Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 03/5/2010

But You Don’t Act Like A Feminist?

high school, must accurately portrayed in Disneys HSM movies

high school, must accurately portrayed in Disney's HSM movies

High school is a magical place. Throw a bunch of horny teenagers who are trying to figure out who the hell they are into a building that looks more like an insane asylum circa 1960 than a place of eduction. Add an average of 4 hours of sleep to trigonometry and there you have it: a group of completely accepting, totally open minded individuals.

Except not at all.

To some extent, I can understand why there are so many teenagers who are pretty close-minded. For one, we’re young. We haven’t had a lot of life experiences or been exposed to that much (relatively). Of course that’s not always true, but there are indeed some teens who are content to consume all their information about life from MTV, World of Warcraft and Perez Hilton. I have also met many a teen happy to regurgitate what their parents have shoved down their throats. And really, for those people, I am happy to show them a different perspective, perhaps change the way they think about certain things…like feminism, to just randomly pull an example. It’s the people who really should know better – the ones that claim to be open minded and accepting – that truly get me.

What started this rant was an incident that occurred today in this aforementioned magical place, known to many as high school. I was talking to a guy in my grade who I probably hadn’t had an actual conversation with since middle school. He had heard about my interest in feminism and we began to talk about it. Now, he’s a pretty liberal, open-minded guy. I recall his reaction of disgust to the many racist and sexist jokes so favored by many of our peers.  So when he stated, “but you don’t really act like a feminist,” I took a huge step back and shouted, “WHAT THE HELL?” In my mind, of course, but it was very dramatic nevertheless.

Now, of course, as far as my guy classmates’ opinions on feminism, especially feminism and me, go, this is a pretty mild one. Some may even question why it bothers me at all. But really? What does a feminist act like, pray tell? And how am I failing to live up to par?

“Oh, you know,” he said, “You dress like all the other girls.  I don’t know, I guess you just don’t bring it up that much.”

Okay, here’s the thing. Feminism is not the thing that completely embodies who I am as a person. I am a feminist, yes, but feminism is something that I believe in and support. It does not shape every facet of my being. Believe it or not, I have had other experiences in my life separate from feminism that shape who I am, what I say, what I do, how I dress, etc. Of course, feminism has shaped me in a huge way, and does effect the way I think and act. But the fact that I call myself a feminist does not mean that every single thing that I project into the world will be tinged with feminist ideology.

Ergo – I don’t exactly stomp around school screaming, “STOP OBJECTIFYING ME!”

What I mean to say is, people believe in Christianity. Christianity, as I imagine is true with most other religions, encompasses religious ideology as well as values, a certain lifestyle, and views on issues. But do we really say, oh that’s THE Christian, or question Christians when they don’t project an image of Christianity into the world through everything they do?

And yet I’m considered Julie, THE feminist.

Maybe this is one reason why people are so hesitant to identify as feminists. People have this idea of what a feminist looks and acts like and feel that they don’t fit that one mold, so therefore they couldn’t possibly be one. Well, news flash: feminism is not a set mold you  fit into. You don’t decide to be a feminist, then become a stereotype. Feminism is just a culmination of beliefs, your beliefs, that are just part of what make you an individual.

I am a feminist, but I am not a stereotype.

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  • Helen H. @ at 12:01 pm, March 5th, 2010

    Amen to this. The world’s too full of people trying to cram each other in plastic containers.

  • Toongrrl @ at 12:02 pm, March 5th, 2010

    Good for you Julie.

  • Jaded16 @ at 12:14 pm, March 5th, 2010

    Top notch rant. I’m probably the feminist stereotype. I don’t “dress” like one (what does that even mean?!). But in class, especially Literature Class, I’m always taking a feminist perspective. SO now I hear collective groaning when I start to speak up. People generally say, “She looked so normal”. Nothing cracks me up more :)

  • Savannah @ at 2:48 pm, March 5th, 2010

    This reminds me of a piece we read in my Women’s Studies class. I forget which one, but it offered the idea of thinking of ourselves not as feminists, but as “advocates of feminism.” With the latter, it’s more like “Yes, I like the idea of feminism, but it is not my whole identity.”

  • Vee @ at 6:05 pm, March 5th, 2010

    After reading an article, I’ve spent the whole week thinking about this and I totally agree with you. It really annoys me that people forget there is no universal face for feminism.

  • Amy CT @ at 6:11 pm, March 5th, 2010

    Here here!

    For my friend’s 18th tonight, we went out for dinner, and each person’s place card had three facts about them on it to help them guess where to sit. At the top of mine was “feminist”, and I am now wondering if that’s ALL my friends see me as…

    (The other things were a weird childhood nickname and “house is hard to find”…)

    ALSO:

    “And really, for those people, I am happy to show them a different perspective, perhaps change the way they think about certain things…like feminism, to just randomly pull an example.”

    Very random example, ha ha ;)

  • Olivia @ at 6:32 pm, March 5th, 2010

    LOVE IT.
    This happens to me at school all the time!

  • drewsiedrewsie @ at 10:52 pm, March 5th, 2010

    my problem as the “feminist” friend is i am expected to always be the one with the feminist viewpoint at lunch, clearly taking the feminist side. but thats not always me. then again, not that many people know im a feminist, and maybe if more knew i was i would get more of the “wait youre a feminist? but you wear heels and arent an ugly fat girl who dosent shave?”

  • Cait @ at 12:51 am, March 6th, 2010

    This sounds so familiar to me! Whenever feminism or women’s rights comes up in conversation I get defensive (oddly, haha) and people are always shocked that I readily admit to it.

    I really like your analogy with Christianity btw!

  • Dia @ at 11:13 am, March 6th, 2010

    He probably said you don’t look like a feminist because,like with everything, there’s people who say you can’t be something unless you dress like this. And mybe he said that because you Don’t constantly bring up the fact that you are feminist.
    I probably fit the look of a feminist. Some of my friends don’t know me if they see me not in jeans and sneakers.

  • Leigh @ at 1:16 pm, March 6th, 2010

    Ugh, I know this all too well. I’m a grad student, and when I meet people outside academia, the question of my research interests always comes up. When I tell them I’m interested in feminist theory, and identify as a feminist, I always get incredulous looks (from men, especially). “So, are you, like, a lesbian? Do you shave your legs? You look too pretty to be a feminist…” etc. I wonder if the ‘stigma’ of calling yourself a feminist will ever disappear, or if it will just continue to be a dirty word.

  • Helen H. @ at 4:06 pm, March 6th, 2010

    @ Dia, true, but then again, who decides what a feminist should look like?

  • Chelsea! @ at 11:15 pm, March 6th, 2010

    Oh my God, at my school, it’s basically the same. I’m known as “Chelsea, THE feminist.” and in history whenever we talk about women’s suffrage, my teacher always looks at me when we talk about it. I just wanna slap him and be like “I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WITH A VAGINA AND AN OPEN MIND HERE.” uggghh.

  • Dude @ at 9:29 pm, March 7th, 2010

    Seriously, you’re in high school. To you “feminism” means “Oh I’m a woman I must be a feminist”. You probably have no idea what it means to be “objectified”.

    Oh, cool. A guy said a statement to you. He probably has NO idea what he’s talking about and just said whatever came to his mind to continue a conversation with another girl… There’s nothing wrong with what he said.

    And yes, people have problems identifying themselves as “feminists”, because loony toons like yourself continue deface it and degrade it. You’re as bad as the reverse racists that blame what white people say to them on them being a different color.

    Few words of advice. Shut up and grow up.

  • Bubbly11 @ at 11:03 pm, March 7th, 2010

    Last week we were in Literature class talking about historical context and I brought up the fact that the book was set during the sexual and feminist revolution.
    Well… at the mention of the word feminist, my ex went on and on about how he hates feminists because they all hate men etc.
    I was shocked because he went out with me for 3 years and he knew that I identified as a feminist plus both his mother and sister hold strong feminsit values.
    He reminded me that some people do have such ignorant and closed views of the world and that it was very beneficial for me to have dumped him :)

  • Genevieve @ at 2:10 am, March 9th, 2010

    Dude–
    Right, because you know exactly what it’s like to be a high school girl. And so many of them are just clamoring to call themselves feminists. Which is probably why there’ve been a million “death of feminism” scare articles published within the past two decades. And please, I’ve known what it was like to be objectified since I was eleven and my classmate’s cousin chased me around a fucking health club all day because he thought I had sexy legs, and then when I told him to go away he found my bag and broke my glasses. Talk to some girls for once, I know many who have similar stories.

    Also, if someone says something stupid because they have no idea what they’re talking about, then guess what, they need to be educated, not just brushed aside as well-meaning but dim. It’s easy for you to believe that there’s nothing wrong with what he said when he didn’t say it to you and it does not concern any group which you are a part of.

    Stop trolling feminist blogs until you learn what the fuck you’re talking about.

  • Margaret @ at 4:38 am, March 13th, 2010

    Yep, I hear you there. I often work with people as a sort of ‘covert feminist.’ Meaning I talk about feminist issues without mentioning the ‘F-word.’ Of course, I didn’t talk about feminism at all in high school. I was too busy smacking idiot boys for feeling me up all the damn time.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 6:36 pm, July 23rd, 2010

    Actually, a lot of people DO question Christians when they don’t act like Jesus himself. As someone who used to be really into church and the Christian community, I know this firsthand. I had more people than you would believe ask me how I could be a Christian and still do X or Y. How can you be a Christian and still dress in black so much? How can you be a Christian and hang out with THOSE kids?

    Granted, most of the people asking these questions were other Christians…

  • Linkspam: Feminism, Science & Usability @ at 6:34 pm, August 16th, 2010

    [...] What does a “real” feminist act like? The idea that all feminists are the same, think the same and act the same makes being a feminist all the more frustrating sometimes. We don’t all agree — in fact, some of the biggest feminist battles are being fought between women who identify as feminists. Look. You can’t pick us out of a line up. We don’t dress a certain way or act a certain way or believe in the same things. We are, as all people, individuals first and our individual experiences make up who we are, including our feminist perspective. Also? In my experience there is a direct correlation between people who use words like “feminazi” to describe feminism and the lack of knowledge they actually have about feminism, its history, and the myriad of different opinions and degrees of opinions it manifests. [...]

  • Melody @ at 9:31 pm, August 18th, 2010

    I agree with what you said about feminists and how every aspect of your life and/or appearance shouldn’t be defined by that – however your argument lost it’s punch when you made the Christian analogy to me. I identify as a liberal Christian and a feminist (I know, I’m just full of contradictions) and people who are believers and are not believers DO label you as ‘THE Christian’ and question your Christ-like actions RELENTLESSLY. Especially if you’re living out loud and unashamed of it. I don’t think it’s fair to just grab any religion to make a random point in a rant, although you’re free to use whatever you like as an example. I’m not the boss of you XD I imagine you’re an unashamed feminist as well, so maybe you can relate to what I’m saying.

  • Simran @ at 12:37 pm, August 25th, 2010

    It’s true! It’s like, people who like paris hilton dress like her or people who like Slipknot try to protrait them, and you just tell what a person likes by what she/he’s wearing. That isn’t the thing in feminism. You can’t tell who’s a feminist by what they wear, but by what they THINK. I mean, seriously, how IS a feminist supposed to dress?? What did this guy have in mind? Julia Stiles??!!

  • A @ at 11:02 am, September 1st, 2010

    everytime someone says that to me, i go “i don’t subscribe to labels.” and then i walk out.
    i mean, even though i dress girly the way i dress expresses me and just because i dress in skirts and dresses it doesnt mean i can’t be a feminist.

  • Keema @ at 1:49 am, September 6th, 2010

    AMEN!!!!!

  • Santiago G @ at 5:10 pm, September 6th, 2010

    julie. omg. you rock. i like totally didn’t know you blogged. eventually i will want to write and article for you.

  • Robyn @ at 5:34 pm, October 1st, 2010

    I agree with you Julie, but I see his questions as an opportunity to educate him on what feminism is and what it means to you.
    People who are not familiar with feminism, or anything for that matter, might approach the topic with a question like this and even though it does seem like he is being close-minded, he is obviously trying to open his mind to feminism by asking you about it.

  • SL @ at 4:14 am, October 15th, 2010

    Hi Everyone,
    Julie, while you may not shout “Stop objectifying me” all the time, (which I’m sure you could if you encountered some of the people I work with), you’re still a feminist and you don’t have to justify your opinions. Too many people have a very narrow view of what a feminist is.
    In the very reactionary culture we’re currently in, the most extraordinary case of a movement is referenced as the only way a person involved in that movement behaves. As we all know, that’s just Fox News branding people they want to marginalize. Unfortunately, feminists have been marginalized for a long time and there’s a lot of people that consider feminism a negative, a joke and a reactionary woman angry with all men. It’s a poor stereotype that we all encounter. But, when someone makes a comment, we do not have to justify our point of view as a feminist, simply because the manner we are acting in isn’t inline with the sexist stereotype that’s been around for years.

    I encourage all of us to examine our actions when we encounter resistance or puzzlement to feminism. Do we justify our feminist feelings by proudly stating that we are not the ‘stereotype of a feminist’? Or do we counter the stereotype by educating the person we’re talking to, and give a little back story on how that myth came about? How many of us are holding onto the stereotype of a feminist being an angry, shouting woman…and proud that we believe in equality but we don’t act like that?
    It’s a similar stereotype to African-Americans being called uppity, when they called for civil rights and a better life for themselves. And how accurate is that stereotype? Not very accurate.

  • A @ at 3:53 pm, January 7th, 2011

    @Jaded16 @Chelsea!
    On a daily basis I have nearly identical experiences… I’m THE feminist, THE lit nerd, THE feminist lit nerd… Yup, I basically get my own category. ;)

  • Spotlight on The FBomb @ at 10:44 pm, January 17th, 2011

    [...] written articles that vary from personal stories about they came to feminism to how our feminist identities affect our lives in high school and as teens to thoughts and personal experiences with body image [...]

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