In her book Back to the Well, Frances Taylor Gench provides four interesting descriptions of what a feminist is, from four very different people:
- "A feminist, broadly speaking, is one who seeks justice and equality for all people and who is especially concerned for the fate of women—all women—in the midst of all people. Such a definition means that issues pertinent to racism, classism, and ecology, as well as peace-making, are part of the purview of feminism." —Katharine Sakenfeld
- "A feminist is someone who believes women are people." —Alan Alda
- "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." —Rebecca West
- "Feminism is advocacy of women. It is not, therefore, against men, but only for the needs of women, needs that cannot be met without changes in the lives of both men and women....It represents a search for liberation from all forms of dehumanization on the part of those who advocate full human personhood for all....This means that men can also be feminists if they are willing to advocate for women." —Letty Russell
However, I have resisted the label "feminist" for myself. Why? Well, it seemed inauthentic. What I mean by that is this. Just because I'm an advocate for a certain group of people doesn't mean that I know what it feels like to experience life in their shoes. To label myself as one of them just seemed disrespectful to their plight.
But now I'm pondering these great descriptions that Gench has provided us and am wondering if I've been a feminist this whole time and just never knew it.
Whenever the word "feminist" comes up in conversation among the circles of men I find myself in, it sounds more like the "F" word—used with the same disdain and attitude. I wonder why that is? Is it because they have experienced ineffective or poor representatives of feminism in their pasts? Or is it more of a reflection of themselves?