As someone who considers myself relatively new to embracing and fully expressing feminist ideals, my definition of feminism is still developing as my knowledge of feminism continues to grow. At this time in my life, my definition of feminism says that every person, no matter their gender, sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, class, sexual orientation, religious orientation, etc., deserves fairness and equity in every aspect of life (socially, politically, and economically). I want to emphasize “fairness” as an important part of my definition of feminism because as far as sex is concerned, I believe there are innate biological differences between men and women (ex. the presence of certain hormones, ability to bear children, etc.). But I don’t believe those biological differences are any reason or explanation as to why a person should be treated differently in our society, based off false, socially constructed notions of “abnormality.”
My definition of feminism has been influenced by many different things including my beliefs, the material I have learned about because of my education, personal experiences when women have been oppressed, etc. In class, I really enjoyed reading Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism. Although I thought her book had a lot of flaws academically, she did a very good job creating a basic picture of Third Wave Feminism so young women could eventually step in and personalize their feminist drawing any way they wanted.
Most people have a tendency to believe men are a feminist’s number one enemy, but for me as a feminist, the enemy instead lies in a society that has been completely constructed around patriarchal ideologies. Men are not women’s “natural” enemy – I believe they hold an important role in the feminism movement if they wish to be recognized as such. The same sort of snap judgment can also be said of women – not all women are biologically feminists. Both men and women can be misogynists, but they are that way because patriarchy has told them for so long that women are the “weaker” sex. Presently, I am continuing to learn how to channel and express my anger toward patriarchy instead of an individual I believe represents patriarchy.
bell hooks’s book The Will to Change was also an important piece of literature that helped shaped my feminist identity this semester. She talks about how our society has taught men to perform masculinity – by not appearing feminine or expressing “feminine” characteristics, such as showing any kind of emotion other than rage or anger. Because men are taught to enact that masculine gender role, hooks argues men cannot fully love another person until they learn how to fully express themselves. This theory has a place in my life as a feminist because I need to realize more often that most men do suppress their feelings and to stop thinking they don’t care about something, when in fact they don’t feel “masculine” if they were to express their emotions. I also can help the men in my life become more comfortable around me and other people so hopefully, they’ll learn to stop suppressing their emotions.
The most static aspect of my feminist identity I have been aware of for years is a woman’s right to sexual and reproductive freedom. I resent the notion of the double standard that tells men they are free to sleep with as many people as they want, while women cannot do the same thing without receiving harsh criticism from within our patriarchal society. I also strongly believe a woman holds ultimate control over her body with means such as birth control (in any form), abortion, adoption, and deciding if/when/how to have children or not at all. I believe a woman has the right to enact her bodily rhetoric in any way she pleases, whether it is sleeping around “like a man” or controlling any aspect of her ability to procreate.
Lastly, the most important aspect of feminism I closely identify with is the notion of a fierce independence that is reminiscent of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self” speech from 1892. In it she talks about the innate solitude ach human has to endure – every individual is ultimately alone in the world and must rely on one’s own skills and education to survive from birth to death. I love this speech because it reminds me every person is ultimately alone, but we will overcome that feeling of loneliness if we are able to improve ourselves through education and building meaningful relationships.
Each previously mentioned aspect, along with many others, work together to create my definition of feminism, which is enacted in my professional and personal life every day. Because feminism is one of the most important parts of my identity, I have no choice but to enact it all the time, because it is who I am.
At the beginning of the semester, as I was trying to deal with a significant “identity crisis” on many levels, I typed out a feminist pledge for myself and taped it to my bathroom mirror so I could see it every day and be reminded of the things that are important in my life right now. I have had the tendency every so often to second guess myself and make decisions that I don’t believe in 100%, so this pledge was a way for me to keep focused and not lose sight of who I am as a feminist.
I, Katie Kethcart, pledge to the following, to preserve my agency and independence:
- I pledge to listen to my head.
- I pledge to always be there for me.
- I pledge to not loose sight of my goals.
- I pledge to work my hardest towards those goals.
- I pledge to remind myself that no distraction from school is ever worth it.
- I pledge to resist patriarchy whenever I witness it or find myself buying into it.
- I pledge to love myself.
- I pledge to remind myself everyday that I am a strong, intelligent, independent woman who is so much better than a man.
- I pledge to never depend upon a man.
- I pledge to never let a man define who I am.
- I pledge to never sit by the phone waiting for a man to call.
- I pledge to remind myself that my friends and my family are the most important relationships within my life, and they will always be there.
- I pledge not to waste my time.
I pledge to follow these guidelines, each and every day of my life, at the expense of my humanity.
About the Author
Katie Kethcart is a twenty-two year old feminist who just began graduate school at Colorado State University in an effort to earn a Master’s degree in Communication. She has realized that living as a feminist in a male dominated society has been a struggle in her everyday life, although all of its benefits make the struggle worth it at the end of each day. As Katie’s self-identity continues to change, so does her identity as a feminist. In her free time, she loves to read (she is Harry Potter’s biggest fan), watch movies, spend time with friends and family, swim and snowboard. Katie hopes to change the world one day… however that will be accomplished still remains a mystery.