Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Feminism isn't a Four-Letter Word, Part 1

(originally posted 06/08 at wordpress)

by Blythe Pavlik

I consider myself a feminist. I haven’t always. In fact, it was only recently that I began to use the term “feminist” as part of my own self-identification. Prior to my involvement with the Women’s Resource Center, I had little information on what, exactly, feminism is. Just like with anything, a small amount of information can often times be more dangerous and misleading than no information at all. I think this is certainly the case with feminism. What I once knew of feminism was blunt, reactionary sound-bites from people and media who had too little information to make a reasonable statement about the matter. And unfortunately, as a culture we like to share information without critical analysis or further investigation. So, it is no surprise that the term feminism has become synonymous with terms like man-hater, butch, bitch, abortion-lover and anti-god... to name a few that I have heard in my lifetime.

As I understand it, feminism is a term to describe a movement. It is not fixed nor is it absolute. Definitions of feminism are ever-changing. The definitions change because we change... because times change. And like many mystical or abstract concepts, the most relevant aspect of feminism is any single persons’ relationship with it.

I haven’t taken any Women’s Studies courses, so my grasp on feminism is a result of peer group conversations and personal contemplation. What I have come to understand about feminism is that it serves as an umbrella. It shelters women from historic oppression and creates a safe space for exploration and creativity. For me, feminism is not about filtering myself solely through the lens of gender oppression, but it is rather about finding a community wherein I am empowered to rise above gender oppression. For me, feminism is about letting go of the patriarchal force upon my shoulders that tries to pressure me into roles that lack truth and integrity as to who I am as a human. Instead, feminism serves me as golden strands dangling from the infinite, inviting me to stand tall and reach up for any opportunity that strikes my fancy.

I feel safe here. I didn’t think I would. I thought that there was some special code word I had to know in order to be accepted into the club. But there isn’t. It’s just a bunch of bright, thoughtful people trying to grow tall and create a world that accepts us as we are.

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