Antoinette “Toni” Gingerelli
“I am not a Feminist,” I would say to my classmates throughout high school. In my early teen years, I had grown to believe that being a feminist was a terrible thing. I was passionate about gender equality and quite outspoken about it amongst my peers. From my first freshman research assignment on the women’s suffrage movement in the United States to my speech from the perspective of Alice Paul in 1918, many of my academic endeavors involved women’s rights. My choice of readings in my spare time were about the issues societal gender roles play, young girls growing up, human trafficking, or women’s leadership. Everything I chose to study in my life was looked at from a gendered lens. “You are such a feminist,” my friends would say. The “F-word” had such a negative connotation to it, and I refused to identify with such a word.
Going into college I knew I wanted to study something in the realm of politics. I was required to take a class called Knowledge and Power: Women’s Leadership. This was a required course for all members of Douglass Residential College, a living-learning women’s leadership community at Rutgers University. It was this class that changed my perspective of the world. I learned that “feminism” was, in fact, not a bad word. After this course, I knew I needed to continue taking classes in this field. I was hooked.
This past summer, I officially declared my double major in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. In addition, I plan to declare a minor in Middle Eastern Studies as well. My studies as have allowed me to look at significant issues in many fields from a unique lens. I understand the roles race, gender, ethnicity, and nationality play in politics and economics. I can recognize and analyze methods of oppression in history and modern day society. I am exploring power dynamics on both a macro and micro level, and I have become more culturally aware. Yet I still have so much more to learn.
There is only one bad “F-Word,” not two. I want to eliminate the negative connotation associated with feminism. I encourage people to toy with the word feminism. Decide what feminism means to you and decide for yourself if you want to identify as a feminist. You do not need to study Women’s and Gender Studies in an academic setting (although I encourage it) in order to be a feminist. I understand that sometimes the word can be a little off-putting, but we need to work towards making the feminist community more inclusive, particularly for those who identify as transgender. It is no secret that the feminist movement had many moments of exclusivity in terms of race, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation throughout many points in history. Some of these issues still exist today. Any and every movement has it kinks, however, I believe at it’s core feminism is a powerful ideology to live by, and with open minds and strong leaders, we can make the feminist community a more inclusive space. We need to both understand and redefine feminism. We can no longer fear the “F-word.”