Hi, I’m Nikki. I wear lip-gloss. I shave my legs and armpits. I got married and took my husband’s name. Pink is my favorite color. I take pouty selfies. I use the c-word. I own a Britney Spears CD. I buy bras, rather than burn them. And yes: I consider myself a feminist, thank you very much.
‘Feminism’ has become a loaded term, and one that is greatly misrepresented and misunderstood – in part, because it means so many different things to different people. And that’s okay. No-one’s definition is, or should be, one-size-fits-all.
I’m the first to admit I haven’t always identified with feminism. In fact, I don’t think it was until I read Caitlin Moran’s book How to Be a Woman that I really saw it as something relevant to contemporary women, myself included. Before then I associated it with either historical suffrage or 70s bra-burning, or with man-hating women who cried ‘sexism’ at every inequality their beige sandals stumbled across. The term ‘feminazi’ has previously passed my lips. Let’s take a moment to collectively cringe at my youthful ignorance.
In her memoir/manifesto, Moran assets the following:
So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”
At first, I thought this summation was overly simplified. After all, aren’t there so many other factors that can come into play when you’re looking at notions sexism? But after some reflection I realized that her super-simple definition works (although I would add that men can be feminists too!) because it is actually a simple issue. You either believe women should have equal rights and autonomy over themselves and their sexuality, or you don’t. It’s a women’s issue, rather then a men-versus-women issue, as so many people assume.
I think where it gets confusing is around our ideas of whether or not sexism actually still exists (I think it does, although in ways so subtle and ingrained we often don’t realize it’s happening), and whether feminism is therefore still relevant (I think it is).
From my perspective, at least, it boils down to this. I want to be able to have sex with someone because I want to, and not because I’m expected to, and without fear of being labeled because of my sexual decisions or history. I want to be paid the same salary as anyone else doing exactly the same job as me. I want to be in charge of my body – whether than means getting a Brazilian because I want to, or letting my lady-garden go untamed, without anyone else feeling the need to have an opinion about it. I want the mechanic to explain issues about my car to me, even if my husband is standing at my side (because we’re equally clueless – having a vagina doesn’t make me more so).
Of course, one of the most glorious things about feminism is that everyone’s opinion and voice is matters. We can agree or disagree: the fact that we can have conversations about it and make our own decisions is what’s important. I gathered some comments from other women on their thoughts.
‘”Don’t take to your body hair with anything sharper than a popstick, else you’re a victim of the patriarchy!” It’s attitudes like this that promote the misconception of the hairy, angry, feminist. Feminism to me is about autonomy over one’s self, and permitting yourself to be ridiculously in love with who you are.
I am all for girl power, and much appreciate what the women before us have done to get us the opportunities we have today, but I think feminism is old school now. There are massive inequalities and issues now that aren’t based on gender, and maybe for the world to go forward we need to start thinking of everyone based on the fact we are human beings.
~Corrine, New Zealand
Feminism, to me, means making our own choices, forging our own paths, freely walking away from people and situations that do not serve us, and commanding the respect we deserve. I identify as a feminist, but I find in too many instances the term is being misused and its true meaning diluted. It is time for another feminist revolution, except this time we’ll be fighting against ourselves as much as the percentage of the male population that would oppress us. Confidence in sexuality and freedom to express sexuality, in my opinion, are being confused with overt sexualization of our fair gender. That’s not feminism, that’s misguided.
~Sally, The Bride’s Tree
Feminism is knowing we can do better and not just putting up with ‘the way it is.’ Feminism is about realizing the inequalities that exist throughout society and not just accepting them. If you value yourself, your contributions, and your own, and every other human being’s, worth then you’re a feminist.
~Gabriella, PIXIE and PIXIER
Still wondering whether or not you’re a feminist? This super-quick Am I a Fucking Feminist? quiz will help you figure it out.
What are your thoughts? Do you identify with feminism? How do you define it? We’d love to hear your opinions.