I didn’t want to. Maybe I didn’t need to. But after the fact, I am so glad I “came out as a feminist” to my boss, as well as my subsequent supervisors. Claiming this identity in the workplace has made my work more authentic, my voice more confident, and my work relationships even stronger. Why’d I take the plunge? I had to.
Since I very young, my mom always told me that we lived in a feminist household. She identified as a feminist, her own mother had feminist beliefs, and in our house, we just knew that women and men, simply put, were equal. My brother and I had the same potential. My mom and dad were able to complete the exact same tasks, and no one was deficient in any area due to their sex or gender. It wasn’t until I got older and entered the workforce that I met people who reacted to my casual “Sure, I’m a feminist,” with the same stare one might get if she said, “Yep, I’m a Nazi,” or “Uh-huh, I’m a murderer who recently escaped from federal prison.”
It wasn’t just facial expressions. I’ve had coworkers ask me if I really needed to use “that word,” and even accidentally befriended a few who espoused their feelings of "girl power" and "women can do anything," but quickly followed it up with, “Of course, I would never call myself a feminist.”
I can fully acknowledge that not all feminists are great people. Historically, (and I’m not talking long-ago history, but very, very recently and continually) feminist movements have excluded and ignored those who we should be supporting and uplifting: women of color, transwomen, women with disabilities, and so many others. Feminism has left women behind. Feminists have hurt people. We are not perfect, and we need to do better.
But in a “Grab her by the p*ssy” world, a world in which men are appointed to the Supreme Court though they have accusations of sexual assault against them, the wage gap is still around and women get stabbed when they do things like play golf and go jogging, I can’t afford to not call myself a feminist. I cannot say that everything is fine, we are all equal, and we don’t have a long (very long) way to go in dismantling the patriarchy and getting everyone on the same page about the whole "women are people" thing.
I am so, so tired. I am tired of feeling scared when I am home alone. I am tired of hearing the tech guy at the office joke openly about my body and my sex life. I am tired, okay? Maybe that’s why I had to tell my boss that, against all my better judgement, it seems that I have chosen to use the word “feminist.”
I get it. It is a sensitive word. It carries baggage. It scares people. It makes some people uncomfortable. But it scares me to not use the word, to ignore it and go on pretending like everything here is OK. So I do. It has been a journey, but I have come to a place of comfort and even confidence when it comes using the word “feminist” to describe myself. (Hurrah! I’m so glad I had to do so much emotional work and processing about this issue when I could’ve been thinking about work, family, or any number of other productive things, but hey! That’s being a woman in 2018!)
At my last job interview, I decided to let them know straight-away. The interviewer would be my direct supervisor, just as she was to a whole team of people who would be my coworkers. I wanted her to know exactly where I stand on the “f word.” But I didn’t just say, “BTW, I’m a feminist.” I told her I identified as a feminist, and told her why. I explained that it meant I would be working to support and empower the other women in my office, especially LGBTQ+ individuals and women of color who had long been disenfranchised and locked out of higher opportunities. I told her it meant I would be supporting my female clients from the heart, not just for business. And it meant, ultimately, that I truly believed in my own worth. I value my safety, my comfort, and my success in the workplace, just as I value and protect those things for other women.
I got the job, and I got a new feeling, too. Going forward, I would no longer be afraid to inform coworkers that I am a card-carrying feminist. Having already done the hard work of telling my boss, I didn’t need to be afraid of reactions or of word about my “political leanings” getting up the food-chain. Of course it’s political! My feminism is political and personal. And it’s not going away anytime soon. Future employers, I hope you can embrace the fact that I believe women, I trust women, and I am working towards a better future for all of us. If those ideals aren’t valued in a workplace, I don’t want to work there. I just don’t have time. And I’m tired. Mostly that.