By: Megan Graves, Columnist
Welcome back. I hope you had the chance to catch up on some sleep and some Netflix, but let’s be honest, this break was far from chill. The events of the past few weeks have given me so much fuel for columns that I just don’t even know what to do with it.
Seriously. I have so many thoughts and opinions and emotions, and they all want to pour out of me at once. It’s like 72 puppies saw a biscuit in another room and are all trying to get through the door at once, achieving nothing but forming a giant lump of frustrated fluff.
It sounds a lot cuter than it is.
Something I’ve noticed through our current political climate is how complicated feminism can seem. Feminism, while always remaining necessary, has really had to fight lately, and it’s going to have to fight even harder in the coming years. In order for feminism to work the way women all over the world need it to, it must first be clearly defined.
Y’all know how much I like making lists by now. So here we go. This is a short list of what I feel must be included within feminism in order for it to operate in a productive way. I shall call it the Five Feminist Formalities.
- Feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. This is the most important aspect of feminism. We can’t just say that women need to be equal to men without acknowledging that there are factors keeping women from being equal to each other. We can’t be “colorblind,” and we can’t pretend we don’t see differences. We have to understand that based on race, class, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., women have different experiences. Feminism doesn’t ignore difference: It fights for difference to exist safely and proudly within each of us.
- Feminism will listen to and amplify the voices of those living under the weight of different/multiple oppressions without interrupting or talking over them. Whew, that was a mouthful. It just means that we will educate ourselves by reading blogs, listening to music, watching movies, and actively listening when someone chooses to talk about their experience. It is the duty of a feminist, particularly a cis-gendered, white feminist (like me), to gain understanding and ask, “How can I help?” instead of assuming that we know.
- Feminism will be trans-inclusive. Trans-women are women. Point blank, period. This goes back to the first and second formalities, but it’s been such a large issue lately that I felt it deserved it’s own. We have to listen to, respect, and fight for the safety of our trans-sisters (and brothers and those who do not identify with a specific gender). If it is trans-exclusionary, it is not feminism. It’s totally rad for a feminist to love their female-assigned body! We just have to understand that that body is not essential to womanhood and especially not to feminism.
- Feminism will please-dear-lord-for-the-love-of-god stop shaming women for doing what they want with their bodies. This formality includes slut-shaming, outfit-shaming, body-shaming. The goal here is to lift women up. Tearing women down is not a feminist action. I don’t know, I just feel like this one should be obvious by now. But also, you cannot try to impose laws based on your beliefs onto other women and still be a feminist. You just can’t. Trust that women know how to treat their own bodies and understand that opinions are great — I love opinions, I’ve got YUUUGE opinions (sorry) — but we can’t be going around telling other people they can’t do something with their own body just because we may not like it.
- Feminism will always aim to do and be better. A true feminist knows that they don’t know everything, that they’re going to be wrong sometimes. A feminist will listen to why they are wrong, learn from their mistakes and move forward. It’s part of human nature to be defensive, especially when we feel uncomfortable. But we have to be willing to feel uncomfortable sometimes, because that’s how we grow.
I feel strongly that if a person does not follow, at the bare minimum, those five formalities, they are not a feminist. Being a feminist is an active fight to uplift all women. It’s more than buying a t-shirt with the word scribbled across it (don’t get me wrong those are cute). It’s a tiring, heartbreaking, inspirational, frustrating, flawed-when-it’s-wrong-but-empowering-when-it’s-right-movement that gives hope to me and millions of others.
This isn’t meant to turn people away, this is more of a call to action. It’s one thing to say that you’re a feminist, but it’s time to act. Imagine if all of the women who participated in the marches earlier this month fought for feminism in some way every single day.
You don’t have to go to protests or donate money. You can just start by telling your story. Listen to others as they tell theirs. Tell your friends, your classmates, the internet how you feel, because how you feel really f***ing matters.
This is the new wave of feminism. It’s inclusive, it’s strong, it’s relentless — and let me tell you, I am so here for it. Are you?