I’m not afraid of the f-word. Not the first one that pops into your brain, the other one. Frankly, I’m not afraid of either word, but I digress. The f-word about which I am musing today is feminist. The f-word that strikes fear in the hearts of many.
I’m a feminist. Yes, I said it out loud. I’ve never shied away from that f-word. I have embraced it, owned it, and lived it to the best of my ability. To me it means believing that women should be treated equally under the law, at work, in society, and in relationships. What could possibly be wrong with such a logical idea?
It is fascinating how words evolve, shift, and change as they are filtered through our cultural lens. The fear of women and their power is strong, even among women. We’re still taught that we are less than and we are still punished for attempting to be more. It may not be as overt as it was in the post-World War II 1950s Leave it to Beaver reality, but it’s still there running underneath much of our media and our society at large. It’s covert and insidious. There is a new generation of women who are, in action, thought, and expression, feminists, but who refuse to identify themselves with the term. This is baffling on one hand, but perhaps we’re placing too much emphasis on a word. It’s just a word, after all. It only has the power we give it. You say tomahto, I say feminist. We’re both saying the same thing.
I don’t like to label myself or shove myself into boxes. Identifying as a feminist is only a part of my equation. It’s a label, but it’s not the totality of how I live my life or define myself in the world. I am far more than a word. I’m a strong woman. I am not afraid to speak my truth. I don’t back down easily and I’m not willing to make myself smaller to make other people comfortable. At the same time, there are aspects of me that are not stereotypically feminist. I like make-up and fashion, I have pink hair, and I’ve been known to use glitter rather liberally. That’s the thing, by allowing a narrow definition of the word feminist, we’ve limited women. A woman should be free to be, do, say, wear, think, and believe what she chooses and she should allow other women the ability to do the same. That’s the true spirit of the word feminist. It is not limiting, it is expansive. It’s about being a rising tide, not an anchor. None of the things that I like or do need to be limited by a narrow sex-based definition. They don’t define me, limited definitions do not capture the essence of anyone.
I have raised a strong woman. I was raised by a strong woman. We come from a long line of strong women. It isn’t easy standing strong in a world that wants to label you, limit you, and force you to conform. It means, sometimes, taking the unpopular stance and being the odd girl out. I’m okay with that, because living out loud and living my truth means being willing to sacrifice being liked by everyone. It has meant losing jobs, losing friends, and losing heart on occasion. That’s okay with me, because in fighting this fight for myself, I am paving the way for other women. As long as we accept less, that is what we will continue to receive. As long as we allow others to limit us, we limit ourselves.
I am not afraid of the f-word. It’s just a word. I am a fierce, fabulous, feminist woman. Hear me roar.
You can find Margot Potter on her multi-media story-telling platform Mornings with Madge where she shares videos, podcasts, and essays on living out loud that invite and inspire conversation.