I often quite gleefully refer to myself as a feminist. But, what exactly is a feminist? Is that a man-hater?
I have been referred to as a feminist since I was about 8 years old—at least that is my earliest recollection. And the person who said to me “you are such a feminist” wasn’t saying it as a compliment.
I am raising my girls to be feminists. Of course when they advocate for themselves against me, that isn’t as much fun. But I know, it is a skillset that will serve them well throughout life.
So, what do I mean when I refer to myself as a feminist, and to my daughters as budding feminists?
I am a woman who is comfortable under her own skin.
I am a woman who does not suffer fools easily.
I am assertive, and if you want to throw the word aggressive at me, go right ahead.
I am a leader, and if you want to call me bossy, go right ahead.
I am a woman who loves other women. I am a woman who supports other women. If, by what I say and/or do, by how I spend my time or my resources, I can uplift or inspire another woman, then my day is made.
As a feminist, I believe in figuring out how and why women are marginalized —whether from gender, race, social class, sexual orientation, or any other identifier —and, advocating for the uprooting of any such marginalizations. If I can’t remove the barriers, I can at least expose them for what they are, using the tools at my disposal.
Every woman deserves a chance at the pursuit of happiness (and life, and liberty….).
As a Black feminist, I am particularly conscious about the intersections of the sources of oppression that minoritized women experience. Being a Black/African woman academic, I have experienced my unfair share. Some I overcome. Some, I learn how to live with. All of them, I expose, challenge, attempt to dismantle.
Being pro-women does not equate to being anti-men. Not at all. As a feminist, I am pro-women, and pro-human – all genders matter. My focus on women is because I know firsthand, how barriers, attitudes, biases, and stereotypes act to limit women’s access to the resources and opportunities that would allow them to thrive. And it is part of my life’s mission to shine a light on them.
So, what is a feminist? A person of any gender who supports, advocates, and perpetuates equality for all genders, who does not place one gender on a pedestal against others, and who, by their words and deeds, seeks to elevate the humanity of all.
This is my definition of who/what a feminist is. And I am a card-carrying life member.
– Dr. Faith Ngunjiri