I still remember that on the very first day of class, when we were asked if we ever saw ourselves as activists, I actually raised my hands and said that I have always considered myself a feminist. The truth is that I was a bit reluctant to say so because it was just our first class meeting. Sometimes, we just do not want people to quickly judge us by the label that we put on ourselves when we first meet. That is the implicit rule of communication, at least to me. But I broke it anyway.
The majority of us, including me, have experienced LABEL-phobia. Yes, whenever I tell someone that I am a feminist, I sweat a lot. Whenever someone asks me if I am a feminist, I sweat even more. Of course, there are a lot of labels that we definitely do not want to be put on, for example, rapist, sexist, or bully. But what is wrong with FEMINIST?
It is wrong because a lot of us seem to think that there is a set of rules and responsibilities attached to the label FEMINIST. Someone told that a feminist MUST be tough because men are tough too. Someone told that a feminist MUST focus on her career instead of worrying whether or not her family is going to have food on the table for the dinner or whether or not she should take a day off to take care of her baby while her husband is at home. Someone said that we should not care too much about our appearance because men are going to treat us as their sexual objects. Someone said that men are no good and we are better, that a feminist needs to hate men for what they have done to women throughout the history.
That is how the label FEMINIST starts to become a pressure instead of an honor. Because we find no way to be tough and independent all the times, to choose our career over our family, or to hate men and to not need them, we think this is just too much of a burden. Moreover, men and the mainstream media have depicted us as rebellious, aggressive, and bossy women, who do not shave our legs or wear open back dress for the visual pleasure of men and work from early morning to midnight just to prove that we are better. Overtime, these depictions as well as the feeling that we cannot catch up with the idea of essential feminism have driven us to give up on something that used to make us feel so good and special about ourselves.
I am a feminist but the majority of my research papers is about men. I am a feminist but I have sympathy for men as much as I do for women. No matter how much we have tried to get away from all of the labels that would possibly be put on us, we have already labeled ourselves as a woman or a man, as outgoing or quiet, as someone who loves to read books or someone who does not, etc. Labels are fine because labeling is the very first step of understanding. But the box that we must fit in to be qualified as a member of any group is not. There should not be any box that is called a man box, a woman box, or a feminist box because no one has the right to tell you how to act as a man or a woman, and especially, no one has the authority to teach you how to look like a feminist. The true meaning of feminism, from my own perspective, is that all of us, as equal human beings, including men and women, have the rights to do what we want to do and to become whoever we want to become without being fearful of gender expectations.
In the chapter, Lievrouw said that the success of mediated mobilization only happens when we can truly break through the digital wall to walk out of the street. However, to me, before we do anything that can possibly inspire a lot of people, even before we break the wall between reality and the digital world, we need to break the boxes first.