Shunned by some like the ugliest (but most important) of ducklings, the label of ‘feminist’ can often be a huge weight for those who choose to wear it. From those who simply don’t understand that feminists aren’t all bra-burning, man-hating hippies to those that don’t want women to be treated as equally as our male peers, plenty are prepared to ridicule anyone who identifies as a feminist.
Championing women’s rights as long as many of us can remember are Gloria Steinem and bell hooks, two of the most influential figures in history. Last week the two of them (they are old friends) sat down to discuss feminism in front of an audience at The New School.
Speaking about what the feminist movement means to hear, Steinem explained,
“[Feminism is] about friends and sisters and community. The good part and the great part is that it’s about chosen family. We have each other’s backs and that is so precious. It’s not that our birth families aren’t important it’s just important in a different way. In the movement and in friendships we get to pick people with similar interests and values.”
Her words are refreshing in the face of some ‘radfems’ (radical feminists) and other groups of feminist supporters who don’t support trans women’s rights or hold racist views that are incredibly and undoubtedly harmful and offensive to women of colour. Neither of these viewpoints are in line with feminism (the support of rights for all women, no exceptions) and so it’s important that Steinem herself depicts feminism as a community that’s meant to have each other’s backs rather than turning our backs against one another.
Furthermore, Steinem also had some words of advice to a woman in the crowd who questioned what she could do to support the movement,
“Everyone worries about what we should be doing. Do whatever you can,”
And finally, she reminded the audience that the feminist movement can take steps forward not by looking at the big picture and the giant, daunting prospect of the patriarchy, but by looking at what we can do on a local level,
“[Tackle] one situation at a time. If you think about it all at once you will become paralyzed. Go for the particular.”
Some sound advice indeed.