INTRODUCTION: We all learn the meaning of feminism from a young age. At first it is a simple and substance-less definition but after years of experience one can truly cultivate a meaningful definition. As a young girl feminism for me was “girl power.” But as I grew it meant something much more complicated, contradictory, complex, and inspiring.
WHAT IS FEMINISM? Merriam-Webster defines feminism as the “theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activities on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” For more information on the types of feminism and how to figure out which type you fall under see Michelle Friedman’s article “What is Feminism? And What Kind of Feminist am I?” in the Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity Journal
MY PROJECT: The goal of my project is to create a portfolio of diverse definitions of feminism by asking my interviewees “What is feminism?” and “What does it mean to you?” By comparing and contrasting these responses I hope to see what feminism means to my community in a larger sense. I hope that the viewers gain a deeper sense of feminism and understand it on a more personal level rather than just based on a definition after seeing these peoples quotes and picture. With this new knowledge I hope that people will engage in the current wave of feminism, whether that be listening to feminist voices, attending feminist events, or merely having an empathetic perspective.
FEMINISM IN MY COMMUNITY: Below are responses to the questions What is feminism? and How does it manifest in your life? These are all members of my school community (students unless labeled otherwise) who shared with me their unrehearsed opinions. While you may not agree with everything that they say I urge you to read through their responses and try to gain an understanding of the diversity that encompasses feminism.
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PHOTO COLLAGE: After doing research and interviews in my community I gained inspiration on what it means to be a feminist in my society. I looked around my school for objects and people that represented feminism and took photos of it to capture how feminism shows up at my school. In this photo collage you can see an original gold suffrage poster which hung in my 7th grade history room because my teacher admired the suffragettes and wanted to share their legacy with us at a young age. My teacher also marched for the ERA and her photo was taken and put in the local newspaper and the newspaper shot is included in the collection. There is also a computer cover because many people my age express themselves with stickers on computers. One girl’s computer had lots of inspiring stickers on it that shared her feminist ideology. There are also clothes with feminist phrases on them that an expressive feminist at my school wears. She buys these clothes but also makes her own clothes (the jeans were made by her). In the collection there is also a photo collage of women writers which I found hanging in my library which represents how my school supports women’s success and reminds us of it in subtle but impactful ways.
POEM: After creating my photo collage and interviewing people across campus I wanted to represent feminism in a poem that reflected it impact on me. Below is my original poem.
You Can Do Anything
By Eva Herr
When I was a girl my dad would pull me close
and between cuddles and covers and kisses he would whisper
“You can do anything in the world”
And I giggled and nodded
As I grew, my idea of feminism did too
When I was young, feminism was bright pink
It was simple and beautiful
It was holding hands with my best friend on the playground
It was playing sports with the boys
It was wearing what I wanted without a thought
I never had to fight for anything
And then one day I saw a clenched fist sticker
Beaten and worn it was stamped in the center of a girls computer
So feminism morphed into a shape of diversity
Its angles more complex than the one dimension it was before
Feminism is the proud glimmer of gold that shines from suffrage posters
They hang as a reminder of all they fought for in my 7th grade history room
It is the stories my teacher tells of marching for the ERA
Tales documented with an aged photo of her in the newspaper
It is a cotton tampon to a girl in Tanzania
Her own body the one thing standing in her way of an education
It is Maybelle Blair, the former professional baseball player
Whose voice is hidden in history
But whose game inspired many young girls to gravitate towards a ball
It is the girl who holds her friend close and says “It’s not your fault”
Feminism is the crowd of pink hats who refuse to let their rights be ignored, who won’t be forgotten, who never get tired of standing up
Now when my dad says
“You can do anything in the world”
I believe every word.
CALL TO ACTION: I urge you to accept the multiple definitions of feminism and try to interact with the diverse group of feminists. Especially now, there is a new wave of feminism, so it is our duty to understand the history of feminism and accept a fluid and ever-changing concept of feminism. To many people feminism means something different, so let’s keep an open mind when learning about and interacting with feminists. I encourage everyone to pay attention to the news and the recent feminist movements such as the worldwide Women’s March and the #metoo movements. Please leave a comment below detailing your definition of feminism!
Criss, Doug. “Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘feminism.’” CNN, 12 Dec. 2017. CNN, www.cnn.com/2017/12/12/world/feminism-merriam-webster-year-trnd/index.html. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018.
“Feminism in the Renaissance.” Daily Life through History. ABC-Clio, dailylife-abc-clio-com.menloschool.idm.oclc.org/Search/Display/1541704?terms=what+is+feminism&sType=multi. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018.
Friedman, Michelle, et al. “What is Feminism? And What Kind of Feminist am I?” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, vol. 1, 1987, pp. 3-24. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.menloschool.idm.oclc.org. Accessed 22 Mar. 2018.