How I Came to Feminism
By Whitney Kippes
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]W[/dropcap]hen Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists was released in 2010 I had preordered a copy. Less than two years earlier I had ‘discovered’ a feminist website and was just getting to know new friends in the comments section on Jezebel. I was what you might call ‘fem-curious’. Without knowing exactly what I was looking for, I was finding a part of myself in the feminist community.
Picking up Click, I was hoping to find stories that echoed my own. Stories of women coming into their feminism gradually, learning and growing and understanding the world around them in a way that was different from the way they grew up. Instead, Click was a compilation of essays from young women and men raised primarily in feminist households.
These were people who I had very little in common with. Their parents were second wave feminists. They rebelled against feminism. They thought that the fight was over. Then they had a moment of awareness raising or sexism or confrontation or violence and realized that feminism wasn’t just for their parents. It was something real and urgent and worth fighting for.
It is a valuable sentiment, but it isn’t my feminist story.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap] was raised around extremely strong and confident women. My grandmothers, mother, and aunts were all incredible role models. They had taken very different personal and professional routes, but kept at their core their individual senses of self and independence that motivated them to be successful women. They modeled healthy and balanced relationships to the best of their ability and their times. I was raised around men who understood the importance of women’s empowerment, and taught their children and relatives that they could do whatever they set their minds to.
At the same time, I was raised with the belief that feminism was a bad word.
The same relatives who instilled in me this incredible sense of self were also ones who used the derogatory and offensive term ‘feminazi.’ They were people who listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. They attempted to instill their anti-choice beliefs in those around them. They managed to talk about women they knew in one way, and women at large in a very different way. Those that did have more progressive viewpoints were silenced. The world I was raised in was a strange mix of contradictions and confusion.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap] didn’t have one moment where my feminism “clicked”. In some ways, I can say that my feminism started at home. A great part of it did, with the models that I grew up around. But a huge part of my upbringing seemed to be in complete contrast to these beliefs that were gradually starting to cement in my soul. It wasn’t until I left home and started at a university that I started to define myself as a feminist and understand that these beliefs and values I had a name and a following.
While I really hoped that I would hear stories like my own when reading Click, I understand that my story is confusing and layered. It isn’t as simple as discovering my mother’s feminism. It’s taking my mother’s feminism, giving it a name, and then articulating what that name means back to my mother.
I want to put my story out there, to make it clear that we all come to feminism with a different story. No one should feel like they don’t fit, or their story is less valid because of how they came to the movement. Feminism really is for everyone.