This is a manifesto of sorts that I wrote a few months ago but I'm posting it here now because I seem to be having this conversation a lot lately.
I’m a feminist. (duh...)
But when I say ‘feminism’, I’m not talking about theorists or jargon (I’ll get back to those in a second…)
See, I never came to feminism through academia, readings or even activism. Although I only began to identify as such after being in University, feminism was part of how I was raised.
My family is made up of tough, working class people. I don’t remember hearing much about ‘feminism’ growing up but all the tenets were there.
As a womyn, I was told that I had to work twice as hard to make it anywhere because people were going to try and take me down. I was told that I never needed a man to be happy or complete and that I was always intelligent first and pretty second. I was told that people are going to tell you that being gay or being a boy who identifies as a girl is BAD, but that it’s not. People should be free to love whoever they want. I was also scolded harshly for being racist and learned through my Oma that people with disabilities are as competent as anyone else in the world. I was told that money doesn’t equal happiness or intelligence and that formal education was a ticket to a better life – that it’s a privilege.
I was taught that nobody gets anywhere in life without hard work but that everyone is doing the very best they can.
And I’m doing the best I can.
For me, that means attacking an issue through different methods. I don’t really identify as a radical and I’m okay with that. As I stated here around the G8/G20 stuff, my politics are about accessibility.
My first introduction to ‘volunteering’ or ‘activism’ was in my early 20s, when I realized that my life was centered around ME: I worked, went to school and hung out with my friends. I had copious amounts of privilege but wasn’t giving back.
Not being connected to any kind of community, I became a Big Sister. And I loved it. I loved (And still do!) the two amazing girls I worked with and saw the brilliance and power of girls.
But then I started working with more and more groups and as exciting, energizing and exhausting as it all is, I've realized what I am not.
I am not an anarchist. I don’t think that makes me delusional or ignorant.
I don’t believe in elitist feminism. So yes, that means I don’t identify with academic feminism. But it also means I don’t identify with many activist circles.
I don’t think the world is going to be a better place by dropping Judith Butler bombs or by claiming “I’m oppressed”, “No, I’M oppressed” or differing to theory rather than having anything concrete to say.
I am a feminist that lives in the real world.
I do not interact only with other feminists every day. I live in a world where the vast majority of people have no fucking clue what ‘marginalization’ means, but they can tell you what it feels like. They think ‘rape culture’ is a scary generalization and would never claim to live in one. Until, of course, you explain it to them and then womyn slowly start raising their hands.
My feminism means that accessibility isn’t just building a ramp and oppressive languages isn’t just saying “That’s so gay”.
I live in a world where the vast majority of people who assault are men and the vast majority of the people I see in that world are men.
I cannot isolate myself from men nor can I allow myself to be co-opted by them.
My feminism includes men. No. Scratch that. My feminism must include men.
The role of men in feminism is situational and must always come from the direction of womyn.
You are not my ally if you challenge the sentence “Womyn are sexually assaulted” with “Men are raped, too!”
My feminism is trans-inclusive. I do not feel threatened by your definition of gender and how you self-identify.
I also firmly believe in the need for womyn-identified-womyn ONLY spaces. I think anyone who disagrees fails to understand the systemic nature of sexism and has yet to observe the dynamics of 12 year old girls.
I do not believe in collectives as a structure or a political strategy. I have come to this conclusion through personal experience and chats with those who’ve been there – including the beloved ‘Jane Doe’.
My feminism respects the herstory of the movement and the history of humanity as a whole. I firmly believe that if we don’t learn from history, it will simply repeat itself. This means recognizing colonialism, systemic discrimination against categories of ‘disabled’, and the sacrifices of those who go to war.
I recognize November 11th as an important day to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of those who died on muddy beaches for my right to demonstrate.
I do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I recognize that Agnes Macphail, Katharine Mackinnon and Peter Singer are important AND terrible.
My feminism believes that sex is marvelous, dangerous and political all the time.
My feminism is not dogmatic. It strives on diversity and therefore inherently recognizes the right of bell hooks, Andrea Dworkin, Sarah Palin and Ginger Spice to call themselves feminist. Even if it makes me uncomfortable.
Oh yeah and my feminism spells women with a ‘y’ not because it hates men or even thinks that the spelling of a word will revolutionize the world. It’s spelled with a ‘y’ because it pisses you off. And your anger speaks volumes.
*My feminism also reserves the right to change any and all of this without notice. All sales are final.