For a lot of people, the word “feminist” conjures up a host of scary stereotypes: hairy-legged, short-haired women with scowls on their faces, women shouting and burning bras, women who forswore the company of men, and so on. Sometimes, then, it is hard to take the name “feminist” and wear it with pride, knowing what people might be thinking about you.
I do take the name, but I take it humbly, recognizing that I only have the right to take that name because so many women took it in the past—women who were brave enough to fight the status quo and demand that our humanity be recognized. Like many of those feminists, I don’t want to make a new matriarchy to replace the patriarchy. I don’t want to see men “put in their place” the way women were forced into “their place” for so many millennia.
I am a feminist because I believe women are human beings and that we should be treated as such.
It’s hard to make the argument that women aren’t being treated as human beings, as people. Some believe that calling a woman a “person” (i.e. under the law, as Canada did 83 years ago) is enough. Giving women the vote is enough. Fighting for women’s right in the workplace was enough (though of course that could be considered an ongoing battle). Giving women a measure of reproductive freedom was, apparently, more than enough, if political currents in the United States at the moment are any indication.
But, in 2012, as sexual slavery and trafficking are on the rise, as eating disorders of every kind crumble the minds and bodies of women and children, as pornography continues to be a multi-billion dollar industry, and as rape and domestic violence against women are still serious problems, it seems to me that calling women “persons” was not enough. It was not enough because, apparently, some people didn’t believe it.
I am a feminist because I believe that women are persons, human beings, made in the image of God, worthy of being treated with dignity and respect, and deserving of the freedom to choose their own path. To be clear: I believe that all these things—dignity, respect, freedom, recognition—should be accorded to all human beings, all persons. But until women are being treated respectfully, with dignity, given freedom, and recognized as full persons not simply by the letter of the law, then I will remain a feminist, and I will continue to fight for the rights of women everywhere.
Our society needs feminists to keep repeating “women are persons, women are human beings, women are persons, women are human beings” until society gets it. I think we’ll know it has happened when there are no more questions about pay equity, access to safe and effective birth control, safety and freedom from violence, the freedom to dress or adorn our bodies as we wish without fear of objectification, and so on. It will be clear that women are persons when our bodies are no longer used as props to sell products. It will be clear that women are persons when no one feels they have the right to threaten, coerce, or victimize someone simply because they are female.
Until then, I will be a feminist. Again, to be clear, I will also fight to have these rights maintained for men. I don’t think we can fix the problem of objectification, for example, by “equalizing” things through the objectification of men. Men do not deserve to be turned into sexual props for marketing either! Men deserve safety, freedom, respect, and dignity (something they sadly lose in many commercials, I might add) just as much as women do.
So that’s a small part of why I call myself a feminist. Other feminists may have different reasons, and that is their right and privilege, but I wanted to share some of what motivates me to continue to call myself, unapologetically, a feminist.