Why I struggled to call myself a Feminist

Lena Dunham interviewed Hillary Clinton. When asked if she is a feminist, Hillary Clinton said yes.

Here’s the proof.

I was of course very happy about that. And it kind of reminded me of times when I struggled to call myself a feminist.

I am. A feminist. And this is the first time I’m writing it down. But my rejection of the label was just that at first.

The first time someone asked me if I am a feminist, I paused, thought for a few seconds and said no.

And it’s been like that ever since.

I was having a job interview and I was explaining that I was trying to write a screenplay that looked at the issue of identity and individuality of a woman who loses herself once she becomes a Mrs. And the interviewer wanted to know if I would call myself a feminist.

By then, I had seen Miss Representation and had developed a few thoughts about women’s issues by then but I still could not identify with feminism. My arguments at the time were:

  • I don’t like labels.
  • I just believe in human equality.

That was in April 2014. More than a year has passed but I still find it hard to call myself a feminist.

I know I am a feminist on paper. I believe in the equality of the sexes and I’m very outspoken on the ills that the patriarchy and gender stereotypes have inflicted on women and men alike.

But I find it hard to associate myself with a movement that has been known for fighting more for the equality of one type of woman, as opposed to for all women.

Mainstream feminism fights for issues that are important: breaking the glass ceiling, freeing the nipple, the importance of adequate maternity leave, discrimination in the workplace, let’s ban bossy and many others. And I’m not in any way saying that some issues should take precedence over others.

But…intersectionality is still something that mainstream feminism seems to struggle with. The issues I’ve listed above affect women, but some issues are specific to a specific group of women. There are realities that mainstream feminists/liberal feminists will never face because they happen to be white/middle class/cis/straight and the list goes on.

I acknowledge that as a Black woman, I might face racism and sexism at some point in my life, but I also acknowledge that my upbringing, my education and etc is warranting me a number of privileges that other women will not have. I’m talking, for instance, about women who work minimum wage jobs and have to support a family. They are perhaps living paycheck by paycheck and yes, they might care about women reaching high position on the corporate ladder, but their concern might be more focused on the increase of the minimum wage, having affordable child care and etc.

I’m talking, for instance, about the woman of color who is very happy that more women are getting amazing roles on tv, but she is also saddened by the fact that the women cast are not very diverse. Or perhaps she’s concerned with the lack of support from her white feminist sisters in the face of police brutality that disproportionately affects PoC.

I’m talking, for instance, about the trans woman who is tired of not being acknowledge as a woman by society, or by some feminists. Or I’m talking about the woman who happens to be a lesbian or bi and is facing discrimination in terms of housing or in the workplace for being who she is. Or I’m talking about the Muslim woman who faces scorn and is made feel like a victim of oppression if she decides to wear a hijab.

There are endless examples of women who face discrimination or have specific problems that are determined by the virtue of the fact that they belong to a minority, or are part of a specific group in society.

Intersectionality matters. Everyone should acknowledge this. All feminists should acknowledge this.

So here’s what I think mainstream feminism as a movement should do:

1.Don’t be silent.

Your silence hurts. It seriously does. It feels like you don’t care and you prefer ignoring issues that do not directly concern you but do concern other women.

2. When there are issues that affect other women, listen.

You might learn something new. And your bubble of self-righteous crusader may burst!

3. Don’t try to shut other women down because their reality is different from yours.

They are not trying to attack you (see Taylor Swift), they just want their voice to be heard.

4. Don’t try to explain to other women their reality.

You don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.

5. Don’t hijack the convo.

6. Don’t delegitimize what they say when they might say it in anger. They are entitled to be angry. (See Miley Cyrus)

7. Be an ally, albeit an ally.

Not, I’m the spokesperson for all women who happen to be different. I can’t even speak for all Black women and I happen to be Black. I can’t speak for LGBT, I can’t speak for disabled women, I can’t speak for women who live in China and the list goes on.

I part with you guys with this amazing video by the amazing @AkilahObviously ‘On Intersectionality in Feminism and Pizza’.

Have you struggled to call yourself a feminist? Let me know in the comments below!


13 thoughts on “Why I struggled to call myself a Feminist

    1. Thank you for letting me know about your post. I enjoyed it so much and I loved how insightful it was.
      Stereotyping is more harmful than else and it’s pretty clear when it comes to feminism, women that happen to not fill the idea of a woman, and men who fail to meet the standards of masculinity.

      I guess that stereotypes and prejudice might be one of the reasons why intersectionality has not fully gained traction for all feminists and has been mainly pushed by ‘minorities’.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m a humanist. Why? You ask! Well, before I hit the age of 60 I was a feminist. Then I hit 60 and realized all the younger feminists are ageists. Yes. It is true. They are ageists. We are in a youth-based society. So therefore, I want equality for everyone. XOXOXO! Great post–thank you for some delicious food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very well written. The feminist movement helped lead the way for no-fault divorce. And subsequently now many states no longer have mandatory alimony or spousal support. Why is this important? Because if being a feminist means supporting the choices of individual women this change created a huge problem for many women. I stayed home for 30 years and my husband left me for another woman. He was and still is a sex addict and an alcoholic but because Texas is a no fault state and there is no mandatory support, I got half of our assets which was just retirement. He continues to make $300,000 a year while I have made about $10,000 a year because I can’t get a good job. I’ve got job skills but since I can’t get a job, I have no recent experience. I am in a catch 22. In order for women to truly win equality, it means supporting women in traditional roles as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Women should be entitled to do what they think is best for themselves. If a woman wants to be a homemaker, she should be able to make that choice. It would be great to have something in place to help former homemakers get back on their feet and find jobs if they need/want access to the job market.


  3. I have a long history of identifying with feminism, but there was a brief period of time when I no longer wanted to call myself a feminist. I felt like I did not fit into feminism, because it was too strict and I’m a person who changes and deviates and likes to explore things that are considered taboo. It seemed like there were all of these rules for what kind of language was politically correct, what was considered offensive, what was popular, what was good feminism. I almost felt like I was being pigeonholed by some clique in high school. But, that was because I didn’t have the self-confidence to communicate and live according to my own perspective. Since learning more about the long history of female sexual oppression and the creation of patriarchy in tribal societies, I realize how deeply entrenched patriarchy is in our society and I am more committed to feminism than ever before. But, it does need to be queered in a lot of ways and I hope that more women who don’t fit the mainstream model of a feminist continue to create spaces to talk about intersectionality. Thank you for your post. I’m excited to explore your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for talking about your experience. I hope that too, that more women will make the label of feminism their own and they won’t be deterred from recognising themselves with the cause of gender equality just because some members of the movement do not want to hear their voices.

      Liked by 1 person

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