I think I’ve always been a feminist, I just didn’t have the proper name for what I was until I took a course on feminism in this senior year of high school.
I’ve always had the audacity to do things that weren’t always encouraged because of my gender; at times I’ve been far too eager to answer questions, too aggressive in my opinions on equality, and yes, too “masculine.” Overall, I’ve always felt like I’m just TOO MUCH.
Being able to give this “too much-ness” a name–feminism–has taken me on a journey of introspection that has allowed me to take a look at who I am in relation to the world around me.
When I was a child, hearing the word “feminist” incited distorted images that were based solely on stereotypes I’d learned from society. Naomi Rockler-Gladen lists some of the most common stereotypes about feminists in her article “Stereotypes about Feminism,” and I find that I also had this obstinate notion that feminists were all “angry,” “man-hating,” “lesbians” who hoped to tip the balances of power in their favor.
How wrong was I?
In her book, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, bell hooks delineates that feminism “is a struggle to end sexist oppression,” and on the opening pages of black feminist Celestine Ware’s Woman Power: The Movement for Women’s Liberation, feminism is said to be “working for the eradication of domination and elitism in all human relationships.”
It is clear that stereotypes about feminists are farcical demonizations, and that in general, feminists and feminism do not seek to overthrow, debase, and exile men in the hope of establishing some sort of Sapphic-only society.
“We reject pedestals, queen-hood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.“
Understanding feminism is one thing, but it wasn’t until I came to the realization that I inherently need feminism that I discovered that feminism is about making your life better.
Why do I need feminism?
Feminism has been vital to helping me understand myself and the world around me.
When looking at the way that my community has shaped my perspective, I find it necessary to take an intersectional approach and see the ways that all the communities that I am a part of have contributed to my perspective. I have been inspired by what Bonnie Thornton Dill writes in the article “Intersections”, that one’s “sense of self is multifaceted” and has “been shaped by a number of different (and sometimes conflicting) social factors and that their behaviors cannot be understood in a one-dimensional manner.”
As a young Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx, daughter of a working-class single mother, and student at an affluent private school in New York, it’s impossible for me to separate my different identities in order to see how each one plays a role in my life. I’ve come to see myself through an intersectional lens and as a complex mixture of my different communities; my perspective is comprised of my various identities from within each community. As a result, I do not see the world in terms of triangles, squares, and circles, but rather, in prisms, cubes, and spheres because I’ve come to understand that social factors cannot be understood in a one-dimensional manner.