I started thinking about this post after our class conversation on what it means to be a feminist. We got all sorts of responses about who is a feminist, or why some of us aren’t feminists, etc. I think we’ve become obsessed with these labels that we often forget about the real things we can do to actually be a feminist. In a comment I made in a previous post, I said that I didn’t label myself a feminist because I think that term comes with a sense of activism that I haven’t really embraced. So in thinking about this, I asked myself: what does it really mean to be a feminist? Or an ally? Or a supporter of any cause?
Oftentimes we see the “Ally” sticker on some doors around our dorms. But I don’t actually have the slightest clue of what that may mean. I didn’t go through some training that equipped me with the knowledge to do something to help someone should they be in need of an ally. Does being an ally just mean that I support LGBTQ rights? I certainly am in favor of same-sex marriage because I’m in favor of equality for all human beings (I think everyone deserves to be treated with decency, right?). But does that make me an ally?
Similarly, what does it mean for me to be a supporter of women’s rights? I treat my friends with the dignity and respect they deserve (at least I hope I do) but am I really doing anything to change things? What have I actually done that’s contributed to the rights of women? I know that simply treating women (and men) with dignity and respect is a step forward because it moves away from the explicit prejudice that existed against marginalized groups of people in the past, but is that the requirement for being a supporter/ally/etc.?
Like I wrote earlier, we’ve become obsessed with labeling ourselves these things because it seems to be right thing to do, or it’s because we have a need to be “PC.” I know this post has more questions than answers, but that’s only because I’m still questioning my role in all of these things. If we really want to move forward, what must I do? I’m also not suggesting that being an ally or supporter is the thing we have to strive for. They are by no means perfectly neat terms that we should all aspire to be. But I do think they might be a start to help us achieve greater things. What those greater things are is problematic and again, I don’t have an answer.
Is my next step to hit the streets and rally and protest in favor of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrant’s rights, etc? Would that earn me the “coveted” role of an ally/supporter/feminist? I’m not actually sure how to move forward or what role, if any, I have to play in these movements. I do know one thing: labeling myself something and actually doing nothing to help a person’s cause is not what I want to do. So maybe you can help?