Who is a Feminist?

The feminist movement has been exhausted by the modern world. The term ‘feminist’ is widely recognized as a person who fights for the equality of all genders. In an attempt to reach an equal standing between all people, many modern feminists have lost touch with the foundation upon which they began fighting. Xavier Buchanan, Legacy High School graduate, says, “I don’t define feminism as any one specific thing because I’ve experienced so many different facets of people who all call themselves feminists.” Over time, the feminist movement has branched off in countless different directions, muddying the waters of what defines a feminist’s values. Some feminists, such as Portland Community College (PCC) student Signe Bichler, believe that, “If it’s not intersectional feminism, then it’s not [feminism].” Intersectional feminism is a branch of feminism that takes into account the overlap between gender and other social issues. Others believe that feminism should never be intersectional. “You have to break [activism] down into sections, otherwise nothing will get done,” states Buchanan.

Nearly everyone has ideas of what feminism isn’t, but most don’t have a clear idea of what it is past the central idea of equality. Bichler states that, “[The idea that] only the white, rich ladies deserve it, that’s not feminism.” She defines feminism as “fighting for equality for all. And not just equality, but equity.” Former Franklin High School student Ripley Jones believes that feminism should never be exclusive to any particular group. She explains that when effective, feminism includes both women’s and men’s issues, and does not exclude anyone due to their ethnicity, social or economic class, or any other factors.

According to Bichler, a feminist should fight for their beliefs, include everyone, and stand strong. Bichler used to speak up quite often in the name of feminism and social equity. However, after receiving threats and facing many people who were misinformed on feminism and other social issues, she became exhausted. Although she may not be as vocal of a feminist as she used to be, Bichler continues to do her research in order to remain accurately informed.

While Bichler encourages people to stand up for what they believe in, saying, “fight, show up, step in,” she also understands the importance of choosing which battles are the most important, and sticking to those. She advises social activists (feminists included) to save their energy so that they can put 100% of their effort and determination into each of the battles that they do fight.

Bichler recognizes that in terms of gender equality, the world has seen immense improvements. But as progress is made, new problems arise. Social media is an extremely influential aspect of modern life that “can spread hate faster than wildfire,” explains Bichler. Although social media has the potential to have positive effects around the world, it can easily be warped in any direction.

Growing up, Bichler thought that being girly was a sign of weakness. She did not want to be considered feminine and did not want to consider herself to be a feminist. Today, she embraces her feminine traits just as proudly as her more “masculine” qualities, such as her physical strength and aptitude for sports. Every person has struggles with themselves, but feminism is a fight for all people to stand together, it’s more than a personal monologue. “It’s not all about you. [It’s] not always about this generation. Think about the next, and the next, and the next,” says Bichler.

Cris Arizmendi (11)  sees feminism as a movement that has come in waves. Beginning as a fight to achieve equal rights for women, he explains, a huge part of feminism for him is pride. “If you really are into a lifestyle, you gotta show that and be a part of it fully,” says Arizmendi.

Although Arizmendi doesn’t consider himself to be a feminist, he does believe that change is necessary. Many of Arizmendi’s personal values are closely aligned with the bases of feminism. “Try your best to help people you see struggle,” Arizmendi says. The practice of helping those who need it whenever one is able to is one of Arizmendi’s fundamental values. He does not consider himself to be a feminist largely due to the negative connotations and extremes that go along with the title, but he does believe in equality. “The thing with labels is that the second you hear something, you think back to the old days,” explains Arizmendi. Over time, feminism has taken on a different meaning than when it was first introduced.

Many people hear the word “feminist” and they think to an extreme example of what a feminist is. The stark image of a “raging femi-nazi” yelling at any men who try to talk about social issues for “abusing their privilege,” and getting so upset that she likely needs to smash a few windows is sadly not an uncommon one. While this description may closely mirror some feminists, it does not represent the majority of the movement. Feminism was started by women who were angry—and they had every right to be. The first feminists focused on fighting for things such as equal pay and voting rights for women, because at the time those were the things the world was lacking. Moving into today, voters’ equality and equitable work opportunities have largely been achieved, but that doesn’t mean feminism is finished. It has simply shifted gears and entered a new wave.

“The people in the past that fought for rights…they brought some amazing paths for everyone today. So, don’t fight. Do for them. Learn for them. Fight with your mind. Be better, don’t use their flaws against them. Show your strengths and be better than them. It’s all about that silent war,” says Arizmendi. While it is historically women who have been discriminated against, this new wave of feminism is one that must work for better treatment of all genders, rather than females alone. After decades of fighting, people are growing tired of clashing over the same issues over and over again. It is time for modern feminists to stand up and lead by example.

Humanity has gotten increasingly skilled at making excuses for why we are afraid. We have a knack for identifying that which has the potential to hurt us, and putting ourselves through an excessive amount of work to save ourselves from the smallest scrape to our pride. In order for the feminist fight to be successful, we must learn to throw away our pride and ask ourselves what is wrong with the way we think about and act towards other people, and how can we work together to change it?

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