Thursday, May 12, 2011

Feminist Actions, Feminist People

There's something I need to lay down for future posts, and it's this: there are feminist actions, and feminist people, and the two do not always correspond.

A feminist action is one that contributes to equal rights, freedom, and respect for women. It can range in scale from organizing a rally to voting for pro-choice political candidates to just wearing something that pushes gender boundaries. A wide array of activities fit into this category, but not all.

I think it's a little harder to define a feminist, people being complicated and all, but we can use a similar definition as above: a person that contributes to equal rights, freedom, and respect for women. Of course, individual people can perform both feminist and anti-feminist acts, which muddies things a bit, but generally you can still label a person as feminist or not overall. Note that my definition is not dependent on self-identification; I think a person can be feminist without calling themselves so, and vice versa.

What will be most relevant for future posts is the concept that feminist people can perform non-feminist, or even anti-feminist, actions. I consider myself a feminist. I also make choices that are not feminist; for instance, I shave my legs. Not shaving might help normalize hairy legs for women, while shaving reinforces the standard. But, for various reasons, cultural influences included, I've chosen what I consider to be the anti-feminist route.

And that's fine; I'm not apologizing for my choice. It's my body and I will do with it as I see fit. A feminist does not always have to take the "most feminist" path. But it is important to acknowledge that not every thing I do is feminist, just because I consider myself to be a feminist person. Likewise, when I criticize certain actions or choices in this blog, it does not mean that I am necessarily accusing people who make that choice of being anti-feminist.


  1. It's interesting to note that some people would describe being a Christian in much this same way-- it's an ideal you strive for but don't always live up to! Ditto the parts about non-feminists doing feminist things, and vice-versa.

  2. That's an interesting parallel, but I think of feminism as maybe a little less prescriptive. Sometimes you just need to make the choice that's best for you, and if it's not a feminist one, oh well. (This applies to one's personal choices more than it does one's politics.) Christianity, on the other hand, is less flexible in this regard. Or at least the forms of Christianity I'm familiar with.