Home for my rants, raves and general sharing of 'insytes'. Some of you will enjoy this gathering of text - others will wonder how I tricked them into giving me a Blogger's license...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Define: 'Feminist'

Note: I started this blog post on Sunday, but needed a couple of days to think it through before I put it up here. Would really appreciate feedback from everyone. Cross posted to http://www.woolfcamp2006.blogspot.com.

Photo: from CoyotesCorner.com

On Sunday, I was sitting in the workshop discussing gender and identity of blogs and realized I was feeling a little out of place. Most of the women in the room call themselves feminists and this is not a label I have ever applied to myself, nor is it a word I think others have used to describe me, and that word seems to be a driving force for the conversation we are in the middle of.

I do believe in equal rights, but I believe in equal rights for everyone – not just women. Have I ever stood on a soap box and demanded fair treatment for others – absolutely. Most of the time it has been in the work place and funny enough – I find myself fighting for the men who did not feel comfortable using their own voice as most of the women in my life would have no problem standing up and vocalizing what they want (and usually end up getting it). As I think about this more, I realize I have never heard any of my girlfriends or family members ever call themselves a feminist. We are simply human beings fighting for what is important to us. Maybe it was the environment I grew up in, or the ‘era’, but this terminology is all new to me (at least it feels new within the context of blogging).

Am I a feminist? Am I something else? Do I really need a label attached to who I am to make me more of who I am? If so, the list of labels is long and would never fit on a business card.

My mind is racing – do I stay in this room and remain involved in the conversation or do I run to my laptop and start researching what it really means to be a ‘feminist’. I realize my laptop will still be there in an hour, but this conversation would not, so I plant my feet and commit to learning more – straight from these smart, passionate women sitting around me.

Amber awakes the conversation going on within, and asks me to describe my blog persona and whether or not I think my readers know I am a woman. Blog persona? I don’t think I have one. Do I? As far as I knew, it is just little old me talking about what is going on in my life and what matters most (to me). I have no agenda, no plans for the future of my blog, no real desire to build an audience (it does intrigue me though). I seem to be a square peg being forced into a round hole with this conversation. I do not wish to be stereotyped with my blog – I wish to be free to discuss whatever is on my mind at that very moment. I am a human being who blogs, not a mommie blogger, not a feminist blogger, not a woman blogger, not Chris’ fiancé (or consort) who also blogs, and not a professional blogger.

As for what my audience thinks – I have no idea – but I am pretty darn sure they all know I am female as I have a photo in my profile and most of my readers are my friends and family. However, I am fairly certain they don’t think of Kiki’s Korner as a female blog. It is simply Kristie sharing her insights and thoughts – it is not important to me that I am a female blogger – only that the points I make are being discussed. Maybe I am naïve, but I am of the thought that people will read my blog because they like what I have to say – it doesn’t matter if I have a vagina or a penis.

The question for me comes down to why is there a need to associate with a label or stick me into a category? Isn’t this action in of itself contradicting the ideals of equality and attempts to rid the world of stereotypes? Isn’t this counter to the idea we promote in 'One love. One heart'? In the infamous words of Bob Marley…'let’s stick together and we will be alright'. It is not women – vs- men. Gay –vs- straight. Moms –vs- singles. Or gosh, I hope it isn’t. If it is, it isn’t the community I would call home – despite the loving kindness I felt from everyone I met – those extreme ideals may have their place and be needed in the world, but not my world. I choose to lead by example and to this end, I lead as an equal to all – man/woman, black/white, gay/straight, rich/poor – all human beings as one race, one people, one world together.

Ok, enough of my innermost thoughts on this delicate subject matter…the identity conversation now moves into a discussion on how women need to stand out in their blogs. Some of the actual phrases stated in this room are: ‘Men’s blogs are simple’ and ‘not important’ basically discounting anyone out there who happens to have a penis. ‘Women’s blogs should have insights’. ‘Powerful messages’. ‘We (women) should expect more from women bloggers’. Whoa I say. Why do women’s blogs have to be better than men’s? I surely don’t want that expectation on me (and if you have read my blog – you will see I am not out to win any medals here). This ‘expectation’ statement really strikes a chord as how can we fight for equality when we chose not to reciprocate? How can we set this standard for women and not expect the same from men? Why does one gender have to be better than another? Please, please, please. I don’t want to be disregarded as a woman, but I want to be seen as a human being first. The fact I have boobs, to me, is secondary. I will gladly sing along side with you in a rousing rendition of Helen Reddy’s ‘I am woman, hear me roar’. But I stand just as happily next to my fellow boys singing ‘Macho Man’. I am so confused.

The workshop ends and we all break for lunch. I catch up with Sarah in the kitchen and run my feelings past her. Sarah is one of those amazing old souls who is so in tune with herself – it scares me. Well, actually – it scares me someone so young can be that ‘with it,’ and at the same time, her spirit inspires me to want to ask more of myself. Anyway, I digress. After chatting with her a bit about the definition of ‘feminist’, I realize I should get some air and let it all sink in as I feel I have a lot to learn.

(fast forward 45 minutes later….)

I am back in the house and my thoughts have settled enough to start working through them, so I jump on my laptop to get Webster’s definition (I know, I am sooo old school) of ’feminist’. Webster tells me:

Feminist: noun. the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.

Ok, so I AM a feminist. Easy enough. If a label needs to be placed on me, I am comfortable with this Websters description though I still don’t see the need to claim a label in the first place. I also wonder how this action of labeling will affect me in the future. Today, I am a human being who blogs, who happens to be female. Three years from now, I might be a mommy and still have a blog. Does that automatically make me a mommy blogger? If I hold a picket sign one day promoting same sex marriage - am I now a gay rights activist - or just someone who cares for equal rights?

Too many questions that have no answers…I am still not in agreement with some of the things talked about in the earlier workshop, but that is the beauty of these gatherings – find topics that stimulate you and engage others in a discussion. I don’t expect us all to agree, but I do not wish to be kicked out of the ‘club’ just because I have a different point of view. What I want is to be embraced for the diversity of my opinion as much as I embrace those with whom I disagree with. I want to be accepted for being who I am, regardless of whether or not I fit someone elses label of me. It is really about respect for all human beings, regardless of race, gender, orientation or financial status. Everyone is valuable and everyone deserves to be loved for who they are.

I now find myself looking at the signup sheet for the afternoon topics, and opted for something a little lighter in nature. Podcasting and Vlogging being hosted by Chris and Lisa seemed to fit the bill... In the middle of this workshop, we had a small break as we waited for the equipment to catch up with the conversation, and the questions from earlier in the day caught up to me again. I decided now is as good as any to ask the big question so I look around the room at Grace, Amber, Elkit, Chris, Lisa, and Peter - and ask ‘What is a feminist and what does it mean to you’. Surprisingly, Peter is the first to respond. ‘I believe in equal rights for women. So, I guess that makes me a feminist’, he says. We all smile and I look up at Amber. ‘Is it that easy?’ I ask. ‘Or is there more’. As she is nodding her head ‘yes’, and before I get to ask her to explain the ‘more’ part - Chris and Lisa bring us back to the content of the workshop. Bugger. Note to self to delve into this with Amber later.

Unfortunately, the campers choose to end the day early, so I do not find myself with another opportunity to dig into the question that is burning in my mind. I find myself unloading all my thoughts on Chris on the way home, but quickly realize I need to circle this discussion back to the ladies who consider themselves 'feminists'. Maybe this continues in a blog format for now –or maybe we can get the WoolfCampers together for lunch – either way, I would love to hear your views on ‘What is a feminist?’ and ‘What does it mean to you?’ Perhaps more importantly, how can we all strive for equality without putting down people who are not exactly like us.

Technorati tags: feminist feminism woolfcamp girlsclub boysclub equalrights


Blogger Lisa Brewer Canter said...

Hmmm - big questions. Well the good news is that I don;t think the conversation was started with the idea of a click in mind such that wrong answers would matter. To me being a feminist and woman means you can pretty much be what you want to be. Mommyblogger and such labels are just attempts at categorizing. If memes are as important as I think they are - I will never be a big success as I am all over the map. I am a mommyblogger and a spectator - participant in the events of my life.

2:38 AM

Blogger Kristie Wells said...

Lisa, thanks for your comments and I love the 'be what you want to be' definition. That is something I can get behind fully. E responded to the duplicate posting I had on the WoolfCamp blog and suggested I check with Wikipedia who came back with an expanded definition, helping me put a little more light on the issue. I guess my experiences on this planet are drastically different than some of the women in that room who are taking a more radical stance. I support men and women as equals - I do not believe one is better than another. And I would prefer not to be categorized as I think that puts people in boxes that are hard to get out of.

8:57 AM

Blogger Kristie Wells said...

A couple people have asked for the WoolfCamp blog address. You can find it here: http://www.woolfcamp2006.blogspot.com. Most of the conversations surrounding this post are taking place there.

10:18 AM

Blogger misskrob said...

Kristie, I'm really sorry I missed the Woolfcamp discussion about this (I had to leave on Saturday). You have asked a lot of questions that I think I would have been asking as well.

There seems to have always been a certain amount of power behind the statement "I'm a feminist" but yet I've never felt the need or desire to say that about myself. Nor have I felt the need or desire to deny that I am one. It's just never been a part of who I needed to be. It also a very interesting topic to think about and I'm glad you have brought it to the front of my mind.

7:55 PM

Blogger Kristie Wells said...

Kris, I am still chomping on it and will continue to do so for some time as this topic requires a lot more thought and some soul searching. Had some interesting dialogue on the WoolfCamp blog that helped fill in the gaps, but I am far from findnig the answers I seek.

5:22 PM


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