Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 02/15/2012

Labeling Myself As A Feminist (Literally)

the bumper sticker in question

Right after we graduated high school, I gave one of my best friends a bumper sticker that read “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like.” It was partially a joke – something to remember her über-feminist friend by – but it was also a little hint. This friend didn’t take shit from anybody and aligned herself with almost every single feminist issue, yet I had never heard her refer to herself as a feminist. I didn’t think much of it after I gave it to her, figuring she’d probably see it, smile, and stash it away.

However, to my surprise, this friend recently texted me about that bumper sticker. She told me she had actually put my little gift on her laptop and that she got more comments about it than any other on her laptop (including some pretty controversial stickers). She mentioned dealing with reactions ranging from support to blatant accusations and hostility.

Now, I wasn’t really shocked to hear this. All of the aforementioned reactions are pretty typical general reactions to the word “feminism” in this day and age. But I did gain a lot of respect for my friend. Most people are pretty cautious about wielding the feminist label, no matter how much they identify with the movement. It’s understandable. The word is totally charged and stigmatized: it makes sense to be cautious about who you talk about feminism with and in what way you classify yourself under the label. And yet my friend essentially slapped the label on her forehead. As college students, we carry our laptops everywhere – to class, to study, to club meetings, etc – and to label her laptop feminist was pretty comparable to going out in public with the label displayed for all to see. No matter how you cut it, it took balls for her to do that and to willingly face the often ugly and always unsolicited opinions thrown her way.

So, of course, considering that I was the one that gave her the sticker in the first place, I felt I had to join her in solidarity. I slapped a “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” sticker right in the center of my own (previously sticker-free) laptop, headed over to my favorite campus coffee shop and waited for the wrath.

In short, I got a lot of looks. Of course, they could just have been trying to see what a feminist looks like (after all, that’s practically what the sticker invited them to do). But there was a lot of guffawing and eye rolling. A table of guys next to me kept surreptitiously looking from me, to the laptop and back to each other. I can’t say it was a comfortable experience, but at the same time, after a couple of years of running a feminist blog, I just honestly don’t give a shit anymore. If I had to deal with those looks after just “coming out” as a feminist, though, I’m sure the experience would have been about ten times worse.

But then something happened that, to me, made slapping on that sticker worth it. A girl maybe a couple of years older than me actually came over to my table and, with a big smile, said: “I love that bumper sticker.”

And just like that, my faith in being totally open about my feminist identity was reaffirmed. Because, when you identify as a feminist, you do get those looks and sometimes you get some nasty comments. But you also get a support system and the ability to connect with some awesome people who share your beliefs. And in the end, that totally makes dealing with a look or comment made by some random idiot more than worth it.

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  • Liz @ at 11:59 am, February 15th, 2012

    I have a “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” sticker on my laptop too and recently it prompted a friend to ask what feminism was–which just turned into a good conversation and he was really supportive!

  • Abby @ at 2:55 pm, February 15th, 2012

    I really enjoyed reading this and I want a bumper sticker like this now. I just wanted to point out that saying “it took balls for her to do that” is akin to saying “it took the anatomy of a man to do something so bold”. When people use phrases like “she’s got balls” as a substitute for “she’s really brave” it does nothing to support the cause we are all working for. Cheers!

  • Feminist @ at 4:34 pm, February 15th, 2012

    Bravo! I need to get me these stickers because I currently only have the t-shirt! Everyone who knows me knows that I am a feminist and very proud to be one. I do get asked ‘what is a feminist?’ and am more than happy to explain because believe it or not a lot of people do not truly understand the actual definition.

  • Ariel @ at 8:38 pm, February 15th, 2012

    May I ask? Where do you get those bumper stickers/t-shirts/whatever else?

    I want a bunch! XD

    I can’t seem to find them in stores, and I can’t use online cause I don’t have credit cards or a bank account. *shrug*

  • Laura @ at 11:06 pm, February 19th, 2012

    I have a “I fuck to cum, not to conceive” sticker on my bicycle and I guy at Subway come up to me and said “Hahaha you have balls to put that out there for everyone to see” and I replied “Noooo, balls are soft and delicate. I have a pussy. Those things can take a pounding!”. I’m not a college student, but being a 26 year old feminist in a large hispanic populated city is rare. I haven’t met another feminist face to face. One day I will find one!

  • FYI, you’re a feminist. @ at 5:22 pm, March 26th, 2012

    [...] You know why feminists need to label themselves?  Because the majority of people out there, and many of those who are in charge of making decisions that seriously affect us, are not feminist.  They don’t realize (or don’t care) that women earn 92 cents on the dollar of what men earn.  They don’t think about how women are represented in the media, and about how what people see on TV and in movies actually does shape their beliefs and their actions.  I want people to know that I’m not okay with using rape as a joke.  I want them to know that I stand up for what women are, what we’ve been, and what we can be.  I want people to understand that I’m aware of the systematic oppression that marginalized people face every single day, that we’re not in a mythical “post-feminist” society.  I want people to know that if I hear one of my friends called out for being a person of color, for being a woman, for being gay, for being transgender, that I will be there to defend them.  It’s great that you feel as if you can just ignore the sexism that goes on around you and just live your own life, I give you kudos for having such high quality blinders on.   Like any other label and organization, I want a support system of like-minded people who I can talk to about issues that are important to me, and that’s what feminism provides. [...]

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