Elizabeth Warren, a democratic presidential candidate for 2020, preaches a message of equality for all women. (Alyssa Bailey)
Elizabeth Warren, a democratic presidential candidate for 2020, preaches a message of equality for all women.

Alyssa Bailey

What Feminism Means to Me

Why I’m proud to be a feminist

November 13, 2019

“Feminist” is a dirty word. Associated with radical misandrists, complaining about things that don’t really matter. Though it’s defined as the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, that’s not exactly how we think of it.

Forgotten are the revolutionary women of first-wave feminism, armed only with their words, winning the war against women and gaining their right to vote. Gone are the warriors of second-wave feminism, sisters in arms set on being seen as equal to their brothers. The goal of third-wave feminism is loosely defined, spanning a variety of issues concerning the women of today.

Today they fight for the importance of consent, the right to be paid appropriately for their labor, for sexual liberation, for the desexualization of women’s bodies, for their choice, for their voice, for personal freedom. It seems all over the place, but there’s a reason for that. Feminism has become much more personal, advocating for the issues that hit much closer to home. Everyone, men, women and every gender in between have their reasons for calling themselves a feminist, but they have one thing in common – a craving for equality.

I’m an intersectional feminist, a term coined in 1989 by lawyer and advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. This is a feminism that understands how discrimination can overlap in cases of class, gender, race, sexuality, disability, etc. This spans far beyond one person, but accounts for everybody, acknowledging privilege.

I wasn’t always an intersectional feminist, I wasn’t always a feminist, but as I grew and the world grew around me I realized that some sort of change was absolutely necessary, and I wanted to be fighting for it.

I am a feminist for my little brother, raised on the fact that to be a man you must act, behave and live a certain way. He’s been taught that crying is an act of weakness, that strength is much more valuable than any type of intelligence. He deserves so much more than that, he deserves to be told that he is incredible, he is intelligent, his emotions can be expressed, he doesn’t need to live by this definition to be valid.

I am a feminist because gender equality isn’t just about women.

I am a feminist for each and every one of my friends who’ve been catcalled, too many to name and too many to count. It’s not as harmless as it seems, it’s telling us, young girls, that our bodies are sexualized, that before we’re even old enough to technically consent, others will use our image for their pleasure. That even our bodies can be taken by others.

I am a feminist because we are still kids, and our childhood innocence is being stripped away against our will with every shout on the street.

I am a feminist for my fellow members of the LGBTQIA+ community, told the way they love is wrong yet they still do so passionately. When I came out as bisexual, I remember all of the words of encouragement and promises of support, but I also remember every slur whispered in the hallway, every former friend telling me that I’m going to Hell, my cousin’s disgusted expression. My experience was much more positive than others. I was lucky enough to have supportive parents. Not everyone has that same luck, not everyone can safely come out, not everyone can even legally be gay.

I am a feminist because love is the purest feeling in the world, and everyone should be encouraged to express it.

I am a feminist for my transgender friends everywhere across the spectrum, living their lives in the wrong body, challenged by people who live lavishly in their palace of privilege. Not all women have periods, not all men are flat-chested, and our definition of gender needs to be expanded beyond just those two categories. Transgender men have a suicide rate of 50.8%, transgender women have a 29.9% suicide rate, nonbinary youth have a suicide rate of 41.8%, if you make this world a hateful place, then people won’t want to live in it. This is much more serious than an argument of biology, the science backing the validity of being transgender is a better source than an ignorant opinion.

I am a feminist because acceptance is essential in making this world a better place.

I am a feminist for women everywhere, for their right to choose as well as mine. To define our bodies as our own, not owned by anybody but ourselves. I know if I got pregnant today I couldn’t provide that baby with the life it deserves, I couldn’t emotionally handle nine months of hormones. Abortion is a choice for women like me who are aware of their preparedness, who could use every form of protection and still get unlucky. Roe v Wade was passed to allow us the right to our own bodies, to abolish it would mean to have control over women.

I am a feminist because everybody has the right to make their own choices, just as I have the right to make mine.

I am a feminist for the one in six women and the one in 33 men that will be sexually assaulted, for anyone who has ever been told they were asking for it, that their refusal was selfish, that they “owed it” to somebody. A life lesson – you don’t owe anyone anything. When I reported, I was told by everyone that justice would prevail, that he wouldn’t get away with what he did to me. I wasn’t that fortunate. Despite my assault happening in a room filled with over 200 people, they didn’t ask for witnesses, they didn’t want evidence, the police found him innocent and he’s still able to live his life with the experience behind him. I’m not.

I am a feminist because everyone deserves justice, because no one deserves to be taken advantage of.

I am a feminist for victims of abuse everywhere, whether emotional, mental or physical. You don’t have to suffer alone, allow someone else to bandage your wounds and call for help. I am a feminist for anyone who lacks a voice, who may be shouting at the top of their lungs yet their voice is still drowned out. I recognize my own privilege and I want to use it to assist others. I am a feminist for all, regardless of race, regardless of age, regardless of gender.

I am a feminist because I want to advocate for people.

Everybody who calls themselves a feminist has their reasons for doing so, experiences that have shaped them, events that have changed them, loved ones that they want to fight for. Together, they’re fighting for worldwide equality, and building a better place for future generations. What are you fighting for?

13 Comments

13 Responses to “What Feminism Means to Me”

  1. John Deere on November 15th, 2019 10:31 am

    Bernie Sanders is the best democratic candidate in the race in my mind, and thats based purely off policy substance.

  2. Brooke Huffman on November 15th, 2019 11:57 am

    This article wasn’t taking a political stance, nor am I.

  3. Johnny Hopkins on December 10th, 2019 3:25 pm

    Together the feminist movement is gonna ruin this country. Just be normal people. Stop trying to change basic science and write it off as an “ignorant opinion.” It’s facts, woman can bear a child and have XX chromosomes. No matter what a man wants to say or do he will never have the XX chromosome and will never bear a child. Also what do you mean not all women have periods and not all men are flat chested? Do you or any other feminist know anything about biology or just have some plain common sense? Also the reason transgender suicide rates are so high is because you people are preventing it from being classified as a mental disorder that needs help. It’s not normal, it never has been for thousands of years. I really think it’s ironic that you started your article off by saying feminist is a dirty word associated with radicals that complain about stupid stuff, but then you as a feminist proceeded to do just that within the same article. Instead of ignoring this comment or trying to get it removed like I would expect of a feminist being debated against, I hope you can disprove my points and respond so we can learn more on our perspectives.

  4. Sruthi Ramesh on December 11th, 2019 8:54 am

    Hi! Thank you for taking the time to read this story, and voicing your opinions. As per your last sentence, I will respond to a few questions & statements you expressed.
    1) Chromosomes are in relation to biological gender. It does not always reflect what gender one identifies as. Just because it is not something that people talked about in generations past, doesn’t mean we can’t change that now. Not everything that has shaped history, is correct & ethical; so no this is misunderstanding simply a lack of information on & “common sense” on your part. But we all can learn to be more accepting & try to understand things that we may not feel first hand!
    2) Going along with what I said above, gender identification is not defined by a person’s biology. Just because someone is born as such, doesn’t mean that they feel comfortable with who they are. Dysphoria is not an illness; it’s a feeling of being stuck in one’s own skin. It’s feeling that biology limits how you truly identify within society and to yourself. So not all women have periods, because it’s not in their biology. Not all men are biologically flat-chested.
    3) Suicide rates of people in the transgender community & the LGBTQ+ are not because they have an illness. It is because they do not feel comfortable and ok in their skin. They don’t feel accepted by their local community. They aren’t able to get the things they need, to help their dysphoria. The society around them telling of their “illness,” is an example itself of being unaccepting.
    4) The definition of feminism, is the movement to equalize men and women. Yes, men can’t bear children, and women can; but how is that relevant in any way to justify inequality? Just as in any group of people, the worst end up being the viewed “status quo.” That has snowballed into the complete and utter misrepresentation of feminists, especially intersectional. Feminism is not “complain(ing) about stupid stuff.” It’s a fight to try to get rights that are deserved. It’s a struggle to uphold the ideals of equality and acceptance among all peoples.

    I’d like to finish off by asking a final question: Why does others’ personal identifications negatively affect your livelihood?

  5. Brooke Huffman on December 11th, 2019 10:31 am

    Thank you for reading my article! I saw you had a couple of questions, and Sruthi did an incredible job responding, and I thought I’d share my input as well. I personally don’t dispute basic science, in fact, I provided a link in my article relating to the science behind being transgender. As Sruthi said, gender dysphoria, a mental disorder directly associated with being transgender. I’m glad you appreciate irony, but your comment, especially your introduction, proved my opening statement. You do see feminism as a negative thing, despite its meaning really being one of equality. I would love to know more of what you meant by “stupid stuff,” if it was my concerns about victims of sexual assault or possibly my mention of suicide rates? Anyways, I hope my comment cleared something up, and I would love to better understand what you meant.

  6. Johnny Hopkins on December 12th, 2019 10:28 pm

    Alright first in response to Sruthi:

    1) Biological gender is the only gender that is real. It doesn’t matter what gender someone identifies as, that’s the problem. I don’t see how me saying something factual was interpreted by you as a lack of information, to me it’s a lack of you willing to receive the right information. Also don’t tell me I should try to be more understanding to your delusions, it’s basically asking me to deny basic biology to go along with a fake reality. You need to throw the idea that having a gender identity is a real thing. I don’t have a gender identity, I’m simply a man.
    2) In what world is any kind of dysphoria not an illness? Are you really telling me periods aren’t in all woman’s biology… let’s say that it does matter how you identify explain to me why no one that has been born a man has had a period (unless they had a birth defect) oh yea and not all men are biologically (born) flat chested…? If that was the case then why do women that want to be men go flat chested?
    3) Them not feeling comfortable in their own skin sounds like the illness to me right there. They aren’t accepted by the local community because they force their delusions down our throats. They’re teaching this stuff in schools now just so they aren’t offended. Maybe not everyone wants their kids raised to believe they can live a fake existence as whatever gender they want. If you really wanted to help them you would put them in a mental hospital and treat it like the mental illness it is so they actually have a chance to get better. Lastly the transgenders that won’t accept a whole majority of their society telling them they have an “illness” and need help is an example of their delusion. If all my coworkers told me I stunk, I wouldn’t feel unaccepted I would feel like going to the store and buying deodorant. So why can’t trans when told by a whole society that what they’re doing isn’t normal just stop doing the thing that isn’t deemed normal?
    4) That point wasn’t to justify inequality, because the only inequality now is against men, it was to justify that men will always be men and vise versa. I don’t know what you we’re even talking about for the rest of that paragraph but I do know that you have all the same rights as men. Sure you may not have the right to vote… oh wait. Well you may not have the right to serve in the military…. oh wait. Okay okay well you definitely aren’t paid the same as men… ohhhh wait you are… that would explain why my coworker that’s a girl makes the same hourly as me (ps you know when they took those stats that showed men are paid more they didn’t even factor in experience, time off, or really anything other than the combined income of men vs women, they say “someone working in the same position that’s a girl makes less” but that’s just not true, if she does make less it’s because maybe she called off a day, or has a lower degree, the scenario of two completely identical men and women with the same experience and hours worked has never been tested because it’s impossible to find, guess what there’s a lot of careers where women make more than men even if the man works 20x harder, like adult entertainment)

    To answer your question: it affects me and everyone else because it’s not her “personal” opinion, she made it her public opinion when she posted it online, and maybe I don’t want to live in a future where people believe this nonsense

    Brooke, your whole argument disputes basic science with every point you made. Also did you literally just call gender dysphoria a mental illness? That’s a whole contradiction right there to everything Sruthi said about it not being an illness. You may appreciate irony but you must not understand it because that wasn’t ironic at all, more confusing. By the way I don’t think what you said about those two things was stupid, I thought it all was. If anything your comment did the opposite of clear things up, you just contradicted someone you agreed with then gave a bad example of irony, and then you said you wanted to understand more of what I meant but didn’t say what you wanted to know more about.

  7. Brooke Huffman on December 13th, 2019 10:48 am

    Gender dysphoria is a mental disorder, and is in the DSM-5 as such. I would love to know why you thought my article was stupid, as it mentions personal experiences, outwards knowledge and stereotypes, and overall reasons why I am a feminist. I want to understand why you though each of my points were stupid, as I am genuinely confused. And, if I may respond to your argument against Sruthi’s point, gender identity is most certainly real, and it is recognized by scientists as such. Also, not all mental illnesses or disorders need to be treated in mental hospitals, that’s such an old fashioned notion. What if being straight was deemed strange, and not socially acceptable? Would you stop liking girls? No, because that’s who you are. It is the exact same thing for transgender people, this is their identity, ignorance can’t change that. I’m sure they’d love to be cisgender, but that isn’t the case. This article is my personal opinion, I never claimed that you must be a feminist, I never wrote it as any sort of propaganda, I explained why I personally choose to identify as a feminist. I don’t understand why a world where everyone is equal is frightening to you, that was a strange point to read. I’m not sure what about my article made you think it was an argument, it’s labeled as opinion and the title specifically states it’s very personal to me. Any other questions, comments, or concerns?

  8. Michael Gannon on December 13th, 2019 11:53 am

    hey sir maybe you should be not so egotistical be more understanding of other people

  9. Johnny Hopkins on December 14th, 2019 7:11 pm

    Being straight would never be deemed strange, it’s literally so normal that life wouldn’t exist without straight people. You literally have to be straight to naturally have a child with someone. Also why are you so caught up on my comment about your article being stupid, it was a passive way to rile you up just a little, and you’re so offended by my one opinion you can’t stop talking about it. Another thing… do not call people cisgender, normal people don’t need a label for their gender other than man and woman. Lastly I literally listed tons of reason why we are already more than equal, and you can call this article whatever you want, but even if you call it an opinion it’s a public opinion and that draws debates, you think of this as an argument because you’re a feminist and you’re triggered right now.

  10. Brooke Huffman on December 18th, 2019 10:34 am

    You seem to be very passionate about this, if you’re either a student or staff member at Liberty you can feel free to write a letter to the editor signed by your real name and we’d be happy to publish it.

  11. Johnny Hopkins on December 19th, 2019 11:22 am

    Probably not, the editor seems like he/she just lets any article get posted without fact checking, otherwise your article wouldn’t have been posted. But what happened to your argument? Did you just give up or?

  12. Sruthi Ramesh on December 20th, 2019 10:21 am

    HI! As the Editor of LHStoday, I would like to say that we would definitely welcome an opinion piece of your viewpoint! Certain opinion pieces do not require statistics, especially when they are about personal feeling and self-identification. If you’d like, I can be reached at [email protected].

  13. Brendyn L. on January 7th, 2020 4:36 pm

    Johny be spitting facts here. I’ve read through his counter-argument and his rebuttal, and all I can say is that he took the words right of my mouth and explained it so perfectly. Thank you, Johny!

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