In light of that one time Obama called a good friend beautiful and caught flack about it. In light of that one time my professor asked if there were any feminists in my class, and I alone, out of twenty students, raised my hand. In light of the many times my Liberal Arts education required me to read and respond to authors from Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollestonecraft, to Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Laura Mulvey. In light of the many times I have been told that I couldn’t possibly be a true feminist because of my political and religious affiliations- I politely disagree.
As we reviewed feminist Donna Haraway’s writing one of my classes this week the difference between what our generation is being told about feminism, and what it was intended to be, struck me. Haraway warns the reader about “essentialism” in feminism, about having a criteria women must meet to fit into the feminist mold. Because if feminists do that it means other women are either excluded or inadequate. And that is not the purpose of feminism.
If you look back on where modern feminism really started, you are looking back on Suffragettes marching on the capital, unified, looking real fashionable, and holding all sorts of signs expressing newfangle ideas. What you won’t see on any of these signs is “Suffrage… for (white) (rich) (single) women.” When women in Wyoming, or Idaho, or Utah, recieved the right to vote they didn’t simply pour themselves a tall glass of Scotch while their East Coast sisters continued the national fight. No. These women were perhaps the first Americans to ever concern themselves with the rights of every, single individual. True feminism does not say, “Listen to all the women- but not her, because she is (conservative) (ignorant) (breeder).” True feminism says, “Listen to all women. Not simply because they are women, but because they are human.”
In the words of my best friend, “Feminism is about lifting up other women.” So lets start doing it. Let’s hear each other out, work together, burn a few bras for good measure. Not because we are required to agree, but because we should all treat each other with the same respect regardless of political point of view or religious affiliation. Because our mothers and grandmothers secured each of us the right to have a voice – a voice which is only worthwhile if we all agree to listen.