“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
-Maya Angelou

“Following Jesus made me a feminist. I am a feminist *because* I love Jesus. And the combo of faith+feminist is what leads me to a FULL pro-life ethic. Not just abortion but violence, war, death, dehumanization, etc.”
– Sarah Bessey

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”
-Cheris Kremarae

“So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your underpants.
1. Do you have a vagina? And
2. Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said “yes” to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”
– Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

It’s okay to be a human woman, Liz.
“No it’s not; it’s the worst, because society!”
-Liz Lemon

Feminism, like the word “Christianity,” is a word used to define a movement. This movement has historical background, most commonly defined by three “waves,” distinct from the other in principles and approach. I’ll fast-forward through my best understanding of each, to offer a bit of context.

First-wave feminism refers to the organized political and social activism of eighteenth-century women in Western Society (America and Great Britain, most specifically). This wave of feminism primarily sought equality in terms of social and political rights. Imagine Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins, marching through the house wearing a fancy hat and a suffragette sash.

Second-wave feminism is the characterization of the resurgence of self-proclaimed “feminist” activity in the 1960s. This particular movement was pretty divided. Certain feminists of the second wave rebelled against the traditional feminine roles of house and home. Others protested the Miss America pageant. Socialist feminists argued that women’s ladders in society are built with missing rungs. Radical feminists opposed most aspects of traditional feminine life, and called for an overhaul of female behavior and participation in society. Imagine Rizzo from Grease swearing off men and burning her bra (which, interestingly enough, never actually happened, because the protestors couldn’t get a permit…)

Third-wave feminism is broadly categorized by a revitalization of some second-wave principles, with the additional emphasis on formerly marginalized voices. African-American author Alice Walker coined the term “womanist” to draw attention to those particular issues relating to women of color, and the absence of such conversations in mainstream feminist discourse. Deconstructive feminism opened up public conversations regarding pre-conceived notions of “male” and “female,” and the difference between sex and gender. The past twenty to thirty years have called increasing attention to the plight of women outside Western society, and the part of feminism in advancing the causes of women the world over.

Some feminists are pro-life. Some feminists are pro-choice. Some feminists believe the nuclear family is the woman’s downfall. Some feminists believe that a woman’s place in the home is essential and misunderstood. Some feminists throw away their makeup. Some feminists run CEO meetings in stilettos. Some feminists bake banana muffins. Some feminists like to skateboard. Some feminists enjoy The Bachelor. Some feminists don’t even own a TV. Some feminists don’t shave their leg hair. Some feminists only shave their leg hair in the summertime or when they know they’re going hot tubbing. Some feminists are sweet. Some feminists are sweet, and angry. Some feminists are women. Some feminists are men.

Words have limitations. The word “feminist” is insufficient in its ability to encompass the hearts, hopes, dreams, and experiences of the millions of people it represents.

Feminism can be ugly. Feminism can be wrong.

To dismiss it altogether is an enormous decision.

I find it easiest to ask myself two questions:
1. Why did this happen?
2. How much does it matter?

When I was in the seventh grade, a boy named Peter* (*name changed to protect the guilty) told me that he thought I would actually be pretty cute, and he might date me, if I didn’t have a unibrow.

1. Why did this happen?

Well, there are a number of possibilities:

1. Peter had an eye for personal appearance and would later go on to become a professional stylist.
2. Peter was trying to make me cry, because he was a sadist.
3. Peter was totally right. (This one is definitely true).
4. Peter only dates cute girls. (He has since married a girl, and she is cute).

2. How much does it matter?

So much that I send Peter tiny shavings of my eyebrow hair in a tiny envelope every month.
^^Clarification: I do not do that.

There are little girls who think they are ugly and that they don’t matter because of it.
Why does this happen? How much does it matter?

A guy in the grocery store told me he knew where my hat came from… “above [my] pretty face!”
Why does this happen? How much does it matter?

Jenny angrily raises her hand in class to point out that the professor only uses male gendered pronouns on his syllabus.
Why does this happen? How much does it matter?

Millions of women are bought and sold in the sex trafficking industry.
Why does this happen? How much does it matter?

Trevor got told that he plays soccer “like a girl”
Why does this happen? How much does it matter?

A group of American college men sit at a table and pass around naked pictures of their girlfriends
Why does this happen? How much does it matter?

In 2016, only two thirds of the top films featured two female characters having a conversation about anything other than men.
Why does this happen? How much does it matter?

Our answers to these questions might range from “a little” to “a lot.” They fall like tiny ink blots along a shaky spectrum. Let’s not erase them all for the sake of a word that means hundreds of things to thousands of people.

Stand up for things that matter, little and small.

“I’m not ‘pro-women’ or ‘anti-men.’ I’m just ‘thumbs up for the six billion.’”
-Caitlin Moran

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    This is gorgeous and important. Thank you for the exploration and for your thoughts.


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