My Feminist Identity

10 Apr

Jessica Valenti opened her talk tonight by asking the feminists in the audience to raise their hands, and I froze.  I take the classes, I read the books, I try to monitor the research, and I obsess over the blogs.  I know what a feminist looks like.  I’m a feminist.

But I didn’t raise my hand. 

Initially I figured that her question had caught me off guard, and I just hadn’t reacted quickly enough.  That seemed like a proper excuse.  But I don’t think Jessica, the Executive Editor of, and author of Full Frontal Feminism, would let me get away with that.  I don’t think I should let myself get away with it. 

I kept my hand down because I was embarassed.  It’s the same reason that I’m careful not to talk about Feminist Studies courses with most people.   I get sick of hearing “Why are you taking that ?”, or of pretending to ignore the wisecracks about how I must be trying to get laid.  When I get that response, my stomach shrinks, my neck goes frigid, and I find myself backpedalling, and explaining why I find value in learning about giving everyone equal rights, opportunities, and control of their bodies.  I’ve conditioned myself into avoiding talking about a large part of my interests, just to avoid the haters and the stereotypes.

FUNK THAT.  I’m sitting at my computer, raising my hand right now.  And I’m not going to back down next time someone asks me if I’m a feminist.


Posted by on April 10, 2008 in Garbage In, Garbage Out


Tags: , , , ,

3 responses to “My Feminist Identity

  1. Jason

    April 11, 2008 at 2:59 am

    I have this same problem sometimes. (Well, not exactly the same. But it comes up from time to time.) I know I am on board with certain people’s understanding of feminism, but I also know that that’s not necessarily everybody’s understanding of feminism. And for some reason it sounds like a cop out if you try to say you’re not a feminist, you’re an egalitarian, even though that’s technically more inclusive and really unambiguous.

    I figure I must be a feminist, though, because when I played through Mass Effect as a female character, and she punched a dude in the face and then rescued another dude’s sorry ass, I was all, “Yeah!” That was pretty cool.

  2. halfawake

    April 11, 2008 at 9:01 am

    You’re not the only one to suffer from the “you’re not a feminist because…” characterizations. Someone asked Jessica last night what her definition of feminism is, and she said that in reality it’s complex, and can change from day to day, but that most people can agree on the (unambiguous) dictionary definition. Reading that definition, and reading the def of egalitarianism, it seems that saying you are an egalitarian, but explicitly not a feminist, is a contradiction; so it might make sense to say that you are both. Discussing the differences between individual understandings of the movement is an important conversation to have, but it can be done under the umbrella of a common goal and name (i.e. feminism).

    Glad to hear that Mass Effect lets you play a well-developed strong female lead. Just to be clear tho, female beating up male does not equal feminist… I’m not sure that’s where you were going coming from, or how tongue-in-cheek it was, but just in case.

  3. Amelia

    April 21, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    You went to a Jessica Valenti talk? I’m jealous.

    And I feel for you. I went back to my high school for my sister’s college signing, and my AP Chemistry teacher asked me what I was studying. I told her I was gonna do a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies, and she was like, “Why do you need to study women?” sigh. I love it though. My favorite person in my currect GWST class is the guy who sits next to me. 🙂


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