Debate Magazine

Labeling Myself As A Feminist (Literally)

Posted on the 15 February 2012 by Juliez
Labeling Myself As A Feminist (Literally)

the bumper sticker in question

Right after we graduated high school, I gave one of my best friends a bumper sticker that read “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like.” It was partially a joke – something to remember her über-feminist friend by – but it was also a little hint. This friend didn’t take shit from anybody and aligned herself with almost every single feminist issue, yet I had never heard her refer to herself as a feminist. I didn’t think much of it after I gave it to her, figuring she’d probably see it, smile, and stash it away.

However, to my surprise, this friend recently texted me about that bumper sticker. She told me she had actually put my little gift on her laptop and that she got more comments about it than any other on her laptop (including some pretty controversial stickers). She mentioned dealing with reactions ranging from support to blatant accusations and hostility.

Now, I wasn’t really shocked to hear this. All of the aforementioned reactions are pretty typical general reactions to the word “feminism” in this day and age. But I did gain a lot of respect for my friend. Most people are pretty cautious about wielding the feminist label, no matter how much they identify with the movement. It’s understandable. The word is totally charged and stigmatized: it makes sense to be cautious about who you talk about feminism with and in what way you classify yourself under the label. And yet my friend essentially slapped the label on her forehead. As college students, we carry our laptops everywhere – to class, to study, to club meetings, etc – and to label her laptop feminist was pretty comparable to going out in public with the label displayed for all to see. No matter how you cut it, it took balls for her to do that and to willingly face the often ugly and always unsolicited opinions thrown her way.

So, of course, considering that I was the one that gave her the sticker in the first place, I felt I had to join her in solidarity. I slapped a “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” sticker right in the center of my own (previously sticker-free) laptop, headed over to my favorite campus coffee shop and waited for the wrath.

In short, I got a lot of looks. Of course, they could just have been trying to see what a feminist looks like (after all, that’s practically what the sticker invited them to do). But there was a lot of guffawing and eye rolling. A table of guys next to me kept surreptitiously looking from me, to the laptop and back to each other. I can’t say it was a comfortable experience, but at the same time, after a couple of years of running a feminist blog, I just honestly don’t give a shit anymore. If I had to deal with those looks after just “coming out” as a feminist, though, I’m sure the experience would have been about ten times worse.

But then something happened that, to me, made slapping on that sticker worth it. A girl maybe a couple of years older than me actually came over to my table and, with a big smile, said: “I love that bumper sticker.”

And just like that, my faith in being totally open about my feminist identity was reaffirmed. Because, when you identify as a feminist, you do get those looks and sometimes you get some nasty comments. But you also get a support system and the ability to connect with some awesome people who share your beliefs. And in the end, that totally makes dealing with a look or comment made by some random idiot more than worth it.

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