When I was 20 years old, I took two Women’s Studies courses. They both changed my life. I flipped my major from English to Women’s Studies and my life as a feminist was born.
Feminism is a revolutionary movement. It is also one of the most successful movements of the past century. The amount of changes that have been ushered in by hard-working feminists is awe-inspiring.
The dictionary definition of feminism is the movement for the social, political and economic equality between men and women. Needless to say, this old-school definition leads a lot to be desired. For me, feminism is a revolutionary, intersectional movement to eradicate oppression and exploitation of all kinds, with a particular emphasis on masculinism, male-supremacy and patriarchy. But race, class, trans, disability, age, weight, appearance, religion, etc. all intersect in vitally important ways with feminism. As the internet slogan goes, our feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.
I am a third wave feminist through and through. Ironically, I was raised on second wave ideology because the third wave was just beginning to happen when I was being schooled in feminist theory. I am a third wave feminist in the same way that I am a Gen Xer. It is my generation and I am proud of it. We have accomplished a lot and made quite a contribution to the movement. We build on the shoulders of the first and second wave. In addition, we build on the shoulders of all the women of color who may or may not have been involved with feminism. Feminism is a movement mired in white supremacy, historically and contemporarily. While strides have been made in combatting racism in feminism, it still continues to be a serious problem.
In addition to racism, feminism is often transphobic and trans-misogynistic. I have felt this from so-called TERFs as well as from more mainstream feminists. My relationship to feminism has not been a bed of roses. I have never walked away, but there have been times I have thought about it because of the transphobia and transmisogyny I have encountered. I would ask: Am I allowed to be a feminist in the same way that my cisgender counterparts are? White, cis women have a lot to answer for when it comes to the inclusion of trans people and women of color in Women’s and Gender Studies and in the feminist movement.
Feminism, in many way, provides the foundation for my social justice work. For papers and essays, I often implore my students to explore a given problem through the lens of intersectional feminism. Feminism done right is thoroughly intersectional and able to provide a rigorous analytical reading of any number of socio-cultural problems and crises. Intersectional feminism is the go-to magic for theory and for activism. Intersectional feminism must include critical race theory, queer theory, crip theory and more, as well as insights from Black Lives Matters, queer organizations and disabled activist collectives among many others.
I should get a tattoo that says “Feminist Forever.” I hate patriarchy, male privilege, male dominance and masculinism with a passion. It is destroying our society and destroying our planet. Even with its problems, feminism provides a framework for thinking about all of these problems that desperately need solutions. As Nancy Hartsock said, “Feminism is a method of approaching life and politics, a way of asking questions, and searching for answers, rather than a set of political conclusions about the oppression of women.” I would add the oppression of people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, etc. but you get the point. It is a sophisticated theoretical apparatus and it is an equally sophisticated approach to on-the-ground activism. Between its rigorous theory and grassroots activism there is no telling what progress feminism will continue to make in the coming years, decades and centuries.