But apparently, my feminism isn't real; I'm just following a fad. According to the middle-aged men (who, for whatever reason, are the ultimate judge of the actions of teenage girls), I'm a feminist because I want to be Beyoncé. In fact, I don't just want to be Beyoncé--I want to be Emma Watson! And Miley Cyrus! And Lena Dunham! Besides, I don't believe in feminist ideals like gender equality or anything like that--I'm just a feminist because it's cool.
I'm not even going to dignify that with a response.
It troubles me that people view feminism as a fad solely because certain celebrities support it. Fine--when Emma Watson made her speech to start the HeForShe campaign and clarified that feminism means equality for all genders (as opposed to hating men), it really did increase the number of feminists in this world. But that's because she publicly cleared up the misconception that prevented many people from identifying as feminists--notice that I say "identifying as feminists", not "becoming feminists". Those people believed in feminist ideals before Watson's speech, but the speech was what showed them that the ideals were feminist.
No! says the middle-aged man. You're wrong. Since you started calling yourself a feminist after hearing Emma Watson's speech, you're just jumping on the bandwagon! To Mr. Middle-Aged Man, I say: it's not jumping on the bandwagon if you really do believe in it. Watson's speech gave people a name for their beliefs, not slapped on an entirely new identity.
And, Mr. Middle-Aged Man, even though the initial decision to call oneself a feminist may be the result of hearing Beyoncé or Emma Watson, the reasons why one believes in feminist ideals is a much more personal journey. This, too, shows the credibility of third wave feminism (the most recent spurt of feminism); people care enough to go through an individual process in developing their own arguments as to why they've chosen to subscribe to this philosophy. If it were just a fad--something that will pass soon--I doubt that people would put in this much effort.
Besides, it's not as if feminism is a new idea manufactured recently for mass consumption. In the last paragraph, I referred to what's happening now as third wave feminism. There were two "waves"--surges of major feminist action--before this one. The first wave was the suffragettes' fight for the right to vote, and the second wave was the '60s movement for women's equality. Feminism has been around for almost two hundred years; how can Mr. Middle-Aged Man insist that it's a fad if it's lasted this long? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a fad is "something (such as an interest or fashion) that is very popular for a short time," not "something in which public interest has ebbed and flowed for the past two centuries." Calling feminism a fad implies that it will pass as soon as we become interested in something else--a new brand of air freshener, say, or perhaps a style of shoelace. Feminism is an outlook on life. It doesn't get replaced the way that tangible items do.
Personally, I am a feminist because I believe that there is a bias against women because we are women. The numbers support this belief. So do the anecdotes. And so do my personal experiences. I'm not a feminist because it's cool. I'm a feminist because I've chosen to get off a bus because a man was following me from seat to seat. I'm a feminist because I've been told to "calm down" when I express passion about a cause. I'm a feminist because America is supposedly one of the most developed nations in the world and women still make up less than 20% of Congress.
And I've always been a feminist. I've had these opinions and ideas for as long as I can remember; even when I was in preschool, I never liked adhering to gender roles. (I wanted to play with dolls and trucks.) Just because I started calling myself a feminist about a year ago doesn't mean that that was when I became a feminist. It means that this was when I discovered a label for the type of person who has a particular set of values--the set of values that I have always had.
Identifying as a feminist has made me feel more powerful since I know that there's an entire community believing in the same things that I do. I see myself as part of a movement now, rather than one person trying to counter misogyny in her own life. In no way do I see myself as part of a fad. And people participating in fads really do realize it; a few years ago, when Silly Bandz were a craze, I was plenty aware that I only bought them because they were trendy. They were fun and--hence the name--silly. I enjoyed wearing them. But I wasn't devoted to Silly Bandz. They never fueled me in arguments. They never gave me a sense of community. They never really did much but sit on my wrist. Feminism is so much more than Silly Bandz; one is a philosophy and one is a bracelet.
I'll let you know if I start seeing feminism being sold in twelve packs for a three-for-four-dollars sale. Until then, feminism isn't a fad.