I thought about titling this essay “why I call myself a feminist” but after thinking about it for a while, I decided that I was hedging around an idea. I don’t “call myself” a feminist, I am a feminist. That very slight distinction, to me, is the difference between this idea of a movement that “lets people in” as if you have to be a card carrying member in order to speak for feminism, and the movement as it really is: a collection of people who believe in the same ideals and work towards them.
There is no one “in charge” of the Feminist Movement. There is no Leader. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who are highly visible who speak for Feminism. But they are not in charge. They are leaders with a lowercase L. If you asked me who I thought a leader of the feminist movement is, I would probably give you a very different answer than the one you would come up with. That decentralization, I believe, is one of the strengths of the movement. It is one of the reasons that I am a feminist. Because I can make a difference without adhering to a list of “rules” that “feminists believe.”
I am a feminist because women still do not have the same rights as men. There have been multiple, recent, repeatable studies done where fake resumes – with the only difference being a women’s name or a man’s name – are sent to hiring managers and the man is offered the job but the woman isn’t, or the man is offered a higher starting salary than the women. The same resumes.
I am a feminist because “don’t be a girl” is considered ok to say to a boy. I am a feminist because “you scream like a girl” or “you throw like a girl” are insults that I have heard regularly. I am a feminist because apparently, being a girl is an insult. That needs to change.
I am a feminist because women are extensively objectified in the media and in our society. I am a feminist because women are cat called and deal with street harassment and most men don’t even see it. I am a feminist because the first question most asked of female harassment and rape victims is “what was she wearing?”
I am a feminist because my abortion rights – my basic human rights – are STILL being fought over. Many women, depending on where they live, are STILL not guaranteed a safe and legal abortion and the people who have made this decision are Old White Men. I am a feminist because many women cannot even walk into their local health clinic for a routine check-up without being harassed by pro-life protesters.
I am a feminist because when I was a teenager my mom would tell stories of her friend who drove to first dates no matter how nearby the restaurant was, and then took a roundabout way home to make sure that she wasn’t being followed. And this, among other stories, was considered good advice for my mother to tell me.
I am a feminist because if you look at the definition of “patriarchy” in the dictionary, you’ll notice that it fits our current society. There is a glass ceiling for women in all institutions of power. More women are going to college than men, but the extreme majority of CEOs, Congressmen, and others in power, are all men. Why?
I am a feminist because women still do more housework and childcare than men, simply because that’s expected. I am a feminist because women often gain custody of children in divorces UNLESS the father asks for custody; then he is practically guaranteed it, no questions asked. I am a feminist because society looks down on stay at home moms, and also looks down on working mothers whose husbands stay at home with the kids.
I am a feminist because when my mom found out I was having sex with my then-boyfriend, she kept telling me “why keep the cow when you can get the milk for free.” As if I was having sex for him and not for me, as if all he wanted out of the relationship was sex, when in reality I was the one with the higher sex drive.
I am a feminist because this society hurts men. Men are not allowed to show emotions, because then they would be “girly.” Fathers are considered less adept than mothers. Male rape victims are erased. The idea of “boys will be boys” removes responsibility from men for their actions. There are many problems that you can flip on their heads and end up with an equal but opposite problem that men have.
And I have not yet seen a movement that deals with men’s issues in a productive manner other than feminism. The best I have seen is the Good Men Project, and I wouldn’t classify that as a movement – it may get there, but currently it’s just a good website. But I have seen feminist organizations that deal with the problems men face in a society based on patriarchy. (Take The Representation Project as an example.)
I am a feminist because there is a need for conversations about gender and stereotypes and biases, and I am part of that conversation.
I am a feminist because this essay is already 900 words long, and I keep thinking of things to add.