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Why we need to act on feminism, rather than use it as a moral label

What happens when a movement becomes a trend? Feminism has been glamorized in pop-culture by many people that let their arrogance get the best of them—usually because they have found something worth fighting for. Admittedly I was one of those feminists who assumed the whole “us against them” mentality, believing there were only feminists and everyone else. I relished in the times when I got to police people who said anything even slightly misogynistic. What I mean to say is that I admit wholeheartedly that I indulged in having something valid to be angry about: the patriarchy, women’s inequality. I liked believing that feminism was a collective movements of truths and that those who deferred even a little, were the collective’s enemy. But the startling truth is that arguing with people who don’t identify as feminists gets old. Having something to be angry about wears thin when nobody around you is even listening. It’s nice to feel like you are always right, but at what expense? It is as if we take our knowledge and take advantage of what we know because we know that there is someone out there that doesn’t.

What we tend to forget is that being a feminist is not all about reveling in the glory and good times of argument and being right. Doesn’t being a feminist mean fighting for women’s equality, in a way that is proactive rather than counter-active?  Feminist egos should not consume the movements, or else the best of our beliefs will be surely corrupted by a greed that craves everybody else’s awareness of your intelligence.

There are so many celebrities who are out here ‘revealing’ that they are feminists, and so many fans praising them for letting the cat out of the bag that they too believe in equality. It seems like too many of us are assuming the whole “us vs. them” mentality of whether a celebrity is problematic or not, and frankly it’s a little exhausting. Isn’t everybody, in retrospect problematic? It is only through unlearning conditioned beliefs that we can ever peel off layers of our problematicism?

As I think of all who don the title of feminist, I also think of all those who don’t but still identify with the movement. Usually because of hesitation on the term in itself, these people still practice their unnamed feminism. Fear of the patriarchy is usually a big reason why people deny the term feminism, rather than a disdain for equality, after all. On the other hand, are you really a feminist if you don’t practice it but just call yourself one?

This idea brings me back to something I read on Adam Levine’s twitter a few years ago. In his tweet he casually wrote, BE an artist. Don’t claim to be one. It just never sounds good. “I’m an artist.” #puke

This can apply to every aspect of our lives and can speak a million truths about who we claim to be and who we really are, and how those aren’t always the same things. The greater question is to ask ourselves what we are doing for the fight for feminism, to join the movement. The greater question is not, to be explicit, what can I call myself to look good? This is why celebrities announcing how much of a feminist they are during a Grammy award speech or casual interviews doesn’t do much of anything at all for feminism in the long run. Sure, it provides momentary mainstreaming of the issue at hand and the term itself. But often its only real purpose is to make someone else look good. Because of course we don’t want our favorites to be that problematic celebrity when the reality is that we are all problematic in many ways. Feeding into the delusion that calling yourself a feminist prevents you from being problematic directly contributes to the egoism found in modern society.

So how can we be more than just angry, attention-seeking people who want to seem intelligent and all-knowing? How can we be feminists? We can start by pinpointing our own problem areas and working on how to become less problematic individuals. We can call out celebrities who do problematic things, yet not write them off as being altogether monstrous individuals (though there is of course a line.) We can praise the famous for the good things they do, yet refuse to turn a blind eye when they do problematic things. We can do all of this in attempts to remove the stigma within the feminist movement, where we can either be problematic or we can be woke. Why can’t we just be individuals working towards the common goal of equality in a way that is just for all genders? Why can’t we just be fallible feminists willing to change our ways and require that others do the same?

The idea of the arrogant enlightened feminist makes me think of a concept I learned in sociology; the techniques of neutralization. We try to rationalize the things we do that go against our moral construct by justifying why we went against it in the first place. We are so quick to find ways to defend ourselves yet even quicker to attack others for the same wrong doings that we do.

For help, we can look to activists who fight for social justice without asking for personal attention or praise in return. We can learn and attempt to help others learn about intersectional feminism, because once we do this we realize that at one point we did not know it either. We can’t let this ignorance mask any misogynistic acts we once took, however we can use it to understand how we ever thought it was acceptable.

We can strive to be self-educated feminists and refuse to stop there. There is a universe of knowledge out there waiting for you. Let us not become lazy during the fight because we feel like we’ve got all the feminist shining armor we’ll ever need. Knowledge is a limitless resource and although we can never truly know it all, we can soak in as much as we can. The thought of this in itself is one of the most motivating concepts of modern feminism. Learning and growing as a feminist is ultimately all the more important than how people will look at you because of what you call yourself.

For me so far, it has been hard to call myself a feminist without asking myself what I have really done in feminism’s name to deserve such a title. Because it’s not just a word that you call yourself to seem “Woke” to everyone else. It’s a movement. It’s a fight. It’s your thunder, and you must represent it wholeheartedly because it is no joke. It is nothing to take lightly and rather something that must become a part of you.

So where is the line drawn between a feminist who defends her movement and a feminist who treats their movement like another adjective to put on their social media profile? Is the latter really a feminist at all?

Instead of telling everyone who we are, instead of saying who we are, let us be who we are. Let everyone else call us feminists. We have more important work to do then stopping to relish in the appearance of it all. We need to take action. We need more change than talk. We need to be asking ourselves what we can actively do in our communities in order to promote feminism and become a feminist.

So please. Instead of spending so much time calling yourself a feminist, become one.

What is true? How do I become a feminist? When will I feel it in my heart? I haven’t wanted, needed anything more in a long time. It means so much to me, and all this time I thought I was protecting my beliefs by calling myself a feminist instead of taking action, but I’m not. I’m letting people step on them, and pound them into the ground. I’m not going about feminism honestly. I haven’t yet made it a priority. And I need to.  Have you?

Don’t get me wrong, showing your support for feminism is hardly a bad thing. Calling yourself a feminist and promoting the movement is great. It is only when that the support we show stops us from making any significant change, because we are fooled into thinking that support is enough.

I will continue to read, and watch, and learn and write about feminism. But it just scares me. Because I could do all that, but if I don’t defend it, if I stop there, nothing will ever change. And that won’t make me any more out of the dark than someone who doesn’t believe in feminism. So I will remind myself, time and time again, that I am a feminist and I should act like one, until one day I truly believe it. I will try to make change upon myself and those around me. And I will try to speak on the doubt that is unearthed when discussing feminism. Because that doubt stems from the conventional fallacy that nothing should change, resistance is rebellion and rebellion leads to chaos. This is wrong. This is so, completely, horribly wrong. It is through resistance, through constant gnawing that we learn to change and flourish in good health, and to grow as individual feminists. Let this be the beginning of me BECOMING a feminist. Because becoming a feminist isn’t just the act, the radical notion to call yourself one. Becoming a feminist is an evolution towards a justice that takes feminism into account.  At the moment? There is no justice for all.

Feminism probably won’t just happen to you one day. It is something we cultivate, something we water and tend to as part of the gardens of who we are. It’s important to keep watering, to keep cultivating. We need feminism. And feminism needs us. Let us not take its name in vain.

I want to believe. I want to believe, more than anything. But maybe the road towards believing begins with the realization that there isn’t a utopian feminist. Maybe we’re all just trying to be the best version of ourselves we can be by unlearning these harmful, patriarchal beliefs and maybe we feminists just believe that feminism is the path to getting there. Because it is the way. One of the only ways towards “justice for all.”

So, onward.


[Image via x]

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Written by Baudelaire Brookes

Baudelaire Brookes is a Togolese-American young writer who seeks to embrace feminism and social justice issues through the written word. She loves creating and being surrounded by good art and hopes to one day create writing that changes the life of anyone willing to listen, even if it is just one person. She also strives to create influential content on feminism and social justice issues on her YouTube Channel, the Somebody Campaign. She spends most of her time reading and loves films. She lives on deep, intellectual conversations and hopes one day that her life will become a collection of good stories as dramatic as the ones she writes. Baudelaire has never been great at short, concise autobiographies largely because third person biographies give the false impression that the only way you can ever be anything worth talking about is if it’s someone else talking about you. She wonders why first person is so unprofessional and then remembers it’s Earth we are living in. Perhaps self-praise is too arrogant; or rather our society and its people hate itself too much to address it candidly. But, she digresses.

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