I recently heard that I was living a “feminist lifestyle.” I’m not sure what that means. The comment wasn’t meant to be derogatory, but it came off that way, given that my “feminist lifestyle” is something that had to be approved of.

I would like to think that most women in the United States these days are living a “feminist lifestyle.” Hopefully, women now practice the right to vote, get an education, and feel comfortable making their own decisions and having their own checking accounts. I’m sure living the “feminist lifestyle” is much more than this, and it should be.

So I want to know what your #feministlifestyle is. Use the hashtag. Paste it all over Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and WordPress and wherever else you do your social media-ing. Let’s reclaim this term as something positive.


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My #feministlifestyle looks something like this:

I’m educated. I just earned a PhD in the theory and practice of professional communication.

I’m a mother of two girls. I spend at least 5 hours each night doing homework with them, reading with them, feeding them, bathing them, talking with them, laughing with them, and learning more about them. (Oh yeah, and LOVING them.)

I spend several hours a week outside of my home. I teach college students. In the fall, I will be doing this full time for a research institution. I love it. It gets me out of bed in the morning. And I hope I’m touching lives as I do.

I clean my house. I wash the dishes. So does my husband.

I visit neighbors. I make meals for other people. I take cookies to new neighbors.

I play the organ and the piano at church. I teach Sunday School at church.

I read. I like to read. I learn things by reading, and I share those things with you.

I donate to good causes. I donate my time. I donate my money. I try to be aware of what is happening in the world and do good where I can.

I speak up.

I’m interested in history. I love women’s history.

I keep journals for each of my girls. I keep a journal for myself. I take pictures. I make family photo albums.

I remember birthdays. I plan parties and celebrations.

I drive carpool. I get groceries. I go to parent-teacher conferences. So does my husband.

I wear makeup. I like skirts. I like pants, too.

I try to exercise. I’m not consistent, but I’m trying.

I attend soccer games, music recitals, and dance performances. I’ve sat in the lobby of a large recital hall for hours on end waiting for my daughters to be done practicing for a ballet performance. I read and study while I wait. And then we go out for ice cream.

I spend hours doing legos with my kids.

I shave.

I stay in touch with relatives and friends.

I mentor other graduate students.

I present my research at academic conferences.

I travel.

I take my children to Disneyland.

I try to be a fun mom.

I nurse my children when they are sick. My oldest daughter and I recently spent a week at home together while she recovered from a tonsillectomy. We watched The Great British Baking Show.

I try to be a happy version of myself.

I’ve been depressed.

I am a sister. I am a daughter.

Most of all, I’m just me. I’m not easily labeled. I’m not to be judged by others’ conceptions of the way I live my life. I live life for me, and each day is different.

Do I really have to define who I am? Do I have to defend my life? What does it mean to be “feminist” and why do we have to police each other? Maybe it is an individual thing. Maybe we should mind our own business and love each other more.

What is your #feministlifestyle?

42 thoughts on “#feministlifestyle

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  1. Thank you, Emily! In a conversation with my 14-year-old nephew recently, I discovered that he and his friends think of Feminist as a bad word, almost in the sense of “femiNazi.” At that age! And his mom is a proud independent woman! So much work to be done.

    1. Wow. It sounds like he has been influenced by the backlash that comes with any social movement. I hope you can be a good influence on him and help him to love and respect all women, even the outspoken and activist ones. They do a lot of good work for those of us who are more quiet.

  2. Emily, to me labels are short cuts to compartmentalize, sometimes used to demean. I think you are complete woman with a lot of interests, duties and aspirations. My guess is you have a hard time balancing all that at times, but it makes your life interesting. As Ricky Nelson once sang, “you can’t please everyone, so you have to please yourself.” All the best, Keith

  3. My 22-year-old daughter asked me if I was a feminist the other day. Frankly I didn’t know how to answer. Of course I believe in being treated equally and being paid equally, what woman doesn’t? I’m also extremely independent by nature. The word has so many connotations and who knows what people think of when they consider this word. I think for her as a young adult, she sees it as being strong and independent and as capable as any man. I think this too, yet for me, the word conjures up visions of the 60’s protests and angry women. I am not angry. I feel I should be treated equally and if I’m not I’ll stand up for myself. Sexism does exist in the world and still in the US and it should not. Gender roles also exist and women sometimes are sexist toward men as well (the man should be the breadwinner, etc.) I’m a woman of many roles: mom, daughter, writer, Christian, wife, caretaker of the pets, volunteer, person. I don’t really see a need for the label. To me, use of the word indicates there is a reason for the debate (i.e. should women be treated equally?) and there should no longer be a debate in this day and age.

    1. I like what you’ve said. I think a larger debate is happening among young women via social media. I consider myself to be a feminist, but I get annoyed when feminists try to categorize each other, like “you are a good feminist” or “you aren’t feminist enough.” I don’t see it as narrowly and encapsulating as so many would like to define it.

  4. I just finished reading your post and thank you. At a book club meeting sometime ago, I chose the novel, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, a novel set in 1906. I proudly suggested that this novel portrayed the coming age of feminism where women would soon be successful in getting the right to vote and so much more. The other women looked at me with scorn and embarrassment as though being a Feminist was a dirty word. I was shocked. I am no longer with that book club. The gentlemen named Keith needs to realize what you are doing for your family is not work, it is a joy, a great love, and not a “hard time balancing and only rises to the level of “interesting”.

    1. Wow. Your old bookclub reminds me of a similar experience I had at a bookclub. I recommended Jennifer Haigh’s Mrs. Kimble, and it examined one of the character’s depression and therefore neglect of her children. The women at the meeting could not feel any sympathy for her, but were instead very judgmental. I was surprised to see how little they cared about women’s mental health and how little conflict they had had so far in their lives with divorce or abuse.

  5. This morning, I got into my car- alone- and went to a workout class to maintain the health and general size and fitness of my own body. I wore clothing made of a spandex/cotton blend that was form fitting and in a bright color. I rode a stationary bike in a mixed gender group. I sweated and smiled when a certain song came on. Then I dashed home to drive my son’s school carpool. I purchased with my own money a coffee at a convenience store. No one will ask me to be accountable for the $1.07 it cost. I pumped gas for my own car that has my name on the registration. I made breakfast for myself and the other members of my family- all male- whom I love and support with all my heart. I will take my other son to a Red Sox game today using public transportation. If I have time tonight, I will grade some papers. I will be solely responsible for assigning a grade to papers that both male and female students have written, and when those grades are delivered and if the student has a question about the grade I gave him or her, my gender will not be a factor in whether I’ll be challenged to explain or change a grade. Tonight I will not be home to make dinner for anyone, so my husband will provide food for and childcare for my other son, and there will be no negative ramifications to me because of that. And when I finally do come home tonight, I will end up sleeping in a bed with a man who I and no one else chose for me to marry. This is a pretty normal day for me, but every once in a while I do pause to think about and be grateful for the choices that, as a woman in this country, I have, but that too many of my sisters around the globe do not have. And any way I can, I will advocate for every woman to have the same simple choices about her autonomy, opportunities, and agency. I suppose, then, I am living a #feministlifestyle.

    1. I love how you described your day. I love that you took into account how little gender has to do with some of the choices you make and activities you engage in, but that you recognize how fraught gender can be for others around the world. Your mention of simple things like spending your own money or returning to a man that you chose to marry reminded me of how good the mundane things in my life are, largely because of feminism. My husband isn’t violent. Much of the awareness surrounding the acceptance of domestic violent in the ’70s was because of Ms. Magazine and feminist activists. Now we don’t accept it as normal, but we still have work to do!

  6. For me, the idea of a feminist lifestyle is simple because my definition of feminism is simple. In essence, its the belief that women can live the lives they choose to live (whether they’d like to be a stay at home mother, a scholar, a body builder, or any mixture of the three). The definition allows for it to be contextualized beside masculinity, but also independently. That said, (I probably wouldn’t ever say this) if I did say someone lived a ‘feminist lifestyle,’ I’d be saying that because you live without inhibition, and you allow other women to do the same– or maybe you fight for other women to do the same. It’s a lifestyle that demonstrates that a woman can determine her own destiny as much as anyone else– and I hope I also embody that.

    1. Right? That is what life is about. Respecting others and their choices and living the way that feels best to you. Choice! I love your definition.

  7. I loved reading this post, as well as all the comments. I really didn’t know what I was going to say until I read Whitney’s comment (Brown Books and Green Tea). I like her answer – that’s the one I’m going with. I live a feminist lifestyle by living my life the way I choose and allow other women to do the same. And I feel grateful that I can do so. 🙂

  8. Great post. I agree with many fellow bloggers that a woman should live in a culture that will allow her to maximize her potential, and if that means riding a motorcycle, drinking beer, and writing mystery novels then, hey, go for it. Or if it means getting a degree, teaching college students, and raising a family then yes, go for it.

    I came up in a world where women had few choices: marriage, teaching, nursing, secretary. I became introduced to feminist studies in the nineties while working on my doctorate. It was a life changing event. I have always considered myself lucky to have been guided throughout my life by strong-minded and great women, beginning with my mother who had to raise four children by herself ( a housewife who had never held a wage-earning job.) when our father died in the early fifties. I was five. Moving into feminist studies, beginning with Gilbert and Gubar’s THE MAD WOMAN IN THE ATTIC, provided the intellectual depth, the understanding of what women had endured and, unfortunately, still endure.

    It’s good to hear your voice. And what a voice! Thank you for the post.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I enjoy reading about your experience with feminism, and I love how you mentioned your mother. I look back on a lot of my own mother’s fierceness and ambition, and while she would probably hate being called a feminist now, she certainly was. I still need to read Gilbert and Gubar! They have been on my list forever.

  9. Emily, I never fail to be touched by posts you give to your readers. This one is a vintage in both content and literary style. To all those statements you could add that you are “respectfully candid”. This is because you are honest and straightforward yet not accusing or trenchant of potential retractors in any way. This shows your great integrity. We like you the way you are. You could add more as well: you get tired and weighed down by all the balls you juggle. Thank God one of them is your expression on wordpress. We thoroughly enjoy the fruits of such words. Whatever #feministlifestyle means at this point in our history you are contributing to the role of women and the betterment of the common good. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Simon! I do get weighed down sometimes. I think everybody does. I think we are all just doing our best, and hopefully that looks like choice for all of us.

  10. Even if the comment wasn’t meant to be negative, putting a label on something immediately compartmentalizes it, and in doing so, it is restrictive. As you so rightly point out in your post, living a so-called “feminist lifestyle” can mean many things to many people.

    And another view on it, I think, is that classifying someone’s life as a “feminist lifestyle” immediately demarcates it as “other” — it puts a boundary around it and erects a fence. And with fences, there is no option than for some people to be outside, while others are inside. So it effectively creates two divided camps.

    Are my ramblings making any sense here? I’m not sure…. it’s just what I was thinking when I read your post.

    1. This makes a lot of sense. Boundaries and fences are good metaphors to what we often do to each other when we label. I don’t think we mean to, but we have a tendency to categorize and it can be hurtful. Thanks for the astute comment!

  11. This is amazing! I feel so inspired just by reading this! I hope to keep up my feminist lifestyle when I grow up, I want to be in international business at Clemson University. This is an amazing blog, though! 🙂

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