By Olivia Comstock
I am an eco, Marxist, intersectional, radical, dirt-loving feminist. This week, all of the writers for the blog were asked to define what feminism means to them. I find this challenging because it is so open ended. Everyone who has interacted with feminism defines it differently. Different generations have widely different collective notions of feminism. My mom’s generation thought feminism was playing the game like the men do, rather than dismantling the underlying power structures. Ultimately, feminism is equality, acceptance, understanding, and love for yourself and for others.
I am an intersectional feminist. Today, some people label themselves as “feminist” without really supporting, enacting, and embodying key elements of what it means to be feminist, as captured by the problematized “white feminist.” I want to represent a version of feminism that is inclusive and correct. While there is variation within feminism, I think that some versions are more correct than others – versions that do not oppress other minorities, versions that do not dictate anyone’s identity. These issues are not about opinion; they are about someone’s life. If your feminism continues to oppress people of color, trans people queer people, then that is not feminism.
I am an environmental feminist. The oppression of women is also rooted in environmental destruction. By viewing the environment as something to be used, taken from indefinitely, and ultimately ignored unless it has something valuable, this allows people to view other people as something to be used and taken from. If one can oppress nature without consequences, then they can oppress people without consequences. It is a stepwise system. The earth is commonly referred to with female imagery in the Western tradition, such as “mother nature,” associating women with nature, and by extension women with oppression. This means that in order to work to overcome the patriarchy, we must also become closer and more caring of nature. I work to treat the earth better so I too can be treated better. I am a vegetarian. I do not own a car, I walk or bike everywhere. I reuse items. I sew and patch my worn-down clothes or give them away. I buy used clothes. I try to limit my consumption. I buy from ethical companies. I do not buy fast fashion. I am conscious of environmental issues and work to educate others. Nothing I am doing is radical or world changing; it is just small steps to make things better because if many individuals are doing changes like this, then there could be larger results. There must be a root cause change because the environment is the most basic, essential structure there is.
I am a Marxist Feminist. Fundamentally, Marxist thought is based on people having material needs, such as food and shelter. The drive for these needs manifests itself in economic relations, which produce social relations and our consciousness. Oppression of women is the result of these social relations. Economic relations are rooted in the mode of production, which for our country is late capitalism. It is a system built on hierarchy, both the of the wealthy and poor, but also of men and women, white people and people of color. Therefore, the economic system makes oppression possible. It allows for abusing environment, colonizing cultures, and exploiting people. Capitalism is based on private property ownership and a laissez-faire economy. However, women have not been able to own private property for most of history, and a hand’s off economy allows oppression to exist in the world and be passed off as “just the way it is”. Women contribute invisible labor to the economy. Much of their work is unnoticed and uncompensated. The nation’s GDP would increase by 30% if women’s household work, such as cooking, cleaning, and caretaking were counted. Additionally, fields that were traditionally only for women, such as child-care and teaching, are seen as less valuable and are paid less than male-dominated fields, such as the tech industry. As women become more successful and are at home less, they often hire women who are persons of color and then they pay them even less. This only passes the problem further down the line.
Writing this post inherently puts my feminism and me into boxes, but these labels are ones that you as a reader are able to too easily judge and make conclusions about. It is too easy to assume what I mean through just the name of “Marxism” or “environmentalism” or even “feminism.” Separating feminism into these different titles is more divisive than I think it is helpful. If the goal of feminism is equality, acceptance, understanding, and love, then pitting feminists against feminists is not productive. If we want to really overcome systemic problems, then we need to band these ideas together. We need to work with other oppressed groups because all of our difficulties are related. They all stem from problematic systems. We are fighting for the same end-goal against the same enemy. I want you to think about what kind of feminist you are, whether or not that definition is useful, and how these systems can be fought.