While surfing the web as part of my daily news check the other day I came across a piece by one of my favorite feminist authors, Jessica Valenti. The piece was entitled ‘Why it’s OK to be a bad feminist.’’ Within the article, Valenti interviews Roxane Gay, author of an essay collection entitled ‘Bad Feminist’. This piece immediately got me thinking about the kind of feminist I am; as well as, what type of feminist I strive to be.
The question was posed “What’s a ‘bad feminist?’” The answer spoke volumes to me. Gay responds in part, ‘A "bad feminist" started as a tongue-in-cheek thing but beneath the humor, the term acknowledges that it is hard to be an ideal feminist with perfect politics.’ This statement is incredibly accurate. I know that I care for the environment and strive to be a part of the solution, not the problem yet I find myself knowing there is always more I could do. Does that mean I am any less of an environmentalist? In my mind, the same lesson applies to being a feminist.
I am an imperfect human being; I am the first to admit that some of my taste in things such as; popular music or movies for example, do not exactly align with my feminist ideology. I envision a world where women and men are treated equal on every level imaginable. I would love to live in a society where rape ‘jokes’ are not common place and where no matter your sexual orientation you can acquire employment and not fear unjust termination. The picture is not completely bleak however, we should be proud of the immense progress that we have made in recent years. Despite said progress, we do have a long way to go before we achieve a truly equal society. Knowing that, we should all strive to be at our best each day. Moreover, we should be reaching for improvement on a daily basis.
I have my flaws (Lord knows, my friends and family will ever so kindly remind me of them), but at the end of the day I know what I believe is right. Being a feminist means being a part of something so much bigger than little ol’ me. I think that recognizing my flaws will make me a better feminist. It is easy for me to view a commercial and see a company using sex to sell an item and be disgusted. However, it may take a deeper level of thought to view a movie where I am biased because my favorite actor/actress is in it and notice the sexism underlying. Furthermore, once noticed shouldn’t I take some course of action to vocalize my distaste. The reality is that I likely would be unable to avoid using all products that are sold through ‘sex’ based advertising; however, along the way I could make a conscious effort to be better.
I don’t think the question is one of whether or not I am the perfect feminist. I believe it is one of whether or not I care enough to want to be a better feminist. It is my belief that recognizing just that will lead to vast personal improvement. If we all challenge ourselves to be better feminists than I think we can make great strides towards an ultimately more equal, feminist friendly society. So ask yourself, ‘what can you do to be a better feminist today?’
*The article referenced was published on May 9th in The Guardian and can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/09/roxane-gay-bad-feminist-interview