It’s beginning to take on the power of a meme: I’m not a feminist, but…. It begins with a reporter asking a successful young white woman if she’s a feminist—Marissa Mayer, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift. When the successful young white woman says she isn’t a feminist but she believes in equality for women, or strong women, or something having to do with the general definition of feminism, the Internet explodes with articles discussing feminism. Also, the feminist Internet (sites like Jezebel and Feministing) explodes with a whole other realm of articles discussing feminism, steeped in the history and terminology of feminism. Then all is quiet. Then a reporter asks another successful young white woman if she’s a feminist, and it begins again.
Since I like both progress and results, and I don’t think the media-driven discussion of feminism is producing much of either, I’ve come up with my own answer to “I’m not a feminist but.” It is my hope that this list could serve as a beginning point for meaningful conversations about feminism, a way to get the history and the terminology into our everyday language. A beginning for most people to think of bell hooks rather than Rush Limbaugh when the phrase “the feminists” comes up.
The next time a reporter asks someone (perhaps that someone could be non-white, male, or over the age of thirty—maybe even all three!) about identifying as a feminist, wouldn’t it be interesting to hear one of the following replies?
I’m a feminist, and…
- Most people think that means I hate men. It’s difficult to talk to people about what I believe when they already think they know what I believe—and it’s mostly negative.
- I’d never show up at the Republican National Convention in a vagina costume. I support the ideas behind Code Pink’s demonstration, but the approach seems a bit over the top to me. I’d rather share my beliefs in a less aggressive way—and I think I might change more minds that way.
- I’m a man. And I’m a little uncomfortable telling other guys I’m a feminist. Most of my friends wouldn’t get it. I’m not sure how to handle this, but I’d love to talk about it with a supportive group of friends, especially other guys.
- I’m not sure how I feel about abortion. My family is very conservative, and I don’t want to get all up in their faces about abortion. And honestly, I can see their point—abortion is a pretty big deal. I wish there was a way to have a conversation about this without everyone getting so angry and defensive.
- Sometimes I buy what culture sells. I’ve spent money on Chris Brown’s music, I searched for topless pictures of Kate Middleton, I hate my body, I wish I looked more like people in magazines, etc.
- I understand that, for some women, feminism isn’t an inclusive term. To me, feminism means full equality for all, and I’d like to spread that message. But some women prefer the terms womanist or mujerista because, as women of color, they feel the term feminist has not been historically inclusive or does not fully speak to their lived experience.
This, my friends, is far from a complete list. The ways people complete “I’m a feminist and…” would vary as much as we vary from one another. But the conversations that would be born of this beginning would move us much farther along the path of progress than hearing yet another famous young woman disavow feminism ever will.