Feminism is an enigma to me. It comes in so many shapes and sizes that for the longest time I never knew if I was “doing it right.” See, when I was younger feminism was about watching chick flicks together, and as I came into college I seemed to associate girls’ nights with a bottle of wine and Princess Diaries, which is arguably one of the greatest movies/series for young girls. This version of feminism isn’t wrong per se, it’s good to have fun nights with a group of women where you’re sharing an experience, but as I’ve gone through college I’ve realized that for many women feminism seems to stop there.
In fact, feminism can often feel like the new fad. In style this season are burgundy, off the shoulder tops, and casual feminism. We see it on clothing, on bumper stickers, in Instagram hashtags, but the important question is whether we see it in our everyday lives.
I often see, and sometimes exhibit, discrepancies with feminism. It took me a long time to settle with the idea that I shouldn’t expect a guy to always pay for me. That if I truly thought we should be treated the same then I should at the very minimum offer to pay my share. It used to bug me that I wanted validation from other people when I was having doubts, as if I was only supposed to need my own validation and if I still needed more, then I was weak and not a strong, independent woman. It seems that all these misconceptions I held were part and parcel of a lack of honest and open discussion and discovery about what feminism is.
I don’t think I really have a complete answer but I have come to understand that most often feminism can be flawed when it doesn’t take into account different aspects of identity, which for me includes race. The chick flick nights are fine, but frustrating in the long-term when that becomes the face of feminism instead of fights over gender equality and breaking ideas that men always have to be stoic and strong and non-emotional, or that women’s purpose is solely to have children and be selfless caregivers. Representation always matters, but when I sit down to watch Princess Diaries or The Proposal, I’m always wondering where the brown girls are. The first of really about three movies that comes to my mind is Bend it Like Beckham, but I often feel as though that movie isn’t seen as much as a feminist movie as it is a cultural one. Whenever I used to watch it with friends who weren’t Indian they’d always ask to try on bindis, which is cool, but it’s hard when people don’t see the intersectionality of the movie and why it’s so important.
This issue is themed not only around gender, but around sexuality as well. In that arena, I think the ideas of commodification are equally applicable. “Everybody needs a gay best friend,” all the rainbow t-shirts, and the equality sign Facebook profile pictures are great until someone spray paints homophobic slurs on the side of Kathy Crow. One of the commenters on the Daily Campus made a good point about how, statistically speaking, dozens of (probably heterosexual) students must have walked past that slur before someone reported it. I’m left to wonder how our merch turns into speaking up in our everyday lives. Some of us might not be ready to leave everything and march, but surely we can have the courage to do simple things.
So have the movie nights, crack open a bottle of wine, and relax with your friends because life is hard, but try to push yourself one step further. Maybe watch some international films with lead women, or documentaries on the struggle. Read an article or two about how intersectionality affects feminism and don’t buy the ridiculous idea that feminists hate men. Put on that pride t-shirt and empower ALL people by trying to use your agency to help them get to their goals. Learn to listen to people whose perspectives you don’t understand and don’t let your different background prevent you from trying to learn more. After all, feminism and understanding can’t be bought off the rack.
Editor in Chief, Hilltopics