Coming Out As A Feminist (And The Stereotypes You Meet Along The Way)

October 5th, 2011 | Categories: Gender

The following blog relates to another blog I wrote a week ago in which I discussed how people have an aversion to being labeled or labeling themselves as feminists. In honor of Weblog Wednesdays at The Communicated Stereotype I thought I would share the following blog post on that topic from the blogger at Indelibility. The blog post offers first hand and personal insights about transitioning from someone who does not want to come out as a feminist to someone ultimately willing to do so and the communicated stereotypes she meets along the way. And, yes, I am a feminist too. The original post of this blog can be found here.

Yes, I am a feminist.

I came out as a feminist a year ago. Or to myself, at least. I spent a large quantity of time last summer reading feminist queer blogs on tumblr. I somewhat already aligned myself with these politics but didn’t call myself a feminist (or a queer for that matter).

I was ashamed. Shaming feminist (& shaming women) is pretty common. On one occasion in 2008 I was talking about vaginas, because I’m somewhat of a ridiculous person, to my roommate after they asked why I included one in a drawing I was coloring. I was trying to explain how interesting vaginas are from my quirky aesthetic and then spiritual perspective, by the time I started to get really excited about the biology the conversation stopped going smoothly.

The roommate was somewhat offended by my vagina-rambling, partially for the absurdity factor but also partially because of feminist stereotypes, as shown when he gaped out, “fuck, you aren’t a feminist are you?”

My first reactions was blubbering “no, god no, I hate feminists, I think they are ridiculous about most things, except rape“

This facebook group has a gallery that shows the variety of feminist that exist and thereby debunk the feminist stereotype.

Okay, so there are a couple of layers of things going on with that reaction.

First, I admitted the existence of stereotypes of feminist. I admitted them, and did not reject them, if anything I further confirmed them with my reaction. The stereotypes that came to my mind were:

a) American feminist are extremist; they hate men, they aren’t fighting for equality but for overpowering the men in society with women.

b) American feminist are angry hateful bitter people

c) American feminist are under appreciative of how far they have come in this society, and how better off they are when compared to women in other nations

Okay. Be angry at me, you should be.

The thing is these are not my innovative hateful and hurtful ideas. These concepts are not something that I created in some sort of misogynistic self-loathing. These are the ideas that have been fed to me and I did not question it.

There is a feminazi paradigm that is deeply hurting the feminist movement. The most obvious part of this is the absurd comparison between someone wanting their gender to be appreciated as an equal human being as being the same concept as killing six million people. Okay, the obvious point but I still needed to mention it.

And by equating the feminist with Nazi Germany — a time period that we as a society have deemed to be the most horrendous, horrific, horrible time period– we are saying that feminist are the second-coming of evil.

Okay, this is really absurd. And makes one wonder what’s so scary about feminist– but that is a tangent that goes beyond me coming out, however, what I do want to note here is that these stereotypes are part of pop culture, and makes women want to distant themselves from feminism– this paradigm is strong and powerful because it makes being a feminist a shameful act, which is why some of us have to ‘come out’ in the first place.

I also want to mention the butch-dyke stereotype of feminist. This is a problem on two levels.

One: In order to support women rights you have to lose your femininity.In order to be a confident, bold, strong, women with opinions and enough strength to make these opinions a reality you must be butch, which on a social level we deem to be ‘not real women’ (note: I disagree with this).

Two: This stereotype encourages homophobia. The use of this stereotype is maintaining the ideas that women have to be feminine otherwise they aren’t heterosexual, which is baaad. Apparently. Being a lesbian is a sociologically-negative thing and by shaming women into certain behaviors that are ‘straight’ we are declaring that being told you look like a lesbian is worst then being told you look like a womens activist.

However, even though I revoked being called a feminist for the above reasons, but especially because I felt as an American women I have enough privilege to deal with life unlike women in other nations and cultures (this better-then-thou attitude is also problematic, but also for another blog post) I still acknowledged that things aren’t perfect by saying ‘except rape’.

Now I raise my fist with courage!

What I was not informed of in 2008 is the idea of rape culture and how rape is a byproduct of an issue that is much larger and much more convoluted then just the incidents in and of themselves. What I did not know of is the sociological perspective on why rape exists. I did not realize that women are demeaned and rape is idolized. I did not realize that this is what increases my risk of being raped and how that effects my daily behavior.

I realize this now. I may expand on this on a later date, however, it is this realization of rape culture that made me realize that I am a feminist.

It takes a surprisingly large quantity of introspection before one realizes they are a feminist, a large distraction to the feminist community are the negative caricatures of feminist that are aligned with contemporary pop culture. I was a victim of this skewed depiction of what a feminist was and what a feminist wanted, and why they wanted such. And thus I was unable to say ‘I am a feminist’. On the contrary I would fight anyone who called me out as one. But now I’m PROUD to be a feminist. I realize that things are somewhat fucked for American women and women on an international level. I have been trying to be informed in this last year and haven’t started much activism yet, however, I hope to become more of an activist. And shall try to chronicle some of my efforts here.

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  1. Mary
    February 25th, 2012 at 14:42

    I am a feminist. I completely and a hundred percent agree with this entire blog. The negative connotation that goes along with the idea of being a feminist is so horrible and that has always made me nervous to say that I am a feminist. I am in college and I am a double major political science and communication studies. When I graduate I plan on going to law school and become a lawyer, a profession that is very male prominent. I am blonde, short, and little. Whenever I tell people I want to be a lawyer everyone automatically says “Legally Blonde!”. In the beginning it was cute, being related to Reese Witherspoon can never be a bad thing but then I began to realize that the fact that I am a blonde woman I automatically have to be a total ditzy sorority girl in order to want to become a lawyer. Since I have come to college and dealt already with the negative comments toward my future career I have realized how I truly believe in feminism. I understand that we, as women of the United States, have things pretty good compared to women of other countries, however, I believe that women and men should be equal. I think that the feminist movement has not been as greatly seen as the movements against racism or other stereotypes. Women are equal to men and it needs to be realized sooner than later as women are becoming so prominent in the work force. The sooner that society realizes this fact the better. Coming from the point of a woman who wants to go into a male prominent profession I realize that women and men are definitely not equal as of now and that has to change.

  2. YF
    February 27th, 2012 at 11:37

    Mary, during our class discussion of Standpoints, a student mentioned that in the show Sex and the City, Miranda was afraid to disclose to her dates that she was a lawyer. “Who wanna date a female lawyer?”

    On another matter, I also wonder if this kind of shows dispels stereotypes or actually reinforces them. But at least the show makes some stereotypes known. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? (much similar to those stand-up comedians; see http://thecommunicatedstereotype.com/stand-up-comedians-as-advocates/)

  3. YF
    February 27th, 2012 at 23:40

    I don’t know if stand-up comedians actually help dispel stereotypes or not. For example, in John Leguizamo’s Sexaholix, there were some accounts about feminists (e.g., dic-tionary, menses) and old women. The way he depicted those women was somewhat upsetting.

  4. YF
    February 27th, 2012 at 23:59

    A guy once held a door for a lady (they were strangers to each other). The lady, after walking through the door, accused the guy: Did you hold the door because I am a woman? – What do you think? Has she gone too far? Did people like her actually give feminists a bad name?

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