Of course it does—but you already knew that.
Sorry to kill the suspense right out of the gate here. In most cases, the writer’s supposed to make it past the first sentence before spelling the answer out for everyone. I couldn’t let people believe I actually thought anything different, though. You see, I’ve been pining and procrastinating over what the headline should read for my feminism-centric Lettitor. I usually save the title until the end and write something like “INSERT AMAZING, COOL ONE-LINER HERE” while I conjure the rest of my article but the more I wrote about the topic, the more pressing a headline became.
I’m a feminist. I believe in equality between men and women; I’m against the way misogyny has found its way into our daily lexicons, even in the slightest of ways; and I interpret whenever someone says “that’s just the way things are” as “I’m just too lazy to think any differently.” None of these are radical beliefs by any means and yet, despite their commonality, I still meet people who are afraid of bearing the feminist moniker. Unfortunately, I was one of those people until about a year and a half ago: someone who needed to follow up “I’m a feminist” with a conditional “but…,” afraid that people might misinterpret my views for something I had to justify. Thank God that patriarchal hiccup is over with.
So what does being a feminist entail? One of my favourite writers ever, Carleigh Baker, wrote one of my favourite features ever last semester titled “Who defines feminism?” Now, I could never out-word Baker, so I’ll leave you to read her article for yourselves (check it out on our website!), but I’ll paraphrase: the term feminist is impossible to apply on a global scale because of the huge variance for women’s rights between regions. To be considered a feminist, do you have to shed every layer of misogyny? What if this leaves a woman ostracized from society, alienated from everyone she knows—all in the name of matching the North American definition of feminism? It’s a loaded-to-the-brim kind of question, but I’m of the belief that if you think you’re a feminist, then you are. It’s like arguing that someone isn’t attractive just because they don’t adhere to your own standards of what attractive people look like. We’ll never have a universal meaning for what a feminist is and that’s what makes the term so empowering.
I wasn’t always so open-minded about who could declare themselves as feminists. At the start of the year I remember spitballing the idea of a Lettitor calling out people I thought were “lazy feminists”; women who are against misogyny but then agree to change their last name and accept domesticity as if it were their only option. I now recognize that there’s nothing wrong with either of those things, as long as it’s the woman’s choice and it’s not just blindly accepted.
Though my cynicism has subsided for the most part, there’s still one aspect of modern feminism that I have trouble with. I would ask that you sheathe your criticisms for a moment while I take on the online feminist juggernaut, Jezebel.
Now, I’m a fan of some of the work that goes onto the website, but I often find myself disagreeing with the content. My main gripe with Jezebel is the seeming obsession with trying to find sexism even where there is none; articles obsessed with being feminist just for the sake of being feminist. Take the recent dissection of Shakira for example. Because her boyfriend doesn’t want her doing provocative music videos with other men, this somehow warranted a 175-word write-up on the website. Sure, maybe Shakira’s found herself a guy who’s obsessed with controlling her sexuality, like a modern Rapunzel locked away from the world. Or maybe it’s called being in a relationship and respecting when your partner asks you to avoid doing something they’re not comfortable with. Respect requires compromise, something Shakira seems to have recognized. To me, Jezebel is the BuzzFeed of feminism: I’ll enjoy the content and find some things stimulating, but it’s just another pitstop on the .html highway.
Coming back to my initial question of whether the world still needs feminism: I won’t even pretend that I know everything there is to know about feminism, but I believe that it most certainly does. Just because things for some women are better than they have been isn’t a reason to stop advocating for equality. Things like the pay gap and the double standard are still very prevalent and aren’t going to disappear on their own. Whether your definition of a feminist is a Women’s Studies major or it’s a girl who pays for the guy on a first date, your work will never be over.