He accused me of “feminist acting” in his grade challenge. Despite the fact that my chair defended me by telling him that “feminism is not against the rules,” I knew then as I have always known that it was a message. I better watch my back– take copious notes and be careful not to favor the womyn– lest I get fired for feministing… Yet, I said nothing, because I was on the job market and feared the consequences of rocking the boat…
She told me that she didn’t see me as “femme,” what with my harsh exterior. I questioned her definitions but said nothing.
She told me she was so surprised at how soft and tender I am, what with my feminist identity. I looked at her in silence and wondered if that was a compliment.
“I don’t like all of this womyn’s music crap,” she told me on our first date. She continued, “I prefer Eminem to feminism.” One year later, her so-called friend told me “I prefer some hardcore punk to this soft womyn’s music” while cruising me on the path from the Cuntry store to my tent. I almost laughed at the symmetry, but just nodded instead.
The words roll off my tongue so easily, so smoothly; yet, their meaning gets so jumbled and so confused on the way to so many people’s ears.
feministdoes not mean that I am without sensitivity or without softness. Instead it means that I value all of the complexity that goes with my womyninity. It means that I don’t think I deserve to get paid less because I am a womyn and it means that I value all womyn’s contributions to our world. It does not mean that I hate men or ignore issues of race or class in my thoughts and actions. Instead it means I try to speak up when others do and fight for the discussion of racism, classism, and homophobia, alongside and wrapped up in the discussion of sexism. It means that I don’t think that any “ism” can be separated from any discussion.
Feminist means that sometimes I am angry, and that sometimes that anger might appear “repressed” whereas other times it might be up in your face. It means that for years I have been told that I talk to much; to shut up and be quiet like a “good little girl” and sometimes that message still stops me from speaking up.
Feministmeans that I can identify as femme without being weak and helpless. It means that I both own and know how to use a cordless drill– that I built an apartment from studs to finish with that drill. It also means that I can ask for help, support, and protection without somehow being less than. Feminist means that I can play with my femme identity without having to worry that other womyn will somehow condescend to me and expect me to be a static, immutable statue of ideology that has been passed down from the patriarchy for thousands of years. Feminist means I can work for change despite my imperfections and the imperfections of others.
Feminist means all of these things and more, but most of all, feminist means that I can forgive myself when I do not speak up.