I’m going to tell you something, and I’m prepared for at least half of you not to like it: I’m not a fan of the word “feminist.” And no, it’s not because I don’t support women’s equality, because as a woman, I respect and honor my right to vote, hold office, have a career or be a stay-at-home mother if I choose (FYI — I was raised by one, and she’s the wisest, toughest lady I know).
You still with me? Good.
Of all the “F” words at our disposal, feminism is the one I find most concerning because everyone has a different definition of what it means, what it looks like and who's allowed to support the movement publicly. This creates a sense of exclusivity — either conform to the prescribed “rules” or be banned from the table. In truth, I can’t think of anything less feminist than putting a woman down for not being “feminist enough.”
Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” In recent months, Beyoncé has been skewered for calling herself a “modern-day” feminist, even as she’s made female empowerment a hallmark of her music for years. And why? Because she can’t possibly be a feminist dressed like that on-stage and in her music videos, let alone with the provocative lyrical content of her music.
Chanel, arguably the world’s most iconic fashion brand (and one that was, in fact, founded by a woman), certainly didn’t have license to turn its runway into a mock women’s rights rally during Paris Fashion Week on Tuesday, sending models out holding signs that read “History Is Her Story” and “Ladies First.” What in the world could the brand, let alone the models walking in the show, possibly know about feminism?
This is where the elitist, “mean girls” mentality of feminism must end. Rather than uplifting a movement founded on respect, dignity and independence, this shift furthers the mentality that not all women are created equal. That we should judge a woman by her looks and social standing, not by the content of her character and the convictions of her heart.
Feminism is simple by definition, but it’s richly complex in application. Especially as women, we have to be keen to the fact that holding on to the stringent ideals from years past simply isn’t practical. Like any social construct, feminism remains fluid and it will persist to change right along with the norms and rules of our present-day.
But there are a few lessons to keep intact. Do know that, as a woman, you have the power to influence the world around you, no matter your life circumstances. Understand that you have the power to define feminism for yourself, how you express it and how you apply it to the world.
So while I’m not so quick to drop that certain “F” bomb, I’ve found aspects from the movement that I identify with and apply to all aspects of my life. If nothing else, ladies, make it a point in your own life to do the same. Because the best defense for the “feminist enough” argument is understanding that you can’t please everyone with your beliefs and you shouldn’t have to.
As long as we’re keeping the conversation about feminism, in its various forms, in the public forum, we as women win.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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