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Jewesses with Attitude

How Do You Relate to the Word "Feminist"?

At the Jewish Women’s Archive, the word feminist comes up a lot.  I, personally, am proud to be a feminist. To me, the word conjures images of fighting for equality for all, and a long history of strong women who acted to change the status quo.  One of the reasons I was so excited to take a position at JWA was to be a literal card carrying feminist with my business card.

It probably won't come as much of a shock to you that the word feminist comes with significant baggage. Identifying as a feminist is not as straightforward to some as it is to others.

In order to get a better feel for the word, we took to the (metaphorical) streets of twitter, email, and facebook to get a feel for the word. We’re sharing these reactions to the word—and asking if you identify as a feminist.

“I was in feminist-denial for years. I embraced the f-word through education and (more importantly) by following the example of those before me.” —S.

“Hells yeah! My mom didn't march with NOW and integrate men's only dining clubs so her daughter could grow up to be one of those ‘I'm not a feminist, but...' chicks." —G.

“The term feminist seems militant and old fashioned to me. For some reason, I am fine with the term feminism though, and absolutely consider myself pro-feminism.” —L.

“I identify with it, without caveat, but with the understanding that a man who identifies as a feminist needs to do so with a commitment to listening with deference to women when it comes to feminism, rather than attempting to shape the conversation himself.” —D.

“I’m absolutely a feminist. To me, the term is about justice, equality, and educating others as to the fact that patriarchy exists as well as how and why it harms everyone—not just women—up to and including even those that benefit from these cultural structures we've built.” —K.

“The Feminine Mystique was my bible when I was in high school and though I haven’t reread it since, I’m going to assume that every word of it would still resonate. (Though I do hope that some of it would feel dated due to the progress since.)

I was struck by the 'no big deal' attitude from young women re: Hilary Clinton being the first viable female candidate for president. I wanted to celebrate the change in our culture and to declare gender inequality to be a thing of the past, but knew better. So I found myself worrying just a bit about the lack of knowledge/concern among the next generation about the ways in which women have yet to be ‘liberated’.” —N.

“Yes, and more guys should too!” —B.

“I have always shied away from self-identifying as a feminist, I think because I associated feminism with a radicalism that didn't speak to my experience. But that's definitely changing.” —R.

“I think that if you truly believe in human rights you have to be a feminist, even, and especially, if you are a man.” —J.

“I've always identified as a feminist and sometimes people think that’s weird for a dude...” —M.

“The way I relate to Feminist would fall under the 'yes, with a caveat' category.  Feminist is an innately subjective term but has led to a widespread categorization of people who define themselves in that way. To me, a feminist is someone who chooses their path in life without a need to fulfill what is expected of them by standard societal norms.  Kind of like a 'choose your own adventure' story, everyone equally has the ability to make a deliberate choice to determine the direction of their own life.  That could mean choosing to be home and not work or choosing to have your career be the main focus of your life.  It could mean choosing to take the last name of your spouse or choosing not to.  The point is that a feminist believes everyone, equally is entitled to make that choice.”  —E.

“I identify as a feminist. Feminism is challenging the status quo.” —B.

“It would be unthinkable to me, as a queer woman, not to identify as a feminist.” —L.

“As optimistic/starry-eyed as I tend to be, I acknowledge that we'll never be perfect, and that systems of oppression will exist as long as we have heads to think and hearts to feel (I stole that line from a novel). However, rather than letting that get me down (and oh boy, is this a subject that can trend towards the exhausting and dispiriting), I think that's what makes it all the more important to fight and strive for justice in whatever way works for the individual doing the fighting.” —K.

“No… Well, maybe, if it didn't convey crazy liberal dyke. I think women are treated unfairly and unreasonably but I would never call myself a feminist.” —R.

“I'm honestly not a fan of the word. I know women still face many struggles today (like pay equality, people being assholes at auto shops, etc.) but I feel like I'm living in a post-feminism world. I am grateful for the work of those who came before me, but I don't feel like it benefits me or other women to identify in a way that separates me out further because of my gender. Rather, I am an “equalist” (#MakingUpWordIsSuperFun).

I want to be given a chance because I am smarter, more skilled, more capable, not because I have certain body parts or gender identification, which were the same parts and gender that held women back before. Again, I know that only have the luxury to say this because of the women who came before me and were feminists...but we have many more choices now than before.” —E.

Are you own opinions reflected in these responses? Take our poll and let us know. Be sure to sound off in the comments section on what the word "feminist" means to you.

More on: Feminism, Identity
Are you a feminist?
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How do you relate to the word feminist? (an unscientific social media poll)

How to cite this page

Rozensky, Jordyn. "How Do You Relate to the Word "Feminist"?." 10 June 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/how-do-you-relate-to-word-feminist>.

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