Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Are you a feminist?

By Jillian Washburn


I hear it every semester in at least one of my classes, “raise your hands if you consider yourself a feminist”. Immediately, as if without thought, my hand shoots into the air before my professor can get the words out of their mouth. I glance around trying to see which of my fellow classmates are willing to raise their hands proudly (usually a small percent) and which much to my chagrin, keep their hands low by their sides, while the rest don’t raise their hands at all. The following discussion, about why people didn’t raise their hands, often leads into stereotypes about what a feminist is, or what you have to do to be considered a feminist. Things like you have to hate men, you must want women to have special privileges, you must be a woman, etc. None of these statements are necessarily true in order for someone to call themselves a feminist; by the most basic definition, a feminist is someone (no matter what sex, gender, sexual orientation, or identity) with the belief that men and women should be treated equally in all aspects of life (politically, economically, socially); if you agree with this statement then you are a feminist! Being an activist isn’t a requirement for being a feminist. There are of course, feminists who are more active than others, they may attend protests, marches, or conferences trying to make a difference in the lives of women, but there are also feminists who commit small, daily acts of feminism by simply speaking up against something they don’t agree with, then of course there are all the feminists in-between and beyond that don’t simply fit into one category or the other. What it means to be a feminist changes from person to person just as any other part of an identity does, but we all have common goals in mind. While at Umass Dartmouth I have discovered more of who I am as person and being a feminist is an important part of my identity. For me it has become a way of life. Although I am involved in many different aspects of the ‘feminist world’, I also make sure that I speak up in class, become involved with different activities on campus through the Women’s Resource Center, and try to educate people in my life who don’t know as much about a subject as I do. If more people were willing to listen to what being a feminist truly is, then we might be able to break down those stereotypes and show them they are probably a feminist too.

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