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Home » Culture and Criticism

Yes, You Are

Submitted by on September 30, 2003 – 2:41 PM152 Comments

feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests — feminist n or adjfeministic adj

Above, the dictionary definition of feminism — the entire dictionary definition of feminism. It is quite straightforward and concise. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not ask for two forms of photo ID. It does not care what you look like. It does not care what color skin you have, or whether that skin is clear, or how much you weigh, or what you do with your hair. You can bite your nails, or you can get them done once a week. You can spend two hours on your makeup, or five minutes, or the time it takes to find a Chapstick without any lint sticking to it. You can rock a cord mini, or khakis, or a sari, and you can layer all three. The definition of feminism does not include a mandatory leg-hair check; wax on, wax off, whatever you want. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not mention a membership fee or a graduated tax or "…unless you got your phone turned off by mistake." Rockefellers, the homeless, bad credit, no credit, no problem. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not require a diploma or other proof of graduation. It is not reserved for those who teach women's studies classes, or to those who majored in women's studies, or to those who graduated from college, or to those who graduated from high school, or to those who graduated from Brownie to Girl Scout. It doesn't care if you went to Princeton or the school of hard knocks. You can have a PhD, or a GED, or a degree in mixology, or a library card, or all of the above, or none of the above. You don't have to write a twenty-page paper on Valerie Solanas's use of satire in The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, and if you do write it, you don't have to get better than a C-plus on it. You can really believe math is hard, or you can teach math. You don't have to take a test to get in. You don't have to speak English. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism is not an insurance policy; it doesn't exclude anyone based on age. It doesn't have a "you must be this tall to ride the ride" sign on it anywhere. It doesn't specify how you get from place to place, so whether you use or a walker or a stroller or a skateboard or a carpool, if you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not tell you how to vote or what to think. You can vote Republican or Libertarian or Socialist or "I like that guy's hair." You can bag voting entirely. You can believe whatever you like about child-care subsidies, drafting women, fiscal accountability, Anita Hill, environmental law, property taxes, Ann Coulter, interventionist politics, soft money, gay marriage, tort reform, decriminalization of marijuana, gun control, affirmative action, and why that pothole at the end of the street still isn't fixed. You can exist wherever on the choice continuum you feel comfortable. You can feel ambivalent about Hillary Clinton. You can like the ERA in theory, but dread getting drafted in practice. The definition does not stipulate any of that. The definition does not stipulate anything at all, except itself. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not judge your lifestyle. You like girls, you like boys, doesn't matter. You eat meat, you don't eat meat, you don't eat meat or dairy, you don't eat fast food, doesn't matter. You can get married, and you can change your name or keep the one your parents gave you, doesn't matter. You can have kids, you can stay home with them or not, you can hate kids, doesn't matter. You can stay a virgin or you can boink everyone in sight, doesn't matter. It's not in the definition. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

Yes. You are. You are a feminist. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. Period. It's more complicated than that — of course it is. And yet…it's exactly that simple. It has nothing to do with your sexual preference or your sense of humor or your fashion sense or your charitable donations, or what pronouns you use in official correspondence, or whether you think Andrea Dworkin is full of crap, or how often you read Bust or Ms. — or, actually, whether you've got a vagina. In the end, it's not about that. It is about political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, and it is about claiming that definition on its own terms, instead of qualifying it because you don't want anyone to think that you don't shave your pits. It is about saying that you are a feminist and just letting the statement sit there, instead of feeling a compulsion to modify it immediately with "but not, you know, that kind of feminist" because you don't want to come off all Angry Girl. It is about understanding that liking Oprah and Chanel doesn't make you a "bad" feminist — that only "liking" the wage gap makes you a "bad" feminist, because "bad" does not enter into the definition of feminism. It is about knowing that, if folks can't grab a dictionary and see for themselves that the entry for "feminism" doesn't say anything about hating men or chick flicks or any of that crap, it's their problem.

It is about knowing that a woman is the equal of a man in art, at work, and under the law, whether you say it out loud or not — but for God's sake start saying it out loud already. You are a feminist.

I am a feminist too. Look it up.

September 30, 2003

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  • [...] by Clem Bastow on December 1, 2008 This amazing essay from Tomato Nation's Sarah Bunting was revived today via a Tumblr blog I regularly read, and [...]

  • Kim W. says:

    "I am a conservative, believing Catholic. In my experience those who self define as feminists are hostile to religion in general and Catholicism in particular.

    I am opposed to abortion. In my experience those who are feminists are not and they use this position as a 'litmus test'.

    In the end it comes down to this… have feminists treated me with respect and kindness when I have dealt with them? The answer is no. Because of that I will not define myself as one of their group."

    Mary Martha, the people you encountered are precisely the people that Sars was speaking about when she wrote this.

    Whether or not you are a feminist should have NOTHING to do with your religion or your views on abortion, and the women who acted as if it did treated you unfairly, in my opinion.

    I'm a liberal, pro-choice, feminist, but I still feel like tracking down the women you've spoken to and telling them "cut it out, you're making us look stupid."

  • Mike says:

    "In that case i'm a femminist but … men and women aren't equal at certain things e.g. a woman tends to have a more empathetic nature than man"

    No, you aren't.

    Also, to address the argument made somewhat further up the thread about feminism and the inclusion of male issues; You're right in one sense. Being a feminist isn't about considering, including, and dealing with male issues. At all. Nor should it be; nor needs it to be. Because being a feminist is not the entirety of who a person is. It's not a question of being a feminist *or else* being concerned with men's issues and wanting to promote their wellbeing. You can be both, and do both. I am both a feminist and a humanist, and both labels are true and apply, and both are necessary to describe who I am because neither necessarily includes the definition of the other.

    To use a slightly flawed metaphor, I can say that I'm a vegetarian and that I don't eat meat. This says nothing about whether I support, say, Tibetian independence, or socialized health care, or gay marriage. It only stipulates that I don't eat meat. But identifying myself as a vegetarian doesn't mean that I *don't* favor those causes; you cannot, from that one label, infer my position on the other issues, nor accuse me of *not* being a vegetarian (or a hypocrite) if I do not. Similarly whether I'm a feminist or not has no bearing on my view on male gendered issues. I am, in fact, concerned with them; and this isn't invalidated by me being a feminist.

  • Helen says:

    I am opposed to abortion. In my experience those who are feminists are not and they use this position as a 'litmus test'.

    If you're opposed to abortion for yourself,, Kay, that's not a problem. If you're opposed to abortion, that is, you support compulsory pregnancy, for women other than yourself, then it is a problem. To deny a woman agency over her own body is not to "believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes." Remember there is that minimal requirement – Red Tomato isn't just saying the only requirement is to have two X chromosones!

  • JenK says:

    Love this. For a long time, I felt weird identifying as a feminist because of what you've mentioned, about the man-hating, non-shaving, angry stereotype that didn't feel right. I recently had another feminist identity crisis of sorts because I've gone from being a part-time instructor at a university to being a stay-at-home mom who likes to knit and makes her husband's lunch for him each day. I thought, how can I be a "good" feminist when I'm doing something so…stereotypical? But you know what? He spends at least 40 hours a week in an office, and I'm home all day; this makes sense for us. More importantly, though, my ideas didn't change when my occupation did. I still believe in equality pay for equal work and that discrimination based on gender is a load of horse hockey. Yes, I bought my daughter a doll and stroller–and a firetruck and books about dinosaurs. Of course, she just wants to play with empty water bottles, but whatever. Our decision for me to stay home was based party on money (I was a part-time English teacher; I barely made enough money to cover the cost of childcare.), and party because of my gender–in that I have the boobies. (My beliefs of gender equality don't quite extend to my husband inducing lactation because that would just be…bizarre. And sure, I could have pumped, but I'm sort of lazy like that.)

    I guess this is just a really long-winded way to say thanks, Sars. Some days, when I'm folding diapers and putting bread in the oven, I wonder if I can still raise good, strong daughters. This piece reminds me that, while other posters are correct that feminism does require actions, it also can be just as simple as what you believe. My girls can grow up to be politicians or teachers or doctors or nurses or mothers or some combination of these or something else entirely–as long as they don't let anyone tell them what they can or can't or should or shouldn't do because they have a uterus. And when they're old enough to start thinking about feminism and such, I'll be directing them to this essay as part of Mom's Suggested Reading Material.

  • Jess says:

    Glad to have found this essay again, I was linked to it well over a year ago from a completely different site and it helped in part (a huge part) to open my mind up to the thought of myself as a feminist.
    For most of my life I held many feminist thoughts, such as (mentioned in the comment above) equal pay for equal work being good and sexism being a load of crap. But I still subscribed to the stereotype of a feminist as being some angry hairy-legged lesbian who would tell me off for sometimes wearing make-up and skirts (not that there is anything wrong with any of those options, or being any of them in combination, etc. other than the "telling off" part.) From this essay I would go on to voraciously read anything I could about feminism, first solely on the single blog site I was participating in at the time and then further and further out. I still keep up with my reading and now news, I find myself re-examining much of my behaviours and that of the people around me, and very recently I have begun finding my voice for talking about this subject with other people. This is significant for me because I have had to struggle with fears of being perceived as some sort of "bring-down" or what-have-you; lately I have been managing to not only speak up on some subjects but find ways to get people around me interested on topics as well. :)
    My reading and ideas have expanded much further and beyond this essay, but it was a very wonderful starting point. I now tell my friends proudly that I am a feminist.

  • [...] Originally Posted by Dan.Linehan When you speak out against feminism, by definition you are speaking out against equal rights for women. That's not my definition, it's what the word means. Thank you. A blog article regarding feminism that many of those who have posted in this thread, and probably many who have been following it, would benefit from reading: Yes, you are. [...]

  • ferretrick says:

    "If you're opposed to abortion, that is, you support compulsory pregnancy, for women other than yourself, then it is a problem."

    Nice try, but using loaded incendiary terms doesn't make your argument. Pro-life does not equal "support compulsory pregnancy" and it does not make you anti-feminist. This is not The Handmaid's Tale, and no one is forcing a woman to get pregnant. A woman (and man) have plenty of choices available to prevent pregnancy. (And please don't resort to the rape/incest argument, which accounts for a very small percentage of abortions).

    "To deny a woman agency over her own body is not to "believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the
    sexes."

    No one's doing that. The woman has agency over her own body. She can use the pill, condoms, IUDs, etc., etc. If she does those things and still gets unwantedly pregnant, she can choose adoption.

    Look, you obviously believe life begins at birth; I believe it begins at conception and abortion is the murder of a human being and we can debate that through the end of time and never the twain shall meet. But please don't tell me that I'm not feminist and I don't "believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes" because I don't condone one action that is morally repugnant to me.

  • Morain says:

    In response to ferretrick – you are exactly right! Ardent pro-life and pro-choice people have completely different views on the subject and shouldn't be forced to believe something they don't want to believe. BUT this still doesn't give you the right to force your belief system on others. Women use the pill, condoms, IUDs, etc. etc. but they aren't 100% fool proof -sometimes you get pregnant anyway. AND women are raped (1 in 4 – myself included), you better believe some of those traumas/crimes produce unwanted pregnancies. You are wrong in assuming that pregnancy is 100% avoidable and automatically the woman's fault.

    The freedom of choice is to choose is not just about abortion – it is about choosing to have as many or as few children as you want. Period. Complete agency over one's body is of vital importance and denying anyone a choice either way is very very wrong. Telling someone who doesn't want any children that they have to is just as horrible as telling someone who does want children that they can't.

    OH and one more thing about adoption as a supposedly good choice. Adoption is incredibly traumatic for women and is not necessarily the best choice (but it is a choice, and available for every woman, should she want to choose it!). I suggest that you read the following: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/03/breaking-silence-on-living-pro-lifers.html

    So I guess to sum it up, you don't have to condone it. If you don't like it, don't do it. But don't be so arrogant as to think it is OK to force your choice on others.

  • Viki says:

    Love this entry. It was given to me by a friend who wanted to introduce me to the concepts of feminism, most of which I already identified with as it turns out.
    Thank you for writing this piece, showing the community that feminism is NOTHING like what the ignorant views of society at large would have us believe.

  • Krissa says:

    Morain: "Adoption is incredibly traumatic for women and is not necessarily the best choice…"

    The exact same could (and should, often) be said about abortion.

  • DW says:

    Wow. Way to threadjack and make this about anti-choice. Nice going.

  • Andrew says:

    Feminist comes from a Latin word meaning woman, I think. So you could also say "woman-ist". That's why I don't like the word and don't identify with it. Why not gender equality-ist?

    In fact I don't like anything that ends with "ist" because it draws a separating line between you and others. "You are with us or against us!" I don't like to see activism as a perpetual war. If you don't make other people into your enemy, they are more open to listening to you.

    I really do believe in gender equality though and hate to see sexism. I also believe in equal treatment for animals, children, old people, homosexuals, immigrants, and members of all and any religions, philosophies and worldviews.

    Actually, I believe in love.

    Andrew

  • Mitchell says:

    Andrew, there is an article I found online called "It's Okay to be an -Ist" that is well worth reading. It's about the choices we make regarding the language we use to describe ourselves and others. It gives an interesting perspective on the subject of "-isms." I highly recommend it.

  • Laurel says:

    Very well-written. Agree 100%. Taking a Women's Studies class right now, but I identified as a Feminist long before. Thank God someone with eloquence finally wrote it down in simple terms for the masses to understand. Love times a trillion.

  • [...] 8, 2009 by annanwater Stumbled across this article on a forum I frequent.  Not going to say much about it, but I do like the way it addresses [...]

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  • Geoff says:

    I'm glad to know that I'm a feminist. I just want to see the day where it doesn't matter.

  • [...] to do all the same work and get none of the same benefits.   So I can’t say that I’m a “Yes, you are” feminist, because although I get where that author is coming from, I think it’s unfair to [...]

  • [...] am too. Please go and read it, and remind yourself that Yes, You Are [...]

  • April says:

    I agree with Geoff.

    I am a feminist and not a misandryist (one who hates men), I am a masculinist and not a misogynist (one who hates women), I am an equal-ist over all.

  • [...] amerikanska bloggen Tomato Nation publicerade 2003 en text med rubriken Yes, You Are som sedan dess brukar länkas som ett standardsvar pÃ¥ [...]

  • Patrick says:

    I would expect the dictionary to have more definitions under "feminist" than the traditional "a person who believes in feminism".

    It's interesting that equality really is/was such a radical idea. In some of the comments I am reminded that in many more conservative traditions (be it political, economic, or social) it is still a radical idea.

    Its a pity the way our political, economic, and social constructs limit us as individuals. Whenever we use gender as an excuse to make different demands on individuals we are not helping fulfill everyone's potential.

  • Rowan says:

    I am a man. I am a feminist.
    Firstly i'd like to say how much i can truly appreciate this essay. It is important for both men and for women to read. In particular, "feminists" as so many people who are fighting for womens rights seem to want to crush and demasculate every man in sight. I really don't mean to sound angry. This is just an observation as i also know how it feels to be discriminated against due to my sex.
    It is also VERY important for most men to understand the true meaning because there is a huge fear of "man hating". I've spent my working life in trade industries and belive it or not. Most men i know seem to feel a similar way. Light humor aside of course. Both sexes are guilty of this.
    Ultimately, equaility and balance are the most important thing we can work on to make are society truly great. Having said this though, let's all celebrate our diferences. Gay, straight, male, female, black, white, yellow, whatever. We need to be able to laugh at each other, with each other and ultimately to laugh at ourselves. We are all to amazing to be in conflict and life is to beautiful to be living on the lighter side of it.
    So thankyou. I hope more people read this. I particularly like the part where it mentions you don't even need to have a vagina. Means EVERONE can call themselves a feminist. Most men need to know this.

  • Nick says:

    I do not know if anyone is still monitoring this website, but I stumbled upon this essay and I felt the need to tell you, Sarah, that I just sent this to my sister because she and her friends, like many misinformed women/people, claim to "hate feminism" and say that they would never want to associate themselves with it, apparently because of the usual unfounded assumptions they associate with it. I hope this resonates with her, as my intention is to follow it up with article after paper after article depicting the statistical inequalities facing American women still today, from job inequality to healthcare to domestic abuse to gender roles, etc.

    p.s. healthcare reform was just passed earlier tonight (last night technically), but unfortunately it was only passed due to the assurance that federal healthcare subsidies (e.g. Medicare) could not go towards funding a woman's right to decide the fate of her own reproductive system :( – It's not enough to say men and women should be treated equally, because yes, they are slightly different biologically, and we need to adjust our societal systems to embrace these inherent differences, but unfortunately our culture seems to only recognize the differences that are beneficial to men (see above post, which implies that women are more suited to these more empathetic professions, which no doubt pay significantly less, and serve to perpetuate gender roles that leave men in positions of power…)

  • Nick says:

    woah, when i posted my comment the most recent comment that I saw was two years ago, so disregard the "I do not know if anyone is still monitoring this website", and also the "see above post", that was in regards to some random post in 2008 haha

  • Martijn Dekker says:

    Hey, I wonder about this one sometimes: if it's truly about equality between men and women, then it's rather odd that the word for it is derived from "female", right?

    If I'd use that to describe how I feel about this issue, people would get the wrong idea. It dóes imply that I think only women have suppressed rights, while there's plenty of examples out there for the contrary. Can't really list a lot right now since I don't keep track of them, but… yeah. Maybe it's time to have a new word for it without the bias on one gender and without the connotations that brings with it.

    Too bad "humanism"'s already taken.

  • cliffton says:

    All well and good, if the majority of the population didn't have a more wide ranging definition of feminism than the dictionary does. The dictionary definition is incomplete. Almost everyone (I would hope) matches the dictionary definition, as you point out, but as the definition is incomplete – not taking into account how the majority would define the word – I feel quite comfortable in countermanding your assertion. I am not a feminist and don't care to be associated with them.

    Nice try on redefinition though. Cherry picked dictionary definitions are always helpful

  • Talitha says:

    I love that this is still generating conversation after 6 and a 1/2 years. Clearly a hot button issue. Which means that most people either don't get it or are ignoring the entire point of the post, doesn't it?

    That being said, my two cents is this. Am I a feminist if I believe that men and women are not equal nor should we try to be? Can I celebrate the fact that I am not equal to a man and still be a feminist?

    If you use the strict dictionary definition of "feminist," then should you not clarify which dictionary definition of "equal" you are using? It makes a huge difference.

    This (as great as; the same as) and this (uniform in operation or effect) are quite different from this (like or alike in quantity, degree, value, etc.; of the same rank, ability, merit, etc.) and this (evenly proportioned or balanced). I disagree with you if either of the former, and agree with you if either of the latter.

    (Definitions courtesy of http://www.dictionary.com.)

  • [...] A simple, straightforward definition of "feminism" and an explanation of its ideals. "If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist." [...]

  • [...] was actually thinking about that when I stumbled across the dictionary definition, in this post at the Tomato Nation, providing the answer. Yes you are! feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the [...]

  • [...] 25, 2010 · Leave a Comment Remember Yes, you are? And how I love it and want to hug it and marry it? Well, I would, but the problem is, I am just a [...]

  • Slim says:

    Sorry, you don't get to decide what I call myself. If I call myself a "feminist" that implies I support organizations like N.O.W. who use their political clout to stand in the way of my rights as a father.

    Feminists don't want to have to deal with Men's issues, that's cool, you have your own things to deal with. I get that, but please- quit standing in our way.

  • [...] according to the definition from the original post that sparked CJane's claim of nonfeminism—feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the [...]

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  • Morgan says:

    This is really beautiful, but I'm afraid that now you're going to have to define the word "equality." :)

  • Ben says:

    I look forward to the day when we are just humans.

  • Liz says:

    This is old, so there's probably little point responding now. However, I just have to say something about Michael's response above, in which he claims that the definition posted demonstrates that feminism has to involve both belief and action.

    That's not how dictionary definitions work! And I'm sure Michael actually knows that, but somehow forgot when replying here. When a word has multiple definitions, it means that the word means at least ONE of those things. It doesn't mean ALL of the given definitions at once. Therefore feminism is either belief OR action. It could be both, but doesn't have to be.

    For example, here's what the dictionary says for Chord.

    chord 2 (kôrd, krd)
    n.
    1. A line segment that joins two points on a curve.
    2. A straight line connecting the leading and trailing edges of an airfoil.
    3. Anatomy Variant of cord.
    4. An emotional feeling or response: Her words struck a sympathetic chord in her audience.
    5. Archaic The string of a musical instrument.

    According to Michael's reasoning, anything that isn't simultaneously a line segment joining points on a curve, a line connecting edges of an airfoil, and a feeling or response is not a chord. But of course, we all know that's not how definitions work. Which is why it was completely accurate for Sarah to use only definition 1 of feminism.

  • Heather says:

    I like this essay, although personally I prefer "humanist." Even though, as you say, "feminist" usually means that you pursue equality, it's never made sense to me to advocate equality via a term that emphasizes one sex over the other. For choice, I use "humanist" because its handful of definitions and connotations make sense to me–but I do have to be willing to call myself a feminist too, for the sake of being clear about my stance.

    I don't think very many feminists fall into the man-hating camp anymore. It's not the 1980s.

  • Erik says:

    I find it interesting that it's called "feminism" when essentially it's about the masculinization of women. Women taking on the roles of protector/provider instead of nurturer/supporter goes against our human gender evolution anthropologically speaking.

    Now, please don't take this to mean I am against equal rights, equal pay, etc. because I am not. It's just that I find it funny when I see career women "Wondering where all the real men are?" Well, when you take on the "provider" roll oftentimes there is only room for the "support" roll…which means protector/provider men may not be interested in that dynamic.

    Just some food for thought.

  • Fucking Weird says:

    Dictionary definition, lame. So the likes of Valerie what's her name who said "Cut up Men" wasn't a feminist though there are no shortage of sources which call her that.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    It's called "satire." There's a dictionary definition for that, too.

  • Fucking Weird says:

    What is this "equality". Only a fool would believe in equality.

    A doctor wants to cure a lunatic, and the lunatic wants to kill the doctor. Are we to regard their wishes equally?

  • Fucking Weird says:

    Val shot a guy, I take that you regard that as satire.

  • Fucking Weird says:

    The spirit of your piece is one of inclusion, one can be a feminist all you have to do is fit through a very large hoop. You don't even need to have written a twenty page paper on Solanas! But apparently you must agree that the SCUM manifesto was feminist satire. You wrote"it's called 'satire'" no equivocation from you on that, is that a correct summary of your position?

    Narrowing the hoop runs counter to the spirit of your posting. Hm.

    Which is one example why dictionary definitions are the crutch of the intellectually impoverished.

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