Saturday, July 1, 2017

Feminism and Independence

While arguing with someone about what feminism was they told me that the purpose of feminism was to help women become more independent. That bothered me and at the time I could not figure out why. Now I have figured out why and only wish I could go back in time and tell this person why it was the wrong definition.

The idea of being independent has certain connotations for us. To be independent one must live on their own, be able to support themselves financially, and be able to function without needing another person to be always present. Living on your own means that you can do your own laundry, you are able to cook, and you can clean your living space. Supporting yourself financially means that you are able to get a job and are able to do the job. Not needing another person to be around when you are living is key to our idea of independence. When I hear the word independence this is what I think of. 

I have a sister with disabilities. She is 18 years old but she is developmentally about 7 years old. She is struggling to learn how to read going 2 steps forward and 1 step back. The same for math. We encourage her to do things by herself as much as possible. The day when she was finally potty trained we celebrated, and a few years later when was finally able to go the bathroom without assistance we had a cake to celebrate. She has been able to dress herself for a while now, but sometimes her shirts end up inside out and backward. But the important part is that she is doing it herself and she is getting better at seeing that her clothes are on wrong. We want her to do that. 

Part of my sister's long list of disabilities is her stroke. Her left-hand does not work as well as her right. Because of this, it was only a few months ago that she was able to put both her socks on by herself, we are still learning how to tie shoes. She can't do many things by herself and it is unlikely that she ever will be truly "independent" based on the definition above. I think she can still be as independent as possible and will be cheering for her always. I want to push her towards that. 

I don't want my sister to be excluded from feminism because someone defined independence as women being independent. My sister needs feminism just as much as I do. My sister is still going to deal with gender bias and discrimination. The risk of rape and sexual assault are still just as real for her as they are for me. Certainly, she will experience and has experienced, oppressions I will never understand and can only be an ally to her in. 

My sister will always in some way be dependent on someone. That is not a bad thing. It is just the way life is.

I didn't like the definition that this person gave of feminism because it felt exclusive of my sister. I wish I could have had the words to tell them then but I didn't so I am saying it now. I will always advocate for bell hooks definition that "feminism is the movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” I want my feminism to be concerned about all forms of oppression and to work to end them. I need my feminism to be inclusive.

(This was originally posted on my feminism blog but I don't like having separate blogs I have tried it a couple of times and it doesn't work for me. So I am posting some posts here that I really want to keep on the web)

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this post so much, Elizabeth. I think often the problem that a lot of modern feminist people have is that that they equate feminism with physical strength, rather than inward character strength of heart and kindness and bravery.

    Your sister sounds incredibly brave and strong through her disability, as do you! Thank you for sharing :).