This does a great job of opening a discourse about walking in Seattle as a woman. I personally don’t feel safe in Seattle walking down my block, let alone several miles by myself. By allowing this behavior of men to continue we are perpetuating the the idea that women shouldn’t walk alone at night without actually confronting the problem. Everyone, no matter their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. should feel safe walking through this city at night. It’s sad that most people, myself included, do not.
Recently in a conversation with my significant other, I told him a story about my first day of Philosophies of Feminism class and how one of the male students said that he does not consider himself a feminist. Expecting a shocked response from my boyfriend, I instead heard “well I don’t consider myself a feminist”. This was incredibly awkward coming from my boyfriend. Quick fact about me is that I am a woman, I consider myself feminist and I am writing a senior thesis on the history of feminism in Italy. Being a feminist for has always been as inherent as breathing. Upon learning what feminist/feminism means in college, I realized I was raised with that way of thinking my whole life.
Incredulous, I had to collect my thoughts for a second.
“What’s your definition of feminism?” I ask, “My personal definition is that being a feminist means that you believe women are people too. That all people deserve equal rights and opportunities regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Do you disagree with that?”
“Well of course I don’t disagree, but everyone should feel that way. That should be inherent. Saying I’m not a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t believe women are people and deserve equal rights. I just don’t want to label myself that way.”
“Then what do you consider feminist to mean?”
He didn’t really have a concrete answer on the definition of feminist, beyond condemning some of the more man hating extreme and radical actions associated with the concept. This whole conversation brought to my attention the fact that my boyfriend, and a lot of other people I know do not understand what feminist means. The word itself has a very broad definition; in my class, my professor defined feminism as “The theory and practice of female empowerment”. Does that necessarily mean activism is the only way to be a feminist? Do you have to actively protest the treatment of women to be a feminist? Personally, I disagree with that statement.
I believe being a feminist is believing in women as people. I don’t actively protest, but I do read several feminist media outlets, which rather than spewing man-hating journalism, they filter news in such a way that you get a clear picture of how far our country still has to go. A great example of this would be the recent article on Huffington Post about Geena Davis and how “just six of the 50 top-grossing films of 2013 starred women, and 20 percent of those 50 movies didn’t even have a notable female supporting character.)” Geena Davis Solves Sexism.
People seem to be so afraid of the word feminist. In my class, when asked if we considered ourselves feminists, only 3 of us responded yes, ten responding maybe, they’re not sure and one outright no. “Feminist” has the associations of being a “dirty word” like “racist”, “fascist”, or “communist” with the -“ist” at the end. The “theory and practice of female empowerment” shouldn’t denied, it should be spread far and wide. I think if more people understood what feminists actually stand for, maybe more people would be willing to categorize themselves as feminists.
I don’t blame my boyfriend for saying he’s not a feminist. It actually inspired a really healthy debate on what feminism is and what pop culture believes it means versus what it means in academia. He eventually admitted that according to my definition of feminist that he is one. We both needed to air out our thoughts on the subject and see where they landed to figure out exactly what the other person was interpreting feminist to mean.