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Idealize This | Feminism

by Guest Contributor Catherine Traywick, originally published at Hyphen and Femmalia

For most of my life, I’ve acted the part of the fiery feminist activist. At age 10 (before I even knew “feminist” as a word) my surprisingly cogent defense of biblical Eve moved my evangelical father into surrendering his argument that women are the root of all evil. At age 16 (when I only knew “feminist” as a term of derision) I scandalized my Filipino teachers by conducting an (albeit amateurish) study charting gender discrimination within Republic Central high schools. And by age 19 (when I proudly donned my first signature “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt) my transformation seemed complete. In those enlightened times, I was fond of telling people, “You’re probably a feminist — you just don’t know it yet.”

So thrilled was I to have found a word — an ideology, a movement! — which embodied my long-standing belief system that I didn’t realize until much later the foolishness of such a proclamation; feminism isn’t, after all, defined by one’s inherent, unarticulated views on gender (however progressive those may be), but is rather a conscious, political choice one makes after considering and asserting those views.

These days, a much more educated, experienced, and cynical Me teeters on the fence. Some days, I hear feminism derided by an ignoramus with a beer and the beast inside rears its rosy head in indignation. Other days, my oft-broken heart smarts at the memory of old friends and activists whose feminist ideals didn’t stand in the way of their marginalizing a person of color, or objectifying another woman, or even downplaying the sexual assault of a friend. Most of the time, my commitment to social justice advocacy doesn’t feel as though it requires a label so I have the room to vacillate.

However, my indecision piques about every six months. Continue reading