Is there some kind of support group for people who are grappling with our feminist status? Because I kinda need to join it. Deep down, I know I match most definitions of a feminist, but I have a hard time fully embracing the term. It’s a complex issue, not unlike my feelings for Justin Bieber and skinny jeans. I’m thankful for all of those who regularly speak out on the topic because each new conversation brings more clarity, and that kind of ongoing, visible dialog is indispensable. But what about the pressure to openly, repeatedly, loudly proclaim your feminist status, and constantly talk about it? Because please believe, that pressure is real. And isn’t that kind of against the point that feminism embraces? Like, there’s no right or wrong way to be a feminist, or a woman, and we’re all allowed to feel however we want to about what it means for us?
With so many celebrities all taking stands for their beliefs on feminism, and moreover, so many non-famous women routinely speaking on their thoughts about feminist identity, I’m left wondering why I have a problem with speaking up more often. I don’t live in the public eye like some women do, so I’m rarely asked to define my beliefs in the same way. But even so, it’s a complicated issue, and I would argue that just because someone’s not speaking up on the matter, it doesn’t mean they’re not completely invested. Here are a few of the specific reasons just why you might not be hearing from someone who identifies as feminist, but who stays pretty quiet about it:
You're Allowed To Take Your Time Figuring Out And Defining Your Feelings
This is a big one, at least for me. I know Mean Girls defines the "rules of feminism" as not dating a friend's ex-boyfriend, but I must have missed that day in school when the rest were covered. It seems like there’s always a new topic and conversation happening, or a new speech being delivered, or a new quote circulating about what feminism does or doesn't mean. And while so many rush to Twitter to offer their take, there's really no rule that says we're not allowed to consider each of them as they come, and not comment until we're ready. That's what a lot of us want to do; synthesizing the evolution and further understanding of feminism internally. It doesn't make us less engaged, or less feminist because of it.
Part Of Feminism Is Making Our Own Choices, Including How And When To Express Ourselves
Last I checked, there were no requirements for feminists to speak up a certain number of times per day or week or month or ever.
You Might Not Always Be Around People You're Comfortable Sharing With
I mean, a perfect conversation about feminism, to me, would include people who, even if they don’t agree with my views, would be supportive and insightful and willing to respectfully engage in the areas where we differ. Um, this isn’t always the case, especially not on the Internet. Or with our families. Or in life.
And while we're at it, engaging others in conversation about anything, let alone something that often requires as much tedious clarification and defense as feminism while not surrounded by allies, is serious, taxing energy. Asking me to constantly choose to expend that energy for the sake of proving my feminism is not adherent to any kind of feminism I'm interested in aligning myself with. I can only talk about my desire to think for myself and have a career and a family so many times before I get exhausted.
There are some personal things I don’t mind sharing, like my strong feelings for french fries and Michael Bolton and bunnies. However, there are some things that I prefer to keep to myself, and just because someone is talking about them, I’m not going to always chime in.
Talking Only Accomplishes So Much
I mean sure, we’ve got to start somewhere, and (as my partner is well aware) talking is often helpful for figuring out our feelings. However, there is going to be a point when talking is just the spinning of tires. Doesn't living my feminism count for anything? Isn't that the point, far more than constantly verbally contextualizing how I'm living my feminism, and talking endlessly about all of it?
It Doesn't Always Feel Safe
I mean, I can’t assume that every conversation I’m in, online or offline, is going to only bring me warm fuzzies. Some are more difficult than others (“No, I can’t explain why my loyalty has switched from AJ McLean to Nick Carter after all these years.") But that just means I will be more guarded.
Sometimes You'd Just Rather Talk About Something Else
Sometimes it’s more fun to talk about things that are easier than feminism, like our favorite color or food or movie or close-minded presidential candidate. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to be a feminist who speaks on a well-rounded battery of subjects, as opposed to a feminist who speaks only on feminism. I think feminism is relevant to and informed by nearly every issue there is, and as such, I think my voice, as a feminist, is a necessary and vital part of those discussions. If all feminists were only talking about feminism all the time, where would be the feminist voices in other conversations?
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
How about instead of talking about feminism, I just live my life? Cool? Cool.
Sometimes There Are Other Things On Your Mind
Sure, feminism is important, but is it the number one thing on our minds at all time? Well, I can’t speak for every woman, but for me, no, it’s not. I've got personal responsibilities to handle and loved ones to care for and snacks to eat and cat videos to watch and other things that often take priority.
Is There Even Such A Thing As A Bad Feminist?
Who even decides what makes a feminist good or bad? Roxane Gay? RBG? Oprah? I have my own ideas, but is it fair to impose them on other people? My gut instinct is to say no, to all of the above. I doubt any of the women I mentioned would want the job of judging the relative feminism of each person, because they too have lives to lead that mean more than doing the heavy lifting of this own part of our identities. And even if all feminists did want to define themselves by service to the The Great -Ism, and someone did want to sit around and hand out gold stars to the "good" and "bad" feminists of the world, I doubt Roxane Gay, RBG, or Oprah would uphold the idea that simply living life as a feminist is any less important than loudly talking about being one.