THE "F" WORD

 

BY MAKENZI HOGAN

SPRING 2017

 

We could quote Merriam Webster and define feminism as “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” and/or “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests,” although "feminism" doesn’t seem to fit within the constraints of such a definition anymore. But, maybe it never has.

Feminism is women supporting women and confusion over how to reconcile the women who want to have babies instead of a career; it’s pro-gender equality and anti-man; it’s resenting the boy’s club but joining the girl’s clubs; it’s advocating for more women in STEM but never pursuing an engineering degree; it’s sexual liberation but condemnation of early marriage; it’s rejecting gender roles and rejecting the concept of gender all-together. Feminism is pop-culture and an enduring phenomenon. Feminism is as nuanced and complex as the women who identify with it, but expected to be digestible as if it somehow weren’t.

And that’s what makes it so beautiful and dangerous - so qualitatively good and bad. Arguably, because feminism has so many variations and interpretations it’s widely approachable, in theory if not in practice. Women being able to play soccer and go to law school just makes sense. Men and women being paid equally for equal work just makes sense. The ‘bad thing’ about feminism is that it goes further - or not far enough - and no one seems to know which is which, where to start and where to stop because it has the ability to upset so many aspects of life that vary culturally, economically and politically: how to understand yourself as a man, how to understand yourself as a women, how to understand yourself as partner, and how to decide who does the dishes.

Maybe there’s two feminisms: the one with the capital F and the one that applies to people individually. Or maybe - because I’ve had access to birth control, have had parents who were true partners in their relationship, have been raised believing I’m every bit as qualified as a boy, have never been outnumbered by men in a class, and have worked for a female-led company - that’s a misguided interpretation based on a life lived on the coattails of the women who came before me.

But I know what feminism and Feminism isn’t. It isn't an excuse to shame women who have different lives, values, experiences and interests from yourself. It isn't excuse to pass value judgments on modes of life which we do not understand. It isn't an excuse to define womanhood for anyone other than yourself. It isn't an excuse to expect things from others or society at large.

Does this make me a bad Feminist – a misguided, privileged, girl (not woman) woefully ignorant of reality: the cold, hard patriarchy? I’m sure there are those (men and women) who will think so. But I refuse to eschew my femininity, my life experiences and my identity in order to fit into the mold of what some nebulous ‘they’ has defined as the self-respecting, empowered, acceptable Feminist.