It’s not always easy being a feminist. We have undergone fierce battles, suffered hindrances, but, in the words of the great Maya Angelou, “Still, like air, I rise.” And rise we do. Indeed, even in the reddest corners of the nation where lawmakers and climate disagree with everything we stand for, we see brave resistance, we see resilience, we see change being made. We see sisters from states far away in need of help and we rise to the challenge through online organization, signing of petitions, calling of senator and representatives, donating to relevant causes, and even travelling for on-the-ground support. The movement has changed dramatically from its inception but it has not ended. Like a boulder down an incline, it cannot be stopped.
We have certainly suffered major setbacks. There has been no shortage of letdowns. We have spent weeks organizing and promoting events only to have three people show up to them. We have woken up to terrible, awful news like just last week when a “personhood” measure was passed through the North Dakota legislature. We have lost critical elections. Everyone in grassroots organizing can sympathize with that feeling.
But we have also won. Hard. In that same fighting vain, we have gained more than we have ceded. We have successfully won court cases at the Supreme Court level from women’s suffrage to Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut to the Affordable Care Act, we have nominated a record amount of women to the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, Presidential cabinets, and almost the White House, we have contributed to a huge shift in public opinion on extending civil rights to gay couples, and re-elected President Obama in one of the more decisive elections of our time.
Millennials are constantly branded as “lazy” and “indifferent” to the issues of today. To hold that belief is incredibly misguided for a cornucopia of reasons. This toxic belief injected itself, too, in the feminist movement, discrediting the work of the newer generation of feminists, virtually rendering us invisible. Meanwhile, millennial feminists took the internet by storm and created an online revolution in the scope of grassroots organizing. Feminists proudly claim victory in striking down the proposed bill in Virginia that would have required women to receive a medically unnecessary and humiliating transvaginal ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion in the Commonwealth. Several nicknames such as “Governor Vaginal Probe” and “Governor Ultrasound” have stuck onto Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, potentially even affecting his chances of being picked as the 2012 Republican nominee for vice president. See, we demand to be seen in different, creative ways. Millenials are updating the movement to help it keep up with the times and breaking major ground while at it.
Though conservatives have been successful in ramming in hundreds of bills chipping away at the right to an abortion; at the ballot box, these measures have overwhelmingly failed, indicating rejection of radical anti-abortion policy and a desire to keep abortion legal in the United States. In fact, most Americans strongly support legal abortion for the first time ever. This is a huge success for a movement that has suffered many blows since the GOP took over the House in 2010 and electing a Speaker of the House who has said he has made making abortion illegal a signature goal. We can use that study as momentum and soon we can even start playing on offense instead of defense all of the time.
Absolutely our journey towards true gender, racial, sexual equality has ways to go. Not in spite of this but because of this, we march on. Absolutely we will be dealt major, devastating blows and we will be unsure of how to move on. But absolutely we will march on — not just because we have to (but we do, we do have to) but because we reject the notion that true equality among all people is the goal, not the standard.
Feminism has failed in ways I have written about in the past. We have much work to do inside our own movement. We cannot champion equality while simultaneously practicing exclusion and failing to empower marginalized people. And, currently, our movement is slacking majorly. We will crumble if we continue to practice exclusion in the form of conference panels, speakers, feminist writers, punditry, and much more. We will crumble because a movement predicated on equality while practicing anything but does not have legitimacy. For a healthy movement, we must look inward and change. We will change.
Simply because we exist, we resist. Because we refuse to give up, we resist. Because we are no longer ashamed to be who we are, we resist. Every person who has ever refused to accept the status quo is an activist. Small acts of resistance create ripples of change throughout the world. Feminism has accomplished so much just in my lifetime — Family and Medical Leave Act, Violence Against Women Act, Affordable Care Act, nomination of women to high level positions of government, etc. — and the movement is not going anywhere. Feminism’s best years are ahead.
“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else's whim or to someone else's ignorance.” – bell hooks