Scary Labels and the Girl Next Door
I say Ma’am and Sir to my elders. I grew up in a town of fewer than 10,000 where everyone knows me and who my parents are. I smile at people I don’t know on the streets. I’m pretty sure that most of the people I meet in my current Deep South haunt think I’m respectful, kind, non-threatening. They’re pretty sure I’m “one of us.” But they might be a lot more suspicious if they knew the truth. I’m a progressive, feminist vegan (and possibly other labels people might find even more threatening if I was willing to lay it all out there for you, but I’m not). I’m participating in a blog carnival today drawing attention to young feminists. Apparently, some young(ish?) women like myself are none too willing to tag themselves feminists.
I actually have a lot of experience with the phenomenon of someone deeply devoted to gender equality believing the moniker is just too upsetting to wield. My mom has worked with abuse victims for 13 years helping them find safe places to stay, sitting with them in court, running support groups. She was also a single parent for some of my childhood and ran our home with strength and skill. Because of her, I never thought that girls were less than or that there was any reason I shouldn’t excel at whatever I chose (although the things I chose were rarely the things she would have chosen for me). But my mom is a real Southern lady, and she doesn’t care for conflict. For some reason, it just seems like it might be offensive to others to call herself a Feminist. People might get the wrong idea. (The nerve of some people! Demanding equal rights?! How rude.)
I’ve also read that some young people think the job has been done. We’ve achieved equality, so what is the fuss about? So it must be escaping these folks that in America women still only earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar (this holds even in highly skilled jobs like academic medicine when performance and skill levels are the same). Or maybe they don’t consider that girls all over the world aren’t allowed to receive a basic education or are forced to marry when they are as young as 9 or 10. I’d like to think that in the face of problems like these people everywhere would stop focusing on trying to shirk away from a label that they were taught was unpleasant and throw themselves behind the “Feminist Agenda,” a better world for all of its citizens.
What we call ourselves is important. The choices that we make about how to identify ourselves to others in society affects how we are perceived, how people react to us. But it can work both ways, if more women were willing to wear the label, it would give the world the opportunity to see that making the world safe and equal for women is only threatening if you are someone who is actively working to undermine women. (In which case, watch out, we’re coming for you.)
So if you believe that girls and women everywhere deserve access to the same education, opportunities, and rights as men, and you’re willing to do something about it, welcome to feminism! There are a lot of us! We’re just like you. I mean, some of us have pink hair, and some have kids, and some of us like licorice (which is just frankly, wrong), and some were born with penises, and some are currently able-bodied, and some are not. There are also many, let’s say, mature feminists. But we’re young, too. And we’re here to support you, and other women, and some us of have good recipes, and some of us can fix your computer, and some of us will tell you the truth no matter what. We’ve all got things to offer, so feel free to join us while we make the world a better place.
Be sure to check out the other posts in the awesome This is what a young feminist looks like Blog Carnival.
Evolution of a young feminist:
Easy things you can do:
- Let people know, that you, the sweet girl (or boy) next door, are a feminist
- Encourage women in their pursuits
- Join the blog carnival to let everyone know that there are young (or mature) feminists out there
- Write your congressperson about important legislation for girls or women
- Donate time or money to organizations that support women or girls’ educations
Have more recommendations or know some great organizations? Share them in comments.