I am not a feminist.
Feminism was such a trendy topic in 2014 with high profile women ranging from Beyonce, to Amy Poehler, to Sheryl Sandberg, to Lena Dunham, to Emma Watson and more identifying themselves with The "F" word. Yet, just as many (including myself) still continued to shun the term. Which leads me to wonder -- what does it really mean to be a feminist in today's world?
It was a Thursday night in late February. I was at a networking event in the Los Angeles Art District. Each of the attendees went around the room introducing themselves. When it was my turn I shared my standard introduction, "Hi! I'm Bri Seeley. I own a fashion brand that creates luxury femininity for iconic women." Then I sat back to listen to the rest of the attendees finish the introductions.
Shortly after this we were instructed to break into small groups and I was approached by a man who initiated our conversation with a cheerful, "So you're a feminist?"
My immediate instinct was to respond, "I am not a feminist! How dare you brand me with such a terrible term?! I am appalled by your assumption that my empowerment as a female somehow means that I hate men." But instead, I held my tongue and smiled politely, "No, actually I'm not. I design fashion for femininity. It's not the same thing as feminism."
When I arrived home that night I still couldn't shake the thought of the feminist "accusation." So, naturally, I aired my frustrations in the form of a rant on Facebook.
"Femininity to me is soft and radiant. It comes from within the heart/soul and can be expressed without words. My perception of the feminist movement is that it comes more from the head and has always felt like more of a push or a fight. Which works for some people, but that's not my vibe. I can do more for female empowerment by simply embodying and being a loving woman, than for 'taking a stand' or 'fighting for female empowerment.'"
Fast forward several months to Beyoncé's Video Music Award performance where the word "feminist" was prominently displayed across the stage... followed shortly by Emma Watson's UN speech... added to by the multitudes of feminist articles on the Internet and the near-daily conversations that were popping up in my life. Yet through all of this, I still fought against identifying as a feminist. My mind still attached itself to the bra-burning, man-hating, militant stereotypes of feminists.
Until one day my mind overflowing with pop-culture feminism, something clicked. I scrolled back to the Facebook rant from months ago and re-read the comments from my friends.
"Feminism isn't as dirty a word as people seem to think it is. It's simply wanting rights as a woman. I don't know a single woman that would be opposed to the true meaning of that idea." -Abbei Brown
"Feminism is embracing our femininity" -Ashley Strukel
"Self-determination *is* feminist." -Jules Jones
I wondered "when did supporting the rights and quality of women become something that was a source of shame to me? Something to be scorned and ridiculed?" In any movement there are extremists, but this small faction is not an accurate representation for the face of feminism.
What if I could be an empowered feminist and still be the soft, feminine woman that I love being? What if, as a feminist, I could advocate for the advances of equality for women without having to act like a man? What if I could help bring the more understanding and compassionate side of feminism to light? What if (and this was the most shocking thought of all) I had actually been a feminist this whole time?
I committed to a perspective shift to release all of the outdated, negative connotations with feminism that I had been carrying around. I have long recognized that men and women have different strengths and skill sets, neither of which should change or be diminished, but rather, coexist and compliment each other. I pulled out my journal to document my new definition of feminist.
"Being a feminist for me encompasses three very important aspects: embodying everything I love about being a feminine woman, receiving equal respect and opportunities as my counterparts (regardless of gender), and giving equal respect and opportunities (regardless of gender)."
My name is Bri Seeley and I am a feminist.