Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Feminist" is a Dirty Word

Recently, I've declared myself as a feminist to some important people in my life. While these are all very open-minded, accepting, and female-right-promoting people, their reactions to my feminism were not exactly celebratory. At least, not at first.

I was catching up with an old friend a few weeks ago and he said "So what's new with you?" I told him "Well, did you know I'm a feminist?" And his immediate reaction was "Ugh..." I quickly interjected "That doesn't mean I'm a man-hating, suit-wearing, castration oriented harpy. Feminism comes in a lot of forms, you know. I think that being a feminist can mean being proud of the fact that I'm a woman and celebrating that as well as fighting for equality." Once this amendment was made, he seemed more on board with the whole thing. In fact, he told me about a really cool feminist performance piece he went to see! Still, it's sad to me that "feminist" automatically conjures up negative feelings and thoughts, that I have to explain myself for people to accept it.

When I told my mom about all that is happening at Notre Dame right now (the birth control controversy, the fight to make the LGBT community visible and accepted, my participation in LDS recently), she was clearly a little worried. Don't get me wrong. My mom believes that it's a great thing that I'm standing up for my beliefs and she supports me in all of these pursuits. She's very open-minded. But she seemed worried that as a feminist and spokesperson for gender related issues, I'd make myself a target, especially in such a conservative community. She even told me that she had a horrible dream that I got into all this trouble. "I had this dream that the university had to contact me and tell me how much trouble you'd been causing. And I just kept thinking - it's all that feminist stuff!" Again. Feminism is getting a bad rap. It's something that might "get me into trouble."

I can't wait until "feminist" isn't a dirty word anymore. It's often met with scoffs and eye-rolls. Sad that we live in a society where people who stand up for women's rights are considered a "problem."


  1. Do you think the reaction is related to the one your haircut caused, i.e. feminist =lesbian?

  2. Absolutely. I feel that people equate feminism and lesbianism sometimes as synonymous, and often as brazen and malicious attempts to "stick it to the man" or defy heteronormative authority. That's threatening. The "need" to know about someone's sexuality is linked to a desire to recognize a threat, the idea that if we can spot a lesbian or a feminist, we can try to avoid or intercept their attempts to overthrow the gender norms that people have become so comfortable with.