Who can call themselves a feminist? What are the ‘rules’? What are the must- believe-in’s to be a full fledged member of this group?
A recent editorial , resurrected my struggle to accept or reject this word in terms of my identity.
It seems like to one side of the political spectrum, feminist is a dirty word. To the other, its the place where only the most enlightened, authentic women sit.
In college, I took an “Intro to Feminist Thought” class. Honestly, I was skeptical that I would enjoy the class, but I loved the professor, had friends in the class, and it fit into my schedule, so why not. Soon, I fell in love with the “Feminine Mystique” connecting the questions that Betty Friedan raised, and seeing parallels in the women in my life who had lived through that era. The “problem that had no name” had been floating around in my subconscious, and was brought to light in this reading.
However, other theorists and feminists we studied, were not in line with my thinking. Nor, did their prose seem to care to understand another’s viewpoint. If you did not take their word, hook, line and sinker, you couldn’t be a part of the movement.
Refreshed by Friedan’s work, pushed out by others’ view of feminism, I was interested, but ostracized.
Do we ask to be inclusive, to be a place where all women can recognize their inherit unity of being female and celebrate each other, together? Or does it need be to a group that is unyielding in it’s thoughts, united by a thread of common values? However, does this further drive a wedge between women- having a movement that cannot accept all women?
So often in life, I have seen women tear each other down, myself included. Worse, we have passed this trait down to girls as an acceptable way to live and interact. Whether it’s the snide comments of “can you buh-lieve what she is wearing?!?” to the “how can she even dare to think that way and call herself a ‘woman’?” or the judgments thrown back and forth in the ever present debate of working moms vs. stay at home moms. We have become unified in being un-supportive.
In college, I was lucky enough to be part of a movement that sought to heal these wounds we inflict. Project Peg started as a theatre piece, which became a campus wide movement. Inspired by her grandmother’s attitude towards herself, my friends conceptualized a theatre piece focusing on womens’ views of themselves. The following year, I joined in performing “Do You Realize”, where we wrote pieces exploring body image, misconceptions, and struggles of both men and women.
Five years later, I am thrilled that Project Peg still exists. Clearly, there is a universality to this issue, but it doesn’t need to be today’s “problem that has no name”. We must give voice to this struggle.
I don’t propose that I have the solution for feminism today. It is a collective group, I can’t tell us of the change, and others may not agree with my need for change. However, I can ask us to think about it. The most impactful change will be action: to accept that woman who is wearing white after labor day, to value the woman who has different political views, to appreciate the woman no matter what her aspirations are, to support each and every woman, per our recognition of her human dignity. Each of these actions calls us to love. And what greater call is there in life, than to love?