As someone who is often identified as a feminist, I try to wear the mantle with as much respect and thoughtfulness as possible. It’s a label I’ve proudly carried for 13 years (or half of my life) and it’s one I hope I’ll wear until the day I die.
Such a label conjures different images and ideas for different people, but many people believe that all feminists believe and stand for the same things. Calling yourself a feminist means that some people may think you’re a man-hating shrew, while others may think you’re an inequality-busting badass. The notion of diversity within the movement, however, is often lost.
Some of the most painful arrows fired my way have come from fellow feminists. #NotAllFeminists are going to agree with their sisters, and in fact, on most issues there will be disagreements. That the feminist arrows have pierced my armour the most deeply is probably human nature. If feminism can be seen as some kind of family, whanaunga perhaps, the harsh words from within the movement carry more weight than those from the misogynists we’re generally unified against.
Debate can be a positive thing, of course. In the feminist herstory, for example, debate within the movement allowed for the condemnation of TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). While the road has been paved by first, second and third wave feminists, younger, newer feminists joining the fold bring with them their own unique perspectives. Respectfully challenging the status quo has allowed feminism to adapt and evolve to become the intersectional movement it is today.
A lesson I’ve learnt over the years, however, is not to expect feminists to agree. Just like any belief system, there are politics, factions and schools of thought bumping up against each other under the same broad umbrella. For example, can men be feminists? I’m of the opinion that they absolutely can, but I know a portion of the sisterhood will disagree with me.
Perhaps the most important thing, in my humble opinion, is to figure out what feminism means to you – what your feminism stands for – then to be guided by those core beliefs. I’m not advocating for burying one’s head in the sand and refusing to hear the views of other feminists, but I think it’s important to remember that there is no one correct way to feminist. Feministing can be carried out in a manner of different methods that feel most appropriate for individual feminists.
#NotAllFeminists have to be the same. #NotAllFeminists have to agree. #NotAllFeminists believe the same things.
Believing in feminism is a personal journey that will evolve over the course of a lifetime. One person’s view of doing feminism ‘wrong’ is another’s view of doing feminism perfectly. Within our movement, it is our diversity that drives us forward. My hope is that we’ll let it thrive rather than allowing it to hold us back.