Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Anti-Click Click

Six years ago I found myself knee-deep in research for my masters' thesis. I had chosen to focus on the status of feminism as it related to women in their twenties. I had done my research and culled various information from previous studies and data. I had the hard facts, but what was missing were the voices.

I wanted to know more about these stark facts and figures I was reading about,  so I added an extra component to my own research - interlacing the public with the private. In addition to all of the published resources that I poured over, I also began gathering the stories of women in their twenties from all over the country.

I started out by contacting my friends. I emailed them a questionnaire and urged them to forward it along to anyone else they knew that fit into my criteria of being a. 20-29 and b. female. I also used the Internet and found myself posting my contact information all over various message boards and forums. In addition to the questionnaires, I grabbed my video camera and hit the road, traveling across the country to interview women, all because I was curious as to how the "average gal" viewed feminism.

My results were mixed.

While on this journey I had many of my own "click" moments - you know, those moments of truth and recognition where something significant sinks in. There were times when I sat and engaged a total stranger and connected over something so empowering that there was this moment of "Yes! This is why I'm here and pushing these issues and proud to call myself a feminist."

However, I also found myself experiencing a handful of "anti-click" occasions... moments that had more to do with realizing the limitations and shortcoming of the feminist movement. More than once I interviewed somebody who wanted to make sure that it was painfully clear that they were not a feminist.

For these young women, feminism was a dirty word and one that they didn't want to be associated with. There was a of "I believe that women are equal and should be treated as such, but I'm not a feminist." In fact, for some of them, their faces would scrunch up in disgust at the mention of the "f-word."

These anti-click moments infuriated me and inspired me all at once. I wasn't mad at these women that so vehemently denied being feminists, despite all the supporting evidence to the contrary. No, I was angry that somehow, as a movement, we had alienated pockets of women who shared our values and aspirations. How did we get to that place?

As those anti-click moments accumulated, I became more energized about my own identity as a feminist. I tried to find common ground with the "anti-clickers" in hopes that despite their fear or disgust with one label they could eventually see that it wasn't about a word, but rather the actual actions that counted.

While all of that took place six years ago, I still find myself crossing the paths of women who feel similarly. I take each "anti-click" moment where I hear the "...but I'm not a feminist" disclaimer and use it to strive towards closing that gap and making it so the "f-word" is no longer something to be ashamed of.

It starts small.

I currently volunteer for an organization that helps teen mothers earn their GED. One morning I was helping one of them work on a history essay, and the conversation veered towards the evolution of women's rights. We had a thoughtful conversation that ended with eager questions and excited thoughts about the topic. I didn't bring up the "f-word" then, but it's definitely getting thrown on the table next time.

Little by little we can break down these misconceptions and hope to only hear clicks.

Do you have a click moment? Share below in the comments or head over to Bitch to post there!

March 8th marked Feminist Coming Out Day and in honor of that, Bitch magazine invited people to share both their click and anti-click moments. I waited until the absolute last minute to share mine. Check out all the other posts over at Bitch's website.  

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