January 17, 2013 - 11:22pm
BY ELLERY WEIL
When I say I am a feminist I get a variety of responses but one that stood out the most to me was a friend of a friend who said, “Oh, cool. What kind of feminist are you?”
And all I could think was, I don’t know. Now, of course I knew what she meant. She was asking, “Are you more interested in the question of federal funding to Planned Parenthood, or the laws surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace? Are gender and sexuality issues your passion, or are your energies focused on combating rape culture? If Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Simone de Beauvoir all walked into a bar, whose autograph would you ask for first?"
It’sa valid question — feminism can be applied in many different ways to many different aspects of life. But it made me think of why and when I first became interested in feminism. When I started doing online research, feminism seemed intimidating, even unapproachable — I wanted to be a “good feminist,” but there were so many ways to mess up. The authors I read, the clothes I wore, the music I listened to and even the books I read were indicators of my feminist street cred. Academic language was being thrown around, but I ended up feeling a little lost. And to my discomfort, I saw a lot of feminists speaking with great disdain of anyone’s approach to feminism which was different than theirs.
That’s when it hit me: the whole point of feminism is the belief that women, like men, are individuals and have individual preferences and approaches to life. And that’s okay. While everyone’s approach to feminism is going to be a little different, getting hung up on “types” just makes feminism look cliquey and unapproachable for those who may be new to it.
So now, if someone asks me what type of feminist I am, I will tell them, “I don’t really have a ‘type,’ but here’s the stuff I’m most interested in.” And then I’ll ask about your interests too. It doesn’t get much more approachable than that.