Feminism can be intimidating. We use the term a lot here at Mills, but how many of us are actually unfamiliar with it? My guess is more than we think – often because it can be hard to speak up and ask for information. But don’t fear! If you want to learn how gender justice relates to you, how to get involved or just what feminism actually means, this guide is for you.
Step 1: Be informed. The first hurdle budding feminists have to leap is the essential question: what is feminism? Many people’s hesitance to identify as feminist comes simply from not personally researching the answers to this question. As defined by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a feminist is “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”. Sound familiar? This definition is now much more well-known as a result of Beyoncé sampling it in her song “Flawless.” As a result, more people are now informed about the topic. However, misconceptions still abound. The first step to being a feminist is thus being informed and continuing to learn more about how we can lessen the gender divide.
Step 2: Be open. When you research gender justice, you’ll be assaulted by endless opinions on sexism, privilege and a million other topics – some of which you may not have even known existed. This can be stressful and emotional, especially if you’re researching via the internet. Yes, there will be extremists on both sides, and, yes, some people will be jerks. Part of being a social justice warrior is having a thick enough skin to filter out the grating commentary of internet trolls and your older, sexist and/or racist relatives, but an equally important part is being able to accept the viewpoints of others and reconfigure your own beliefs to recognize hidden gems of truth. You’re going to disagree with people sometimes, including other feminists, but remember that this is okay, normal and actually awesome. Discussion and openness is how we hone our ideas.
Step 3: Stay calm. Identifying as a feminist isn’t always easy. I’ve been reduced to angry tears, quit researching a triggering topic or snapped at a debate opponent many times since I began researching gender justice. This is a hazard of attempting to become more informed on such an emotionally charged topic. As a feminist, you must be able to feel passionate and care deeply about topics without letting them affect your emotional well-being. This means sometimes getting away from the computer, taking a walk or talking to friends. Whatever works for you, do it. Feminism is about fighting for the rights of yourself and others, and you can’t do this if you aren’t happy yourself.
Step 4: Own it. Being a feminist is a fantastic way to develop a strong sense of self. The many feminists I know are some of the happiest, smartest and most confident people I’ve met. The empowerment that comes from knowing you’re a social justice warrior, cultural researcher and passionate aficionado is unparalleled. Besides this wonderful perk, feminism is also a community. From Riot Grrrls to fashion feminists, there are different subcultures that contain strong, empowered activists of all genders who can challenge and support you.
So get out there, blossoming feminists, and kick the patriarchy to the curb.