Monday, January 20, 2014

I am a Feminist

A friend of mine recently posted a Gordon B. Hinckley quote about how wonderful women are with a comment that was something to the effect of, "We don't need feminism because I know my worth!"

I sat and blinked at my phone screen.

She and I both come from a religious tradition that has included statements from church leaders given over the pulpit about the evils of feminism. She and many of my sisters in the gospel feel that feminism is unnecessary. You know, because of our inherent worth.

When I told Erica about my friend's post she said, "I'm so happy she knows her worth but sadly that doesn't stop sex slavery."

To the women who think we don't need feminism  because your life is just dandy- this isn't about you.

You were given an education. You can drive a car. You can choose who to marry. You have access to birth control. You can get a divorce. You have legal recourse if you are raped or abused. You were not aborted simply because you were a girl.

But millions of your sisters around the world are not so lucky.

They need feminism. I need feminism. We all need feminism.

Thanks, Pinterest



I'm so tired of people proudly declaring that they're not feminists. Because unless you are in favor of selling underage girls into sex slavery in Thailand, you are a feminist. If it bothers you that women in the middle east have acid thrown in their faces because they dared to learn to read and write, you are a feminist. If you think women deserve to vote, you are a feminist. If you think rape is never justified, you are a feminist.

It has nothing to do with bashing men and everything to do with basic human rights for all people.

I am a feminist. It bewilders my husband a little bit but I know that he's actually a feminist too. He just hasn't made his peace yet. He'll get there. Maybe you will too. You don't have to wear a scarlet F around and I promise you can keep your bra. Just be aware that your privileged situation is not universal. Maybe read Half the Sky. Don't laugh when someone makes a joke that demeans women. Make a micro loan on Kiva to a woman who is trying to pull herself out of poverty. Don't slut shame.

Come to the feminist side. We have pie! And basic human rights. It's a win/win.

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37 comments:

  1. Amen and amen.

    As a Christian, I get frustrated when people act like being a feminist goes AGAINST Christianity. In fact, everything Jesus taught seems for it because he was for each person being loved for who they are.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly! I love feminism. And pie. Definitely a win-win. Thanks for the post!

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  3. I love this post! I always love your writing, but I think you put this particularly well. Feminism is gender equality, how can anyone be against that??

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  4. YESSSSSSSSSSS. Great post, and I agree 100%! I have found among my girlfriends that even though our personal choices, spiritual paths, and lifestyles vary wildly we all agree that women supporting women is one of the most powerful forces there is. And that is not to discount the men at all! I know that my passion for helping women wouldn't be as powerful if I didn't have an amazingly supportive husband standing besides me and encouraging me every step of the way. ;o)

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  5. WOOOO HOOOOOO! I love this post, thank you! It makes me sad that feminism is the other F word.

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  6. I grew up hearing feminism talked about in a negative way, so I guess I never considered myself "feminist", but I AM. Thanks for putting some perspective in it.

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  7. Woot. Woot. That's what I have to say. I loved Half the Sky. My husband wishes I would stop talking about fistulas to everybody.

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    1. Haha, I would live to see you talk about fistulas in front of Eric.

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  8. So much win and so many reasons to say amen. Thanks for posting this.

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  9. I'm a long-time reader through Janssen and just wanted to say, "Amen and amen."

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  10. Yep. All of this. Well said.

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  11. Most people have no idea what feminism is. Thanks for putting this out there!

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  12. Well said. And for anyone who thinks they'd like to be a feminist but they're just not the bra-burning type, I say that's all the more reason to join the brigade. Show the world that you don't have to fit a certain stereotype to believe in human rights.

    And Half The Sky should be mandatory reading for all humans. It is so eye opening and inspiring.

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  13. Love this. Also, you should move to my ward. It's kind of an anomaly to NOT to consider yourself a bit of a feminist (male or female).

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  14. Well said! Thanks so much for posting!

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  15. Hmmm....sounds like telling people who do have the values you mention but don't identify as "feminists" is just arguing over semantics.

    You don't have to focus just on girls to be against underage marriage, you can just be against underrage marriage. You can be against any forced marriage.

    You don't have to focus just on females to be against slavery, you can simply be against slavery.

    You don't have to be a "feminist" to be against elective abortions, you can simply oppose elective abortion.

    Respectfully, I don't have to ascribe to your definition of feminism in order to support the rights and well being of females around the globe. I don't have to do it because they are females, but because they are human beings. Frankly, perhaps for some of us, the labels can do harm, too, and we try to avoid them so that we can see people more as individuals.

    Of course, gender is important and relevant, but I guess it rubs me the wrong way to have someone else tell me who I am.

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    1. You may be against underage marriage, but there is no such thing as a pregnant 11 year old boy. The biggest issue with underage marriage is that very young girls are being forced into marriages with older, sexually experienced (and often sexually violent) men and then having their babies, often with bodies and minds far too young to properly handle a pregnancy or motherhood.

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  16. ^^^But the problem with arguing semantics is that disproportionally more women are affected by those things that you mentioned RebeccaInTexas. Which, in many's eyes is unfair and unbalanced.

    Well said Kayla. Tears about it all.

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    1. Lucy you took the words right out of my mouth. Thank you!

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  17. Like RebeccaInTexas, it rubbed me the wrong way to be told that I am a feminist. I certainly support the fight for basic human rights for every human being, of every gender, nationality, age, and circumstance. Rape, sex slavery, and punishment for learning to read and write are obviously evil (along with a long list of other offenses perpetrated against human beings by other "human beings"). I don't have to call myself a "feminist" to be against those things. Yes, semantics IS important. Although "feminism" is, technically defined as " the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men", in reality the term has come to mean so much more than that. I don't think I need to go into specifics here, we all know what I'm talking about. This is why I bristle when someone tries to label me a "feminist". Words have different meanings to different people, and there are PLENTY of people out there who have a negative perception of the word "feminist" because of those who take "feminism" to extremes.

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    1. I have been having this conversation all over the place over the past 24 hours. The word "feminist" in itself is almost the most problematic part of all of this simply because of negative connotations built from past craziness. It took me ages to make my peace with the term. However I ascribe to feminism as far as the definition goes. I am NOT an extremist. In fact, I was just talking to my friend about how the word "harmonious" would be a better description of what I'm looking for in male/female relationships, rather than equality. Semantics do matter.

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    2. I had this same conversation yesterday. I proposed the word "humanist" (as in, both sides of humanity) knowing full well that term already has a completely different meaning. When you come up with a good one, let us know!

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  18. Amen Sister. Well said!

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  19. Yep, echoing the many AMENS! My husband is a feminist, my father is too. I'm blessed to be raised by a man who always said, "You're just as smart or smarter than all the men I know- go do anything!" And the shaming and the lack of rights elsewhere are something so many privileged Americans forget.

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  20. This is, without a doubt, my favorite post that you have ever written. Ever.

    I am a feminist. I married someone who has become a feminist. And I think we need to use the term feminist. Why is it a "naughty word"? Why does it have such bad connotations? BECAUSE OF THE GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHO INSIST THAT EQUALITY FOR ALL HUMANS ISN'T IMPORTANT! Or, even worse, that humans are already at this perfect state of equality regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexuality. These fall into the VERY priviledged "it doesn't bother me/affect me so it shouldn't bother/affect anyone else" category.

    xox

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  21. Very true, Kayla. I'm sometimes scared to say that i'm a feminist because I think the term is not universally recognized as meaning the same thing. A lot of people have a lot of different ideas of what a feminist is. This is pretty clear. Also, can you send me examples of church leaders talking about feminism? I've never really heard of that. (Maybe I wasn't old enough to remember?)

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  22. Maybe it's just my corner of the world, but I think being a feminist means I *am* against gender inequality on both sides. My brother and I have discussed regularly that there are different brands of feminism. He tends to see the more radical kind we often think of in his classes in the social sciences. Maybe if more I'm-a-feminist-because-I-think-women-should-have-the-same-basic-rights-as-men-but-I-love-being-a-woman-and-also-love-my-man feminists spoke up we wouldn't even have to have the argument over word choice. I'd still rather see someone espouse the ideals and give it a different name than nothing, though. Thanks for a great post!

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  23. Applause! Applause! I read this when you posted it the other day from my mobile device and I hate commenting from said mobile device so I held out, and I'm glad I did, because now I'm seeing all the comments. I like what you said up there about the word "harmonious." And I also think the people who are disagreeing with you about using the word feminism, while actually agreeing with you about the cause itself, just prove the point that the word needs to be taken back to its proper meaning. And to one of the first points you made, about hating when you hear that women say they don't need feminism because they are happy/secure/loved/respected....man, that also chaps my hide. I don't think I've ever even used that phrase, but that's what it does! haha. That's like saying you don't need to worry about kids who go hungry because you have food on your table every day. Silly. Great post!

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  24. Yep. Yep. I have recently come through this thought process, too. In the past, "feminism" connoted a really aggressive, ABRASIVE way of communicating, and I didn't want to associate with that. But it's about the message, not the method.

    I'm really glad you listed reading Half the Sky! It's such an important book.

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  25. Man, I love this. Thank you so much. Im so sick of people saying, "I'm not a feminist, but... bla blah blah something that clearly means you are a feminist." Just own it. Come out of the feminist closet. It's not a dirty word.

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  26. Beautifully said. Thanks for posting this.

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  27. ...and now I'm finally on a device that will let me comment. Yes and yes and YES!!!

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  28. I love you for writing this and posting it. Yes and yes to everything.

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  29. Hooray. I love this post. There are all kinds of different feminisms, and being a feminist does not mean that I am some crazy extreme, man-hater. This post brought me back to a moment I had with a girl friend a few years ago. We were on our way to book club, and I said something about feminism. She replied, "Well, I'm not a feminist." I was completely dumbfounded. I thought, "Do you want to be able to hold a job, get paid what you are worth, be able to vote, own property, stand up for yourself in a court of law." Not to mention all of the more serious women's issues you discussed in your post. We owe a lot to the feminists that came before us, but there is still a lot of work to do, and I, for one, am proud to call myself a feminist.

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  30. Kayla, I love you and I love that you are open and honest in your feminism! I think it is so important to recognize that women all over the world are not as fortunate as we are, and I absolutely think we need to talk about these issues.

    But, BUT, I wish this post hadn't taken so much of an us vs. them post. You should be a feminist not because all these other cultures oppress women and YOU have so many opportunities when our own culture pulls women down at every turn whether it be the media or politics or religion. I don't think you intentionally did this but there is this tendency to accept that women in the US have it so well compared to other cultures when in reality there is plenty of shit we have to deal with here too. I think it also causes us to only look beyond and not focus on all the changes we could make it our country where so, so much work is yet to be done. I see this a lot in Mormonism especially, but I think it's pretty widespread. My mom was saying the other day that she wants to tell the Muslim women she sees to take off their veils because they are in America, and I told her to take off her garments because she is too. I find a lot of the rhetoric around "saving the women of Africa/Afghanistan" to be really problematic because by trying to empower women, it also robs them of agency and creates this monolithic discourse of us, the empowered women versus them, the oppressed women when it's really a wide spectrum and not so black and white.

    And I am completely guilty of these at times too, so I am not trying to sound all perfect in my gender equality and cultural awareness. Just yesterday I saw my friend from Libya and she was back in Madison unexpectedly and I asked her if her husband got a post-doc or job and she was all like "nope I am in school now" and then, stupidly, asked her what he was doing after she explained what she was. She replied that he was at home with the kids full time. I, of all people, was shocked to hear this, assuming that an Arab Muslim family couldn't possibly be as progressive as my own. And I was deeply humbled when I reflected on the conversation and my assumptions later that day.

    I also hate Half the Sky. This article I read for a classis a pretty good overview, but I don't think she touches on the problem with a white man in a position of seeming authority interviewing a young girl on camera about her rape... Can you imagine that situation if the girl was white instead of African? Or speculating on the genitalia of American women? It is a similar phenomenon with how seeing a topless or breast feeding African woman is all fine and cultural but a topless American woman is pornography...

    http://www.racialicious.com/2012/10/08/your-women-are-oppressed-but-ours-are-awesome-how-nicholas-kristof-and-half-the-sky-use-women-against-each-other/

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