The Anonymous Feminist
In junior high, I had my first little bit of activism. We had a perverted gym teacher who graded us on our breast size (a strange distinction considering we were all about the same size). He also peeked into our locker room to watch us as we changed, and we became quickly tired of hiding in the corner while getting into our gym clothes. All of the girls marched down to the front office and demanded that he be fired.
The front office, being as unbiased as possible, had us all write down our complaint. We had the choice to stay anonymous, and I took that choice because I feared repercussion from my family if they found out. Unfortunately, our complaints led to nothing and the gym teacher stayed on. The two girls who signed their names were yelled at, and as I watched them take the blame for all of us, I felt a twinge of guilt. I wanted to walk up to him and tell him that I had also complained, and that his excuses were nothing to us. But I never did.
I still feel guilty about my decision, although at the age we were at, it was hard to make that kind of sacrifice. But how would the tables have turned if we had all signed our names? Would he have been able to yell if he had to look at all of us, with our accusing eyes, the boys having no choice but to hear what he was talking about? Would we have won?
This is how I feel about feminism now. So many women have made the sacrifice, to stand up without fear and say that they are tired of dealing with the bullshit. And there are so many others who agree with them that decide to stay silent and allow them to be yelled down, to be told that they were wrong because they were the minority, the children, the delinquents just looking for trouble.
When you admire first, second, and third wave feminists, but refuse to take up the name with them, you’re taking away what little agency they had in the first place. You’re standing behind them, far away behind them, saying, “Good for you, but I won’t add my voice to the fight. I refuse to sign my name next to feminism. It’s too much for me”. You let them guard you from the punishment that will come. Your friends, mentors, leaders and models are protecting you and giving you rights. And you refuse to stand on the line with them because you’re scared.
But how amazing would feminism be if we all took up the name? The stigma would wash away because we would all stand with our collective voices against the perverted enemy. The enemy would have to look us in the eye, and explain himself to all of us.
We’re not just a scattered group! We’re a powerful force, and you have harmed us! You have done wrong, and now you must answer to us! We are not the minority! We are feminists! What do you have to say to that? Now you have to answer with the world watching, judging you instead of us, because we stood together and signed our names to the cause! There is nothing anonymous about us!
Take a moment and think about whether or not you’re being too quiet. Imagine the enemy staring down at a few speaking out, and then imagine that same enemy backing down because now he has to answer to all of us. Tell the enemy alongside your fellow feminists that you will not take his excuses, that you know what he’s doing, and that he has no right to do it. Admit that you’re a feminist, and stand with your heroes. You’ll soon find that speaking out is less frightening with other feminists at your side.