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The On Being Project

I May Be an Inadvertent Feminist But…

Growing up, the word “feminist” was not welcome in my home.

I grew up in a Hispanic family where my father made all of the final decisions. My mom may have been the most vocal, but it was his vote that really mattered — on all subjects. Add to that the fact that we were an evangelical Christian household… I remember my mom routinely saying that God created man to lead and guide us as women, both in the home and outside it. So whenever the word “feminist” was used, it was always in reference to an unmarried woman, a kind of bitter spinster or a man-hater.

As an adult woman, there a lot of ideas and beliefs from my childhood that I have discarded and left behind. But my discomfort with “feminism” is one that I am still working on.

For many years I started sentences by saying, “I’m not a feminist but…” before recounting a story where I felt a woman was not treated equally, never realizing that the point I was making was exactly why I was a feminist. The word was still negative to me, something that I didn’t want to appropriate because I was afraid of being labeled a harpy, or worse, alienating men.

When I watched actress Emma Watson speak about the HeforShe campaign as the Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for the UN, I felt like she was talking directly to me.

“The more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.'”

Emma Watson’s words were empowering and affirming, but most importantly, they were inclusive — an invitation to men, but also to women like myself who have struggled with feminist identities.
Toward the end of her speech she says:

“If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists I spoke of earlier.”

Thanks to Emma Watson, I now have a new way of starting difficult conversations: “I may be an inadvertent feminist but…”

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