Occupation: High School English Teacher and Freelance Writer
Location: Chicago, IL
How do you define feminism?
I define feminism as women having choices, and feeling empowered to make those choices. This hasn't been radical enough for many of my feminist counterparts in some cases, but I don't necessarily think that everything you do needs to have a political motivation behind it. I think you need to critically think about the choices you are making and what they say about your beliefs, but I don't think there are "feminist choices." Some might say being a working mom, for example, is more feminist than being a stay-at-home mom, but when it comes down to it, you need to make the choices that work for you and your family, regardless of where they fall on a feminist scale. And, after weighing all the options, if you make the choice that's right for you, you've committed a feminist act. Sure, decades of feminists have fought for our right to work, be paid as much as a man, keep our names, not have children, etc. but that doesn't mean you have to do all of that just to be a feminist. (Hint: You don't need to burn your bras and hate men, either!)
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I think I always identified as a feminist, even though I didn't necessarily always have the vocabulary to do so. I grew up with a strong, independent mother telling me I could do anything I wanted to, and telling me to travel the world and get my PhD before I got married. That shaped the way I viewed the world and its injustices, for sure. However, I actually didn't start referring to myself as a feminist until college, and not outwardly until I started blogging a few years ago. That's when I started to acquire the language to critically analyze and discuss the injustices I saw.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
Like all good things in life, my definition of feminism has been flexible. It changes just a little bit with every life change I go through, growing to adapt to my needs. I believe that if you have a rigid definition of a belief, you'll find yourself in a place where you question that belief more often than not. Allowing your beliefs to be more malleable will allow you to shift your perspectives, which is, really, what feminism is all about.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
I have not experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist so much as I have experienced resistance to some of my more feminist actions. When I decided to keep my last name after I got married, for example, someone actually said to me, "What kind of man would let his wife do that?" I handled that the same way I handle most remarks about my feminism: With sarcasm and truth. I said: "I'm sorry, does my decision affect your delicate sensibilities about how I should lead my life?" To which he said: "Well, it's your life I guess." At that point, I just rolled my eyes, which is also something I do a lot towards resistance. Sometimes, you just can't teach an old dog new tricks. (And I have a dog, so I can tell you that's actually true. :) )
What do you see as the future of feminism?
I truly see the internet as the future of feminist communities. With the power of Twitter, Tumblr, email, and RSS feeds, we can share information at the speed of light. Sharing information is how communities are formed, and the free information out there is actually really good stuff. Blogs are mostly self-hosted and self-published, and when you self-publish, you don't have to censor yourself to appease editors or publishing companies. When you read blogs, you're getting unfiltered information (or, at least, as unfiltered as the author wants to be). That is really important when you're talking about any movement.
Ashley Lauren is a 27-year-old feminist, social activist, blogger, freelance writer, and full-time high school English teacher. This stuff keeps her busy. She keeps her own blog, Small Strokes, about being a married feminist and how she navigates those murky waters. She also occasionally blogs there about teaching, because being a feminist teacher is sometimes tougher than being a feminist wife. She is also a Senior Editor for Gender Across Borders, a global feminist blog. She has walked in seven 2-day Avon Walks for Breast Cancer with her mom, is entering her sixth year of teaching, has her Bachelors degree in English Literature and Creative Writing with a teaching certificate, and completed her masters in English Studies in May 2010. You can also follow her on Twitter or email her at samsanator (at) gmail (dot) com.