” when he wants something I don’t want to give, not giving that cute little disapproving laugh when someone makes a sexist joke, calling those out who make subtle stereotypical remarks that perpetuate oppressive mindsets.

One time I got catcalled and turned around, looked the guy dead in the eye, and said, “Really dude? I’m a human being.” The look of shock on his face was so rewarding. Not because it was a “Ha! See I got him!” moment, but because his expression was genuine. Maybe he never realized women were humans and was now having that epiphany. Maybe he was simply linking the character-complexity he sees in his mother and sister to the random girl he was just catcalling on the street. I don’t know. I don’t care. As a feminist, these are the kinds of people who are keeping our world stagnate, but also have the potential to shift their perspectives and join the cause.

I don’t think its fair to say that Western women shouldn’t complain or fight the misogyny in our countries because it’s “so much worse in other places”. Because while that is true (for the majority of us, we don’t have to deal with being a child bride, or being acid burned, or having our genitals mutilated), it’s also not come far enough. Women in the first world are sexually assaulted on college campuses like its an extracurricular activity. And isn’t it funny how when schools get shot up, everyone talks about making the schools safer for kids, but when a college woman is raped, everyone wants to know what she was wearing? That alone shows the mindset in the West (I’m talking more specifically about America) is not where it should be… and that’s why I’m a first-world feminist.

My Feminism also doesn’t mean that I want to cry and beg for change because, well, poor me! I’m not a victim just because of the genitalia between my legs. But that also means I’m not going to stay in my quiet, docile box or conform to any other social structure that’s just not me.
I’m a human being, and that’s all feminism ever articulated.

So the point is that the fight for gender equality has layers like an onion. Some may be more subtle, but it all stinks. If you care about the state of global womanhood, you’re not crazy or militant or stupid. You just see things for what they are: That there are other human beings out here being oppressed by a failing system and that doesn’t feel okay. If that last sentence is you, and you want to change things, you identify with feminism.

I’m saying all of this to say, let this blog be a place where one feminist is heard, but I don’t speak for all feminists. What I love about feminism is that it’s an entire spectrum. And being a feminist doesn’t depend on where you find yourself within the spectrum, but more on what you can take from and give to it.

When finding Your Feminism on the Feminist Spectrum, start with some good books and videos. When I first learned about sex trafficking, I couldn’t believe how real and common it is. The more I learned about what a massive problem this is, the more I also learned about the people who are fighting to stop it. Donate to them. Volunteer for them.

That’s what I did when I learned about an NGO school for Cambodian refugee children in Thailand. Because of their status, they had been barred from public school. Many of the children were girls, who without education, could easily fall victim to the very sex trafficking I had been reading and watching documentaries about. I flew across the world, packed with books and supplies, and taught for 6 weeks at the school.

Beyond the day to day education they received while I was there, I showed everyone — both girls and boys — that a young woman (and a brown one at that!) can be educated and even teach abroad if she has the drive. Maybe that inspired them to stay in school. It’s all I can hope.

But that’s the thing about mindsets, they’re in your mind. So only time will tell, but with the small fraction I have on this planet, I want to spend it on the paradigm shift. What about you?

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