The personal is political. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever taken a beginner’s Gender Studies course, or read anything about the second wave of feminism in the 1960′s and 70′s, it probably does. It was the collective cry of women who wanted their feminism to be taken seriously as a platform for acknowledgment of their lived experiences, but also one for political resistance and transformation.
I’ve abandoned most of what I learned about second wave feminism for the sheer irrelevancy of it to any of my life, but if I retained one thing, it was the the personal is political. As I reflect on what it means to be a 25 year old (as of today!) black (girl) woman and feminist, I can only think of that phrase to sum up my journey. During a time when I feel like everyone is inclined to fall on one side of the fence or the other (extremely political or completely individualistic), remembering the larger implications of my personal actions and beliefs is difficult; in the same way that seeing myself within larger political institutions has become.
If I had to share what feminism has taught me to someone, it would be that although there are thousands of ways to do it wrong, there is no right way to be a feminist. There are as many kinds of feminism as there are feminists and not one of them is limited by definition. Adversaries, and some supporters, say that the feminist movement’s lack of “unified goal” is our weakness. This is simply not true. We don’t lack a unified goal, we lack a defined goal. And that is not our weakness, it is our work. Self-definition is our priority. Autonomy and liberation are what all of us are looking for, across the human spectrum. And with it’s focus on intersectionality, social justice, and human rights I whole heartedly believe that feminism is the one movement that can truly liberate us all. You can quote me on that.
But it starts with a basic acceptance of the act that our personal is political: and in the same way that is true for us, it is also the reality for others. Only a handful of other people might understand why feminism, for me, means the freeing of black minds, the rights of twerkers, and the redefining of the term bad bitch. And that’s okay. But I can’t police other feminists who don’t share those goals or have knowledge about my experiences, because they’re mine.
As I prepare to explore 25 more years of feminism I hope that I can continue to humble myself to the experiences of others.