I Am A Feminist, But I Don’t Always Embody Feminism
by Kimberly Roe
This article is part of a new column series called, "I Am a Feminist, but...," which features stories about the various ways in which women (and men!) can and do embrace feminism.
I am a very imperfect human. I mean, I think it’s safe to say most of us are. I am also pretty passionate about feminism. I want to constantly raise awareness about its causes, fight for its relevancy, and educate others about it as a movement. I do my best to actively engage in all of those things, along with many other people around the world. Unfortunately, my passion for feminism and my imperfection don’t work well together often.
I have not always identified with feminism. For a large chunk of my life, I lived completely oblivious to the movement’s existence. Of course, I wanted equality between the sexes and resentfully noted double standards, but I didn’t have the language to concisely express my thoughts about what it all meant. When the term feminism was finally introduced to me -- and I got over the stigmas surrounding it -- I found something I could rally behind as a young high school student with a desperate wish for change.
I was not a faultless feminist back then. I had a limited worldview and didn’t think to consider people with situations vastly different from my own. My opinion on what was and wasn’t feminist was very one-sided. Obviously, I had to make adjustments to reach the intersectional feminism I believe in today. I strive to be more conscious, open-minded, and attentive to the needs and concerns of others while I consider how feminism can bring about change.
But I’m not perfect at this. I can still be very selfish. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at home alone, I bemoan my own personal plights, which, compared to the lives of people around the world, are nearly fictitious. I can also be dismissive, choosing not to focus on someone else’s viewpoint in favor of either continuing to think in my way or ignoring it to ponder another time or perhaps forget altogether. This is not a good representation of intersectional feminism. In fact, this is almost the opposite.
Sometimes I chose to ignore problematic behaviors or statements made by acquaintances or workmates because I simply don’t feel like trying to address them in a way that firmly but respectfully expresses what I feel. I catch myself thinking unfeminist thoughts. I see myself momentarily lose the carefree, subversive attitude I try to have when it comes to the patriarchy. I occasionally distort myself into quiet submission in favor of my discontented peace over potentially uncomfortable conflict.
And yet I still identify as a feminist and will continue to do so. Not because I enjoy being a living contradiction, but because I don’t always perfectly represent feminism. I make mistakes. I even go back to old unfeminist viewpoints I thought I had conditioned myself out of. The important thing is that I come back to reality. I allow myself to be alone and rude and selfish sometimes. I don’t beat myself up for feeling insecure and sometimes shrinking away from being a feminist, although I do definitely cringe a little at myself afterwards.
I understand that feminism is a movement that takes all of us on a journey towards self -- and later, world -- improvement. Sometimes I will rise; other times I will stumble; from time to time I will fall. I will never be able to fully embody feminism because it is a movement I will most likely never stop learning about and growing from. And that is perfectly fine. Feminism is a gradual erasure of expectations and norms we have been taught since birth, and that’s a pretty hard job. So I don’t let the lost battles keep me down. I just continue to fight.
Kimberly Roe is a freelance writer and social media enthusiast. She is passionate about many topics, including intersectional feminism, accurate sex education, theatre, political discourse, and of course, generic millennial things. She is currently a social media intern for The Prospect, a contributing writer for Reflection Magazine, and a Her Culture blog writer. Find her online on Twitter (@wolfieyy) or Tumblr (enuribus.tumblr.com).