I am in pursuit of meaningfully embodying intersectional feminism, because feminism alone has been coded to mean liberation of white women, and their liberation means nothing for me and fellow women of color. My liberation is bound up with all women of all ages, races, classes, bodies, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender alignments, not just the select few I’ve been conditioned to look up to and revere within the confines of Western white supremacist colonialism. That said, I still choose to identify as a feminist, because I don’t think racist/colorblind white women have the right to push me out of a word that steps so easily on my tongue and gets my heart riled up in a good way. While aware of the implications of what feminism alone may mean, I will make room for myself, and others like me, I will make room in the word feminism and in the concept of feminism until there is a space for all.
I’ve been thinking about how the general definition of feminism has been the “equality of the sexes” but these days I’m not so sure if that phrase, which has been carelessly tossed around a lot in mainstream media, truly captures the meaning of feminism, especially since it seems to me we are more so striving for equity, not equality. Equality implies that I want to be treated the same as a man, which is not true: I want to be treated like a human being, as a woman. You might not understand the distinction, but it’s an important one to me. I don’t want to conform to socially constructed and masculinized ideals of intelligence, knowledge, or power. I don’t want to be made into a man’s image and likeness in order to be respected or liked. While some desire that option, not all of us do, and I believe choice and self-love to be two of most important tenets of an actualized feminism. I want to be acknowledged and respected in my femininity and womanliness, however that is defined–there are no fixed meanings (when will people stop thinking in essentialist boxes??). What is considered feminine to me may mean something different to someone else; what is considered womanly today will mean something different later down the road. Regardless, there should be no guilt or shame or othering for not fitting into the status quo’s expectations for who deserves respect, dignity, and kindness.
“Equality of the sexes” is ultimately a limiting definition of feminism to me. It glosses over the fact that women in all of their variations have disproportionately bore the brunt of violence and oppression at the hands of men, particularly hetero cis white men. It ignores the fact that sex and gender can mean different things. It also ignores the fact that we have yet to implement a true standard of equality for any of the genders that exist–yes, even men, although the conversation has been appropriated and centered around them for far too long. I think we need to overcome this one-dimensional view of feminism that is always contingent on whether or not we hate men: “Feminists hate men.” “I’m not a feminist because I love men.” “Oh my God I just realized I can be feminist and love men.” Feminism at its core is not really about whether or not I love men. It’s about whether or not I love myself. I choose to try loving myself. I don’t see how someone professing an act of self-love and demanding respect for it should be stigmatized or disregarded.
And evidently the words “feminism/feminist” are threatening because what, narrow-minded individuals feel threatened when they see or hear “fem”? Femininity is not exclusive. They make it exclusive, because they are afraid of it and ashamed of it and push it away. Who is really the victim when a man is not allowed to cry, masculinity or femininity? Femininity is laughed off, ridiculed, and even murdered when it slips on another skin. Masculinity in its different guises often triumphs. When you start seeing both ideas and individuals, you start to understand.
No, the idea is not that all men are evil or that women are all good. That is a cartoonish view of feminism. People need to start looking beyond the person and at the bigger picture. There are men, and there are women. Let’s destroy that division. Let’s include the rest of the categories that exist or could exist. Let’s have all of them blend into one, split apart, blend again, however you want and feel and need. Let’s split open our minds into ten different possibilities at once when you see a stranger’s face, instead of pigeonholing them into this flavor or that–how boring and limiting is that, to think you only have a choice on either palm, read to you by others who look to more others to read their palms, when you can simply spread open your own hands and see that there are whole worlds that could be at your fingertips?