Usually, when I tell college acquaintances that I’m on the staff of Wetlands Magazine, they’ll say something along the lines of, “Oh, isn’t that the feminist magazine?” with a knowing look that seems to imply, “The feminist magazine, as in the one I wouldn’t be caught dead reading or submitting a piece to.” From politicians and journalists, to pop stars everyone seems to have their own take on what feminism is and what’s wrong with it. Generally, people still seem to recoil when they hear the word, especially those outside the University of Puget Sound bubble. The awful truth is that Wetlands really is a feminist publication. But before you roll your eyes, or slam your laptop closed and run away screaming, let’s talk honestly about what it means for Wetlands to be a “feminist” publication. Let’s talk about where feminism is today, rather than focusing on what people claim radical feminists were saying in the 1970s (i.e. “Down with men!”).
Feminism is the belief in the social, economic, and political equality of people of all genders. Let me repeat that: the social, economic and political equality of all people, regardless of gender. Today’s feminism also takes into account the notion of “intersectionality,” a belief that every person experiences discrimination differently based on their unique life experiences and social characteristics. For example, a sixty-year-old African American man will experience discrimination based on his gender, age and race differently than a twenty-one year-old white woman like me. Because we believe in the importance of being aware of intersectionality, the vast majority of today’s feminists seek to liberate ALL people – folks of all gender identities, races, classes, ages, types of ability, and sexualities – from the constraints placed on them by our society’s expectations.
Here’s what feminism isn’t: a movement to rid the world of men (or conquer them), a movement to shame all women into growing out their body hair and burning their bras (which, funnily enough, probably never happened), or a movement to silence the voices of anyone who disagrees with us. No, today’s feminism is, plain and simple, the belief that all people should be treated equally and have the same opportunities. Not so strange an idea, now is it? (I will add, though, that for all my talk about “today’s” feminism, I’m not trying to diminish the awesome contributions of the feminists who came before us. Without their hard work and diligence, feminism wouldn’t be where it is today.)
Furthermore, feminists are not all (white, college-age) women. Many of us are men and others of us don’t identify with the choices offered by the traditional gender binary. We come from all different cultures, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. We don’t all have hairy armpits and eschew beauty products. We’re not all vegan, Wicca-practicing performance artists. We also all express our notions of feminism in different ways. For me, feminism means having honest conversations with my little brother about why society dictates that boys shouldn’t hit girls. It means calling people (sometimes my close friends) out for making sexist or racist comments. And it also means remembering that my perspective isn’t the only one: that the experiences of others are just as valid as my own. For other people, a feminist act might be sending a check to Planned Parenthood, or posting a Buzzfeed article about sexual assault on Facebook. And here’s the thing, these are all “right” ways to enact feminism.
So, finally, what does it mean that Wetlands is a feminist publication? It means that we are striving to create, through our magazine, a forum for all kinds of people to safely and honestly talk about their experiences with gender and sexuality. Ultimately, we hope that Wetlands can bring to light the common thread winding through all of those unique experiences. Our perspective is that if you’re a human being, you have some sort of experience with gender and sexuality, whether you identify as a male, female, transgender, straight, queer, or somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t mean that we only accept pieces for our magazine created by folks who call themselves “feminists.” And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything we do and say on this blog. As feminists, we’ll continue to appreciate the critiques of our readers and contributors when it comes to making this publication as open as it can be.
Importantly, though, to produce the kind of publication we want to, we need a lot of people – all kinds – to submit to our fall publication. If this blog post resonates with you in any way, we hope you’ll consider contributing this semester. Building a more feminist world is a collaborative project, and if you’re not running yet, then maybe it’s time you tried your hand in helping us build that world.