I believe that feminism can be individual, but however nuanced the description gets, there are some things feminism is clearly not. It’s not a taboo, a dirty word, “bad” in any shape or form, and it definitely isn’t a trend.
The first wave of feminism appeared in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when women’s suffrage was at the forefront of an industrializing world. In the ‘60s, second-wave feminism emerged to tackle issues encompassing sexuality, reproductive and civil rights. The movement continued up until the ‘90s, when its third form found a home on the web, in zines and movements such as “Riot grrrl.” Feminism has been around for more than century, and yet, walking around a liberal college campus, I still hear people talk about how they’re tired of some sort of trend on Tumblr.
I had an internship at an online women’s magazine last spring, and part of that internship included participating in promotional events. For Women’s History Month, we set up a tent and invited men and women to tell us what they were confident about in themselves. The girls I worked with talked about self-love and relationships to anyone who would stop by, but as the day went on, I only heard questions as to why the tent was pink.
Feminism is clear to me. My rights are something I take seriously. While I have the right to vote and attend university, I still have to fight to keep my reproductive rights from a bunch of men in Congress. I still have to fight to be taken seriously by male journalists who try to mimic Aaron Sorkinisms, a-la-“Newsroom.” I have to fight against a society who will see my miniskirt and take it as an open invitation to say things like “Everyone can see your butt cheeks, if you bend down.” Seriously, what?
I have no problem telling people that I am a feminist, and I think everyone should be. What I don’t do, though, is tell them what feminism should be for them, except simply laying out that the good feminist/bad feminist conversation is trite and really reduces us to petty bickering among what could be an influential support system. The entire good/bad categorical obsession doesn’t make sense, aside from being flat in nature, because everyone wants to believe they’re good. Having a boyfriend and letting him pay for your dinner is not against feminism. Shaving your armpits is not against feminism, and letting them grow shouldn’t offend anyone. Are people really still asking if they can wear makeup and be considered a feminist, and why is it a shock that I’m into fashion? It’s not good feminism/bad feminism – it’s personality and preference.
Past the categorical judgments, there is a vast territory that feminism covers. Once this becomes apparent, hopefully people won’t think twice, or feel the need to clarify, when asked about personal views and beliefs.
Feminism is needed because in rape cases, victims are still slut shamed for what they were wearing. It’s needed because street harassment still exists, because tampons were confiscated from women in the Texas Capitol during the debate on an abortion bill, because masculinity is not a measure of worth in men, because equal-pay is still an issue, because we need more female physicists and engineers, and because feminism is still considered a dirty word in 2013.