Feminism as a Way of Life

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. So when I stumbled across this post at A Bookish Beemer, and this post on being a bad feminist, I thought I’d get in there and try to get my thoughts out.

Lately I’ve been realising how hard it is to be a good feminist.

Feminism is one of those things where once you open your eyes to it (and the things feminism recognises and fights), you can’t look away again. Since I started reading about feminism and identifying as one, I can’t take my feminist glasses off anymore. They’re glued to my nose. I can close my eyes but then I can’t see anything at all.

Over the past two years, feminism has become my moral compass. Like some people have religion or faith, I have feminism. It doesn’t make up the entirety of the code of ethics, but it informs the largest part of the way I try to lead my life. For me, feminism is more than just a social movement – it’s a complete way of seeing the world. At least, my own personal feminism is. I’ve made it into a space that not only considers some of the more traditional tenets of feminism (women’s rights, challenging gender expectations, decrying rape culture, etc), but where all sorts of social justice principles come to rest.

So feminism is my way of life. It’s made me more empathetic, more open, more willing to challenge things, and challenge myself. I try to incorporate my feminism into everything I do, whether it’s hugging a friend, meeting a new person, having a dinner conversation, catching a bus.

It works really well sometimes, and I’m really proud of myself. Little things do it. The other night I was out with some new people, and someone made a comment about Gina Rinehart’s (horrible, classist) politics and saying something along the lines of “and she’s horrible to look at as well.” And I called that person out on it, and they graciously took that on board. Those are the best sorts of feminist moments.

And then there are other times when I’m a bad feminist too, when I can’t speak up against something, or just don’t have the energy to engage with something, to argue with someone where I know I won’t win anyway. Where I give up and then berate myself for doing so.

As grateful I am of feminism in my life, it’s also made me a lot harder on myself. I have a stricter code of ethics I stand by and try to follow. And as such, I screw up a lot more, because all of a sudden I really, really want to be this good, ethical feminist person, after being a teenager who didn’t really care about being stand-offish and feeling superior to everyone. It’s not that I would be a bad person without feminism and my feminist-social-justice ethics. Just… a not as good one.

But I try, and I learn. Sometimes it makes me frustrated and angry and sad. But it also makes me happy, because I feel that I am doing my part to manage this world and make it a little bit nicer, and easier to navigate.

What role does feminism play in your life?

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8 thoughts on “Feminism as a Way of Life

  1. Hah, love this post. Feminism is my ethical, moral and personal compass too, now. I also walk away from some arguments because I know that my point of view simply will not be heard, and I don’t think that makes me a ‘bad’ or ‘lesser’ feminist. I’m only human and can only do what I can do, and I choose the battles I engage in. I think being a ‘good’ feminist also involves giving space to opposing points of view, and accepting that change on the scale that feminism requires is a long term prospect. Little wins in little ways now can make big differences later. So go for the little wins.

  2. Feminism is my moral compass as well. It influences my relationships, teaching, writing, and interactions with the world around me. It is very difficult to be a “good feminist” all of the time, but what counts is that I try. Thank you for writing this.

  3. agreed! I’m actually writing next week about the anti-feminist things I still say, even though I try to do my best not to! even the best meaning feminist, I think, runs up against a lot of opposition and societal pressure and sometimes it’s just easier to… not.

  4. Thanks for all the comments – good to know it’s not only me that feels this way! I’m totally agreed with you, canbebitter – sometimes it is just easier to “not”. Though it’s horrible in its own way.

  5. I completely agree with this! I recently started reading a book called “Feminism is for Everybody” and I find that a lot of times I can be considered a “bad feminist”. Despite the fact that this book has made me feel guilty for my sexist thoughts and actions, it has put my “feminism glasses” on and I too cannot take them off!

    1. Yeah, I get the ‘feminism glasses’ too. Try not to feel too guilty for sexist thoughts and actions though, sometimes it takes a while to get your brain into a new way of thinking! Social conditioning is pretty intense. I’m glad you liked the post though! 🙂

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