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Alexa Peterson | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist

The last column

Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:12

Well, my friends, few of you are reading this because this is the week during the fall semester where everyone’s lives start spiraling into oblivion. We stop wearing appropriate clothing, the gym becomes about as deserted as WinterFest and the thought of grocery shopping and/or good personal hygiene upkeep slips out of the realm of possibility. However, for those of us who have taken a break from our pitiful lives, I have prepared this last column to make a final statement of sorts.

This column is called “Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist.” I pursued writing it because, in my life, “feminist” is one of those concepts that is perpetually indefinable, but infinitely relevant, ever changing and omnipresent. Feminism is alive to me. Despite the joy that I’ve gotten from writing this column, I certainly cannot say with any certainty what I think being a feminist means. But I can report the musings of what a feminist means from some of the best feminists I know. (The female feedback in my columns consists almost exclusively of thoughts from my strong independent female housemates, just for the sake of transparency here.)

One of my housemates says her feminism is best expressed in a quotation by feminist author Rebecca West: “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” Maybe feminism is just the radical notion that we’re here and that we matter. Maybe it’s that we’re people, not objects of affection, sexual distraction or domestic prowess.

Another housemate says that feminism to her is about insisting that we do not live in a post−sexist society and questioning just why that is. This includes women who are disenfranchised with their faith traditions, women who must speak in languages that literally do not recognize female existence and women who are not allowed to reach a level of education that allows them to work with men as their equals.

Another housemate expresses that being a feminist is an effort to do things because they make her feel good or proud or happy, not because it is expected for her because of her gender. It is a constant struggle for all feminists, after deep contemplation, to try to sift through which actions, thoughts and expressions are truly because of who we are, and which are affected by the expectations of our gender — and this applies to all gender expressions.

It is clear that no one has the same exact idea of what “feminist” is really supposed to mean. To my excitement, my significant other consented that he would wear a “This is what a feminist looks like” shirt if I gave him one, as long as we did not have to match in public. If many in our country weren’t so afraid of the word, I think there would be far more of us than expected wearing those shirts proudly.

It’s because all of us can be feminists. The door is wide open. If you are a person who believes in personhood — who believes in supporting the human dignity of all people — you are a feminist. Because one day, it occurred to you that people should be equal, and you questioned why everyone wasn’t. No matter what the world thinks being a feminist means, and who gets to define it, you are a feminist because you questioned. Even a little, even at all. Equality relies on the idea that one day, someone will question the way of things and realize something is not quite right. Right there and then, you become a feminist.

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Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.

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