Feminism is Not A Dirty Word

Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word- The Palmetto PeachesLast week I was in Kroger and saw an older woman struggling to grab an item from one of the higher shelves so I go over and assist her. She thanks me and tells me she’s probably been in the aisle for over 15 minutes and no one offered to help. She says something like – how nice of a young lady I am, my parents must be proud, etc. This is when I should have made my quick exit. She then asks if I’m married and have any kids. Which is another discussion – it’s possible to have kids without being married, but I digress. I tell her no, not at the moment, I’m still very focused on my career. Her response was: “Oh, so you’re one of those feminists.”

Her tone was what got me. She said feminists like it was a dirty word – the way Southerners use Bless your heart as an insult. I didn’t know how to respond to the woman. I wanted to yell and tell her to get her own soup next time, but I didn’t.Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word -- The Palmetto Peaches

I think I just had a very confused look on my face and exited stage left. But you know how you replay scenes in your head and think about all of the brilliant things you should have said — that’s what I did.

A day later a friend of mine, Chasiti, posted her reaction to an article:I Am Not A Feminist, And That Is Okay on Facebook. I urge you to go read the article because you may have a different perspective about it. My understanding of the article is that the author feels like the current wave of feminism doesn’t support women having “traditional” values such as staying at home, caring for their children, and enjoying cooking. The author talks about how she views women as equal to men, yet doesn’t think women should hold the same level of leadership or the responsibility for providing for their families. In fact, she questions why a woman would want that responsibility. In my opinion, the article incorrectly defines feminism and carried a tone of misogyny.

I’ve never viewed feminism that way and maybe I don’t know enough about the history of the movement. Women’s Studies majors download your knowledge – I want to learn. Reading the article made me think about why the woman in Kroger said the word with such disdain. She was carrying around her own definition of what feminism stood for. In her mind, I was probably a man-hating woman who disliked her for staying at home, raising her kids and cooking her husband dinner. Here’s the definition of

Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word - The Palmetto Peaches

Here is part of Chasiti’s response:

I’m a feminist because I simply believe women are equal to men. I’m a feminist because I believe that if a woman wants to not work and stay home with her children, she should be able to do they without ridicule. I’m a feminist because I believe a woman can go out and work everyday while her children go to daycare, without ridicule. Feminism is not a dirty word.

What’s your personal definition of ‘feminism’?

I posed this question on Facebook and got the following responses, obviously with the exception of the Sophia Bush video. Although we’ve been best friends in my head since the first season of One Tree Hill, for some reason we’re not actually Facebook friends.

Ace: The snippet of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech in Bow Down. 

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors – not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ebony: Women having the freedom and support to be whoever/whatever they want to be.

Tara: I think definitely holistic feminism has to include intersectionality, as well as how gender roles hurt all people–including men. Women of various races and socioeconomic statuses have different struggles that are often taken over by white wealthy women, and without taking intersectionality seriously, it becomes white feminism instead of holistic feminism… Feminism truly accounts for all people when done well, including men and non-binary people of various sexualities. Rape culture and sexism also hurts all people and society as a whole, creating space to have to look seriously at our structures and institutions.

Ashley: Okay so when I first started taking women’s studies classes, my first course was “feminist theory” the basis of feminism is creating a political and social climate in which limits are not placed on what women can achieve. My definition of feminism is a woman, whether she be straight or LGBT, black or white, a nun or a slut, should be RESPECTED REGARDLESS of life choices. I am for the advancement of my sisters in WHATEVER they choose to pursue in life. I thank God for having a DEGREE in Women’s Studies. It gives me the knowledge to know the difference between feminism and internalized misogyny 🙂 I am a feminist because I believe women are entitled to a life where their every move isn’t questioned. A privilege it seems only men are afforded.

Bonus: If you’re looking for a fantastic Ted Talk I would suggest: Roxanne Gay’s Confession of a Bad Feminist.

I do not have the same stories as the women whose opinions I shared. However, the common theme woven through their responses that I related to the most equated feminism to the freedom of making choices without repercussions. For me feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism is a movement that empowers all people to make choices for themselves without fear of judgement or social and economic consequences. So if I had the opportunity relive the moment in Kroger again I’d say:

Well, yes ma’m. I am a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a husband or kids some day. It simply means that everyone should have the same opportunity regardless of their gender and I don’t believe anyone should be forced into a role because of their gender. Feminism is about fighting for choices and supporting the choice another  – even if you wouldn’t make that choice for yourself.

Let’s have a dialogue. What are your thoughts on feminism?  Leave a comment below!

Donni Siggy--The Palmetto Peaches

10 Replies to “Feminism is Not A Dirty Word”

  1. YOU NAILED IT!

    You also reminded me that I should respond to the post claiming not to be a feminist by redefining feminism to suit her own agenda.

    I’m a Christian. I’m a wife–but I didn’t change my last name. When my husband lost his job, we lived off MY paycheck and our savings, but I also made several career sacrifices for our relationship. Now he supports us financially so that I can write full-time. I also do most of the housework now since his job + commute is about 50 hours a week. Pink is my favorite color. I love all things sparkly. My toe nails are almost always polished. I rarely wear makeup. I repeat outfits on a regular basis. I didn’t have coitus before I was married.

    If you take a caricature of a feminist and compare it to the conservative ideal woman, which of my characteristics would describe which woman?

    There’s an infinite number of ways to be a good person, a good woman, a good feminist. None of us should be forced into a box.
    Brita Long recently posted…Meet My Instagram HusbandMy Profile

    1. Brita I love this response! No woman (or man) should be forced into a box of expectations just because of their gender.

    2. Aw thanks, Brita. That means a lot coming from you. I seriously may need to update the post with your comment because you nailed it as well: There’s an infinite number of ways to be a good person, a good woman, a good feminist. None of us should be forced into a box.

      -Donni

  2. I can admit that I’ve never truly studied feminism in depth, but I definitely identify as a feminist. I identify as a feminist AND a woman who is married AND (gasp) changed her last name to her husband’s. I identify as a feminist who worked her ass off for her career and I want to keep it even after I have kids. To me, feminism is just what you said, it’s women being able to make their own choices (whether in regards to a career, children, marriage, sexuality, etc) and to do so WITHOUT ridicule or judgment.

    When I talk about feminism or being a feminist, people automatically assume, oh, so you don’t believe in being a SAHM/changing your last name/other stupid things. No, I believe that women can make their own choices and that they don’t HAVE to conform to the gender roles that are expected of them, if they don’t want to. OR women can grow up, get married, have children, and be perfectly happy not working for the rest of her life. Its about making your own choices, and not being criticized for them.

    1. Absolutely, Kalyn!! Thank so much for sharing. It’s perspectives like yours that people need to hear to understand the broader definition of what it means to identify as a feminist. I find that so many people equate feminism to the things you listed: believe in being a SAHM/changing your last name, (lol – I can’t believe you did that :)) etc.

      -Donni

  3. This is a truly amazing post. I love that you called on your friends for their definitions too. It sounds like you have some truly inspirational folks in your life. Thank you for sharing on this important topic! (By the way, have you considered submitting this to somewhere like the Huffington Post? I think you should!)
    Emma recently posted…21 Questions with Emma and JWMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Emma. It really is important that all women – no matter their race, sexuality, or socioeconomic status- have the freedoms to make the choice that’s best for them. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and for suggesting I submit it to HuffPo. I was actually looking at some pins about that, but nixed the idea. I will definitely give it some more thought. I mean the worst that could happen is they say no thanks and I still have this post. 🙂

      -Donni

  4. This is a great read!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think the negativity of the word is very unnecessary and a lot of it has to do with semantics. Wonderful thoughts.

  5. Great post. Thanks for sharing such a provocative topic! I learned a thing or two about feminism today.

  6. Feminism is such a tricky subject. I feel like it has a lot to do with how you were raised-not meaning that you can’t break away from your family’s opinion. I would say that I’m a feminist in some sort because I believe women can do most anything they set their minds to; however, I do hold semi-traditional roles in my own life.

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