She Can Back It Up

Libby is interning at Sanctuary for Families, which provides advocacy and support services for victims of violence and sex trafficking.

I have always been impressed by people who know what they are talking about. You might laugh at this statement… but think about it for a second. How many times have you shaken your head at someone who firmly believes in an idea and they:

A) do a miserable job of substantiating their claim
B) have no idea what they are talking about

(these do not have to be mutually exclusive)

In life, I want to know what I’m talking about. My beliefs are part of who I am. They are part of my genuine identity. If I can’t back them up when someone asks me what I value and why, I feel like I am not only letting myself down, but I am also letting down those people who share my beliefs- and I like being a team player.

There are so many -isms and -ologies bouncing around today, and people as a whole are prone to persuasion- It’s no wonder that people don’t know what they are talking about. Throw in some ambiguity, a dash of personal interpretation, and you get a lot of people with varying abstract definitions (perhaps an oxymoron?) of things like:
Let’s look at “feminism.” My nine fellow Dukies and I are two and a half weeks into this Moxie Project experience to explore feminism. We have been trying to define feminism, and I think we are all on different pages as to what it really means. We can all agree on certain (perhaps, only a few) tenets of what feminism is, but what does this really mean? What are the implications of its meaning? Who can call themselves feminists?… And the ubiquitous question: Why does this even matter?
It is too early to delve into those questions. My head is… well, it is spinning. It is difficult to define such a term that is attached to the seemingly countless branches of the women’s movement and is weighted with so much negative stigma. But my goal for the summer is to figure out what feminism means because:

1. I have always believed in feminist ideals, even though I might not have known it.
2. I want to know what I’m talking about when I do attach myself to feminism.

I have always believed women should be respected just as much as men. Last week I remembered just how angry I was in high school when my guy friends and past boyfriends said sexist comments or make crude jokes. It really infuriated me. I had forgotten that. I was raised to treat everyone as an equal, and when friends said they were just joking, they didn’t get that it wasn’t just a joke to me. I wanted it to be just a joke. Things would have been so much easier if I could just take it as a joke. I didn’t understand why I got so upset. Blame it on being a teenager? Now I know that doesn’t fully explain it- I have always wanted to change the inequality between men and women.

I think I want to call myself a feminist. Before I do so, I want to flesh out society’s definition of feminism and what feminism means to me.

Then, when someone asks me, “Why do you believe in feminism?” I can lay it out like x, y, and z… So I can do the feminist cause justice… So I can represent the female gender well… So when they talk about me… they will say, “She can back it up.

3 thoughts on “She Can Back It Up

  1. Would it help to consider that feminism isn’t a club with eligibility requirements nor a course you have to pass? You are free to choose the definition and criteria that make the most sense to you and apply them to your circumstances as best you can. No question, the negative stigma attached to the term has caused many independent-minded women to avoid or downplay it. But outside academia you may find that what you do and how you do it establishes your credentials more than any label.

  2. I can certainly appreciate this struggle and I have gone through a similar struggle myself almost in the reverse. I never considered myself to be a feminist though I embodied feminist principles, etc. Even now as an adult, I guess I’m a feminist, though it’s not because of what I say….I’m not sure it’s even because of what I do (I’m sure that my recent pining over a male I’m interested in violates some feminist tenet). What I do know (?), let’s say believe…yes, what I do believe is that my connection to the feminist movement is about demanding that women not be ascribed an identity or disparaged for their choice. So while at one point I was not convinced that the Duke graduate who opts out of her professional career to stay home with her children, I think know I understand that it is her choice that connects her to the feminist ideology. And the thoroughness, character, and commitment she brings to that choice not only makes that choice a political statement, but perhaps will make others say, “she knows what she’s talking about and she can back it up.”

  3. Libby, I like how you describe your struggle with finding a definition of feminism that fits your beliefs and one that you can articulate and support with confidence. I would encourage you to discover your values and beliefs as they relate to your personal and professional aspirations more generally and this will lead you to the definition of feminism you seek. It is interesting to me that we divide the quest for universal human rights – dignity, respect, equality, voice, choice, freedom, as examples – into categories that apply to distinct groups of people, such as women. We have separate groups of advocates for children, women (e.g., feminists), minorities, girls in the developing world, disabled persons, victims of violence, and so on. Some of these categories overlap, in whole or in part. Do we need to clearly define each “movement”, such as feminism, or is it instead productive to think more generally about the problems groups face and how they can be resolved using the principles of human rights?

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