How to become a feminist: a primer

If you’re like me, you may have spent a long time feeling that you are not qualified to speak about feminism. It seems like a really fraught topic, and people get really upset over it. I really didn’t know how to start.

1. It doesn’t matter where you start. If you understand that equality for all people is vitally important, you are on the right path.

Read articles that you find accessible (I found that starting light, with shorter pieces and gradually moving into deeper territory helped me), and start reading. If you read pieces here on WordPress.com or Medium, or Twitter, or wherever, once you filter through the non-relevant items, things will slowly start falling into a familiar pattern. Once you get to that point, you may start to feel like you could blog yourself about feminism yourself! You should!

Qualification is related to the idea of authority, authorship, ownership, creation and possession. Your personal feminism is just that: personal. No one else can define a path for you, and no one else can take your utter inalienable right to be feminist away from you.

It took a long time to train myself to take off the blinders that I was used to, from living my entire life in the mainstream. For this, I needed help.

2. Find a community. I ask for help understanding things around feminism all the time. I have a small private group I rely on, and a bigger one through my job, and both are really fantastic for discussions of what a microaggression is, what to do in a particularly difficult situation, discussion of articles and news of the day, etc. The discussion is what helped me the most – listening and speaking up when I didn’t understand, and allowing that my mind may need to change.

As my personal understanding of feminism continues to grow and evolve (you aren’t ever done, which is what makes it so exciting and interesting), I’ve found myself more in situations where I need to make a choice about confronting someone else over their words or actions. When I was first growing my feminist consciousness, I didn’t feel that I could speak up against misogyny, because I felt unprepared for pushback – pushback that always felt like it must be inevitable.

3. Persist, nevertheless. Feminism is about equality. In your journey, you will get to the point where you will need to speak up. Equality cannot happen if everyone is silent, or almost everyone is silent, or most people are silent, or many people are silent. It seems scary, and the repercussions really can be frightening — physical harm from someone who feels threatened is very real — but unfortunately, the bottom line is that allowing inequality because the other person has a bigger stick isn’t tenable.

People push back because they feel threatened. Don’t apologize for not allowing inequality. You may be pleasantly surprised by the people who will later apologize and start making an effort to be more open-minded. Some people will be very upset that you won’t just let them perpetuate the system that lets them be on top in all things. What a kill-joy! It’s ok to kill their joy.

Start watching the interactions around you. If you see someone standing up and saying something, you could start by supporting that person. Maybe it’s a private comment to them that you support them (it means a lot), or maybe you chime in. Maybe you take note of the various kinds of inequality that aren’t well-known in your circle (ahem, like how women of color die in childbirth in the US at a rate similar to a third-world country) and start blogging or liking articles along those lines.

Listen to the feedback you get. People telling you to stop you can ignore. But other feminists will support you! They will give you additional articles to read and they will ask you questions that help you define your own views, and they will answer your questions, and they will get angry with you, and they will be so happy that you took that first step.


Resources: Check out these articles and sites for a variety of feminist experience.

  • USA Today – has a surprisingly robust feminism section. I particularly like this glossary.
  • The Toast (rip) – although no longer active, The Toast is funny, irreverent, and relevant.
  • Bitch Media – a deeper dive into the news from a feminist point of view. Particularly exciting because they are wholly independent.
  • FEM – UCLA’s feminist magazine.
  • Google – or Bing, Duck Duck Go, whatever. Just search for things you want to learn more about.
  • Add your favorite resource!

 

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