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|Ashley at age 4|
How do you define feminism?
I think feminism is about ensuring human rights for women as well as establishing full and equal participation in all aspects of society. I have heard it defined as equality with men but I don't think that's enough. There are many things that are different for women and men or only affect women, like reproductive rights, pregnancy/parenthood, domestic and sexual violence which women experience at much greater levels than men, etc. In addition, large numbers of women encounter even greater oppression due to the intersections of sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, cissexism, classism, and ageism, and I think in order to gain full human rights for women we have to eliminate all of these "ism's".
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I first identified as a feminist as a teenager. It was definitely a gradual thing but I started to recognize how I was treated differently because of my gender. I grew up in a conservative, Catholic family and attended Catholic schools and I began to feel that women were treated as lesser in the Catholic church and this extended into my home life because of my family's strong religious beliefs. I then started to seek out more information about forms of discrimination that women faced which is where I learned more about feminism both in the US and in other countries.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
I wouldn't say it's changed as much as I have solidified what it means to me.
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've definitely experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist. I think men (especially cis hetero white males) are resistant to feminism because they don't want to give up any of their power. When women are resistant I think it's often because they have been conditioned to believe things are fine as they are. In addition, talking about feminism means challenging beliefs, both other people's and my own, and I think that can be difficult to stomach. I'm not really sure I handle the resistance in any particular way but I definitely don't give up on my beliefs even when they seem unpopular because I strongly believe in justice for all people.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
I know some people think feminism is dead but I think it is still very much alive and has taken on a variety of forms. One thing that concerns me is when feminists criticize other feminists when they are exercising the right to make their own choices, like the choice to change their last name upon marriage, to wear makeup, or to do any other number of things which are sometimes viewed as oppressive or anti feminist. I think if we are truly serious about fighting for women's rights we have to support one another and work towards ensuring that all women are truly free to exercise their rights and make their own choices. If we are trying to decide for other women then they are not free and I don't think we are any better than the patriarchal society that tries to impose upon them to begin with. I also think for the future of feminism we need to work towards recognizing that it's not just about sexism but about all of the intersecting forms of oppression that women face. I think many women don't identify as feminist because of this exclusion and so moving forward we need to work on making sure the feminist movement is inclusive.
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