Feminism For Sale

“If we understand that the problem feminists have with Björk has nothing to do with her actions and is only about her language and way of identifying herself, then we can recognize that this is about a feminist marketing campaign and not a philosophy. Compare her to the shiny pop stars who have discovered the market for feminist girl power and who use the word loudly while displaying regressive ideas, images, and messages. The word feminist acts as a shield from criticism, and many of these women are celebrated as heroes. If you use the proper word, then all is forgiven. You get a free pass. If you do not use the proper word, this overshadows all the good work you have done in your life.” — excerpt from Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin.

I was reminded earlier this week that my best friend of almost ten years has never referred to herself as a feminist. It took me by surprise (as it usually does) and she looked at me and said, “Christine, you’ve known this.” She was right. I have known this, but tend to always forget that fact because whenever I look at her, I automatically see someone whom I would identify as one. She believes in a lot of the same values as I do, but she has made the choice to live her life without labeling herself with the infamous “F” word. Me, on the other hand, I have chosen to embrace the word with all senses of the word fervor. While discussing this subject, I thought of the words I recently read by Jessa Crispin that I included above. The idea of feminism has become a large part of marketing opportunities for people and corporations. See any of the articles listed below for more information:Now, my friend lives her life the way she wishes. I don’t try to convince her to label herself to go buy some cool new merch with the word Feminist with a capital F embroidered on it (even though I probably did years ago). The two of us have different associations to it and understandings of what that word means. And that’s okay.I’m definitely guilty of buying into the feminist brand. But, I try my best to buy from organizations and independent companies that are donating their proceeds to Planned Parenthood or other non-profits I want to support. Do I also drink coffee from my “Male Tears” mug and sit around in my “Nasty Woman” tee shirt while reading Gloria Steinem? Yes. I buy into the label and wear it proudly because it has become so much of my identity over the years. It for real started for me back in college (probably around 2007/2008) and has morphed into this beast within me that won’t back down. I have “Feminist as F#ck” framed above my desk for Oprah’s sake (I try to avoid saying Christ’s sake and Oprah is pretty damn awesome, so we’ll go with that). I know I don’t have to wear my “Nevertheless, She Persisted” shirt for people to know what I stand for, but when I do, it does strike up a lot of conversations (mostly encouraging ones) and for that I’m incredibly happy. If wearing my beliefs on my sleeves is helping other people think about the construction of feminism, maybe it’s actually doing some good.

Because, let’s face it. There is a universal misunderstanding for what the word “feminist” means. I see it in the mainstream and question if I actually relate to some of these people who seem to know what they’re talking about. I read articles about Jessica Williams having to defend the idea of intersectional feminism a women’s brunch, and I wonder why. Shouldn’t we all be on the same page at this point? No. The movement behind it keeps changing, and is leaving a lot of us left behind. I truly used to think I knew what it meant back when I was studying Gender Studies in college, but now, who knows! I find myself often lost in thought thinking about it and questioning what I’m preaching. One description that stands out to me lately is from a post I saw:

Not only is that the perfect summary of patriarchy, but it’s also a great way to discuss the difference between equality and equity. As a brief reminder (because I often need a refresh on this as well), equality is treating everyone the same and equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. For me, that is what being a feminist is all about: those two words. We all deserve to be treated equally (cough, cough equal pay, duh) and more often than not, women need to be given what we need to be successful (cough, cough, just treat us like people, not objects… oh, and equal pay would be great as well).

We all might have different understandings of what the “F” word means, and that’s okay. Not all of us have to claim it. It’s kind of like vaccines. Not all of us have to get vaccines, but they do work best when the vast majority of the population gets them. Bill Nye does a great job of explaining this (about vaccines, not feminism) in his new show Bill Bye Saves the World on Netflix He discusses at the end of Episode 6 that, “we should all take a shot in the arm for those who can’t get a shot in the arm,” and implores us to make vaccines cool again. We should wear them like a badge of pride. Sound familiar? Feminism has definitely become cool again, but are we really educating ourselves on that the word means? If we’re wearing it like a badge of honor on our sleeve, are we willing to go the extra mile and stand up for those who haven’t taken the shot yet? It’s okay if they haven’t. Maybe they will someday. But we shouldn’t let a blood-thirsty-orange-haired-Cheetoh virus attack them in the meantime.

Originally published at www.christinedrewbenjamin.com.