What Does Feminism Mean To You?

No one who knows my story would call me lucky, but when it comes to friends, I struck gold. One of the things I love most about my friends is how easy it is for us to discuss hard-hitting topics. We rarely message each other to exchange pleasantries. Instead, we jump right into peaceful debates about everything from socio-political issues to new tech.

Recently, during one of these discussions, a friend of mine shared that she disliked identifying as a feminist. Her reason was sound. She said people have so many misconceptions about what feminism means that she never knows what she’s agreeing to in their heads, when she says, “Yes; I am a feminist.”

I replied that I don’t quite care what people think feminism means when I say it. My line of thought was that if feminists shy away from using the term out of fear about being associated with the radicals, the only persons left as spokespersons for feminism are those radicals.

I can understand the desire to dissociate from terms that may lead to conflict or paint an inaccurate picture of who you are. But, if you have followed my blog for some time, you know I do not shy away from controversy. So, what does feminism mean?

According to Stanford University:

…feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. Motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena. Yet despite many overall shared commitments, there are numerous differences among feminist philosophers.

So, now that we know the academic meaning, what does feminism mean to me?

I Believe Feminism Is Choice

As a feminist, I do not advocate for specific outcomes. I advocate for women to have the right to determine their own preferences and live by them. For instance, I can cook, clean, wash and perform most of the other duties expected of women, but I am no homemaker. I have no intention of having children and a man has never paid my bills.

Do I think all women should live like this? No, I don’t. If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home wife and give birth to a football team, that’s her choice. Unfortunately, traditional homemakers are often at the head of the line to sacrifice the rest of us for being untamed hell-cats.

I Value Self-Governance

Since the beginning of modern civilisation, men have reserved an overwhelming amount of power for themselves. Modern society is primarily orchestrated by men, for men. One area penis-swingers seem to take particular interest in legislating, is women’s bodies. In fact, men grant themselves more rights to our bodies than they grant to us — the actual owners of those bodies.

I resent this. The only persons who should have any say in what happens to my body are myself and a medical doctor. Men should not have the privilege to determine when my consent or revocation of the same is valid, whether I should give birth to a child of rape, or whether I can take birth control.

I Recognise Different Brands of Strong Women

There are many stereotypes about what it means to be a strong woman, especially within the Black community. Strong women are independent, keep their emotions in check, pay their own bills, and have laser-focus on their goals. But, is that really true? I don’t think it always is. I believe strength shows itself in many forms.

I tried to illustrate this when I wrote The Moreau WitchesIn the book, all the women show strengths in various ways: from the head-strong grandmother … to her soft-hearted daughter … to her career-minded granddaughter. They all had a shared burden to bear and played their individual roles in their own ways. Everyday life is exactly the same. That said, some women definitely drop the ball.

I Do Not Equate Modern-Day Sexual Liberation With Feminism

Over the years, many young women have come to associate feminism with a glass of wine, bras in the air, and legs spread. I certainly don’t mean to imply that women don’t enjoy sex or that it is something that happens to women, instead of something they participate in. But, no ideology can shake the biological fact that — generally speaking — men have more to gain and women have more at risk with every sexual interaction.

In my opinion, true sexual liberation for women is more about unlearning the way society treats women like cars and men like fine wine. What do I mean by this? As men age, women find them more attractive because they are more mature, established, and experienced. Meanwhile, as women age, society begins to consider her mileage and how many drivers may have been behind the wheel. It then depreciates her value, accordingly.

Feminism is not a religion or institution with oaths for swearing each person in. It’s an ideology and a movement. Consequently, it is only natural for it to mean something different to the many people who embrace — or hate — it, based on other beliefs they hold and their own personal experiences.

What about you? What does feminism mean to you? If you consider yourself a feminist, have you ever refrained from describing yourself as one out of fear for how others might interpret it? Why or why not? Share your answers in the comments, below!

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29 thoughts on “What Does Feminism Mean To You?

  1. Feminism is to empower women to be who they wish to be without asking for any permission from men or even another woman. As a man, I hope to support women in being themselves no matter what.

    1. That’s an excellent definition.

      I’ll never forget the guy who told me to pay for dinner and said he was giving me permission to exercise my feminist rights lol. I paid for dinner, went home and blocked him.

  2. Alexis, thought-provoking as always. I guess I don’t classify myself as a feminist for the reasons that Stanford stated (per your post) “Yet despite many overall shared commitments, there are numerous differences among feminist philosophers.” I guess that is the problem with so many terms these days. One word can mean different things to different people.

    I do believe that women are equal to men and that both should be treated with respect and dignity. Would that classify me as a feminist? Not sure.

    1. I’m going to say that yes, you’re a feminist. But, like my friend, you may worry about the meaning others hold as opposed to what it means to you. That’s a natural response to have, but as someone pointed out, we all really have to be confident in what it means to us and live that truth to teach others. ☺️

  3. I agree with you. I totally understand the fear around being associated with radical feminism so not wanting to call yourself that, but I think it’s important to be confident in your meaning of feminism and teach people that to get rid of the stereotype

  4. I second your abhorrence of the idea that feminism gave permission to women to exploit their bodies instead of value them. Of course I am a feminist. Have been for 50 years.

    1. If they ARE going to exploit it, they should at least do so for their own gain. I’ve heard a lot of women with promiscuous lives admit that they don’t know what they enjoy sexually and that a lot of the time they say yes, because they feel pressured. So, in the end, all that sexual liberation ends up benefiting the men more than they benefit themselves.

      One day, I plan to flesh out an article on this. Feel free to contribute any ideas for how I should go about it. 🤔

    1. Ha! That is very true, but so does natural instinct. Most men have a more distinct desire to dominate and be aggressive, compared to women. Politics and religion provide an avenue for that, but I don’t think they are the source. They certainly make it 10x worse though!

    1. I think equitable distribution is something we should also consider. Equality alone doesn’t consider the fact that equality itself doesn’t exist.

      For instance, I’m not paying half the dinner bill, because I don’t make equal pay as a woman. So my half of that dinner tab is a lot more of my check than the half most men would pay compared to their checks. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but that’s where my mindset is these days, with regards to that.

  5. I have long advocated that if all world leaders were women we would be in a much happier, safer place. Too much testosterone has repeatedly shown us that we always end up with an aggressive, unequal world with little thought for the common good. Can I be affiliated feminist please?

    1. You sound like one of my best guy friends here in Atlanta. Actually, I think I’ve heard both of my guy friends here say that! Women are definitely very competitive, but violence isn’t really the way we generally go about getting our way. We are more about the art of persuasion.

      You are most welcome to be an Affiliated Feminist. ☺️

  6. 5 ⭐️ 🌟 ⭐️ 🌟 ⭐️
    I’ve heard a lot of people lately say they don’t identify as feminist I think the meaning is reverting back to how it started – men haters. Also I am very uncomfortable because feminism seems to be more white based. I learned last month that many Black women call themselves womanist. Have you heard this?

    I am a woman and should be paid equally for equal work. I don’t hate men. My body, my say. I don’t cook (well I can but I do not like to) my husband likes to cook.
    So if feminist means what the dictionary says, yes I’m a feminist.

    1. In all honesty, I think it’s hard to be a feminist without having some resentment for the stereotypical man. Not men in general, but the stereotypical, traditional, complacent man who believes women are less. Otherwise, who do you hold accountable not just for the current state of things but the slowness with which any change takes place?

      That said, most of my friends are guys and I love them to death. They are not the stereotypical men and I consider them supporters of women’s rights. Some of the men in my life are who taught me feminism and reminded me not to put up with crap just because society decides women should, in certain situations.

      Men who don’t fit this category….I generally do dislike and openly. 😂

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