Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Labeling: Why I think it's important to self-identify as a feminist

Talking to a friend today who was bitching about the fact that anyone who labels themselves is essentially "limiting" themselves to a particular set of traits, he brought up "feminists" as an example. It got me thinking about the labels I apply to myself and my own box. Why DO I identify as a feminist? So many women, when asked, respond to the question of feminism with something along the lines of, "I'm not a feminist or anything, but I do believe xyz about equality, gender norms, stereotypes, etc."

I guess my take on "labeling" is this: When you are a member of a group of society that is currently and historically marginalized, I think identifying yourself as part of the group is important. Not only does it allow other people within your (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc) to feel supported and less alone, it gives other people who know you the opportunity to confront their biases and prejudices in an empathetic setting. That is, because they care for you, they may see the group you belong to in a more sympathetic light. This is the motive behind the mass "coming-out" parties within the gay/lesbian communities and I think it's an effective way to advocate for change without getting in anyone's face.

To me, identifying myself as a feminist means that I unequivocally believe that women in today's society face a gender disparity. It means that I am willing to have a civil conversation about gender inequality with people who don't agree with me. It means that I support women who are marginalized. It means that I pay attention. It also means that I am willing to be a challenge stereotypes about feminist women: that they are angry dike bitches who want to get rid of men and rule the earth.

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