Letter From The Editor: Feminism

This is why we fight

I don’t know if I can roll with it, this time

Feminism is having something of a cultural moment. Or to quote Refinery 29,“We’re not saying that feminism wasn’t a movement to be reckoned with prior to 2013. But with a new generation of thinkers, activists, and creatives taking up the mantle of women’s rights, the movement has taken on a sense of vitality and a global scope—one that has surely been enhanced by the power of the Internet.” It’s a little like when that band you’ve loved for years becomes tremendously popular, but instead of being vaguely annoyed that now everyone acts like they’ve always known about Ani Difranco, I’m over the moon that we’re all at the same concert and no one is afraid of singing along with the lyrics.

But is the rising popularity of feminism good for the movement? As far as I’m concerned, we’ve made progress if we’re able to get people comfortable with feminism, let alone making it seem cool. But is feminism being co-opted, and should we care? In August, while reading an article written by the male tech entrepreneur Bryan Goldberg about how he imagined he was going to bring women’s publishing into the twenty-first century (thanks for joining us here, Bryan), some of those puzzle pieces started to come together. Goldberg described his new website Bustle this way: “Is this a feminist publication? You’re damn right this is a feminist publication.” Or as Bitch Magazine later described his thought process, “Also, I’ve heard feminism is marketable, so I’m going to say that word.” And while it’s clear that’s exactly what he was doing, since when do dudes founding women’s publications, in markets they seem to hardly understand and vaguely despise, feel like they have to vigorously attest to the fact that of course they’re founding a feminist publication? The times, they are a changing.

But the article kept getting weirder. He said, “Are six of our fifty writers excited about Real Housewives of New Jersey? Good, then millions of readers will be too. No judgments. In fact, we don’t even use the term ‘guilty pleasures,’ because there is no topic that someone should feel ashamed to write about.” Bryan Goldberg apparently thinks The Real Housewives is a feminist topic—which okay—if you hand it to a smart Jezebel writer, it could be. Beyond that, Bryan Goldberg apparently thinks that, as a feminist, I’m somehow ashamed of reading about trashy pop culture, and I need to be saved (by him). I can assure you, I’m not ashamed of reading celebrity gossip, or shaving my legs, or liking to occasionally wear fake eyelashes. I don’t necessarily consider the aforementioned feminist choices, but I’m not worried about them. I am an ardent feminist, but I feel no particular pressure to have every one of my choices push the cause of womankind forward. Because hey, it’s a big team, and we can all take turns.

I think I understand what all this fighting is for

Two years ago, APW hosted book clubs for Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman before it had come out in the United States. During those meetups I discovered that large numbers of APW readers who believed in the core tenants of the feminist movement didn’t define themselves as feminists. Why? Because many of us had been convinced to buy into the patriarchal discreditation of feminism: that we were all just angry man-haters who weren’t allowed to wear pink. Now, just two years later, it’s cool to say you’re a feminist, and I couldn’t be happier. My hope is that now that we’re comfortable claiming the word feminist, we now have a chance to really push things forward.

For years, APW has functioned as a more-or-less choice feminist site. To break things down a bit, choice feminism is based in the idea that the women’s movement’s goal was to allow women to have choices, and hence, any choice a woman makes is a feminist one. Running APW this way has been an editorial decision on my part. I jokingly define myself as “a vagina feminist, not a uterus feminist,” and not just because I have a cunt banner in my office. I say this because I’m very specifically a non-litmus-test feminist. While I am pro-choice, I don’t think that you have to be personally comfortable with abortion to be a feminist. I’ve worked hard to hire APW staff and contributors accordingly. Do I want APW writers to consider themselves to be feminists? Fuck yes. Do I have specific ideas about what that has to look like? Fuck no. But, at the end of the day, I’m not a choice feminist. I’m not anywhere close. I think feminists can hold a wide variety of personal and political beliefs. I think that feminists can make a wide variety of personal decisions. But I don’t think that all women’s decisions and beliefs are feminist ones, and I think that’s perfectly okay.

Why has APW functioned over the years with a choice feminist editorial model? Primarily, because as someone who does not think feminism has to look a particular way, I’m not comfortable setting myself up as a feminist gatekeeper. We regularly publish feminist articles that I wildly disagree with, and we do it on purpose. While I don’t believe in choice feminism, I do believe that you can make different choices than I have and still be a feminist (and I absolutely do not believe in feminist circular firing squads). It may be a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one.

Like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind

My hope for APW’s Feminism Month is this: as it becomes less scary to self-identify as a feminist, we can use our bravery in a new way. I’d like us each to become more comfortable explicitly saying what our personal feminist beliefs are, with the understanding that we can have a strong point of view without judging people who have made different choices. I want us to understand that there are so many feminist battles to fight that we can’t possibly personally fight all of them, and we can cheer on people fighting battles we’ve opted out of.

I’ll start.

Where I’m Fighting: I want all women to keep their last names. I don’t want women to use the language, “I kept my name,” but instead to use the language, “Neither of us changed our names.” I want women to pass on their last names to their children. I don’t want women who hyphenate to always allow their male partners to have their name go last. I’ve made those choices personally, I’ll defend them till I die. Beyond that, I’ll do everything I can to make those choices easier for others, and to help women see why this issue is so important.

Where I’m Not Fighting: I shave my legs. I wear makeup. I wear dresses. I enjoy all of them. I also know that I move through the world with more ease than women who are challenging gender norms. While I’m a feminist who is making more traditional personal grooming choices, I don’t think my particular choices are feminist ones. I don’t waste time feeling guilty about decisions I thoughtfully and consciously made, because I’m better off using that time backing up members of the team on the harder path. To you feminists wearing makeup, I pass along my mascara recommendations (often literally). To you feminists not wearing makeup, I pass along my deepest respect, and my best support.

It’s nice that you listen / It’d be nicer if you joined in

Now it’s your turn. Where do you stand? This month, I hope that we’re each able to be a little braver with our decisions, while still managing to stay civil and non-judgmental. Let’s get down to it.


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  • js

    “I am an ardent feminist, but I feel no particular pressure to have every one of my choices push the cause of womankind forward. Because hey, it’s a big team, and we can all take turns.”

    This is my favorite part. I like thinking of us as one big team. But I’m going to be honest and admit I am not an ardent feminist. I don’t know nearly enough about what it means to be a feminist. But thanks to APW, I’m going to take this month as an incentive to learn more and to teach my daughter. This month is gonna be SO good!

  • Breck

    Got chills reading this… Looking forward to this month like WOAH!

  • Ana

    Please tell me there is a Remember the Lesbians: Name Change Edition coming up this month!

    • Maddie

      You’re in luck! There is!

      • Helen

        Thank Gerd. At the moment, the betrothed and I are just ignoring the issue altogether.

        • Yay! I’ll need that post in exactly 4 days…ekkkkkk!

  • Jessica

    And you just gave me my response for the well-meaning but annoying questions about my last name that are sure to come in a flurry after I get married this Saturday (!).

    Many thanks.

    • Kat

      We share the same wedding date!

      We’re being announced as Mr & Mrs Same Last Name, but it’s not even close to being entirely settled. Heck I was even given a Mr & Mrs Same Last Name return address stamp as a shower gift, which btw was an amazing shower gift even though the name thing isn’t settled.

      Mostly I’m tired of having to fend off and defend whatever my current thought on the topic is, especially the “BUT THINK OF THE UNBORN CHILDREN!!” argument which to me in this day and age is the most ridiculous one.

      I’d like to have it both ways: keep last name and use his, and 3 days before my wedding I think that’s what I’m going to live with. Now it’s just a matter of am I going to legally change to his but still go by mine for work/industry purposes OR keep mine (it’d be hell of a lot easier than changing ALL that paperwork) and use his socially.

      • APracticalLaura

        We were supposed to be announced as First Name & First Name (because I was still undecided what I wanted to do)! But of course, the DJ reverted back to Mr and Mrs His-last-name.

        Now that the wedding is over, I feel less and less pressure to change my name – and more and more reasons to keep it (the paperwork!!!!)

        I like your way of putting it – keeping mine but using his socially. I don’t care if someone calls me by his last name, but through and through my identity hinges on keeping my own.

        An interesting debate – no right or wrong answer – and an ever evolving decision for some (me!), but whatever you decide will be right for you! happy almost wedding!

        • Oh god the paperwork.
          I changed my name. I’m not the least bit broken up about it. I had my reasons and I was totally comfortable with my choice.

          But midway through a 2 hour wait at Social Security, I was about ready to give up. And that was only day 1.

      • “keep mine (it’d be hell of a lot easier than changing ALL that paperwork) and use his socially.”

        This is what I am going to start out with. I have never liked the actual sound of my last name, and have long pondered just changing it to something I like better, and I actually like the sound of his name better. But…I don’t want to commit to the legal name change thing right away, without at least trying it out. If I do go for a legal name change, I am still keeping my old last name as a second middle name.

        I have…complex…feeling on this. I feel like I *should* keep my name and that people expect me to keep my name. But…argh! I like my initials and my signature, but not the name itself.

        It’s like I was handed this ugly uniform. It’s the uniform I’ve been wearing all my like, it;s my team’s colors and everything. Go team! I’ve *always* worn this uniform. But it is so not flattering. Now I get to join a new team. Hell, I get to *start* a new team! And I have a choice about the uniform. My teammate actually likes his uniform and wants to keep wearing it. I like my teammate’s uniform and would look good in it. But for complicated socio-historical reasons, the right thing to do would be to keep wearing that same fugly uniform I’ve always worn, double-knit polyester and all. Or pick out a uniform that no one else is wearing, even if my new teammate doesn’t want to wear it and won’t wear it.


        • Jess

          So VERY in this boat.

          I never thought I wanted to keep this scratchy uniform. People make fun of it, and I never really felt like fit right. I haven’t ever even really felt like part of the team. It just was there, and it was the one they gave me at registration, so I kept wearing it. It’s mine, I guess, and I’ve broken it in enough that at least it doesn’t chafe as bad anymore.

          Am I supposed to cherish it now? Does it make me unfeminist to be sick of hearing jokes or being asked to repeat it? It’s not a difficult name – but it has a second “hilarious” meaning.

          Does getting rid of it SERIOUSLY mean that I will lose my identity? That taking up my teammates uniform means being a traitor to my team? Is my team really going to be offended? Does taking up new colors mean that I have to only be on the new team now? Do I have to be anything other than myself, but wearing a different, more flattering uniform?

          /end outrage at being labelled unfeminist and losing respect for wanting a new name that I can actually leave a reservation under without feeling embarrassed and annoyed at adults being juvenile.

          • However, I don’t think anyone is saying that we are un-feminist because we want to change our names. Just that the action, in itself, is not a feminist action in a larger social context.

            The point is that *not everything you do* has to be a “feminist action” for you to be a feminist. No one is going to kick you off the ride. :)

          • meg

            Exactly, Kayjayoh. With the caveat that I have known people for whom changing their name was a feminist choice, though its rarer. See: lesbians taking their wives names, women getting rid of the names of abusive fathers. For most of us though, it probably falls into the shaving your legs category: not a feminist choice, but one feminists make all the time.

          • “Does getting rid of it SERIOUSLY mean that I will lose my identity?”

            If it helps at all, I’ve had this conversation with myself a few times: getting married, changing my name, and having a kid. They were looong, tough conversations.

            The good news: all those things later, and I still haven’t lost my identity. :)

            Which is still to say, do what feels right for you! But changing your name doesn’t have to be a blow to your identity.

            Disclaimer: I’ve always felt a little removed from my name anyway, for whatever reason. Changing it didn’t feel all that different from changing clothes or changing apartments. Some people, however, are very very attached to their names, which strongly affects the decision.

          • Shannon

            I changed my name but in an act of utter discomfort with that choice tattooed my maiden name on myself. I don’t think I would have felt such discomfort if other women hadn’t told me that my last name was part of my identity and I should feel like I lost something. Same team should equal less shame.

        • Change! if you don’t like your name change it. To your husband’s or to something else. I have a friend who changed her last name to Green when she got married. Her husband’s name is not Green – but she didn’t like hers and liked Green. She took the opportunity (since it would not have been unusual for her to be changing last names at that time).

          This can be not your part of feminism to carry forward, others will fight this one while you opt out.

          Full disclosure – I changed my last name legally before graduating college because the uniform was scratchy, and fugly, and a mouthful I hated since my earliest memory. (I dropped my dad’s last name from my hyphenated one and picked my mom’s)

          • Jess

            Good points. I guess that’s one thing that I’m not fighting on, then. I totally support people that don’t change their name.

            I’m always afraid of “getting kicked off the ride.” Which seems kind of silly when I think about it, since I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I’m never sure how to define it, though, so I never really describe myself that way. Maybe I’ll figure out if I fit into The Definition (as if there was only one – maybe A Definition is better) over the course of the month.

            I guess that’s funny, because I’d totally call my mom a feminist – started (read: taught) sex ed at her own high school, high powered career, started a Women in Operations support group at the large company she works for…

            I’m not sure how I fit against that kind of an example, or what I’m fighting on in comparison.

        • RAS

          I love the idea of the team uniform, and of getting to choose your own team.

          My dilemma is a little different…I have a pretty kick-ass last name. My ten-year-old, uber-feminist self decided that I was never, ever in a million years changing my name, especially not for a guy. Because my name is awesome. So awesome, in fact, that a successful porn star has the exact same name. First and last. Same spelling.

          I’m at the very beginning of my career, so I don’t have any name recognition professionally (yet). My fiancé’s last name is definitely not as awesome as mine, but it starts with the same letter and wouldn’t be a fugly uniform to wear. In so many ways, it would be totally practical to change my last name in order to avoid a lifetime of confusion with my much more famous name-twin. I would certainly look better in potential employers’ Google searches…

          I’m so torn. Our return address stamp just says First Name & First Name because I don’t know if I’ll make up my mind before the wedding (in three months). It’s reassuring to know that I don’t have to! :)

        • Katie E

          My husband changed his name (back to his mum’s maiden name) and I am taking that. Its a nice name, and I love being part of a unit with my husband, plus its a nice way to honour the woman who has been so supportive to us. My husband never got on with his dad anyway and he passed away years ago. The only person who has a problem with it is my dad- interesting to note not only what taking a name represents, but also what ceasing to have one represents. For us, its a new start, together.

      • Kate

        I am literally having the same dilemma!

        We were announced (2 weeks ago) as “Kate and His-name His-Last-Name.” But I really don’t know if I’m changing mine. I’ve gone back and forth — to hyphenate? To change? To not change? I work in academia and I’m already published. But would I have changed it if that wasn’t the case? I don’t know.

        I like your idea of keeping your name and using his socially. I think that is what I will do for now. It’s just so hard to even imagine myself changing it.

        When we went to get the marriage license and I reached the line that said “declared surname” I literally stopped writing, was shakingly quiet, and handed him the form to fill out his part. He jokingly said later that he had never seen an existential crisis played out in front of him in real time before. But that’s exactly what happened. I can’t even express how unsettling it was to reach that moment and be faced with a decision I wasn’t happy with.

        • It took me a full year after I was married to reach a last name decision that I felt was mine. I had always planned to change my name after I was married, but as someone who was born with four names, I wasn’t sure if I should drop one or what. For the record, I tacked my new last name on to the whole shebang because that felt like who I was. Paperwork be damned.
          I’m still SLOWLY changing my name legally, and I still use my maiden name professionally (I love my last name, but dang if it’s not hard to pronounce)

          My advice?

          Take your time. There is no shame in it, and you can change your name because of marriage whenever.
          I will say that if you don’t make a blanket change quickly, be prepared to correct people–a lot–about what your last name is.

          Also on a separate note, can we agree that unless you are positive the couple doesn’t care, don’t address things to Mr. and Mrs. His name His last name? I flippin see stars (and then try to lovingly correct, because the people generally don’t mean any harm) when I get mail like that.
          Hi, I’m my own person, with a lovely name, let’s use it shall we?

      • You know, that was the compromise I settled on too – to keep mine and use his socially/as I felt like it – but it turned out I get really mad when someone calls me/addresses me as his last name. I guess I do care, a lot more than I expected too.

        I don’t mind when his grandma addresses cards as his last name but I get pissed when someone in our generation, who knew neither of us decided to change our names (I just backspaced to replace “kept my last name”) addresses me as his. Makes my blood boil actually.

        • Maija

          I am changing my name. And he has already changed his. This is my second time around so now I am wearing my ex husbands last name that is also the last name of my son. I didnt really wanted to take back my maiden name after divorce because I have never felt it as “mine”, it is my fathers (to whom i did not had good relationship), so due to feeling awkward beeing married to one dude and having others last name (zero pressure from future husband btw), i am taking his. Now, part-two of this story: my dude has his dads last name and moms last name as middle name, but i actually wanted to have my moms in law last name for me, because i really respect that lady and would be proud to be related to her in this way too. Due to law in our country that was not possible, so my perfect man changed his name to First Name MomsName-DadsName and i will be getting both. Not perfect, but that was the best we could do without breaking law and hearts :)

          • C

            I’m in a similar, but not quite as complex situation. I have my ex-husband’s last name because I didn’t want to change back to my former name – it’s clunky and burdensome. But now I’m approaching my wedding to my fiance and I know the “logical” choice is to change to his, and I like the idea of having a family name, but the idea of being Mrs. Hislastname is just so WEIRD to me. That’s his mom’s name. (And I don’t get along very well with his mom.) And I want my OWN last name, but I don’t want it to be my ex-husband’s last name. But that means going back to my former last name, which, as I said, is clunky.

            I am seriously in a mess over what to do.

            My fiance, fortunately, doesn’t care what I call myself, because he’s a feminist and is very secure and knows that a name doesn’t make a family.

            It just seems like…if I’m going to go through the process of changing my name again at marriage (which to me is basically a no-brainer; I don’t want to keep my ex’s last name), I may as well change to his. So why am I still so conflicted over this?

          • A family friend of ours changed her name back to her original name when she remarried. She did it because her name with her now husband’s name partially rhymed and was “too cutesy.” 25 years later, they are just Her First Her Last and His First His Last. Not a big deal. You should do what feels right to you.

          • Maija

            C, its exacatly the main issue – i would love to have my OWN last name, but i never have had it and i dont know how i could get it unless i just make one up. Its always someobody elses – fathers, grandfathers, husbands… How can we get our own last names?

      • Mellie

        It works, we did it and so far it is way less of a thing than I thought. We decided to use His Mine (no hyphen) socially to show a united front, but we still kept our same names legally for official stuff. We also both sometimes use just “our” names alone when it makes life easier, and it hasn’t happened yet but I am sure I’ll sneak just his at some point when I need an easy to spell last name in a pinch. I know this sound loosey goosey, using whatever combo we feel like at the time, but so far it has worked great and has made a lot of sense for us. Honestly we have realized that last names come up way less often than we thought they would, mostly I find myself just giving “my” last name to doctors or the bank and I don’t care what those people think of my married name anyways, but it is sweet being The His Mines to our loved ones.

    • Megan

      I’m getting married on Saturday, too! Neither my husband nor I will be changing our last names. (I LOVE THE SOUND OF THAT!!!)

      As for our future babies…time will tell. We have to way my more common last name which includes an apostrophe (the internet hates apostrophes) vs. his less common last name.

      But for now. No changing.

    • Maybe it’s just because people who know me, um, know me so well, but I only had one acquaintance even ASK if I had changed my last name. Everybody else correctly assumed that we had both kept our last names.

  • Anonymous

    I’m starting out day one of this experiment not calling myself a feminist. I honestly don’t identify as one as far as I can tell. I’m curious to know whether I’ll still feel that way at the end of this month. Thanks for talking about such an interesting subject.

    • itsy bitsy

      Can I ask why you don’t feel like you’re a feminist? Like, are there things about what feminism that you’ve seen that turn you off from the word? Or is it that you don’t feel attached to traditional “feminist issues”?

      I don’t mean to judge or put you too much on the spot, I’m just really curious.

      • Anonymous

        There are a lot of reasons I don’t identify as a feminist. One reason, is that when I read about feminist issues, I’m usually confused and confounded about why people are worrying about it. “it” being whatever the issue of the day is, Miley Cyrus performing on the VMA’s, the lyrics to Blurred Lines, etc. 9 times out of 10 the things feminists find misogynistic or sexist, aren’t things I find misogynistic or sexist, honestly. I don’t feel I am treated any differently than my husband in this world and though I’ve had many people try to convince me I am, I don’t agree. My husband doesn’t get any more benefits than I do, he doesn’t make more money than I do and he doesn’t see himself as superior to me. I’ve never met a man who did.

        I’m all about equality and I care deeply about my fellow humans. But I won’t care more about the women. I won’t call myself a feminist because I’m just as (and honestly probably more so) concerned with race issues, poverty issues, issues of health – I’m worried about the bigger picture for humanity. Women’s rights and equality are absolutely a part of that, but they aren’t the whole and I’d like to focus on the whole, not the part.

        • itsy bitsy

          Interesting. I guess for me personally, I don’t see feminism as caring more about women. Maybe because the people who first formally introduced me to feminism were very vocal about not having tunnel vision and standing with others who are disenfranchised or discriminated against. That being said, I agree that feminism as a whole has something of a race issue (which is maddening). I more identify with the feminists who are trying to fight all the battles, be it race or poverty or health or women’s issues. Someone a few comments down mentioned feminism being for men, too, and I totally identify that philosophy.

          I’ve also had a lot of moments in my life where I have been treated differently because I’m a woman, and my dad has gotten funny looks because he’s really good with little kids and loves to cook. So those things maybe shaped where I’m coming from, too.

          As for not identifying with issues that are brought up, I can understand that. There are some issues that I don’t totally get, either. The things that I do get a little up in arms about usually fit into a bigger picture, like “edgy” song lyrics fitting into a culture that doesn’t value consent.

        • Liz

          I would encourage you to read around a bit when those issues arise and you’re wondering, “Um, who cares?”

          Just as an example (since it’s the one you used) maybe the problems of the lyrics to Blurred Lines haven’t impacted you directly, but there are women who have had those specific words used against them when being raped or sexually assaulted. It can be hard to understand if you haven’t been in that sort of situation. But the only way we can relate to the experiences of others is by hearing/reading about them, and that kind of learning is incredibly important to me.

          Calling myself Feminist is my way of expressing solidarity and compassion for those who experience sexism in ways that are more profoundly painful than what I experience in my cushioned life (which has been impacted by sexism, also).

          Those who are hurt and oppressed don’t have the same capacity to be heard as those who are not. So, though you may not consider yourself directly impacted by sexism, your choice to call yourself Feminist and demonstrate concern and passion for the issues impacting others has the potential to be a louder statement that causes more change.

          • Anonymous

            I happen to love the song Blurred Lines and I think its just as likely to hear the lyrics spoken during completely consensual sexual activities. So why do I have to be offended by it, because someone else is?

            I feel terribly, there are women who are offended and hurt by the song due to their own experiences and how they feel the song portrays sex. It sucks – honestly. Anytime someone is hurt by another’s expression, sucks. Believing in the validity of other’s feelings, does not however equal me agreeing.

            Personally, I don’t feel its a bad song, lyrically or otherwise. To me it is art, not very good art perhaps, but art and therefore falls under the complete freedom of expression. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with debating it and discussing it – we should! Which is why I’m openly and honestly saying, I don’t personally agree with those who say the song does anything but make you shake your booty. It is, guilty of booty shake inducement in my opinion, but that’s about all.

          • Liz

            Nope, that’s not my point at all. Of course you can listen to and love whatever songs you so choose. But personally, if someone is saying something (anything, the song was an example) is hurtful (please note I said “hurtful” and “painful” not “offensive”) to them, it’s time for us to pause and consider why and to encourage others in ending that hurt and pain.

          • I’m going to head this off at the start and say for folks reading – discussion of whether or not Blurred Lines is an okay song is off topic, and we’re going to stop that discussion right here with “agree, or agree to disagree.” No responses please.

        • lady brett

          coming, i think, from a similar background in regards to this, i think feminism is obvious to many women, but some of us really have to view feminist issues from a broader perspective – as part of the whole, as you say. that is, i will never personally connect with the majority of feminist issues, but that doesn’t make them not issues.

          i graduated in a hard science where i felt very comfortable, very respected, and very excited about the subject. but that doesn’t change the fact that all of 15% of graduates in that field are women. which is a systemic problem, although it doesn’t affect me and, in my experience, isn’t a result of the men in the field being discriminatory, but of something much more complicated (but in the end equally problematic). (also want to add that i don’t think all fields need to be an exact 50/50 split for perfect “fairness”, but those kinds of vast discrepancies are indicative of some serious cultural problems).

          i have had the luxury of being involved primarily in respectful, safe relationships (personal, familial, professional, romantic and sexual) – especially during my “formative years” – which makes it very hard for me to personally identify with concerns about misogynistic culture. and i am not going to pretend to be hurt by things that don’t hurt me. but i do recognize that these things hurt others, both in triggering memories of being hurt by these sorts of things, and in creating a culture where it is easy for those things to continue to happen. (excuse that for being so vague, but i think it applies to a huge swath of things from rape culture to job opportunities to being spoken over in friendly conversation.)

          this is *not* to say what you should believe in, much less work on – because there is a lot of important work in the world and we all pick and choose. i mostly wanted to illustrate where my personal change in perspective came from – because as of college i was coming from a very similar perspective as you, i think.

          i would also add that it’s basically impossible to work on any one of the issues you mentioned without working on the others because they are far too connected, so parsing out the details is largely a matter of semantics.

          • Anonymous

            Lady Brett, I love you and I love your comments. I don’t always agree, but you come from such a rational place when you comment, that I can’t help but get you and get your point.

            I think everything you’re saying here has validity. I’d add only the counterpoint (?) or additional note that to me, it is very important personally that I take responsibility for my own emotions and reactions and acknowledge my own complicity or responsibility for how I react. It’s not ok for someone to purposefully hurt my feelings, but it is ok that my feelings get hurt.

            I think that’s a distinction not enough of us make. That’s a personal feeling and opinion and I can understand completely why others choose not to think this way. I just think its important to point out there are other ways to be and live and survive in this world. This is the one that works for me. Maybe it might work for others as well.

          • lady brett

            thanks, dear.

            personal responsibility is my first love, so yes to that.

          • Liz

            I am interested in hearing further what you mean by this comment, Anon. I take it to mean that you think women who are hurt by triggering comments, etc should see their own responsibility in feeling that way- is that correct?

          • Anonymous

            Liz, all I am saying is this is how I choose to live my life. If my feelings get hurt, its very rare the blame falls on someone else’s shoulders in my mind. My feelings getting hurt is a complex and malleable thing depending on circumstances and I honestly believe that’s true of most humans.

            That’s not to say people who have been traumatized don’t have the right to hurt feelings themselves and to believe the world should care and adjust accordingly. I honestly believe everyone has the right to feel the way they feel about stuff – no judgments, seriously.

            I’m speaking only in regards to myself, a person who’s lived through my own kinds of trauma. If a song or a comment or a story or anything hurts me and causes me to relive trauma of my own, I choose to focus on what I can control – myself and my own feelings – not the outside force or object. Maybe that’s because that’s where I am on my journey. Maybe its how I always will be. I honestly don’t know and I’m not even saying I’m right. It’s just how I feel, you know?

            I have issues I fight for and talk a lot about because I care. These are not however issues brought up in me because of personal pain. I’m much more moved by injustice than I am my own hurt feelings. I hope that makes a little sense at least.

          • Liz

            For me, hurt + injustice are so bound together they’re almost inseparable when it comes to issues that fall under the scope of “Feminism.” It’s so rarely a matter of “this made me feel hurt” or “this made me feel offended,” without also being, “this made me feel UNSAFE.” When that feeling of unsafety is rooted in a history of harmful treatment and proven unsafety, there’s a definite injustice.

          • EKH

            “(excuse that for being so vague, but i think it applies to a huge swath of things from rape culture to job opportunities to being spoken over in friendly conversation.)”

            Thank you! I agree so hard with this. So many things are related to a lack of equality in society and people just deny it.

            (First comment on APW, it WOULD be the feminsm post.

        • Anonymous

          Liz, what a great way to put something. This idea of hurt or offended almost always equaling unsafe isn’t something I connect with – it isn’t how I feel and honestly I can’t even imagine feeling this way.

          But I have to believe a lot of ladies will connect with it and I think the way you phrased it here makes it easy to understand and empathize.

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me and for giving me more insight into how “others” (as in other than me) think about this kind of stuff. It’s still mostly confusing and confounding – I won’t lie, but I’m at least maybe starting to understand where these feelings in others come from and that’s giving me a whole new perspective, so thank you. Seriously.

    • Emmy

      I’m of the mind that if you believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, then you’re a feminist. Full stop. You don’t have to know the difference between the second wave and the third wave, or care if we’re in a fourth wave or post-feminist, or have opinions about beauty or porn or anything else, or take women’s studies classes, or whatever else people associate with feminism. You don’t have to care about women more than anything or anyone else. You just have to want equality.

      • K.

        I just want to say that I agree with you in theory, but I think it’s important to remember that privilege can sometimes come into the practical ‘ownership’ of the label. Absolutely the ideal and simplest concept of feminism is pure equality amongst the sexes, but there are plenty of women — and women of color, in particular — who tend to feel left behind by the current iterations of feminist theory and, sometimes even more strongly, feminist blog culture. And I think it’s important to keep that in mind and not just jump all over a woman who doesn’t identify as a feminist — not that you’re doing that! But I’ve seen it happen a lot. In my experience, it’s too easy to make the assumption of, “Oh, this is a woman who buys into the patriarchy” rather than “Oh, maybe there are parts of modern feminist theory that she either doesn’t connect with or actively alienates her.” Just like anything, there is a lot of complexity in this subject. That’s why intersectionality is so, so important and also why it’s important for some (usually white, well-off, educated or all of the above) feminists to not hold too strongly to their pre-conceived notions or react dismissively on impulse.

        • K.

          And just to clarify, I’m less concerned with women ‘not connecting with’ parts of feminist theory (I think that goes to what Meg was saying about how not all women’s beliefs or decisions are feminist), but I definitely AM concerned with where women feel alienated by certain aspects of feminism, particularly when it disproportionately affects certain subgroups.

      • Jenn

        There are WAVEs of feminism?

      • meg

        I agree (and perhaps we should go into this in more depth this month). But my deeper issue is this: if you think that you’re treated the same way as your husband and you like it, GREAT! You’re a feminist. All of that equal treatment didn’t magically appear, it was fought for, at great price, by your feminist forbearers.

        Like voting? Thank feminism.

        Like wearing pants? Thank feminism.

        Like the ability for all women to work outside the home without challenge? Thank feminism.

        Like equal pay for equal work? Thank feminism.

        If you DON’T think the above mentioned rights are good rights, you’re not a feminist. If you do, you really should be. Feminism IS the movement for equal rights between men and women. It’s named after women, not men, because women are the ones who didn’t have All The Rights, so it’s fitting that the movement for equality should be named after us. Fitting, and important.

        • Irena

          I really disagree with the idea that because something was “fought for by my forebears” I should be eternally and publicly grateful, and label myself in a certain way. Because I do consider myself a feminist, I need an alternate example to illuminate this: I often see this argument applied to nationalism/patriotism, and it disgusts me. I deeply disagree with my country’s foreign policy and involvement in certain wars/conflicts, and felt ashamed to be this nationality at many points in my life, NOT proud. So I DON’T want to be told what I should wear and express and how I should speak and act on Veteran’s day (or my country’s equivalent), and I refuse to sing the national anthem, for which many people have tried to shame me in my life. Likewise, many people might find it deeply frustrating to be labelled a feminist when they have personal reasons to resist the label.

          Like Anon below, I also feel that it is incredibly unfair to be told point-blank “you’re a feminist” or “you should be” if parts of the philosophy and movement deeply alienate you. I think it’s incredibly ironic that people in this thread insist on labeling people who have stated they don’t wish to be labelled, or “guilting” them into thinking they MUST accept the label, because of the “struggles of our forebears.”

          • Irena

            Sorry, it won’t let be edit, but I want to elaborate:

            I find your examples about voting, working, pants, etc. equivalent to being told “If you like voting, then you must be a proud American/Capitalist/Insert-label-here.” And that’s infuriating. I do not owe my allegiance to any movement or label if I have since been wronged by it. (Also, saying that women can now work outside the home, and be paid equally, is extremely over-simplistic…but you probably knew that.)

    • Anonymous

      I honestly feel too, that how we identify ourselves, is not up for debate. You can think my beliefs (as very briefly described here) are feminist, but that doesn’t make me one. What I say I am, is what I am. Which is fundamental to my own self perception and that of the world I see.

      Like most feminist issues I read about, the issue of ladies not choosing to call themselves feminists makes me think this: why the hell do you care? Seriously? Not as an attack, but as an exasperated person looking on at these issues – why would anyone care whether I think of myself as a feminist? How in any way does it affect anyone’s life but mine?

      These are just thoughts I wish more people had. In large part because I believe in worrying about oneself and ones own behavior and how it affects others, well before one worries about others behavior and how it affects others.

      • itsy bitsy

        For me, like Liz, saying “I’m a feminist” means solidarity with people working on things I care very much about. And also I think sometimes I try to explain my feminism so as to combat the idea that feminism doesn’t necessarily mean angry/man-hating/humorless.

        But to your point about “I am what I say I am” – Fair. I hope you don’t feel attacked or pushed around with comments here.

        • Anonymous

          Not at all – I’m sure my viewpoint is as confusing to many as many’s viewpoints are confusing to me. But I applaud everyone for having such varied and interesting opinions and for being brave enough to share them!

          I really appreciated everyone’s comments, even when I didn’t agree with them, which is just one small reason I really appreciate APW as a whole.

          • itsy bitsy

            Me too! That’s always the second thing I tell people about APW: The only comment section that I still read on the internet because it’s the only one I’ve found to be a safe, thoughtful space.

      • Nicole

        I can see where you’re coming from. As stated above, it’s a complicated issue like so many areas of life. I look at the Miley Cyrus thing and think, “I get it, but I’m not interested in it.” I’ll let other who are more passionate about that topic take the reigns. I think the point is to be empathetic and realize that in a country that mostly privileges upper-class, traditionally educated, white able-bodied straight males (and all the intersectionality in between), that those not in that group have different experiences.

        I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt people were outright being racist towards me. That said, I acknowledge that there are many people with my same skin color who have had very different experiences with racism. Just because I may not find the racism in a particular law, song, etc., doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist for others; and while I may not agree with their perspective, I’ll fight for their right to be heard.

      • meg

        I care because feminism has what’s gotten women the core rights that I hope all of us hold dear (see: voting). Those rights were fought for at great price, and continue to be fought for in many ways. Saying you’re a feminist is both a thank you to the women who sacrificed greatly to get us what we have, and a way to show solidarity to other women on other important issues.

        For example: you might want to take your husbands name. Great, that’s your right to do so. But I don’t, and that means I live with a decision that’s not widely socially accepted, and I have to constantly fight for it. I also have to deal with enormous social backlash for my kid having my name as part of his name. I want to know that you stand in solidarity with me. That you think I have every right to make that choice, and that society should support it, instead of questioning my loyalty to my family and partner.

        In the same way, say I’m a feminist to stand in solidarity with you. I stand in solidarity with you on your right to vote, to wear pants, to get paid equally, but also issues that may be personally important to you, that are not personally important to me. IE, maybe you’re a rape survivor. I’m not. But I stand with you.

        When women say they are NOT feminists, they’re saying that they think the issues that I struggle with every day (say, my child’s name) are not important enough to them that they’re willing to vocally stand up for them, or take on a label that’s possibly uncomfortable to do so.

        That’s why it’s important to me. I’ve got your back. I want you to have mine, and all other women who are fighting for equality.

        • Anonymous


          Thank you for expounding on your values regarding the word feminism and what it means to you. I wish I could not care about the word and embrace it because you and others I respect do. But I can’t. It means things to me that I do not connect with and to some it means things I don’t agree with. I respect like hell what you’ve said and your attachment to feminism as a movement and maybe a way of life. I feel the same way about equality. I feel the same way about my fellow humans.

          • meg

            But when you say, “I feel the same way about equality. I feel the same way about my fellow humans.” you totally dismiss me, and the feminist movement, and all the men and women who have fought so hard against such obstacles for exactly these rights. It reads like a punch in the gut.

            Feminism IS equality. It IS caring about our fellow humans. Who do you think got us the right to vote? If that’s not equality, what is?

            I respect that you don’t want to call yourself a feminist. But what you just said was the single most upsetting thing I’ve read today. I know you didn’t mean it that way, which is why I’m trying to explain why that is. You dismissed something that I fight for and get shit for, every day, and said you weren’t into it, because you were into *exactly the same thing*, but with a less dirty word attached. You saw what I was doing, but you dismissed it, because I was a feminist. That feels AWFUL.

            Again, for the record: feminism IS equality and caring about our fellow humans. That’s IT.

          • Anonymous

            Wow, my sincere apologies as, of course that was NOT what I intended. I intended, to be inclusive of feminism under the umbrella of equality, which is how I tend to think of these things. To me feminism is a part of equality, an important and integral part, in my opinion.

            Just because I don’t call myself a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t applaud and appreciate the efforts of those who call themselves such. I’m not sure why calling myself a humanist or equalist doesn’t completely imply that, but I can see by your comment to you it was not clearly understood. Which is a shame, mostly because I don’t know how you got to offended based on what I said, but I’ll continue to think about it and try to understand. Regardless, I still feel totally shitty about it and apologize for your feelings being hurt.

            I’ll continue to read with pleasure, I’m sure, the pieces this month. I may not understand or agree with them all, but I’ll still appreciate and respect the points of view they represent.

  • One More Sara

    I never even thought about how using the words “I kept my last name” is so different to using “neither of us changed our names.” I actually love that response, so thanks. I’ll be using it ;) (Sometimes when I’m too lazy to have a Serious Discussion about my name-choice but still want to make my point, I make the joke that I offered my last name to A as well, but he didn’t take me up on the offer [which is totally 100% true])

    • TeaforTwo

      Every time I tell someone (quite seriously) that I offered for my fiance to take my name, they laugh like I am joking. (I am not fucking joking.)

      The upside to them laughing is that I just say “yeah, that’s exactly how absurd it seemed to me to give up my name.”

      The next step will be to tone down the rage in my voice while I say it.

      • Alison O

        I vote for keeping the rage.

      • Jessica B

        This! Every time someone asks me why I’m not changing my last name, I say “Well, he didn’t consider changing his last name to mine either.” And they kind of look at me like “ooh, never though of it like that! Weird.” Or they say “men don’t do that” which gives me all sorts of rage.

        The best was when I was in my dentist office and the hygenist said her husband was really upset when she considered not changing her name to his. He said something along the lines of “well, you’re joining my family, and I’d like you to have the same last name as my family.” So she changed it, not even considering that they were joining each other’s families and it could be a two way street. When I said something like that last sentence to her, she got wide eyed and looked a mix of “you’re going too far, nosy,” and “I wish I had thought of that.”

        The future fight will be explaining why our two children are going to have different last names, because one will get my last name and one will get his and we will be a family, and it will be beautiful and complicated and wonderful. It will also be that he will be as much, if not more, of a hands on parent as I am when we have kids. I find babies to be cute, but boring. I know myself enough that if I don’t have work or something productive to focus on outside of my personal life I will be unhappy. He loves babies and taking care of kids. When the time comes we will probably have a serious financial discussion about how he can either be a full time or part time stay at home parent. It’s going to be great.

        • My best friend’s husband took her last name as a middle name and the clerk at the social security office said, “Men can’t change their names.”

          He raged at her. He really let her have it until she got a supervisor to process the name change for them.

          • One More Sara

            I want to high five that guy.

        • “Or they say “men don’t do that” which gives me all sorts of rage.”
          Oof does that piss me off.
          I did change my name and I was explaining to an IT guy some computer glitch I was having related to my username changing to my married name (why my username had to change I cannot for the life of me explain) and he said “I’m so glad I’m a guy and didn’t have to worry about this.”

          So I of course shot back “What do you mean? Men can change their names too.”

          Cue stammering. F*ck that guy.

      • meg

        Exactly. This is what I say too, and the response.

        The worst part is when people look at David with pity, like I’m stripping him of his basic human dignity, by asking him to take my name. Dignity that I don’t have, apparently, as the lesser sex.

    • CoastalCreature

      I was asked the other day, “And you’re the future Mrs. … ?” And I said, “Mrs. MyLastName” and got a confused look from the gentleman who had posed the question. I chuckled a little and followed-up with “I’m not changing my last name… but my fiance’s name is Mr. HisLastName” to which he was sort of stunned, sputtered something along the lines of oh ok, well congratulations, and promptly said “it was nice to see you…”.

      Loved that moment!

  • Miriam

    This is fun!

    Where I’m fighting:

    Taking a page out of Lean In – I’m working very hard to make my partner a real partner, both in career and at home. It is important to me that I not end up doing significantly more than 50% of household chores just because I might be “better” at them, or because messes “bother” me more. I call my husband out when he gets pissy about the work that’s necessary to keep our house going (dog walks, trash taken out, laundry, dinner, bill paying, etc). When he participates in these chores, I make it a point not to call it “helping,” just the same way a dad taking care of the kids is not “babysitting.” I also make it a point to tell him about the work I do during the day (and of course, ask him about his) – it’s not all about water cooler gossip, but about the projects and the things in my career that I take seriously.

    Where I’m not fighting:

    Off-color jokes (when they’re not in the workplace) about women. For example, why couldn’t Helen Keller drive? Because she was a woman. That shit is hilarious.

    • Rachel

      I’ve been fighting in this area too and it’s made a huge difference in my relationship and also in how Eric perceives feminist issues. He’s fighting the good fight with me now and it’s SO exciting.

    • Alicia

      I really, really like the parts you are fighting for and am promptly adding them to my ‘points to make’ when these things come up.

    • Nicole

      “It is important to me that I not end up doing significantly more than 50% of household chores just because I might be “better” at them, or because messes “bother” me more.”

      This is my situation as well. He grew up in a big family so to him “mess” is a relative term. Throughout our relationship I’ve told him how important a true partnership is to me/us.

      (I accidentally reported your comment. Sorry!)

    • Miriam

      One more joke (I couldn’t resist):

      Question – How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

      Answer – That’s not funny.

      • meg

        I can’t with that joke. I can’t. <3

    • Jacky

      My fiance and I each do 50% of the chores in theory… But not in practice. He believes he should be doing half the work and insists that he IS doing it, but the fact is that he sets the bar for “neatness” a lot lower than I do. I see a pile of dirty laundry on the floor and think, “That needs to be picked up and put in the hamper.” He sees the same pile of laundry and thinks, “Meh, it’s not hurting anybody– I’ll just wait until I run out of clean clothes.” So I still find myself either bugging him to clean up his messes, or just doing it myself. This is extremely frustrating and if anyone has advice about how to get a partner to do his part, when he believes that BOTH of your parts require less effort than they really do, I would very much like to hear it.

      I’m not fighting the battle against off-color jokes too. In my personal life, most of the people I hear making these jokes ARE feminists, and the humor is in assuming that the listener understands the “wrongness” of it all. The only people I’ve known to be super PC when it comes to “women jokes” are those who actually, seriously disrespect women… Because they correctly believe that the real offense is a belief of truth behind the joke.

      • Whitney

        I think you’ll find a lot of solidarity on here with this. A lot of women in hetero relationships battle this. As for myself, this is what I’ve done to open try to manage this problem.

        1. As the one with a lower threshold of dirtiness, I independently figured out what I could “lower my standards” on, and what is non-negotiable. All dishes handled daily – negotiable. Counters wiped down – not negotiable. How frequently laundry gets washed – negotiable. Folding of laundry – not negotiable. And so on.

        2. Then it’s time for the heart to heart. This all stands on an existing mutual respect. I explained that living in a place that I am uncomfortable is seriously impacting me. It hinders my ability to enjoy my own time and enjoy my time with you. My fella, loves and respects me, so of course he wants me to be zen and happy and he feels bad that he contributed unknowingly to this. So then I say this is what I think I need in order to feel better about all this and I lay out my non – negotiables. In the event that he can’t wrap his brain around that you are doing more and how much time you spend doing it, you can step things up and tell him for a week to write down everything he does around the house, how long it takes and what the partner is doing during that time. you’ll be doing the same. At the end of the week, you compare notes. Most of the time, keeping score might not be the best idea, but if he won’t take you at your word then data collection is the next step.

        3. Third step was to make a plan together. Like what each of us loath to do and what we don’t mind taking on. I think this part it’s really important to have both parties engaged, in that you want to avoid setting up a parent-child dynamic in any direction. Everyone needs to be heard. Sometimes talking about it is enough. Sometimes you need an explicit check list. My guy asks every Friday night, “So what do we need to get done this weekend?” and then we talk it over and make a game plan. Getting step three started and maintained is the hardest step, I think. You have to figure out what works.

        4. Step 4 is yet to be accomplished, but my next goal is to impress on him how much mental energy I use to organize and plan things, such as housework, and how this is also unfair. For example, life has been stressful for me recently so a few weekends ago we didn’t get much done b/c I wasn’t initiating the plans to get things done. He is fully capable personality-wise/neurologically to do this, but it doesn’t occur to him to spontaneously do these things. So he makes a comment about how we need to get some housework done b/c the chaos is not helping me manage my stress, and he wants me to feel less stressed etc. I look at him with a raised eyebrow, and say, “Yes that would be nice, but I don’t have the energy to plan and initiate this, so it won’t get done.” It’s like he was hit over the head with a 2 x 4 he was so shocked. I said, “Your doer is just as capable as mine, you just need to apply it to all areas.”

        • Jacky

          Great advice– will definitely try some of this out, especially #2 and #3. I’ve also been experiencing some of what you described in #4, since I also cook dinner every night and do all of the shopping and meal planning. I’ve said things similar to “If I don’t do this, it won’t get done,” but admittedly in a much meaner way. He usually says, “That’s not true! I’ll do it, you’ll see!” Lo and behold, it never gets done.

          Out of all the personal-is-political feminist topics that come up in our house, this is definitely the one that makes me the most uncomfortable. Probably because a lot of my and his family STILL believe chores are “women’s work,” even if they won’t say it directly. If I bring up this topic with them, their response is usually something to the effect of “Boys will be boys!” Blech. No, grown-ups need to act like grown-ups and take care of their stuff.

      • MessyM

        Solidarity 100%: This happens to me every day. First of all, neither of us (my fiance nor myself) are neat freaks, and we’ve both known it all along. But living together, I do far more of the household chores, and it’s not because I’m expected to or even WANT to, I just have a lower threshold for when things are “unacceptable”.

        What I seem to have a bigger issue with is my own feelings of guilt if someone drops by and our place is a mess (just btw, not like rats and rotting food messy) or if I can’t find something in our junk drawer. Because I know he sure as hell doesn’t feel the same guilt. If I say anything about feeling that way, he’s surprised because we just don’t have those kinds of pressures between us either way. Sometimes this interaction really pisses me off because it exposes just how deep the misogynistic expectations of “womanhood” run in the psyche of a young woman (and in my personal opinion especially those of us from the south) even if you have actively fought against those expectations. So I’m fighting against the guilt associated with being a good housekeeper and not projecting that guilt onto my partner. Anyone else?

    • Where I’m Fighting

      I’m a nerd who happens to blog and it seems that the discourse concerning misogyny in nerd/geek culture is approaching a fevered pitch (just as feminism goes ‘mainstream’..hmmm).

      Anyhow, I write about women in geekdom, specifically lady gamers, with increasing frequency as the more the subject gets analyzed, the more likely it’ll be that we recognize the issues at hand and move to combat them.


      Where I’m Not

      Trying to eschew certain handicrafts just because they’re often considered ‘traditionally female.’ Baking and sewing are awesome (and occasionally yield deliciousness!)

      • Yes! The shared housework one is a big one for me too. I’m actually worse at cleaning than my husband, which makes it easier for me to not take on more than my fair share. But I find I have had to spend some time NOT chastising myself for not wanting to be a cleaner/homemaker or being naturally good at that. It is totally fine that I suck at laundry and floor mopping. The fact that I have to remind myself of this is less cool. I doubt there are many men out there telling themselves that it’s okay not to have an instinct for floor cleaning.

    • Jessica

      Yes – I love this. Because at the end of the day, I can lean into my career more only if my partner is really an equal partner at home. So far he has been really supportive of my career. We are planning our wedding now, and during our wedding “visioning” exercise we wrote down what we wanted to feel like on our wedding day. Among many happy feelings, I wrote down “like I didn’t do all the work.”

      We’ll see how this goes, but I am considering setting the stage for the roughly equal division I want at home starting with the wedding planning. In that, we both do roughly half of the work. This likely will mean a smaller, more simple wedding with less “stuff” but hey, this is the start of how we’re going to approach things together in our married life.

      How have people done the wedding planning, steeped in gender stereotypes, together with their partner?

      • AUDREY

        I have tried to do the wedding planning equally with my partner, but it’s very difficult in that the more people who become involved (family, vendors, etc), it seems like the more people want to exclude him from all the planning! This is one of those things I’m fighting.

        • CeeBeeUK

          Yes! Why do the hotel people need to meet me? Our hotel block is so far down the list of things I care about.

      • Pippa

        The wedding planning is tough because we mostly fit into the stereotypical gendered roles. I do 90% of the work, and he gives the okay on all the final decisions and steps in for extra help if I need him.
        I have to keep telling myself that this is not because I’m a woman and he is a man, but because I am much more creative, have more free time and genuinely enjoy things like ‘details’. Whereas he couldn’t care less about the organisation, as long as the day itself is wonderful. And he also knows that this would have a higher chance of happening if he left it mostly to me.
        So this is an ongoing thing for me. I also work really hard with suppliers to make sure that they view their prospective (us) clients as a partnership, and not just me on my own. And a small part of me wishes he was super involved if only so that we could outwardly buck the stereotype.

      • Katie E

        My (now husband) and I shared the main tasks for our wedding- key choices were venue, food, drink and music. Most other stuff (read- knitted bunting), he left me to it but was always happy to support and give a sensible perspective. On the wedding morning- he and his mates put up all of my hard-crafted details while I lounged around having my hair done. I think he had the much more stressful wedding day!

    • meg

      This partnership fight turns out to be more key than you think it’s going to be, after kids, I’m finding. Kids (at least biological kids) stack the deck. I carried the baby, I gave birth and had to recover, I breast feed my life away, I’m the one people judge when they hear about daycare.

      The ONLY reason we’re making it is that David was probably doing 60% before the baby came, so now I’m doing maybe 65%. If I’d been doing 60% before hand, I’d be doing about 85%. My career would be in trouble, but our relationship would be in SERIOUS trouble, to be honest.

  • Gwen

    I’m a feminist most forcefully on the public policy side of the issue. I believe that to truly advance issues that impact women the most because we have the reproductive system that we do (maternity leave, affordable child care, equal pay, etc.), we need to have feminist women AND men. Because the thing is, baking a human and caring for it with your boobs when it’s an infant takes time. And that’s time that’s not spent policy making or advocating or pressuring the powers that be. So while women do what we need to do to advance the human race, we need feminist men to take over every so often and keep the momentum going.

    • meg


  • Abi

    This seems like a good place to admit that I didn’t even realise that I was a feminist until I started reading APW a couple of years ago! I think I was one of those readers whom Meg mentions believed in the core tenants of the feminist movement but didn’t define myself as a feminist because I thought being a feminist meant you had to be man-hating and despise pink etc. I’m now happy to define myself as a feminist… now that I have a better idea of what I mean by that!

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to this month, especially now that I know I’m a feminist :)

    • Me too! And I didn’t change my name, and stuff. I’m excited for lots of learning this month.

  • Rachel

    Ah, there’s so much to love about this post!!

    I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember. Lately, though, I’ve been questioning that. That feminism has a race problem is not news, but it’s something I’m personally having a harder time dealing with lately. I tend to be a “stay and fight, stay and make things better” type of person, but I’m frustrated by the ongoing exclusion of voices of color in mainstream feminist outlets. A lot of the response to #solidarityisforwhitewomen was another nail in the coffin for me.

    Where I’m fighting: reproductive rights, access to both better health care and healthier lifestyles, shining a light on rape culture, an end to online misogyny, the end of the whole “waiting for a proposal” thing, and an end to sexist bullshit stereotypes that are everywhere.

    Where I’m not fighting: in real life (or online, really), enough. I need to go out and do shit and get my hands dirty and write about all of these issues more.

    • Anonymous

      Rachel, I hope the issue of racism and feminism is something you’ll be writing about this month. When I started reading the commentary about the racist tilt of Miley Cyrus’ performance on the VMA’s, I was and still am completely flabbergasted at the whole concept.

      But I’m even more so, disheartened by yours and others comments that say the feminist community fosters racism and that minority women’s voices aren’t heard or given credit. I hope I’m not the only person who is filled with disbelief and upset that this is happening because it does seem to go so solidly against the tenets of feminism and equality. I’d be so interested to hear more about this and how it has affected your own connection with feminism.

      And thanks for as always being an intelligent and emotional voice on important subjects!

    • Abby Mae

      Oops! I reported this when I meant to “Exactly!” it! But since I’m now commenting then I’d just like to write that I definitely agree with you, Rachel, on #solidarityisforwhitewomen. Personally, it’s been interesting for me to see the conversations that have started because of it.

      It’ll be interesting to hear your perspective on all of it. =)

    • Nicole

      Feminism, like my love of hip hop, is a complicated concept. I believe in reproductive rights and fighting against rape culture and misogyny, though I’m not in the trenches as much as I feel like I could/should be. Sometimes I worry if my actions are bringing down the cause. I shave my legs, I like cooking, and I love mascara. How much of that is just my personality and how much is influenced by society and culture? As a woman of color, does straightening my hair conform to a standard form of beauty or do I just like my hair straight? I think it’s important to remember that we’re all byproducts of the environment we grow up in, but there’s also room for personal choice. It’s simple to say that a woman who changed her last name and is a stay-at-home mom may not a feminist, but as so many people have shown on this thread, we’re all fighting the good fight in our own way and on the issue that are important to us.

      So I believe in intelligent and respectful conversations, education, personal reflection, and choice. This means that after much discussion, research, and meditation, I’m going to change my name next year: Nicole His last name My last name a la Jada Pinkett Smith. He won’t be changing his and I’m okay with that. I’ve looked at all the examples and choices, and though it might be a stone cast for patriarchy, it’s my decision and I own it.

    • Jess

      Just a little internet fistbump to let you know that someone appreciates the contributions you make *in spite* of the nonsense you have to deal with. I hope you “stay and fight” and keep labeling yourself a feminist. :) I, personally, love reading what you have to say. They’re some of my favorite posts.

    • meg

      Yeah, please write about this, Rachel :)

      I feel like the word Feminism is all we’ve GOT, so if we allow it to be narrowly defined, or walk away from it when people are (cough) being assholes, then we all loose.

  • AG

    I am so excited for this month’s topic, especially in a (mostly) wedding blog. I am a feminist, and will be having a pretty traditional wedding (as traditional as our blended-religion-but-mostly-secular art museum wedding can be), and that stirs up a lot of weird issues. There are a ton of things that are taken for granted in an engagement, wedding, or marriage that are icky to me in theory, but become more complicated when it’s real life. For example, the idea of a father giving a daughter away is offensive to me, but when it comes to my wedding, I’d like to have my dad by my side. I love him, he’s always been a great dad, and neither of us would have any thought that he was “giving” me to my husband. So yeah, that concept of a feminist not always making feminist choices seems especially apt at this time.

    • I surprised my parents by asked them both to walk me down the aisle. I think they were touched. They really weren’t expecting it. My mom was afraid to go against tradition so I pointed out that it’s tradition in Jewish weddings and my best friend had been walked down the aisle by both her parents. We also didn’t have any of the “giving away” language. There was no “Who presents this woman to be married” stuff. My parents dropped me off at the altar without any words.

      • Jessica B

        Mine too. My mom was surprised, my self identified feminist dad was not.

    • I fought with the “who’s walking me down the aisle” issue too. I really wanted it to just be my dad, but I didn’t want to do it as him “giving me away.” Especially considering my husband absolutely did not ask his permission (which he was hurt by, but eventually he came around…after I fussed at him for it).

      We ended up cutting all of the dialog relating to ‘giving me away’ from our ceremony, so my father walked me down, we hugged, and he took his seat. I think it worked out alright.

      • jashshea

        This just made me realize one of my hot buttons – Asking the dad’s permission. Makes me cringe. What does my dad have to do with our marriage? Do I get to ask your dad if you can marry me?

        Phew, anyway. I wanted both parents to walk me down the aisle, but my Mom wouldn’t hear of it and wanted my dad to have the moment. She’s pretty traditional in that way. I never thought of it as “giving away,” rather it was someone to lean on (and someone to temper y speed-walking) because I had no idea how I’d react to the moment.

        • Amy

          One of my favourite things about getting engaged was that when J told my parents he was thinking of proposing, my dad’s first reaction was “I hope you’re not about to ask for my permission!”

          Not that dad didn’t support the whole thing (he then spent weeks with J in his workshop making my engagement ring), but just that he absolutely doesn’t support the idea that his children are (or have ever been) his to give away.

        • Rebekah

          (super late reply)
          APW has really made me think about what traditions mean to me. At my wedding, I’m going to have the pastor ask “Who raised this woman to be wife to this man?” instead of the typical “Who gives this woman?” stuff. I am also going to offer to my in-laws the same phrase for my fiance.

          Because to me, it’s important to have acknowledgement that I didn’t come to be who I am on my own, and it’s also important to acknowledge that I am not property.

      • AG

        My fiance did ask for both my parents’ blessings, since it was important to him to do so. My dad said something along the lines of, “That’s really not up to me, but good luck.” My mom just burst into tears.

        I’m considering having both my parents walk me down the aisle because I think it’s nice, and it is Jewish tradition. I guess I’m undecided because my parents are divorced, and because of that I tend to like to honor them individually rather than as a unit. Definitely agree that we will not have any “giving away” language in the ceremony.

        Overall, it’s not a huge deal to me. It’s just one of many examples in which my feminist beliefs are only one of the factors that drive my personal decisions.

        • Another option is to have them seated in the front row and stop for a hug on your way back down the aisle after getting married.

          We paused to touch our parents’ feet at that time and I found it worked out well and didn’t interrupt the flow of the exit as much as I thought it might.

      • Molly

        It never even occurred to me that the “who gives this woman” stuff would have a place in our ceremony. I was dead set against it because I thought it was antiquated and anti-woman. Our (very progressive) officiant encouraged me to talk to my dad about it. It turned out that it was incredibly important to my dad, but not for the reasons that I expected. My dad was ill for much of my young life. For him there was much more to the words than tradition — saying them represented a victory over the worst time in his life. It ended up being really meaningful for us both.

    • Jenn

      I had my dad walk me down the aisle – I asked both my parents to do it, but my mum didn’t want to, and that was okay with me. Instead of giving me away, the officiant asked my dad “Who supports this man and this woman in this marriage?” We liked this question much better. And it was a suggested option by our officiant!

    • meg

      I’d love for you (or anyone!) to write about feminism and planning issues for this month. We have fewer people on staff who can write about planning in the present tense, and feminist issues and wedding planning is one of the two reasons I started this blog. (Other reason: the way money was discussed in relation to weddings.)

      I too did a lot of things that can be argued to have patriarchal roots: say, wearing a white dress (though no, that’s not about purity, it was historically about wealth). But then there were other things we didn’t do: both parents walked me down the aisle, for example. Bottom line is that’s its complicated complicated personal stuff, and I want to make sure we have plenty of time to talk about it this month.

      • Sara

        Both of my parents are walking me down the aisle (I’m culturally Jewish), but I’ll walk the last 1/4 of the way on my own. And in fact, it was my mom who first brought up the idea, citing her own 1971 wedding (and walking those final steps by herself) as a precedent.

      • luna lovegood

        Cathartic bullet points on the ways wedding planning is giving me feminist chest pains:
        – when my mom/his mom/his grandmother/my grandmother ask me what I want them to wear, without ever asking my fiance his opinion on anything wedding-related,
        – when we ask people for input on wedding things and the response is “whatever the bride wants,”
        – similarly, wedding-related media that only ever refers to brides (looking at you, Bed, Bath & Beyond “Bridal and Gift Registry”),
        – when his mother reflects happily on how much money my fiance makes because that means I can stay home with future kids,
        – the number of times I get asked “how’s the wedding planning going” (at least once a day) vs. the number of times my fiance gets asked (fairly sure it’s zero, after 10 months of being engaged),
        – jokes about marriage turning women into nagging harpies and men into beleaguered souls, and
        – the numerous times I am asked about a bridal shower despite my adamant assurances that I really dislike being the center of attention, no matter how small the group.
        I know a couple of these come from a place of love, but they’re still stressful. And now I’m going to drown my sorrows in a salted caramel-covered brownie.

      • AG

        I’ve actually been considering this! It’s always been easy for me to say I’m a feminist, and to vote for and support policies that I believe are feminist, but it’s quite a different thing to apply feminist ideas to day-to-day life.

  • Shiri

    Despite seeing it throughout my childhood, I don’t think I realized how embattled it could be to be a feminist in liberal America until I started working with the military, and one of my military students said “a feminist? But you have a boyfriend!” and that was just the beginning. I should have known it earlier – I have a very clear memory of my grandfather telling my state champion athlete sister that women’s sports were bullshit, at her high school graduation dinner.

    Where I’m fighting: rape culture, sexual assault in the military culture (maybe I should write about this for this month….?) , name changing, the male gaze, and reproductive rights.

    Where I wish I was fighting: cultural portrayal of lesbians as erotica for straight men, because it makes me see red and is so very destructive and indicative of so many other things.

    Where I’m not fighting: shaving, makeup, dresses, etc.

    • Jessica B

      Please write about women in the military and the culture, rape or otherwise! I find the differing opinions of what is a problem and what’s not to be really interesting and telling.

    • Becca

      Your fights are my fights too! I do hope you write a post on them.

    • meg

      How embattled it is to be a feminist in America. As someone who began being called a feminazi in the FOURTH GRADE, I have a real feeling of how isolating it feels to fight for women’s equality. And that’s why it matters to me that women identify as feminists.

      I’m out there being vocal about your rights. When you decide to sit back and let me get called a feminazi (as a little bitty fourth grader), because you’re just not into feminism? That hurts, big time.

      • Shiri

        Yes! And this is my answer to the question above, as to why it matters to feminists when a woman who believes in equality doesn’t call herself a feminist.

  • Anon

    I have always considered myself an ardent feminist, and to me, part of membership in the feminist community is respect for choice in all things. Therefore, I was surprised to see name *preservation* (rather than “support for a variety of name-related decisions”) categorically presented as a feminist principle worth fighting for, and I found the line ” I want all women to keep their last names” troubling.

    I chose to adopt my husband’s name for personal and logistical reasons that (in my view) have no bearing on my commitment to women’s equality. Emphasis on *choice.*

    • Anonymous

      “I chose to adopt my husband’s name for personal and logistical reasons that (in my view) have no bearing on my commitment to women’s equality. Emphasis on *choice.*” – Yeah, this sums me up too. I NEEDED to get rid of my maiden name for personal reasons. The idea that a feminist (which I do not consider myself) would think it had anything to do with a political choice, is kind of annoying.

      I was also very curious about how one can remain non-judgmental and still feel all women should make a specific choice about keeping their name. However, I feel Meg is usually extremely good at being fair and balanced, so I hope we get a better explanation of what she meant because I’m curious to know and understand more.

      I’m also honestly ok with someone feeling like they want to change the world’s mind about something. So if that’s Meg’s goal, even though I may not agree with the goal, I applaud the desire to make real change for what one believes is the “better”.

      • mira

        Guys, you’re missing the point.

        Like you, I changed my name when I got married. I am under no illusions that it was a feminist choice — it was a personal choice. For Meg, it sounds like it was partially a political choice. She isn’t saying that changing our names makes us bad feminists or unwelcome here — just that it makes us different than her.

        APW is a place that is lets feminists like us speak up, for which I feel grateful — but that doesn’t mean Meg has to personally certify each choice we make as “good” or “right” or especially, “feminist.”

        For me, changing my name came down to personal issues. I choose to make a feminist ruckus by pushing hard professionally in a male-dominated field, insisting on 50- 50 sharing of household and (someday) childrearing duties with my partner, rabblerousing for affordable daycare in my crazy-expensive state, and committing to raising daughters and sons who are even more radical feminists than I.

        • Rachel

          I’m really glad we’re having a discussion about “choice feminism” because it drives me bananas. Unfortunately, some of our choices reinforce a social system that marginalizes and demeans women, whether we intend to or not, and other choices subvert that system. Saying “it’s my choice, and I respect other women’s ability to make different choices, therefore my choice is a feminist one” is a cop-out because it allows us to avoid inspecting the larger implications of our decisions. But as Meg and others have said, when we make a choice that is not a feminist one, we don’t get our feminist card revoked. We can’t be expected to fight all the fights all of the time.

          For example: I shave my legs and armpits, and by doing so I’m reinforcing the idea that women’s bodies are disgusting in their natural state and need to be modified in all sorts of ways to be appealing to men, whereas men’s bodies are generally ok as-is. I can’t say “I’m not doing it for men, I’m doing it for me because I like my legs smooth” because I’m aware that my own preference for smooth legs is simply an internalization of society’s demeaning norms about women’s bodies. And I won’t hide behind “choice” rhetoric because the women’s movement is not about freeing some women to make the choice to shave their legs (or change their names when they get married) and freeing other women to make other choices. It’s about eradicating the underlying objectification of women that supports the leg-shaving norm, which I’m implicitly supporting by shaving my legs.

          I have to own that shaving my legs is not a feminist choice. But I don’t have to feel bad about it every day. And when I have kids and I can’t bear to explain to them why mommy has to take the hair off her legs and daddy doesn’t, maybe I’ll decide this is a fight I’m ready to take on.

          So I won’t judge any woman for making a choice that isn’t a feminist one, but I may judge a little those women who expect unqualified support for antifeminist choices simply because it was their “choice.”

          • Breck

            This is my only response:


            Also, BRAVO.

          • Anon

            I get what you’re saying, but then who gets to be the ultimate authority on what constitutes a feminist choice?

          • Lindsey d.

            “Daddy takes the hair off his face,” perhaps?

          • meg

            Nobody does. Though it is pretty important for all of us to look at choices through a historical lens, not just a in-this-moment-lens.

            But that’s one of the points I make in the piece. Your feminism may look different than mine. That’s ok.

          • I feel like I’m in an odd place with leg shaving (I do it, and thankyou for your explanation of why it is an issue with feminism, as it is the best I’ve ever heard) – I hang out in the aquatic sports field, ie, one of the only places where men shaving body hair is mainstream and non-erotic. It’s kind of an odd feeling.

      • “I was also very curious about how one can remain non-judgmental and still feel all women should make a specific choice about keeping their name. However, I feel Meg is usually extremely good at being fair and balanced, so I hope we get a better explanation of what she meant because I’m curious to know and understand more”

        This. I was just waiting for someone else to say it in a polite and constructive way, thank you anon!

        • ANDREA

          The other bit (maybe) here is that the wording is very particular, in this whole section. She says “I want”, not “I think women should”.

          Every time I see a friend change her name on Facebook, or say “I can’t wait to be Mrs. HisLastName!” I get a bit sad. I don’t get judgey, I’m not tramping on their happiness, I don’t think they should have done anything in particular. But I do get a little sad.

    • Meryl

      I think this might have something to do with the fact that Meg is not actually a “Choice Feminist”, as you seem to be. She explains, “To break things down a bit, choice feminism is based in the idea that the women’s movement’s goal was to allow women to have choices, and hence, any choice a woman makes is a feminist one. …But, at the end of the day, I’m not a choice feminist. I’m not anywhere close. I think feminists can hold a wide variety of personal and political beliefs. I think that feminists can make a wide variety of personal decisions. But I don’t think that all women’s decisions and beliefs are feminist ones, and *I think that’s perfectly okay*.”

      Personally, I think there are some things worth discussing – even worth trying to convince someone of. As an extreme example, some people choose to believe that evolution is false. I would hope I could convince them otherwise through rational conversations, defense of my theory, explanations, research, etc. Perhaps Meg feels similarly about last names? Although I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t judge a friend if they chose to maintain a different opinion.

      Meg, please correct me if I’m wrong on any of this?

      P.S. – not trying to start an evolution debate with anyone here! Just using it as an example. :)

      • Stacey

        Thanks for emphasizing Meg’s discussion of “Choice Feminism”. I had never heard that term before and was worried that if I didn’t understand it, I didn’t understand feminism. Honestly, the women’s studies navel-gazing makes feminism feel inaccessible to me. While I was in engineering school, I actually dropped women’s studies because the first class made me want to vomit. It was taught by a guy who intimated that our grades would probably be better if we spent some time in his office out of class, talking about his favorite subject with him. I just went back to my engineering classes and did the same things the guys did, and got the same goddamn grades they did too. I’m more into the practical than the theoretical.

        My mom changed her last name to my dad’s when she got married, but she had only sisters, so she gave me her maiden name as my middle name, to keep the family name alive. When I got married, I changed my last name to my husband’s, but kept my mom’s maiden name as my middle name. I felt like I was keeping the lady-name and just exchanging one manly-name for another. I love and respect my dad, but his last name translates to “church-goer”, which is NOT a good description of me at all!

        I feel like the big decisions will come when we have kids. He has some middle-name traditions in his family that won’t work with what my mom started.

        • meg

          I dropped out of women’s studies too. Don’t confuse me not being a choice feminist with me being into feminist navel gazing. I’m not. It’s cool if you are, but I don’t happen to be.

      • I can’t break down what Meg does or doesn’t feel for you here, but yes, I think a few folks in the comment thread are getting confused.

        The site is run as a mostly choice feminist site. An example of what this means: you write a post about being a feminist homemaker. We love it, so we run it! It’s a good opinion. Does that mean that everyone on staff believes that staying home (or not changing your last name) is a feminist choice? No. And that’s 100% allowed, because everyone here is allowed their own opinion on what feminism is/isn’t to them.

        Meg’s feminist battleground is getting women to keep their last names. Join that specific fight or don’t, but it’s not something that has bearing on “what is a feminist choice” debate because they’re separate discussions.

    • I (emphatically) agree with this comment. I am a feminist (with a degree in women’s studies, even!) and for me this WAS my feminist choice.

      I chose to change my name primarily because my father was emotionally abusive, and my mother finally got up the courage to leave him not long before I got married. She changed her name back to her maiden name, and I had zero desire to continue bearing the name of that man; I would much rather spend the rest of my life identifying as a family member of a man who did offer me unconditional love – my husband. When it comes down to it, in American culture, most surnames are men’s names, and the choice is WHICH man you want to connect yourself to. Maybe in a few generations, that will change.

      I’m glad to see the opportunity to keep discussing things like this, though.

      • One More Sara

        What gets under my skin about changing your name bc you don’t want to be tied or connected to your father in any way, why did you have to wait to be married to change your name? Why didn’t you take your mother’s maiden name with her? If a person wants to cut all ties with a certain family member, I don’t think that choice should necessarily be attached to marriage.

        Personally, I am less concerned with everyone keeping the names they were born with, but it would be nice to have the name changes be more equal between genders (men taking their wives names! huzzah!) and having more women giving THEIR name (not their FATHER’s name, their OWN f-ing name) to their children.

        • Rachel

          I think this is a valid question, and I think the answer is, “Most women don’t think about it.” If I had to do it all again, that’s what I would do…my mom, brother, and I would have all gotten new names (my brother has a different last name). It honestly didn’t really occur to me but I think had I not gotten in a relationship when I did, it would have and that’s what I would have done on like my 25th bday or something.

          I COMPLETELY agree with the statement, “it would be nice to have the name changes be more equal between genders” but my question is…why does this keep falling on the women? Instead of asking “Why do so many women change their names?” and forcing women to defend their choices, why aren’t we asking “Why do so few men change their names?” and ask THEM about it. I feel like that’s the question we should be asking more of.

          • One More Sara

            I know what you mean with not thinking about it. I had my son when I was 21 and I gave him my now husband’s last name without thinking twice, bc I thought when the time came, I would change mine too. 4 years later I’m kicking myself for not trying to come up with another option. And I totally agree that more men should take their wives’ names. I seriously asked my guy to do it, but it wasn’t something he felt he could do (which, I don’t blame him. I didn’t want to change mine either).

          • Hannah K

            exactly. this is where I’m at with a lot of issues right now. it sucks, for example, that we can’t make choices about personal adornment, like makeup, on a level playing field because men aren’t socially “allowed” to wear it. I want my love of electric blue mascara to not be mistaken for a statement about conformity to traditional gender norms, but it will be until wearing makeup is a coed thing.

          • Marie

            Plus, I know it is true for some states that it can be legally tricky to change your name when you’re under 18, not to mention you have to cough up some money for it – whereas when you get married you can change it for free!

            PLUS, I think the stigma of not talking about DV/shitty family dynamics would make it hard for girls and women to change their name. Not a situation I’ve been in, but I can imagine that if I changed my name without a marriage and everyone asked why, it would suck to answer those questions all the time.

          • Abi

            This is sort of related to why some people change their name in the first place, I think. At least, it’s kind of why I did. I just didn’t think about it far enough in advance. I didn’t realise how upset I was at giving up my own name until the wedding was almost upon us. I was also sad at the symbolism of leaving my dad as we are very close so that’s not a particularly feminist argument for keeping my name. I also know absolutely no-one who didn’t change their name!

            My feelings on it are complex – I am pleased to be married, excited for us both to share the same name, sad that the cultural narrative dictated that it should be his, sad to leave my dad and his name, sad to give up my name that ties me to my own cultural heritate and is fairly indicative of my religion to take on his which is a different heritage and religion.

            Nevertheless, it’s done now and I’ve mostly made my peace with it. I’ve kept my own name in my sport where I am known nationally as Abi Mylastname so that is a small compromise and it’s something that’s very much part of who I am. It’s also practical as no-one would know who Abi Hislastname was!

        • Sarah NCtoPA

          No, it shouldn’t be attached to marriage but when you go to the DMV, social security office, workplace, health and retirement benefit centers, credit card companies, banks, etc they need some kind of documentation about *why* you’re changing your name. I imagine if this person changed her name for the reason you listed above she would need a court order. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of lessening the bureaucratic hassle. Not saying this is OK but it’s the reality. And yes, I’ve heard about states not allowing married men to change their name and this gets under my skin.

        • Kate

          Legally changing your name outside the usual marriage paperwork can be expensive and time-consuming, to answer your question.

        • Jen G

          A name change takes a lengthy and expensive legal process. That is reason enough to wait. Many people don’t have the knowledge or resources to change their names until the “free” marriage change. If you have enough money and familiarity with the legal process (i.e. come from a place of privilege).

        • These questions frustrate me to no end because honestly, if someone’s changing her name to distance herself from an abusive relative really what right does anyone have to question that decision? And there can be whole messes of emotional and family dynamics. Who, after dealing with an abusive family member, really needs the outside world questioning just how they want to handle that situation?

          It’s not that the questions aren’t valid. But if there’s a family member who is abusive enough that someone would change her name, chances are the dynamics are a lot more complicated than just “why didn’t you change your name earlier?” can answer.

      • meg

        Oh, I agree with you here. People in my family made the same feminist choice for the same feminist reasons. I think you can change your name and have it be a feminist choice, in some circumstances.

        That said, just because there are people who have feminist reasons to change their name does NOT mean that I think women changing their names to men *on the whole* is a feminist choice. If you want the same family name, why doesn’t your husband change his? Answer that question honestly, and you get to the inequality on the issue.

    • Sarah NCtoPA

      Exactly–one’s name is a most personal choice. Our birth names were not chosen by us and changing our name upon marriage (or not) is the opportunity for us to make a decision about one part of our identity. I chose to change my last name–as have most of the women among my friends, family, and husband’s family. So I suppose I made this decision for cultural reasons–and the fact that I do want people to know that I got married. And we plan to keep my original last name alive through the naming of our children.

      • B (the other one)

        As long as family names are past down through the paternal side, it doesn’t exactly matter if you change your name or not. The name you grew up with is your dad’s last name, unless your family chose to use your mother’s last name or you have it hyphenated. Theres no point arguing about it whether or not its feminist, because somewhere up the tree it came from the paternal side.

        And I have every intention of changing my last name when I married, because I can not wait to shed the last name of the man who abused me and my family growing up. I’m glad that I’m able to change it, if it was a cultural norm to keep your maiden names I’d be stuck with the reminder of abuse and relation for the rest of my life.

        • Liz Scheier

          “As long as family names are past down through the paternal side, it doesn’t exactly matter if you change your name or not.” Well, not exactly. No matter where it came from, it’s still the name you grew up with and lived (some portion of) your adult life with. It may have started as your father’s name, but it’s now also YOUR name.

          • I understand owning your given name. To me, though, by this same argument, If I choose to take my partner’s name, then live day in and day out with it for many years to come, isn’t that also now MY name (no matter where it came from)?

            I have no further point- naming discussions always make me depressed, because I feel like every option I have is the wrong one- this particular argument (it’s not my father’s name, it’s mine) just never convinces me.

          • meg

            Of course if you change your name it becomes your name.

        • TeaforTwo

          I hear this argument a lot in conversations about name change, but I don’t buy it. It seems to boil down to, “patriarchy: what are you going to do?”

          I did get my name from my father. When I was named, it may have been based on tradition and not feminism, but it’s been my name for nearly 30 years, and I like to think I’ve done something with it. It’s mine now, and I’m not giving it up.

          Definitely names have a lot to do with where you come from and where you got them. And I am fortunate in that my family of origin is a good place to be from, and one that I am happy to be affiliated with. I understand the desire to change a name that has negative associations, but like One More Sara, I don’t understand why marriage is the only opportunity for that. Why does it have to be about choosing which other person to be named after, and not about making something of our own identities?

          • B (the other one)

            I identify more with radical feminism, so in my eyes you are either taking your dads name or your husbands name. Yes, you can identify it as yours but it follows the patriarchal side of the family. Having equality with names would mean our culture has a more varied examples of naming, from people choosing the mother’s last names, to hyphenating, to keeping original family names to choosing to change your name to your new partners, or creating your own.

            In my comment further down, I said that if I hadn’t of known my partner and I were heading to marriage, I would have changed my last name. I’m still debating changing my first name since its also a tie to the family that has disowned me but I feel like I identify more with my first name. Names are such tricky things, sometimes no matter which way you look there are compromises.

          • meg

            I’m with you on that. I really want us to have more varied patterns of naming. But again, we have to start somewhere. Sure, I got my dad’s name not my moms. But then it became my name, and I got the choice to pass it down to my kids, so I did that.

        • meg

          No, I disagree. My dad does not own the last name any more than I own it. I was given it at birth, it’s my name, and I’m choosing to pass it down to my children.

          Change has to start somewhere.

      • Laura C

        If it’s a purely personal choice, why are like 99% of the people who make this choice women? Why do more than 90% of women make this choice if it’s just personal? Why is it that we hear a lot of women saying they’re changing their names because they didn’t have a good relationship with their fathers and it’s their father’s name after all, but men with lousy relationships with their fathers are like “it’s my name, too”?

        Take your husband’s name if you like. But don’t pretend it’s something you did because feminism gave you choices and you’re taking advantage of them to best express who you are.

        • One More Sara

          FUCK YES IT’S MY NAME TOO. If women never take ownership of THEIR names, of COURSE every name is going to be paternal of some sort bc by this logic, women are only carrying around the name of the most closely related male. gross. But if I gave my son MY last name, then that is a maternal last name.

          *fist bump laura c*

          • Well stated, Sara!
            This attitude of we are carrying around another male’s name whether it’s our father’s name or our mother’s father’s name just feels icky to me. I find this argument disturbing. Let’s own our names, whomever we may share them with.

            I have no problem with women making decisions about their names whether they decide to change them, not change them, or create new ones. However, as long as it is primarily women changing their names (which women have been during for generations) and furthermore, it is still the expected default choice then it’s not the feminist choice. When men change their names, it is a feminist choice because it is going against the grain. It is expected that they will keep them and the whole family will bear his name. They get as much flak for changing their names as women did when they started keeping theirs. (nowadays, i think it depends on the area one is. some women do get flak for not changing their names and some don’t.)

            I personally would like to see more equality with name changing. I would like to see more men changing their names so that it isn’t ninety percent of women changing theirs. I’d like it to be no big deal for a man to change his name, for a woman to keep her name, or for a woman to change her name *because it is not the expected the thing to do* (because in my vision of the world all options are acceptable and not a big deal and everyone has these discussions and decides what to do and the courts make it easy for whatever you decide).

            Having said all of that, I don’t think that every choice a woman makes has to be a feminist one. That would be exhausting and not every decision should be made with the society/politics/etc in mind. We are all individuals and we have to do what is right for each of us. If we all are fighting on different fronts, the fronts we feel passionate about, then all the fronts are covered, which makes up for the areas that we are not necessarily covering ourselves.

          • One More Sara

            Oh I totally agree that in my last-name-utopia-world, all 3 options are equally varied and accepted. I think that starts with women taking ownership of their names.

        • Breezyred

          Yes to this. As a teenager, I always expected that as a feminist adult I would legally change my last name to my mother’s maiden name or my grandmother’s maiden name in order to rid myself of my father’s family name and all the baggage that comes with having our names tied together.

          And then I became an adult.

          The last name went from being something given to me to something else. I owned my last name. I made a name for myself professionally and I made that name turn into something positive personally.

          My first and last names are also rare enough that there is an extremely good chance I am the only person on this whole planet (or at least in the US) with my name. People really like the sound of my first and last names together. It all clicked.

          I take pride in teaching people who make strange comments around the assumption I took his name when married that there are other ways in the world. It may get annoying and tedious to explain one’s choices, but it seems that more often than not those people come from a good place who just haven’t heard that women AND men have options when it comes to names. And most people have to admit that my spouse and I both own pretty perfect names.

        • Rachel

          I said something similar below but…why don’t you ask men these questions?? I’m genuinely curious why more men who have shitty relationships with their fathers don’t change their names. I’m curious why men who don’t like their long names don’t do anything about it. But if we agree that the option to change your name is nice (I personally think it is) then why aren’t we encouraging men to change theirs instead of pressuring women into keeping theirs? I regularly see articles lamenting that so many young women change their names…I have yet to see one lamenting the fact that so many men don’t.

          • One More Sara

            maybe you could write one? you know, the whole “be the change you wish to see in the world” thing… from the sounds of it you have a lot of thoughts about it, and I, for one, would love to hear what you have to say :)

          • Breck

            I think this is where getting more men involved in feminism comes in. My brother and I don’t have a good relationship with my father’s side of the family, which is one of the reasons I’m open to changing my name when I get married. I continue to bring this up with my 16-year old brother, and I try to come at it from non-gendered perspective: I don’t like my last name, so when I get married I might change it; if you feel the same way, you should absolutely think about doing the same. I hope some of that is sinking in between his incessant Facebook chatting…

          • ElisabethJoanne

            My husband came fairly close to taking my last name. In the end, he didn’t want the hassle. They were 3 layers to this hassle, and we can blame the patriarchy for the deeper 2.

            The first layer is just the usual hassles anyone who changes their name goes through – the trips to the Social Security office, the DMV, the banks. The second layer is explaining an unusual choice. He was looking for work at the time, and I’m sure a man whose name on his resume didn’t match the name on his transcripts or among his hundreds of professional contacts would have raised eyebrows very high. Finally, there would have been push-back from his abusive, overbearing father.

          • MK

            A male acquaintance recently changed his name from “Gay” to his new wife’s name. Not because he disliked his name, but because he felt any future children might have unreasonable and unhappy issues with being saddled with the name.

            While you can quibble or disagree about whether a male in Texas having the last name “Gay” is problematic or not, I was pleasantly surprised that the option of taking his wife’s name even came up at all.

          • meg

            Then you haven’t read my name change articles closely ;) I was really sad about the fact that David wouldn’t take my last name. But he wasn’t willing to, so we moved to plan B.

            So yes, I’d really love if men changed their names as well. But until it’s anywhere near 50/50, we have a patriarchal system on our hands.

    • I think the bee in Meg’s proverbial bonnet is not about whether or not changing your name is a feminist choice. It’s that the fact that you even have to think about it at all.

      I don’t really care what people do with their names. I do care that as the female partner I HAVE to decide anything about my name at all. Manperson never, ever thinks about what his name will be if and when we get married. Why can’t I get the same treatment? Why is it important what I do or do not do? And why do I feel like I have to defend whatever choice I make? I think that’s what many feminist get worked up about the name change debate. That it’s even a debate.

      • This. So very much this.

        We had a conversation about this in a pre-marital counselling session. I was like “I don’t care if you change your name and I’m glad that you don’t care if I change my name, but I am pissed that I have to be the one to make the decision one way or another and you don’t because it isn’t fair!”

      • meg


        Hard fought in this household, too. I asked David to go through every single part of the decision making process, including really wanting him, and then later our kids, to have my name only. Seeing how painful it was for him actually made me madder. Because it can be really painful for men, and they almost never even have to think about it.

    • Hannah K

      Your individual decision doesn’t say anything about your “feminist cred,” of course! As someone who takes Meg’s view, my feeling is this: we ALL share the goal that name decisions be personal rather than political, which is to say, that they be based on individual circumstances and inclinations rather than on gendered social expectations about who’s allowed to do what and who’s exempt from worrying about what. But, in the present context, name decisions aren’t purely personal–the reigning convention (woman takes man’s name) is based on restrictive gender roles. When our society understands this as a non-gendered choice–a choice either partner might make for personal reasons, rather than something women can do and men by and large don’t do–then it’ll be a purely personal, non-social choice, no question.

      • meg


    • elle

      Not much to add, except “me too, exactly.”

    • meg

      Mira and Rachel have really laid out the arguments more clearly than I could in this comment. But I too have done things that have no bearing on my commitment to women’s equality (leg shaving), but that doesn’t mean that I consider leg shaving to be a feminist decision on my part. It’s not. It’s just a place I’m not personally fighting.

      That said, from your comment, it’s pretty clear that you might be a choice feminist. I’m not a choice feminist. That’s ok. We disagree.

      For me, women changing their name to men’s names is both a historical inequality and an ongoing inequality. Sure! You want the same name. Cool. So why don’t mean change their name to women’s 50% of to the time for personal and logistical reasons? Because we live in an inequitable system. My not changing my name wasn’t a personal or logistical decision, it was a political one. And because of that political decision, I have to live with constant backlash that you don’t have to live with. I’m living a difficult political choice every day.

      So, I don’t say, “Hey! I’m shaving my legs, and since I’m a feminist that’s a feminist decision.” Why? Because women who don’t shave their legs as a political decision live with constant backlash, and deserve my whole hearted support. They’re fighting a fight I’m not, and they get my respect for it. Part of that is me not claiming that by taking the easier road, I’m making a feminist choice just because I chose it. I didn’t make a feminist choice. I’m cool with that, and I’ve got your back, if you picked the harder path.

  • April

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who was totally offended by that article on Bryan Goldberg. The picture of him sitting on the floor surrounded by adoring 20-something ladies on laptops kind of summed up the whole thing for me.

    And overall, I’m excited about the mainstreaming of feminism, if for no other reason than I think it will help to combat the perception of feminists as man-haters. I’ve identified as a feminist for a long time, and I was always confused about why more of my friends did not. I remember having an argument with an older student at my (all girls!) high school, after she said she’d rather work for a chauvinistic male boss than a feminist female boss. She thought that a feminist boss would give her special treatment and any of her accomplishments would be undermined by the fact that she didn’t have to work as hard. Here was this fabulous, educated girl – whom I very much respected and looked up to – who basically thought that feminism was just about hating boys and giving girls special treatment!

  • Margi

    THANK YOU, Meg! I live in D.C. and despite my friends being very liberal, progressive, intelligent women – none of them identify as being a feminist at all which I find shocking! When when one my friends was waiting for a proposal and I suggested she propose to her boyfriend, she looked at me as if I had said something truly offensive! It’s interesting to stop and think about where I’m fighting and where I’m not and to truly own those decisions. I think the first step is getting my boyfriend on board with being a feminist.

  • Alicia

    I am very much looking forward to this month. I discovered I was a feminist during college when my friends convinced me to take part in a production of The Vagina Monologues. Perhaps cheesy and cliche, but true. Things I’d never really thought about before suddenly became very, very important.

    Things I care about: equality in the workplace, partner parenting, reproductive rights, health care for women, pride in ability and achievement vs. looks alone, self-confidence for women.

    Things I don’t mind: I suck at fixing mechanical things, I wear some makeup, I like jewelry, I like to knit and be creative. I’m ok with that.

    In our family, my future-husband and I split workload by what we’re good at: I handle the finances and he does dishes and vacuums. I decorate and keep things neat, he fixes broken stuff. It’s a nice mix of gender-stereotypical and atypical roles.

    Finally, I’m both proud and a little ashamed to admit that in the great name change debate, he is the driving force between both of us changing our last names into one merged name. I proposed the idea and love it, but there are days when I worry that people will think I’m THAT KIND of overbearing wife who forced her ‘weal-willed’ husband to comply to her wishes, when in reality he’s the one who’s even more eager to buck tradition and fly his feminist flag.

    • Alicia

      Um, the editing thing isn’t working for me so pretend that says ‘weak-willed’.

    • jashshea

      I totally wanted to name-meld as well! Go you guys!

    • We’ve decided that our kid will have my last name — it was actually his idea — and I worry about the same thing (that I’ll be seen as an overbearing wife). But just like I can’t control the fact that my mother in law sees all housekeeping as my responsibility (its not) I can’t control others’ perceptions.

    • meg

      Love the comment. BUT.

      Why be ashamed that your husband had the idea to merge names? That’s the end goal, right? Equality. Men and women making it as a personal choice, where all options are considered 100% equally, and the right option for the couple is picked. (meaning, men take women’s names as often as women take mens, or everyone keeps their own).

      As for people who think you are THAT kind of wife, take it as a complement. You’re THAT kind of feminist.

  • moonitfractal

    This sometimes gets me criticism in the feminist community, but I’m fighting to spread the idea that feminism isn’t just for women: our patriarchal society is harmful to men and boys as well, and the real harms are often glossed over in favor of MRA-type privileged whining. ALL our lives will be better if strive for gender equality. I also don’t think it’s a fight we can win if we can only get (at most) half the population for our cause. Furthermore, most of my close friends and family members are men. ;-)

    I’m also a female home-brewer. It’s a heavily male dominated, and frankly sexist field. I hope to found a brewery one day. I’ve begun work on a recipe for “Smash the Patriarchy Ale,” which will be so delicious that no one will be able to stand in its way!

    • Meryl

      LOVE. THIS.

    • itsy bitsy

      I’m actually shocked that you get flack for this! I am also a STRONG believer that feminism is for everyone, regardless of gender. Rock on!

      • I’m not shocked at all. I went to Smith and some of my friends who are ardent feminists will still refer to a stay at home husband as a “kept man” and a male nurse as a MALE NURSE/Murse. I think this is in fact the next wave and would like to be part of it.

    • Marie

      I’ve started to homebrew with the fiance and you’re right – I’ve hardly ever met another woman who has homebrewed, but every other dude we talk to about it has a homebrew kit in his basement. I am OBSESSED with the idea of a “Smash the Patriarchy Ale” and would drink it every day. Just sayin’.

      • I know three female home brewers! You’re not alone. My friend from college posts on FB about her home brews and we have friends who are a female married couple who brew at home too.

        • Home brewers FTW!

          My husband and I home brew together, but since I have the most flexible schedule I usually go by myself to get supplies, and the sexism at the local place was so appalling that I ended up telling off the owner. >_>

          Now I go to a store farther away, but the people who work there are decent human beings so I’m just fine with that trade off.

          I would drink the FUCK out of some Smash the Patriarchy Ale.

          • Marcie

            I brew with my husband and it was a mutual decision to start homebrewing but we need more women brewing definitely!! Avoiding the lame and in many cases weird/creepy man vibe in homebrew stores is nice whether you are male or female. We have both been weirded out by the know-it-all attitude in some shops. I order from Seven Bridges Coop out of Santa Cruz and get all organic ingredients delivered which in most cases are the same price as conventional and avoid the snootiness of the stores. Salute!

    • Paige

      The harmful effect of patriarchy on men is SO interesting to me, and it’s something that I’m always trying to fight against. It’s an aspect of feminism that doesn’t get a lot of press. It’s difficult, right? We want our male friends/family/partners to support the feminist movement and take up the tenets of feminism and help OUR cause, but we don’t often present it so that they see that feminism helps THEM as well.

      • Hannah K

        the man in my life is a staunch feminist, and he needs men’s lib. not men’s rights activism (which he thank god thinks is creepy and hilarious), but something to make HIM feel ok about parts of himself that secretly long not to conform to old-school, highly restrictive macho codes. (he told me he felt a flash of shame about choosing the green toothbrush in our 2-pack BECAUSE HE LIKES GREEN, like some weird little voice in him was all, “you gonna let her have the blue one, brah?”) he’s self-aware enough to know it’s ridiculous, but not free enough for it not to hurt.

        tl;dr: this is an issue close to my heart.

    • My husband is a wonderful feminist. He’s more of a feminist than I am! And he is teaching me in some ways.

    • Megan

      Ooh, please share the recipe for the benefit of your sisteren

    • Jem

      I would start drinking beer for this.

    • Jessica B

      There is a new brewery in St Paul, MN that is entirely women. They were at the Pride Festival talking about their beer and philosophy. My husband asked if they would ever hire a man and they looked dubious, then said no. He got really offended and said it was basically reverse-sexism (not quite misandry). I said that I had never EVER heard of a female brewer and that they probably wanted to foster a better environment for up and coming female brewers in order to make sure more of them got out there. He grudgingly ceded to my point.

      One of our good (male) friends wanted to do some homebrewing, which I am more interested in than my husband, but I was not invited to join in. When I asked if I could attend the bottling process I was told, “um, it’s more a of a guy thing.” To which I called our friend a raging sexist asshole, and he had better give me some beer to make up for that. He did. Maybe I should get some female friends together to brew beer and we can have a battle of the sexes: hops style.

      In conclusion: We need more female brewers, and more beer in general.

      • KC

        It’s sometimes hard to quantify and express the difference between:
        a) creating a safe space for people who normally don’t have a safe space for a particular activity and
        b) racism/sexism

        I mean, if there was an all-guys knitting group? I think they should be allowed to be all-guys, maybe, if they want to be or have gotten flack from female knitters for enjoying knitting? But I don’t know – saying “we want this group to be exclusively (race/gender/age/class) because it’s more comfortable for us” covers some potentially good ground (like making an environment for female brewers where they feel safe and not demeaned?) and some pretty definitely bad ground (making a “safe” environment for Bad Things).

    • Rachel

      MRAs are the WORST, and it sucks even more because they’ve really made a lot of feminists hate when you bring up the ways men are hurt by things. I feel like our generation (totally assuming we’re the same generation here) is going to be big about getting men involved and talking about the ways the patriarchy harms men. I really wish I saw more examples of this happening in mainstream feminist media outlets but I think that might take some fresh blood in those places.

    • meg

      Agreed. I would like everyone to be feminists. Men most especially.

      It’s why I married one, and am raising a tiny one.

    • I agree with most people who say the patriarchy hurts men, as I believe it does. The only problem I have is will the idea that the patriarchy hurts men *just as much* as it hurts women, because I believe that sweeps the worst issues with inequality under the rug. Hope that makes sense??

  • Laura C

    Lifelong feminist, raised that way by my parents, explicitly, in that name. I shave my legs, I wear makeup occasionally, I wear dresses all the time (though now that dresses are no longer things that constrict women’s ability to live active lives, I sort of feel like they’re ok anyway). I also do more of the housework in my current relationship than I’m really happy about, but I see him as a work in progress on that front — he wasn’t raised to pick up after himself and he’s working on it. It’s really important to me that he keep making progress and I not give up and decide it’s just easier to do things myself than to stand there going “there are five things in this room that are yours and need to go in the dishwasher.”

    Amanda Marcotte has written that the thing is, nobody can be a 100% pure, perfect feminist because it’s just too tiring to be fighting all the time on every front. Not only do I totally agree, but you know, even if it’s because of the hegemony we were raised under, we don’t all want to do all those things. What I do think is important is that we acknowledge the big-ticket items. Stay home or change your name if you want, but understand that it’s not a purely individual set of preferences that made those seem like appealing choices. As long as it’s a choice that is overwhelmingly made by women and very rarely made by men, understand that it’s not just your independent personal feelings at play. In fact, it took struggle to have anything else even be an option for you.

    So, for instance: If we have kids, they will have his last name. There are some specific personal reasons for that — he’s Indian-American and his last name is what we’d understand as his father’s first name, and his father, who he idolized, died 15 years ago. And since there’s a good chance our children won’t look terribly Indian, we think it would be good to have that obvious connection. But at the same time, yeah, it’s a lot easier to make that decision when it’s his last name and not mine! What we’re saying here is we’ll make the standard, easy decision and that’s something we have to reconcile with our view that in general it’s better to make the non-standard decision on this front, but not something we’ll have to defend to the world at large, not something that will cause bureaucratic hassles through our lives, etc.

    • ” I also do more of the housework in my current relationship than I’m really happy about, but I see him as a work in progress on that front — he wasn’t raised to pick up after himself and he’s working on it. ”

      A thing I am working on is the fact that I have done more than half of the housework in most of my previous living arrangements, most of which have been with other women. I try to let it go, to not worry if the dishes aren’t done yet or if the garbage needs to be taken out. I try to get the other person involved without sounding like I’m trying to be their boss or mom. But ultimately, I give up and just start doing most of the dishes and straightening the towels. I think I have had two roommates out of nine who were at about the same level of housekeeping as I was. I have never lived with a peer who was the neater one.

      So with this history…I am now living with my fiance. And now my tendency to be the roommate who cleans has extra levels of meaning. And oh god, does it require some sorting. He and I need to figure out how to blend out lives without clashing. How to compromise without fundamentally changing who we are and how we live. Woo!

      • Laura C

        I would feel better about it if I was usually the clean one! Sadly, I’ve never been accused of that, and always looked forward to being in a relationship with someone who’d keep me motivated in that direction. Oh well.

      • AG

        The splitting housework thing is tricky! I work from home so I end up walking the dogs or going to the grocery store more than my fiance does. For the most part I’m happy to do this and it’s frankly more practical, but there are times when I feel like a housewife and get a little annoyed. Of course, he is WAY more on top of cleaning than I am, so I’m happy to keep going to the store as long as he keeps vacuuming. I’ve just come to the conclusion that being partners and sharing the work doesn’t necessarily mean splitting every task down the middle. And if it starts to feel uneven, say something. And don’t make me vacuum.

        • Laura C

          Oh for sure. Equality doesn’t have to look like each task being split down the middle, just like both people taking responsibility for how the household functions and putting in similar amounts of time and effort.

          • I prefer “equitable” over “equal”. :)

    • I feel like to see online misogyny first hand all you have to do is read the comments on any of Amanda Marcotte’s articles. They make me so sad.

    • meg

      “Stay home or change your name if you want, but understand that it’s not a purely individual set of preferences that made those seem like appealing choices. As long as it’s a choice that is overwhelmingly made by women and very rarely made by men, understand that it’s not just your independent personal feelings at play. In fact, it took struggle to have anything else even be an option for you.”

      EXACTLY THIS. They’re not the wrong decisions, but they’re not decisions made in a historical and political vacuum, and I don’t want to pretend that they are.

  • Kat R

    “I’m very specifically a non-litmus-test feminist.”

    I don’t know how to thank you enough for this, because it’s why I feel more welcome and invited to be a feminist by this site than by others. I’m one of those Conservative Evangelical Christian Feminists (We do exist! Really!) and I feel like my faith isn’t welcome with feminists and my feminism isn’t welcome at my church. It can get lonely, being in the middle of all that.

    Where I’m Fighting: My career is in church leadership, and they know I’m a feminist. I say the word, I post about it on Facebook, I dissent when I hear misogyny there. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it feels like it in a Baptist-ish church in a small Texas town. I work with kids there, and I teach them that girls can be strong and smart. I encourage girls to speak and I try to model leadership for them. I work with teens, too, and I talk to them about sexual assault, objectification and victim blaming more than I talk about abstinence. I tell them that judgy modesty rules are stupid. I talk to the girls about school and sports and books more than I talk to them about their appearance.

    Where I’m Not: Reproductive rights. I just… don’t know. My beliefs about the origins of life and my compassion for women and desire for people to have choices all collides and it’s a big mess. So I’ll let the other feminists take that one, because they have the certainty and conviction to do it. And I’m changing my last name when I get married, though I’ve cried about it already.

    • itsy bitsy

      “It doesn’t sound like a lot…” YES it does! It’s hard to be one of the only voices in a place unaccustomed to your ideals… especially when it’s a place that you care about. Good for you for being a positive force in a place that’s important to you! And also for being a positive role model for those kids.

      • Kat R

        Thanks so much for the encouragement! It really means a lot!

    • One More Sara

      I just want to say that I think your approach here is AWESOME! It’s much easier to bring a different perspective to a young person than to an older person. When someone my own age says something about my last name, I never ever let it slide. But when my husband’s step-grandmother calls me Mrs. HisLast, I correct her once (each time), but it just isn’t something she can wrap her mind around (and call me brutal, insensitive, whatever. She isn’t going to be around much longer, so I don’t think it’s worth trying to change her mind either)

    • Kat,

      I feel you on small town Texas, having lived through middle school/high school in Burleson. (I don’t live there anymore).
      I think it is truly truly awesome what you are doing. I wish there were more women in religious places passing along the same message to young girls. It really bothers me how much of the patriarchy thrives in religion and these harmful ideas continue to be passed along. I just wanted to say that you have my utmost respect for the area you have chosen to fight. I’m not particularly religious, so it can’t be my fight. But where I am fighting is not changing my name and working for full access to health care and women’s autonomy over their bodies, so I’ve got you covered. ;)

      • Kat R

        Thanks a lot! Religion really is the kind of thing you need to change from within. I love my faith and I don’t believe it’s anti-feminist at it’s core, we just need to work on the practice a little! And I will be cheering for you in your fight. :-)

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          This is exchange is making me cry. Amen for recognizing the battles we can fight with conviction.

    • LittleBear09

      I also want to chime in and say you’re doing a lot! I grew up in a very conservative religion (that I have since left) and it would have made such a positive impact (especially on teenagers) to have a strong woman standing up for everything you listed.

      • Kat R

        Thank you so much for that. I grew up that way, too, and I have at times considered leaving because of the baggage. I mostly tell them things I wish someone had told me when I was their age. Hopefully they won’t carry what I have.

    • KC

      To be honest, I think eliminating sexual assault, objectification, and victim blaming would probably really reduce underage sexual activity (if girls aren’t a “conquest” and if you can be a “real teenager” without having sex, then at least some weird and uncomfortable back-seat sex would be eliminated?). So there’s that on the abstinence-y side. ;-)

    • Gina

      I just want to let you know that you’re not alone, I’m one too! (Doesn’t it feel like a dirty secret?) And I have to say, I’ve been able to be comfortable being a feminist when my church isn’t comfortable with traditional, capital-F-Feminism exactly because of the strong, smart, self-assured women in my life growing up, so bravo to you for being one of those women!

      Also, thank you for your “Where I’m Not” explanation. It is so much more complicated than either side of the “Reproductive rights” battle would have you believe.

    • meg

      So much love to you.

      And you know what? I’m pro-choice, but my feelings on that issue are a very complicated mess as well. I have strong feelings on a lot of fronts, and many of the opinions disagree with each other. I don’t love the fact that modern feminism has largely defined itself about this one particular issue. Not because I don’t think it’s important, I do. But I don’t think it’s simple, and my feelings about it are too complex to have it be the driving force of my feminism.

      • Kat R

        I definitely feel like the terms pro-life and pro-choice, while useful, can be restrictive. There is a great big middle in between the two “sides”, and I don’t think that gets discussed enough. That really makes me sad because I feel like instead of creating a dialogue and working together for positive change we can agree on it often just divides us.

    • Kat R

      I just want to say to everyone who has replied here how much it means to me. This has all been so encouraging and a huge reminder of why I’m in “the fight” in the first place! (I also love that I can write a post that discusses religion, feminism, and reproductive rights and not end up in a flame war. APW is awesome!)

  • West Coast

    I’m a feminist because I think men and women should be treated equally. I found that it was a lot easier for me to be outspoken about it once I could narrow it down to that one sentence.

    I’m also a feminist who wears a ring that looks exactly like what the one you’re giving the finger to above. And I worried oh so much about what it meant that I wanted a ring like that (sometimes I still do). Now that I wear it daily, I feel some people make A TON of assumptions about me based on that one piece of jewelry (case in point – I wondered about going to an APW meet up once and whether I should take it off). And then I remind myself that if they don’t like it that’s their problem not mine.

    • Sheila

      Yes! Sarah Bunting (of Tomato Nation) wrote something similar back in 2003 that is still my go-to definition of feminism:
      “If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.” And sometimes it’s as simple as that. Quote from here: http://tomatonation.com/culture-and-criticism/yes-you-are/

    • meg

      *I wear a ring like that.*

      (Well, some days. I don’t wear my engagement ring all the time.)

      • Kat T

        Oh I’m so glad you said that. I didn’t think that was a ring in the picture – I saw it as poorly rendered male genitalia, like Meg was giving the finger to “the Man.”

  • Chanel

    Where I’m fighting: I work hard to like the things I want to like, and make it quite publicly known that I do, even when they’re usually considered “male pasttimes”. For me this means video games (MMOs) and Dungeons and Dragons. I also only wear makeup when I want to… and I usually don’t. I point out sexism in news stories. I’m reserving the right to not procreate if I don’t want to… and to change my mind later if I want.

    Where I’m not fighting: I changed my last name. I felt no particular attachment to my father’s last name. I always associated my identity as just “Chanel”. Changing my last name didn’t feel like losing anything of myself. I briefly considered co-opting my mother’s maiden name… or should it be my grandmothers? Or hers? When I considered that no matter how far back I researched my matrilineal line, I would never find a good place to stop and say “there”, I just threw up my hands and dropped the issue.

  • B (the other one)

    I’m super excited about this month! I was raised in a crazy family, my parents raised us Pentecostal but no one else in my family was. My mom and grandma always pushed us to be strong independent women, but more so because they wished they had been. I’ve always been vocal about my political beliefs and was proud when people called me a feminist in junior high (that will never be an insult to me!)

    Where I’m fighting: reproductive rights, workplace and pay rights, equality in the home front and less gendered education and culture when it comes to raising kids. And my fiancé and I are planning the most untraditional, blast all the rules elopement, (our engagement has already done it too!)

    Where I’m not: I have some work to do with how much emphasis I put on appearance. I am changing my last name because as I said above, my father was abusive and if I hadn’t of known my fiancé and I were heading for marriage I would have changed it to something else anyways. I should really educate myself on some of the terms used regarding identification and whatnot as well as issues facing women who I don’t identify with on some levels (transgender, other ethnicities, etc)

  • I’m slowly learning feminism and glad that I’m finally becoming a baby feminist.

    I grew up in a conservative culture where feminist was definitely a bad word. I actually wrote an article for an anti-feminist website when I was in high school. :(

    As real life happened to me, I began to understand that we don’t have to fit into particular molds. And that I could break out of the mold that was suffocating me!

    I always used to date very macho men who believed a woman’s place was in the kitchen. I thought that’s what I wanted. I had no idea how awesome it could be to be with a man who requires nothing from me. Who loves me no matter what I choose to do or not do.

    My husband is way more of a feminist than I am. But I’m learning. And I’m enjoying the journey.

    • Oh, and as far as name changing I have discovered something interesting. It used to be the assumption that when you got married you would change your name (as a woman).

      When I got married last month it really seemed like that was a lot less of an assumption! I think that’s real progress.

      I do want to change my name and I can’t really articulate why, but people have asked why. I have felt like I’m defending my choice to change my name and that’s a refreshing change. It’s not a given. When people ask about my name, they want to know why on either side: why am I changing or why am I keeping.

      There isn’t a default now, there’s a conversation.

      That was my experience, anyway.

  • Jessie

    Meg, thanks for being one of the few places on the internet talking intelligently about feminism and name changing. Like you, I feel really really strongly about name changing. I am proud that I didn’t change my name, that my husband took my last name as his middle name, and that we agreed before we got married that if we have children, they will have my last name. These were huge battles for us, both personally and within our families, but they were SO important to me. I will admit to feeling disappointed that in my group of friends, many or most of my friends did change their names. I know that my friends are intelligent, progressive women, but they’re a different type of feminist than I am. In the future, I hope that there are more women who don’t change their names, because having examples in one’s social circle will prove to girls growing up today that there are lots of options.

    Also, I took a HUGE amount of pleasure recently in educating my 9-year old male cousin about last names. We were hanging out with him for a day while his parents were busy, and he asked my husband what his last name was. After my husband answered, I asked my cousin if he knew what my last name was. He stared at me like I was a bit stupid and said, “Well, it’s [husband’s last name.]” I said, “No, it’s [my last name].” He looked incredibly confused and asked, “But, didn’t you get married?” I explained how some people change their names and others don’t, and my name is exactly the same as it used to be before I got married. So… here’s to education of the next generation!

    • Devin

      I really much prefer the idea of my children taking my last name as opposed to my fiancé’s. However, he seems to be really opposed to this idea. After we got engaged (we had already been together 9+years) and started looking into wedding options, I realized how deeply ingrained his ideas about a traditional patriarchal society were. He doesn’t think that women have to change their last name because women are property or something like that, he’s just comfortable with the status quo. So here’s to educating the next generation that they don’t have to go along with patriarchal idea just because that’s how things have always been done!

      • mira

        THIS. helping raise the consciousness of people that you love who maybe don’t think about these issues so much (or don’t have to) is hugely important work. rock on!

      • Jenni

        Just curious–did the two of you come to a decision one way or another? If so, how? We kind of … just ended the discussion without resolving it.

  • What we see here is the power of language. You see it in business all the time – he/she who defines the term owns the market. So whoever managed to create the “Feminism Equals Man-Hating” won a strategic battle in the war to Make Life Stupid and Keep Women Out Of Power.

    I turned 57 yesterday. I’ve been fighting the sub-battle of I Can Cook And Love My Babies And Still Be An Alpha for a long, long time.

    When I hear young women define themselves as not a feminist, I always wonder, well what on earth is the alternative? Being for a state of unjust power access? I look forward to hearing intelligent articulation of what it means to be Not A Feminist, because I so don’t get it.

    Reclaim the language, people, reclaim the language. Equitable access to power, that’s feminism to me.

    • ANDREA

      Love this.

      But also, on the topic of the power of language, “I Can Cook and Love My Babies” is quite the hilarious exercise in Multiple Ways to Parse a Sentence :P

      • Hahahaha. I find they were best raw, those babies.

    • Rachel

      “When I hear young women define themselves as not a feminist, I always wonder, well what on earth is the alternative?”


      • Well, in this very comment thread there are people saying that “anyone . . . who doesn’t believe in reproductive choice for women can’t call themselves a feminist.” Lots of us don’t call ourselves feminists because we’re told we’re not allowed to, we’re told we don’t qualify. I do CONSIDER myself a feminist – because I believe in equality – but I don’t CALL myself a feminist, because according to a lot of feminists, that’s actually not enough. Not to mention that the word has connotations that would be inaccurate – the vast majority of people hear “feminist” and think “pro-choice,” so that to call myself a feminist would be misleading at best.

        • The person who you quoted said that was her belief, and that she certainly isn’t the one handing out the feminist membership cards, so let’s be fair there.

          Personally, I don’t think anyone needs to be in the business of telling others what they can and can’t call themselves. It’s heard a lot in transphobic speech, where it is even more damaging, offensive, and plain wrong in my opinion.

          To use your example, “you can’t call yourself a man/woman because it’s inaccurate/misleading/etc.”

          If someone labels themselves as something and you don’t understand why, then maybe ask very nicely and they’ll tell you. But they don’t have to, ever, and that’s just fine too.

          • I don’t think anyone has ever actually said that I can’t call myself a feminist because it would be misleading. They tell me I can’t call myself a feminist because they don’t think I AM a feminist. I generally CHOOSE not to call myself a feminist because it leads people to assume certain things – like that I’m pro-choice – which are not true, and what’s the point of that?

          • meg

            The point of that is that you believe in equality between the sexes. And hey! You get a chance to educate people on the fact that all feminists are not pro-choice. I don’t get that chance very often, so I’m envious that you have the power.

            Use it.

            There are no feminist membership cards, there is only the growing power of solidarity with other men and women who think that both sexes should be treated equally.

        • Sometimes, I like to embrace the ambiguity. For (a very small) example, I use the term “partner” to describe my significant other. The word “boyfriend” seems too casual to me. And if someone thinks my partner is a woman? Great! Maybe they will make fewer assumptions in the future. This is also why I like to rock highly polished or very feminine outfits with my bare, unshaven legs. The hippie look with hairy legs is easy, and what people assume. When people see mainstream/conventional aesthetic choices paired with hair on my legs, hopefully they get another small point of “Oh, so you can be however you want and the status of your leg hair doesn’t matter.”

          In your case, perhaps discussions about feminism along with your beliefs about abortion could show people how nuanced/inclusive/complex feminism can be. And maybe steretypes and assumptions would get just a little bit weaker.

      • Remy

        My former girlfriend (a butch lesbian, to my femme-by-default bi woman) once said something to me about potential difficulties in dating “one of those feminist men”. I looked at her in utter bemusement, because why on earth would I want to date anyone who wasn’t a feminist? And then we had a conversation about whether she considered herself a feminist, which was very enlightening because I had assumed that of course she was. I was younger then — I assumed that everyone I knew was.

    • meg

      THANK YOU LISA. And happy birthday.

      The power of language. Obamacare vs. The Affordable Care Act, for example. Those names give hugely different meaning to the same thing.

      I think the patriarchy’s real victory has been to define feminism as something it’s not in such an effective way, that women are unwilling to define themselves as feminist. Even though, presumably, they really like having the vote.

  • Where I’m fighting: rape culture and victim blaming (just chided my sister the other day for a joke she made), and if they ever play that disgusting Robin Thicke song at my bar method I will walk out. Also, pregnancy gross-ness such as ‘when are you having #2?’, and ‘are you pregnant?!’ whenever I don’t take a drink. I fully expect to yell at a possibly-well-meaning-but-consistently-thoughtless-and-clueless friend this weekend when she inevitably tries to get me to take unwanted shots.

    Where I’m not fighting: make-up, dresses (actually wearing more dresses lately, b/c then I can wear boxers, ha!), and letting my husband carry heavy stuff down to the car for me. #badshoulder

  • itsy bitsy

    This post makes me so, so happy.

    Where I’m fighting: Reproductive rights, rape culture awareness (victim blaming, etc) and maternity leave / healthcare are really hot-button issues for me. Also: recognizing women in sports as the real deal. I was part of an MMA gym all throughout high school and most of college and although the regular guys there knew me and knew I was a force to be reckoned with, I got so sick and tired of the assumptions of new guys. “Hi sweetie, are you here with your boyfriend?” Uuuugh.

    Where I’m not fighting: Dresses, makeup, etc. And while I fight to acknowledge that household work is not only women’s work, I do most of the cooking because I really enjoy it.

  • TeaforTwo

    Where I am fighting: the tendency to make feminism more palatable by insisting that feminists aren’t “angry.” As though that’s the worst thing that a woman could possibly be.

    False. Feminists who are paying attention to the world around them are often fucking furious. (And also often grateful, overwhelmed by joy, hungry, sneezy, and all kinds of other things.) The urge to make feminism friendly, non-threatening, feminine and inoffensive gets me piiiiiissed.

    • Naomi

      This is just too true, I have a sticker on my desk at work that says “if you’re not pissed off you’re not paying attention”. And I am angry about all sorts of things, many of them from a feminist perspective and feel so frustrated that other people around me don’t seem to see the ridiculousness of my government (British) and how stupid, ill thought out and downright bad their policy decisions are. But, when I voice this I am made to feel too outspoken, as if my ideas do not have merit, like an overwrought, emotional little woman who does not understand what she’s talking about. And that makes me even more angry, and I feel I have every right to be so! I flick between anger, exhaustion and despair at the moment.

    • Rachel

      “Feminists who are paying attention to the world around them are often fucking furious.”


      I find myself shouting, “YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I’M AN ANGRY FEMINIST” like…once a week.

      • meg


        It's so interesting, in some ways I am so, so, angry. And then, at the same time, I often feel cut off from large parts of mainstream feminist media, because I feel like it operates at a near scream constantly. And I'm angry. But I'm also funny. And happy. And sad. I'm a lot of things.

        So I'm an angry feminist, yes. But I'm also a hilarious one, in equal measure.

        • Rachel

          I feel like the angrier I get and the more ridiculous things get, the funnier I HAVE to get. The whole “feminists don’t have a sense of humor” thing is also not true.

    • Shiri

      God, yes. When I wear my “That Kind of Feminist” bag, that’s what I often think: angry. I’m an angry feminist. And I have every effing right to be, because my god, how DARE you think it’s ok to treat women this way? And, I’m sorry, “angry” is an epithet? It’s only derisive because that is not what you think women are supposed to be, and that’s the root of the very problem. I’ll be angry until angry is something you agree that I’m allowed to be.

  • Julia Canuck

    I can’t seem to find a place to submit a typo correction, so I apologize for doing it here, but “tenants” is not the appropriate word here- “tenets” is.

  • E

    I am so excited for Feminism month! This post made me think about where I am and am not fighting (and where I should be fighting more), which I think is a very useful exercise. So here it is:

    Where I’m fighting: Workplace issues. I do my best to make the argument that “equal pay for equal work,” while important, isn’t the only issue (and for many, if not most, jobs, is already true). There are a host of other issues that cause the pay gap, including women choosing less lucrative careers, negotiating less and staying home more (which largely is due to the terribly maternity leave/childcare in this country). I have too many friends, both male and female, who think feminism isn’t necessary anymore because women are no longer automatically payed less just because of their gender.

    Where I’m not fighting: Household chores. Even though I work full time, and I dislike cooking/cleaning, I’m currently doing about 80% of the work around our house. That’s because my husband is a first year medical resident and regularly works 80 hour weeks, and if left to his own devices would each cold beans out of a can for dinner because he is just too exhausted to cook. This is a subject that will be revisited when he’s working less hours, but right now, it’s more important to me that he be properly rested and nourished than that we try to split our housework equally.

    Where I should be fighting more: putting my money and my time where my mouth is. I need to do more than just argue with people, I need to donate some money or join an organization and actually try to make some change in the world!

    • LittleBear09

      I could hug you. My fiance is an MS4. He’s helping out more now that he has spare time, but during those awful rotations when he was working 13-14 hour days…I was just happy to have him home. I’m just waiting for PGY1…*shudder* It’s a delicate balance in the medical world!

      • E

        Yay for other med wives! 4th year was pretty great for us – my husband had 2 months completely off for interviews, and after Match Day nobody expects you to do much. So far, PGY1 has been a mix – some months are better than others, and last month was pretty bad. I’m really not looking forward to next year, when the hours restrictions go away. Hello 30 hour shifts!

        Sigh. It will all be worth it one day, right?

        • Joy

          Married to a PGY2 here. SO MUCH better than PGY1, minus the night float months. It gets better.

    • Marcela

      This so much! My hubby is a first year vet student and I do end up doing of the cooking and the schlepping around of things (and all the making of the money), but I try to remember that its ok. While my work day is generally confined to a 8-9 period during the day, he has that PLUS another 3-4 hours of studying each night. Puts the idea of the second shift into a bit of perspective.

  • Marie

    I am SO excited for this month! It wasn’t until I attended a rock’n’roll camp in Portland when I was 15 and saw a self-identified feminist performer sing a song about being boy-crazy that a light went off in my head. “You can be boy-crazy sometimes and still be a feminist? Maybe I can also be a feminist even though I have a boyfriend and shave my legs!” Even though I started identifying as a feminist much earlier than many of my college feminist friends, it would’ve been nice to have been clued into it all earlier. Probably would’ve made my middle school years more enjoyable.

    I love the way you write that not all choices a feminist makes are feminist choices – I’ve been grappling with that for months but haven’t been able to put it as eloquently. The pro-choice thing is interesting – not that I’m the one who grants Feminist Licenses, but I kind of agree with bell hooks that anyone, man or woman, who doesn’t believe in reproductive choice for women can’t call themselves a feminist. Obviously not every feminist has to be willing to get an abortion themselves, and I guess if you kept it to yourself and didn’t vote on any restricting legislation that would be different. But any time that your choices infringe upon another woman’s choices, especially about her body, I would say that is an anti-feminist choice, rather than just being neutral. Any thoughts on this?

    Where I’m fighting: Reproductive rights, violence prevention/ending rape culture, equal access to health care (and DV/SA services) for ALL women, including undocumented immigrants, more women involved in politics and policy-making, maternity and paternity leave, women equally represented in the music industry, feminist pop culture analysis. Oh, and alternative menstruation products! It is my goal to get every woman I know to buy a Diva Cup/Keeper.

    Where I’m not fighting: I would love to see more women in sports but I’m not that sporty myself, so I let the more athletic feminists carry that baton for now. I’m also pretty lax about what I buy in terms of whether or not I am supporting my values with my money. I mean, I do the best I can, but my partner and I are pretty tight with our money, and we do need to buy clothes and food and technology products that are sometimes not produced ethically or run by nice people. It sucks, and I feel its suckiness all the time, but what can you do.

    • Copper

      I think that’s a really meaningful distinction you made, between believing in abortion rights and believing in abortion for yourself. I ardently believe in abortion rights. I’m not sure I could get one myself.

    • Kat R

      “I kind of agree with bell hooks that anyone, man or woman, who doesn’t believe in reproductive choice for women can’t call themselves a feminist.”

      I totally see where you’re coming from with this, but I’d like to offer a different perspective. For the record, I am absolutely against restrictive legislation when it comes to reproductive rights. However, as a member of a conservative religious community I would say that this is the main thing that excludes a lot of religious men and women who would otherwise embrace feminism. I would say also that a lot of people find their faith and their feminism pitted against each other when it comes to this, and the choice of beliefs that results is often messy and morally fraught. Sometimes, though, the same people will fight hard to end rape culture and give women more opportunities in the workplace, and those are definitely feminist choices. I would say instead that supporting legislation that restricts abortions may be an anti-feminist choice, but I don’t think it necessarily makes someone not a feminist. That’s just my feeling about it though, and I can absolutely see what you mean.

      • Marie

        Thanks for that perspective, and I totally agree that it is a very divisive issue. I guess since I have no moral or ideological beliefs tied to abortion it is hard for me to see it as anything but an issue about women’s (lack of) control over their body. But you are right in that many people in religious conservative communities do really valuable community work that is definitely feminist. So this is where it gets really tricky for me to figure out my own definition of feminism!

      • SarahT

        The devil is always in the details, especially with a term like reproductive choice. That’s a broad term that includes some things I am passionate about (family planning and birth control) and some I would vote for restrictions on (abortion). If that disqualifies me, so be it.

        • SarahT

          I should note where I’m fighting: economic opportunity for women in poverty, supporting entrepreneurship among women, and societal beauty norms.

    • Marie

      Just to clarify that I’m not trying to say that anyone IS or ISN’T a feminist based on their beliefs about reproductive rights. That’s just always been one of the key aspects of my feminist identity and it is hard for me to reconcile feminism without it. BUT I know a lot of viewpoints exist out there and I am always trying to be more open-minded to other perspectives, particularly with a cause so close to me. It’s tough stuff, but I appreciate the discussion. Yay APW!

      • meg

        I don’t have deeply nuanced thoughts on this other than the fact that I think the issue of reproductive rights is very very complicated. It’s complicated for me personally even, pro-choice as I am.

        And beyond that, for me it’s as simple as this: some of the strongest and most awesome feminists I have known and do know, do not agree with me on the issue of reproductive rights. But the idea that they are not feminists is pretty laughable to me. Because they are BAD ASS feminists.

        I don’t give out the feminist cards. Nobody does. As it should be, if you ask me.

  • Gina

    I love this topic and look forward to this month!

    What I’m fighting: The idea that a woman can choose to have an abortion, but once she chooses to have a baby, she has no choice to refuse unnecessary medical interventions in the birth of that child. The idea that a doctor can shame a woman into a C-section, induction, or laying flat on her back for her whole labor in situations where those things are not medically indicated. The idea that you’re a “bad” mom if you want to retain some semblance of control or autonomy over the birth of your child. The more research I’ve done on this and the dismal rates of maternal morbidity and mortality in the U.S., and our shamefully high C-section rates, the more furious I’ve become.

    What I’m not fighting: Being the caretaker of the house, chickens, and dog while my husband is working crazy long hours. Poor guy needs to come home, have a beer, and go to bed. Plus, I LOVE cooking!

    • Having a child and seeing that system made that part of my fight too. I’m amazed at how many choices a lot of women don’t realize they have with regards to birth and post-partum/neo-natal care.

      • SamanthaNichole

        One of you should write a post on this and the choices. I would love to know.

      • meg

        Ooof. I don’t think I’d really thought about this, until your comment hit me in the gut, giggles.

        Gina, I agree. Though I will also offer that I think there is a lot of feminist c-section shaming. I had one, and as far as I know it was very medically necessary (though, you know, all things are relative, and since we didn’t see the other outcome, I just will never know.) I’m actually afraid to say that I had a c-section in pro-women birth circles, because of the shaming and the idea that I somehow gave into the patriarchal medical system, instead of making a choice that allowed my child to be born without damage. It’s tough stuff.

        • There is definitely a lot of shaming around child birth. I was told I was endangering the life of my child because I wasn’t planning an epidural. I’m told I didn’t do it “natural” because I needed some pitocin at the end. I’m told I’m not exclusively breastfeeding because we needed to use formula for a bit the first week. Which means I have no idea where I fit for any of those groups.

          It is shameful how much women beat up on each other over something so personal, and so feminine. I’m not against anybody making different choices than I did, I just wish there was more education about just how many choices you do have in the chaos that is child birth.

          Pregnancy, child birth, and parenting could use a lot more shame blasters.

          • KC

            From the outside, looking in, the “teams” mothers are grouped in are *completely insane*. I mean, what, you get judged negatively for something that was medically necessary, just because a) some people decided it’s not The Perfect Ideal when it’s not medically necessary and b) some people do it when it’s not medically necessary? And even if something isn’t medically necessary in the must-save-child’s-life sense, the must-retain-parental-sanity or want-to-have-some-savings-left-for-college motives are also not bad reasons to do things!

            I guess: it looks like this merit badge system where you’re only allowed to be on any particular “team” if your choices line up with their choices in all respects *and* if everything went according to plan. Which it often doesn’t, with life, babies, and ducks. It seems crazy to me that one of the times when you *really* need community, then at least the peer portion of that community turns out to be really rather cannibalistic. Harrumph.

        • Gina

          I think that’s another side of the same coin– natural birth advocates can easily trivialize your experience because maybe for them, it wasn’t necessary! And that is so incredibly unfair. I suppose I should clarify that I don’t think there’s a “right” way to give birth or that one way is better, no matter what. That’s the role doctors are supposed to be playing– looking at individualized medical situations and giving women options. But too often, women don’t know they have those options. Their option is to do it the way their provider does it, and they are viewed as difficult if they ask too many questions or try to turn down a specific intervention.

          As far as the high c-section rate, I mentioned that because, according to the World Health Organization, an ideal c-section rate is about 10-12%. Any higher or lower and maternal outcomes worsen. The U.S. is somewhere between 30 and 40 percent.

          Along with this is how incredibly un-feminist it is to treat women as ungrateful if they are unhappy with the care they’ve received. So many women hear, “well at least the baby’s healthy.” This trivializes their health, both emotionally and physically, especially if they have lasting feelings of being violated and not listened to.

    • Pippa

      As I read through the comments, I was looking and waiting to see if someone else was fighting for birth rights and INFORMED consent. And there you are! Cannot exactly this enough!!

  • Copper

    Where I’m Fighting: I don’t believe that family issues = “womens issues”. Maternity leave? So many kinds of bullshit. Bullshit that not everyone can have it even though the next generation of children are a common good in some ways (economic, mostly). Bullshit that it’s just maternity leave and not family leave. Women are only one piece of the family (unless you have double-plus women in your family, but that’s a whole other ball of wax so forgive me for sticking hetero here). That’s the big picture of this. The small picture is, why do I have to do all the family organizing, with his family? Why is there this informal network of women who are the ones who get things done in the family, behind the men’s backs/while they’re playing computer games? That is such an unfair expectation on us, and such an insult to them to think that they just can’t handle organizing a family holiday or a wedding or whatever. Either you’re part of the family or you’re not, having a penis doesn’t mean you get to check out.

    Where I’m Not Fighting: the name-change issue. I’ve just never felt any affinity for my last name. That could just be because it’s super common, but whatever. I just don’t have the fiery feelings about this issue that I sometimes feel like I should.

    • Miriam

      Google calendar = the best thing that ever happened to smash the patriarchal expectation that women are responsible for organizing and planning family events.

    • Amanda

      Where you’re not fighting is exactly what I was trying to articulate in the name change conversation upthread. So thank you! I’ve never felt much affinity to my name because it’s common. But I also got married and changed it at 21 so I feel like I am more myself in this name than my childhood name because I am learning who I am as an adult person in this name. Doesn’t mean that its a feminist choice, and now I’m wondering if we should do something different with our kids. But also worried about travel logistics with kids if they have mymaiden-ourname…

  • TeaforTwo

    I just had a weird conversation with a coworker about how she felt guilty for eating a cookie, and I was reminded of my other favourite feminist fight, and one that seems to come up a lot where weddigs are concerned:

    Shut up about your weight.

    If you are wondering if you should feel guilty about eating a particular food, ask yourself: did this food travel halfway across the world and burn up ten times its weight in fossil fuels to come get to me? Is it wrapped in packaging that will sit in a landfill long after I am dead? Did the person who grew it, and the person who sold it to me, and everyone else along the way earn a fair wage for their labour? Was it grown or raised in a way that is kind to the earth, and does not endanger the food supply of future generations?

    Calories, on the other hand, are not a moral dilemma. And the more time you spend talking about the size of your thighs, the less time you have for taking over the world. Plus there is nothing more boring on the whole earth than talking about diets and weight.

    • Fuck yes to body positivity! I’m so sick of the self-deprecating jokes about our bodies!

      I’ll accept talk about feelings: “I feel bad about myself when. . .” but I won’t accept negative self-talk, or subbing in a weight limit for emotion “I feel fat” Fat is not a feeling. You can feel sluggish, guilty, lethargic, uncomfortable, etc.

      If you want to talk about how best to live a healthy life- yay! It includes environmental health, too. If you want to talk about how to be skinny, I will launch into a speech on why skinny is not a positive paradigm for health or beauty.

    • Charis

      While I agree with some of your points, I am a recovered bulimic am I do not agree that feeling guilt after eating high-calorie food is always a rational, conscious choice and one which all individuals can control.

      • TeaforTwo

        Charis, I certainly don’t mean to shame people with (or recovering from) eating disorders.

        But. Uncritical and unchecked discussion about feeling guilt for eating a cookie propogates dangerous ideas. Sarah E talks about how she is ok with talk about feelings – absolutely. “It’s hard for me not to feel guilty after eating dessert” opens a different conversation from “I can’t believe I let myself eat one of those cookies. We’re going to Turks & Caicos next month and I’m not going to be able to fit into my bikini.”

        A lot of women in my workplace (and in the world!) seem to make almost reflexive small talk about how calories are bad and thin is good. And the more often it is accepted as normal, the less room there is for healthy conversations about body image.

        • Charis

          I absolutely agree that we should check these discussions when we hear them for the support of other women, and men in fact too if we hear them body-shaming, but what I took from your post is that we should simply just stop caring about guilt, calories and weight, which I feel is a massive denial of the complexity of the issue for many people.

          The other point that I would like to make is that often for ED sufferers guilt is being caused by a perception of moral failure, for example the thought that I was purging a lot of food while people across the world go hungry every day was awful for me, but my purging was mental health issue and my actions were not being carried out by someone who had a ‘normal’ relationship with diet, as you seem to have.

          Of course we should care about fair-trade and the energy used producing our food but by saying to someone who has guilty feelings that their views are invalid because there are more important issues IS shaming. It’s like telling someone who has depression that there are people who have things worse and expecting them to snap out of it.

      • West Coast

        I agree with this 100%. The comment to “shut up about your weight” misses the complexity of body image for so many people.

        • I agree with you, West Coast, I just think it comes down to framing. Body image IS complex, so let’s talk about the complexity, rather than trying to encapsulate all our emotions and all the cultural noise into: “Ugh, I’m so fat.” Let’s talk about what’s going on in your life and how now that you went back to grad school, you’ve gained weight because you miss your friends and have changed your lifestyle completely. You’re absolutely right about the complexity, and I think our talk about bodies needs to be elevated beyond the scale.

      • Jess

        This isn’t directly about feminism, but I guess in a way it is, because it’s definitely an issue that women struggle with. I hear it so commonly in groups of women and rarely in groups of men.

        I fight against the support of guilt about eating choices.

        Both I and one of my best friends struggle with a history of eating disorders. And I totally agree, the feeling of guilt is not always a rational, conscious choice.

        Something that is a conscious choice? Telling yourself not to allow other people to reinforce that guilt.

        I will often say, “I am really fat today” or “I totally shouldn’t have had this [insert high-calorie food here]!” I think in the back of my head, I’m looking for someone to tell me my fears and guilt is valid.

        And I think that reinforcement is the hardest thing to overcome. It’s such a natural response in society to agree with the guilt, it’s so easy to bait people into supporting it. And it’s so unhealthy.

        I have a feeling that when most people say, “I feel so fat” they are looking for validation. They are looking to hear either, “You’re not fat at all” or they are looking to hear, “Your guilt is ok, is normal. You should feel it.”

        I’m looking for somebody to say, “You’re RIGHT, you SHOULD feel guilty.” And so many people do. So much of our society supports this guilt – weight loss commercials and ads, groups of girlfriends saying things like, “Let’s be bad and share some fries!” so many conversations about people’s weight and what they ate for dinner or a snack, etc. It supports my guilt and says, “Yes, you should continue to feel bad about this.”

        For me, truly feeling the guilt, hearing people flippantly say, “I feel fat!” so that people will tell them they aren’t is really hard. It reinforces that I should feel that way too, even though the healthy thing is for me to accept that I can eat not-great things sometimes, that being healthy and happy is way more important than being skinny.

        My friend and I have a deal, because we both bait for validation sometimes. And whenever we do, the other will immediately respond, “It’s ok to have that. It’s ok and it’s healthy. And healthy is more important.” And slowly, we’re eliminating baiting statements from our vocabulary.

        More of us women should support each other in that way, not respond with “You’re totally not fat,” or “It’s fine, I had [super high calorie food] two days ago and have been beating myself up over it since!”

        tl;dr: What Sarah E said: “If you want to talk about how to be skinny, I will launch into a speech on why skinny is not a positive paradigm for health or beauty.”

    • B (the other one)

      I want to “exactly” this a thousand times! And it’s also something I needed to hear as I’m in the middle of weight loss and all of its new complications.

    • Gina

      I have been trying my best to fight this battle in my workplace, where the commentary among the older women is certainly one of body-shaming and back-handed compliments about us younger women’s bodies. My method of navigating this minefield is, for every compliment I receive about how slim I am despite how much I eat, to emphasize how happy I am to get outside and run/hike/snowshoe/ski with my dog on a daily basis. I keep thinking that if I repeat “food is fuel” until I’m blue in the face, it will change the way my older co-workers relate to food.

  • Nina

    What the heck is a feminist anyways? The answers here seem to be a murky “everything and none of those things”. I can’t call myself a feminist because I’m too darn confused about what that means and I’m not sure that the “true meaning” can be separated from the baggage attached to the term. What are feminist issues? On which side of feminist issues do feminists stand? Perhaps the word is used too broadly in too many different contexts by different people to have any real meaning.

    I believe in equality for all people. I’m not comfortable calling this feminism because feminism implies a bias towards females. I will call myself and egalitarian and be done with it.

    • “Egalitarian” is a term that has an equally broad meaning, if this is in fact the argument you’re making against feminism—that the term is too broad. Egalitarian values are found in communism, socialism, anarchism, libertarianism, and more, to the point where it’s not uncommon to have competing views on what being egalitarian really means. It can also mean varying things if you are speaking of politics, or the economy, or social issues. So I would take it that being “egalitarian” means you ascribe to the definition of that word, but that you have little/no desire to attach yourself to any specific movement that will aid in the furthering of those egalitarian values — ie. feminism, or any of the aforementioned political movements/parties.

      Yes, “feminism” is a broad term. It encompasses several generations of movements. There are different kinds of feminists. It’s confusing sometimes. HOWEVER, you could answer all of the questions you posed above for yourself, and you could find where you fit in the movement known as feminism, if you did the footwork and researched, and read, and thought about it. To throw up your hands, declare it too broad, and be done with the whole discussion just seems extremely lazy to me.

      Now, if you had pressed forward with how you’re fighting to make the world a more egalitarian place, I would think of this comment differently.

      • Nina

        Well, thanks for assuming that I’m an illiterate person who does nothing to better the world.

        This is a discussion about feminism and I was expressing my frustration with the word feminism.

        • I think nothing of the sort. Saying I think you should read more into feminism does not mean I’ve assumed you don’t read at all.

          The comment concerned me because it felt, to me that where one frustrating, broad word was thrown away, another one was inserted. So I expressed my own frustration with that mechanic.

          What I was saying, at the end, is that I do not believe that my thinking would have gone that way IF you’d expanded on what calling yourself egalitarian meant to you, or how you’re fighting for equality, etc, because I would see more of what you meant by using the different term, and therefore my comment would not have focused on the frustrations I noted previously.

        • It’s a good point, that needing to use the word, “feminism,” implies a belief that the rights of women are more often denied than the rights of men. That “egalitarianism,” already expressed as “all men are created equal,” has proved insufficient over time.

          Believing that women have been denied access to power more often than men doesn’t, however, have to mean that the men have been intentionally enforcing that denial. Society, biology, group mores do not a patriarchy make. Therein lies the rub. Patriarchy one can be angry at, sub-optimal societal organization stemming from outdated biological drivers one is more likely to analyze in bemusement, frustration, and sorrow.

          I like to believe the best of people. I fall into the second camp.

          • meg

            Lisa just explained why it’s called feminism.

            I think feminism, at it’s broadest, is the fight for men and women to have equality. It’s named after women, because women are the ones who’s rights have been most often denied.

            There are many other nuances and types of feminism. Maybe you feel like you’re a choice feminist or a radical feminist or (if you’re me) a non-litmus test feminist (a term I made up). Or maybe you just think you’re a regular old feminist. Equal rights, women getting to vote, big picture, done.

    • Anonymous

      I can actually see both Nina and Lucy’s points here. I think Lucy is bringing up some extremely good things about if you want to know more about feminism, you’re going to have to put the work in. I know she’s right, because I’ve been trying to figure out what feminism is and means and why I should give a fig, since I started reading APW.

      However I think maybe (and my apologies for some assumptions) what Nina was saying was she doesn’t feel the need to do all the work to understand feminism, because she believes in equality – which doesn’t require you to know much more than, you believe every human is equal and you try to live your life in a way that best promotes and embraces that ideal. Nina, I apologize if I totally got that wrong, its just what I was thinking and I wondered if maybe this was actually your point – that one doesn’t have to call themselves a feminist (and figure out what the heck that means because lady, I too find it CONFUSING!) in order to live their life in a way that promotes equality.

  • While I consider myself a dedicated feminist, these types of discussions often just make me sad. I feel so overwhelmed when it seems like no matter what choice I make, it’s the wrong one. Also, I feel squirmy when outward expression is assumed to be bound up in a certain personal belief. (Like Meg points out, she wears make up, loves hot pink, and is THAT kind of feminist.) I don’t think whether or not to wear make up matters one bit. What matters is how we perceive and define beauty.

    Where I’m fighting: Language. I don’t use genital or gendered references (male or female) as insults- everybody has an asshole, so that’s my equal-opportunity insult choice. I just spoke up to one of my new bosses last week who made a joke that a rail-thin woman walking by needed to eat more cheeseburgers. Actually, no, you don’t get to say what her body should look like. I do my best to keep the “shoulds” out of my personal commentary, and to keep my language gender neutral (an added challenge, now that I’m teaching ballroom). I speak up when I find language offensive and I don’t let it slide. I’m also not into reclaiming words. I’ll stand behind “queer” as a positively reclaimed word, but I still find bitch and c*** to be offensive and unnecessary.

    I don’t shave my legs, but I don’t give a shit about whether you’re making a statement or not with yours. I want you to feel good in your skin. If that means silky smooth legs, huzzah! If that means not worrying about whether you have stubble or razor burn or time to shave before work, huzzah! As long as you realize that either option is not a given mandate. I guess that makes me a “choice feminist,” though I have all kinds of issues around the terms of what feminism should or shouldn’t be.

    Oh, and also apparently my fight is also with my brother who thinks I’m being militant when I point out offensive jokes.

    • Pippa

      Solidarity on fighting the language! Such an important battle!

  • KM

    LOVE the Ani lyrics referenced in headlines. She’s been singing this battle for so long.

    • meg

      OH! This far in before someone commented on it!

  • Haven’t gotten alllll the way through the comments, but I keep thinking of more Ani:

    “Why can’t all decent men and women
    Call themselves feminists?
    Out of respect
    For those who fought for this
    I mean, look around
    We have this”

    I think the othering of feminists as man-hating and humorless (and only women!) has been one of the greatest hurdles to getting cultural opinion to a tipping point where we can really start unpacking a lot of this b.s. and working toward full equality. There is a lot of baggage attached to the f-word, and it makes me deeply sad that we’re still carrying it around. Do you believe men and women are equal and should be treated as such? Boom. You’re a feminist. Now get to work.

    • meg

      This EXACTLY.

  • I have always identified as a feminist, but what that means has changed and grown quite a bit since I started attending WisCon a few years ago. (Seriously, if any of you are Sci/fi and fantasy fans, you should check it out: http://wiscon.info/)

    Spending an intense, long weekend each year surrounded by self-identified feminists and learning about intersectionality, then following it up with a year of reading and discussion across the intetnet and then repeating have given me a broader definition of feminism. If it ain’t intersectional, I want no part of it. “Feminism” (by which I kind of mean mainstream, big name, white feminism) needs to stop throwing other women under the bus, particularly trans* folk and non-white women. Feminism needs to acknowledge that many women are dealing with more than one “-ism” in their life and be willing to help fight the rest of those battles.

    Where I am fighting: bringing the awareness of these issues to people who would be open to them but aren’t even aware that they are issues. Reproductive rights (including education). Trying to vote with my wallet to support female and minority-owned businesses. Sexism in geek culture and media.

    Where I’m not: While I don’t check all the boxes in traditional female presentation, I also don’t go out of my way to defy convention, either. I might change my name. I work in a traditionally female profession. I cook and do a large share of the housework.

  • I have identified as a feminist since high school, which really confused one of my male friends who felt you were either a man hating feminist or a docile bare-foot-and-pregnant woman, and I was/am neither. He could imagine no middle ground. I’ve also been told I’m not a feminist recently by a man and I imagine it’s because he sees the same extremes as the only possibility.

    But this post made me wonder what it is about feminism that I’m fighting for. Where do I make my stand?

    I stand for education. I stand for women being as smart and educated as they darn well please and doing whatever the heck they want with it, without feeling like it’s a waste if they aren’t getting paid for it. My life goal was always to be a “very smart mommy.” I have a PhD. I have a child. I hope my child knows just how hard I worked for that PhD and how proud I am of it. And I hope she knows I’m more proud of her. I’m excited to one day sit in another PhD ceremony and watch her walk across the stage and be hooded herself. I want her to have all the possibilities she can imagine and all the ones she can’t imagine with that degree.

    I stand for equity, not equality. Each individual should be given the opportunities that are best for them as an individual, not what is best for the group as a whole, and especially not for a group for which they do not belong. I do not need to be a man or be treated like one. I need to be acknowledged for the woman that I am and allowed to work within that realm to the best I can.

    And I think along the way I’m going to fight for feminism to not be viewed as the extreme that a lot of people seem to think it is.

    • meg

      I would love for you to write about this for this month. I know you don’t fit the TEMPLATE of what people think all feminists are, and I love that so so much. I’d love for you to write about it in a little more detail.

      • I rather enjoy having bits and pieces sticking out of most templates people try to impose on me. I’ll see what I can do.

    • Airplane Rachel

      I didn’t even know it until I read your comment but I completely agree and I think this is so amazing! I agree, I would love it if you wrote more about this.

  • D

    I am hoping for a post on deciding on the last name of your children.
    When it comes to my own last name, I know I will never change it. I know why: because my deep love for someone has nothing to do with what I am called.
    But when thinking about the possibility of having children I get confused. I live in Holland and it is not possible to give the child both names. Also the last name of the first child will be the name of all the children in that marriage.
    What were your thoughts for giving your child your last name? I am worrying about my (to be)husband feeling totally left out if any possible children will have my name. After all, I see that mothers still are so much more celebrated in their parenthood than fathers. Maybe that’s a Dutch thing though.

    To me, the name-thing and the prenup is the hardest part of working towards getting married (but also one of the most valuable parts once we agree on it)

    • never.the.same

      “Also the last name of the first child will be the name of all the children in that marriage.”

      Is this a law?

      • D

        It is! You can choose for either his last name or her last name, but all the children from the same marriage will have the same name.
        The man can ‘adopt’ the woman’s name when they get married, and the other way around but in the passport it will always be the original last name. So when he decides to put my last name behind his, the children will still have his last name.

    • Oh yes, I also live in Hollland (hi), and I would have loved to hyphenate but because I have two last names already, I would have had either to add a 3rd one, or lose both my last names (dads + moms) altogether.
      As it is I have not changed my name… but I also wonder about our kids. I would like us to have all the same last name and a combination of Hislastname + Mylastname (as is done in Mexico where I originally come from) would have been ideal, but it is not possible here.

  • I’ll admit it up front. This is a very hard one for me. Labels like “feminist” that come weighted with so much prejudice really bother me. In fact, I’d much rather avoid titles like the aforementioned at all. But it’s there with “wife” and “mother,” too.

    And in the broader scope, there I was playing roller derby for years–proving that women could play hard, work hard and make amazing things happen. (Roller derby is a completely volunteer run business model.) But you know, I wore teeny tiny skirts unapologetically while doing those things.

    I’m very passionate about women supporting one another in creativity and athleticism. I’m very passionate about society allowing women to be great and nurturing mothers- on their own terms. But I personally worry about the “do it all” emphasis on motherhood and career.

    Am I a feminist? If I am, where am I fighting? I really don’t know. But I am very much looking forward to exploring the idea this months with APW.

    • KC

      Roller derby seems awesome to me, but also really confuses me. To what degree are aspects of it “reclaiming” (i.e. short skirts, etc.) and “subverting” (being sort of like the WWF on roller skates) vs. just playing into male fetishes? I mean, I think it may be the sport where the participatory experience (which appears to be: celebration of strength and teamwork) is the most different from a common spectator experience (which appears to often be: oooh, hot girlz). All sports have different participant vs. spectator experiences, obviously, but it seems to push the extreme between subverting/reclaiming gender norms in participation vs. being gendered-ly “appealing” on a spectator level, and that makes my brain squinch up in confusion a bit.

      • I agree, KC. It confuses me too. And from my personal perspective, I think the overall “brand” of roller derby has an identity problem. Again, personal perspective. I cannot stress that enough. I am not an ambassador for derby, nor an active participant. This is just my personal opinion based on my personal experiences.

        I personally never experienced a WWF on skates sort of thing (Not to say that you were insinuating anything else). We were real athletes training several times a week to be the best at our sport. But you know, we dressed like what some may consider hoochies. And. And we put in up to 40 hours a week off the track making the business side work. Processing that alone hurts my brain.

        And there were very real “brand image” issues with the way we dressed to bout. But what DO you wear then?

        So there’s that. I think sometimes it sort of speaks to how clothing decides what folks think of you. Or not. Who the hell knows. I certainly don’t.

        I definitely wasn’t motivated to start playing derby as a way of reclaiming anything. I just thought it looked fun. Again, this was just me. I’m sure others felt differently.

        • KC

          I should probably clarify that the “WWF on skates” aspects that I was thinking of were specifically:
          a) personas/personalities put on for the arena and used for “warming up” the crowd and the team (the degree to which this is done or emphasized probably varies a lot, though, and it’s also done somewhat with football and basketball, albeit generally with the real names of the players)
          b) some degree of violence/aggression/blood (although roller derby is probably actually a lot closer to hockey in this, you don’t usually *see* the blood/bruises in hockey due to the padding unless someone’s helmet gets knocked off, which makes a difference from the spectator side. Also, there *is* padding.)

          and *not*

          c) totally faked matches


          I’ve never seen anyone suggest that roller derby is anything other than *really hard work*, training-wise. Nothin’ but respect for the athletic effort involved. :-)

          • Word, sister. I see what you mean. See! It’s even tough to write about the damn sport in a comments section without lines and line of clarification. :)

          • KC

            Roller Derby: it’s complicated. :-)

  • anonymous

    “Where I’m Fighting: I want all women to keep their last names.”

    Amazing. Yes.

    Thank you.

  • Caroline

    I definitely feel that APW had been instrumental in my understanding feminism as important to me, and fundamental to who I am, despite having grown up on a very feminist family and supporting many feminist causes. But really understanding has only started to come recently.

    Where I am fighting:
    One of my biggest areas of feminist work lately has been educating my fiancé. While he has for many years been a feminist and would identify himself as such (although he hasn’t always been. I suspect if I met him a few years before I did I would not have liked him as I think he was a bit of a misogynist then. People can change for the better.) I’ve been learning a lot lately about feminism, and I talk about what I’m learning with my fiancé. We’ve also talked a lot about the importance of men standing up as feminists. I know that him saying “Hey dude, that’s not funny or cool.” to harassment or a rape joke will often carry a lot more weight than me saying it, especially, say, in video games and online nerd culture, because he is a man. It’s been so cool to see him starting to stand up for feminism and women.

    Another area I’m fighting is learning to be an ally to people of color, LGBT people, immigrants, and other groups of people (and especially women) fighting similar and different fights against patriarchy. I don’t think I’m probably a very good ally yet, but I don’t want the kind of feminism that Rachel talks about above which is only for white, middle class, straight cis women, so I’m working on becoming an ally to others.

    Other fights which are very important to me: fighting rape culture (and spreading dialogue about it), reproductive justice, access to more ability to make parenting choices instead of having no choice (through support like parental leave, healthcare, and other policies which support parents), making gaming a less toxic place to be for women (I’m a gamer, especially mmorpgs, but they can be nasty), critiquing ( sometimes while enjoying) television, movies, and books for sexist, racist characters and stories and tropes of characters. (I’m more concerned with the portrayal of characters than the presence of the occasional sexist character.)

    Also a big one: religious pluralism allowing women to worship in egalitarian Jewish ways in Israel, Jewish religious feminism.

    Where I’m not fighting (but I will support your fight there):
    Assumptions that all women want to and will be mothers
    Feminine gender presentation standards (I love skirts and dresses and dress modestly)

    • meg

      I love that you include “learning to be an ally…” in your fights. I think there is this idea that to be a feminist you need to A) Understand all the issues already, B) Be reconciled with them.

      I say, nope! I’ve been really slowly learning about trans issues over the years. I always supported trans rights, but I couldn’t personally wrap my head around the idea, which wasn’t so good. I’ve made a lot of progress, and that’s a good thing. No point in being ashamed of doing the work.

  • anon

    Where I am fighting: access to reproductive health, strike that, all health, because caregiving tasks (both children and elders) fall predominately on women. Daughter-in-laws are more likely then their husbands to physically care for their husband’s ailing parents. Workplace and social reforms to recognize and respect that work. To recognize my privilege to be primarily concerned about broad politics and not negotiating my or my family’s safety and support on a daily basis and to bring those lessons into the feminist discourse where I can.

    Where I am fighting in relation to the wedding: not changing my name, not being given away (in words — both my parents might walk me in, but his parents would walk him in at the same time if we go that route)

    Where I am fighting in my relationship: to have my (less lucrative) career taken as seriously, to avoid the pattern of my parents and almost all of the model of relationships I have seen growing up where the man makes more money and the woman (winkingly) surreptitiously spends more than the man would like. Where the woman is asking for permission to buy things she wants because of explicit or (more likely) unspoken expectations about who is more frugal and who is more spendy and which of those is better. That might fit into where I am fighting in the wedding, as well.

    Where I should be fighting, but am not: to be ok with however I look

    Where I am not fighting: Most off-color humor (not in the workplace); individual fashion choices (be they covered up or uncovered); young women exploring/exploiting their own sexuality in ways that may be or are regressive (I care about Miley twerking because of appropriation issues and the use/choice of “backup” dancers; not because its crass or makes her a bad role model).

  • Jenny

    Just a note to Meg, and I suppose the entire APW community. Thank you talking about the name changing issue. Growing up I figured I would change my name after I got married, but as I got older and spent more years with my name I decided that if I ever got married I didn’t want to change my name. This is something I mentioned in the first month of dating my now husband (it came up organically), so it was pretty much never a surprise. Then about 1.5 years later we got engaged. We talked about it and decided that we would keep our last names. Around this time I started reading APW and Meg’s article’s and discussion about name changing really helped me articulate why it was important to me. About a month before we got married K said to me, I’ve been thinking about it and I really want us to share the same name. We talked, and talked and talked some more. And we finally decided on both changing our names we are now both the hislastname herlastnames.

    Where I’m fighting in the world- Affordable good child care and paid parental leave and changing the work culture around kids. We want to have kids and we both intend to keep working. I want him to be able to have flexibility to drop the kids off/ pick them up/ do parenty things without it being a social statement, or something that is viewed as making him less of a man. I want to have the ability to prioritize some working things over non emergency kids things without being a “bad mother”.

    Where I’m fighting with myself: I want to constantly remind myself that equal doesn’t always mean fair/right/just. We don’t need to each spend 30 minutes doing the dishes and take turns hauling the trash, or watering the garden as long as on the whole we both are contributing to the running of the household. If I’m happy to trade being in change of all the bills and money for having to gather the trash and take it to the dump, then we are in fact being good partners.

    Where I’m not fighting: Social Media/media portrayals of women, yes I think they are important and I wish more movies and TV shows had more in depth female characters, but meh, I just can’t bring myself to fight that fight right now.

  • Mayweed

    Where I’m fighting: last names. I hate that the question never comes up for men but is a mandatory decision fo women. Also, can we get letters addressed to “mrs and mr my name my last name” and see how that goes down please?

    ALSO (and to me even more rage inducing): stereotyping of girls. Pink Lego, male mini figures, “girls” toys and “boys” toys and how suddenly when your daughter hits two shops assume you wan to dress her like a stripper. Hotpants for toddlers should be illegal. And don’t get me started on the “I’m so cute” t-shirts girls are offered compared to the “I’m a pirate/superhero/firefighter” ones for boys. Why do I have to buy her wellies in the boys section if she wants Gruffalo ones because all the girls ones are pink and sparkly? It’s in books, tv shows, clothes and toys; pernicious, invasive and starts TOO DAMN EARLY. Sorry. It makes me *very* angry.

    However: where I’m not fighting – lipstick, mascara, shaving your pits, my beloved high heels. ( You may think this is contradictory. I don’t.)

    • lady brett

      oh dear god, the way gender is approached with kids makes me so angry that i can’t even talk about it. and i am not that kind of person.

      i’m more of a southern belle style arguer (you know, polite, smiling, unphased and god-damn not backing down). and then someone brings up toddler clothing or legos and i stammer, can’t string thoughts together, and *cry* about it. fury.

      p.s. http://imgur.com/r/lgbt/VbDO9

    • Amber

      Ditto! It’s disgusting that going to buy a birthday card for a 1-year-old, I am offered a sea of pink and blue cards. Screw that! I managed to find a gender neutral one, but there weren’t a lot to choose from.

      Check out Toward the Stars on Facebook, they bring a lot of attention to this issue and I find myself liking their posts a lot.

    • KC

      I don’t think it’s totally contradictory, because in one case it’s shoving something on kids who don’t have a choice and in one case it’s making a choice for yourself about what you like, knowing the meanings affixed to that choice, but there is the role-model aspect of “grown up clothing for genders”, which I guess is what you’re referring to?

      The ubiquity of mini-stripper clothing drives me up a wall, too. In my opinion, toddlers can run around naked if they want (weather and potty conditions permitting), but dressing them in things that, culturally, specifically signify sexual activity, especially before they have any idea what this means, seems Really Really Wrong, as does the “let’s make all the juniors swimsuits look like stripper clothing, even though the swimsuits we’re marketing to college students are waaay more modest!” thing. I like the good ol’ “dress kids in clothes that are easy to wash and easy to play in and are non-obtrusive otherwise, then slowly transition them to standard adult apparel as they make those steps in age and responsibility” sort of strategy, but apparently department stores are not on the same page with me. (admittedly, some historic eras in certain places have just entirely miniaturized gendered adult clothing after baby outfits, but they’re more the exception than the rule)

      The segregation of all toys into “boys” vs. “girls” also drives me nuts (as we buy presents for nieces and nephews mostly online). I’m fine with some “elementary-school boys tend to be more into cars/army stuff and girls tend to be more into dolls” sorting, if you *want* to buy something in a pink box or a blue box, but if there’s a science kit or a landscape puzzle or a board game or play-doh or building set, you don’t need to assign a gender to it! Harrumph.

    • I agree! It is pervasive in the advertising, even the “forward” advertising. I remember last year JCPenny (when it was trying the new model that failed miserably) put out a catalog about dad’s playing with their kids before father’s day. Every picture of the boys was an active – playing dress up action heroes, running around, etc and every single one of the girls (I think there were two) were passive – reading, coloring. Why don’t daughters get to rough and tumble with their dads???

      • There was a similar thing over here, which may have been from a parenting group (even worse). So much rage

    • Anonymous

      THIS! If I am a feminist, I feel it most probably when it comes to clothing options and acceptable styles for female infants, young girls and women. To me, its not even a feminist thing, its a gross thing. Why is every pre-teen in my neighborhood walking around in less clothing than a bathing suit – and why aren’t more of us saying something? Why do we allow the sexualization of children? Because short shorts, are not anymore safe or comfortable than shorts to your knees. So what’s the reason for them other than to cause sexual stimulation? Except we’re talking about kids clothes, so ew, gross, what the heck fi?

      The girl specific toys – well they don’t enrage me, they just confuse me. When I was growing up there were “toys”. My brothers had them and my sister and I had them. We all played with all of them. Why would I have needed pink legos and wouldn’t that have challenged me less than the full spectrum of color legos? I just don’t get it.

    • KTH

      “Also, can we get letters addressed to “mrs and mr my name my last name” and see how that goes down please?”

      This happened to me and my now-husband back when he was just my boyfriend and joined my healthcare plan at work. He got stuff addressed to HisFirst MyLast. We both laughed about it, and I think it went a long way towards him understanding how I feel about getting mail addressed to Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. He actually gets madder than I do.

    • We have a set of bibs that say things like “High Maintenance” and “Bootilicious” on them that someone gave us. I find them highly inappropriate. I also have a daughter who spits up and drools like nobody’s business. I will only put those bibs on her wrong side out because the whole idea of sexualizing my 3 month old disgusts me. Why do people think that is cute and clever? It’s not.

  • Amber

    Just saw this quote from Natalie Portman in Elle:
    “I want every version of a woman and a man to be possible. I want women and men to be able to be full-time parents or full-time working people or any combination of the two. I want both to be able to do whatever they want sexually without being called names. I want them to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad — human, basically…”

    That sums up a lot for me. I am a feminist not just because I want my nieces to live in a world where they don’t face gendered violence and discrimination but because I also want that for my nephew. For all of them to be whoever they want to be and to be able to explore all possibilities for themselves.

    I’ve always been a feminist because I want things to be effing fair! I’m tired of women not being listened to, being mistreated, not being allowed to be whole members of society, told they offer less than men.

    • meg

      “I want every version of a woman and a man to be possible. I want women and men to be able to be full-time parents or full-time working people or any combination of the two. I want both to be able to do whatever they want sexually without being called names. I want them to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad — human, basically…”

      That’s feminism, kids!

  • Emily H

    What I’m fighting for: for people to back the eff of how girls and women look. We spend so much time hating our figure, hiding flaws, stopping the natural effects of time, etc., it infuriates me. When I look in the mirror and my first thought it how fat I look, I curse the society that put these insecurities in me. Also fighting against how traditionally feminine traits, such as being nurturing, empathetic, and sensitive, are vastly undervalued and made fun of. Thirdly, I hope that feminists can be more accepting that other feminists might want to get married, have babies, and tend to the home. None of those choices mean a woman is giving up on the fight. Lastly, I would love the voices of Asian feminists to be more prominent.

    What I’m not fighting for: So much fighting to do, so little time, so there is plenty that doesn’t get my attention.

  • Ashley

    I’d like to throw another issue into the name change debate… I decided to hyphenate, for a variety of reasons. However, a major reason I decided to hyphenate was that it provided a way for me to display that we’re a family. We’re solidly child-free by choice (CBC) and it’s been *hard* to listen to people casually say things like, “when you’re a family” or “when you have a family.” Because, um excuse me? We ARE family and we were family long before we donned rings, quite frankly. Also, we have a family now and we had one before… I’m my parent’s child, that family isn’t less than the one I’m *supposed* to have now because I’m a reasonably healthy/stable/secure/whatever lady in my 30s.

    I know that there are lots of other ways to demonstrate family without children or a shared name, but this seemed like one, tiny way to ensure that we’re linked in people’s minds. I don’t know if it’s helped, we still get a lot of “oh when you’re serious about family” junk, but it does seem to make people take “us” more seriously (which is fully bullsh*t but whatever, tiny victories).

    Going CBC was our political choice (a personal one, obviously). Unfortunately, its meant that our family is implicitly devalued and not seen as authentic, so I decided to compromise on something that didn’t matter all that much (my last name) in order to affirm our marriage and 2-person family.

  • lindsay

    I hope you will consider intersectionality when putting together posts for this month, i.e. straight white cis women feminism =\= the only feminism.

    • KC

      There’s a degree to which they can only post what is submitted (I say a degree because I’m not sure exactly when the internships are over, and the interns this year were not all straight white cis women, so they might be able to “assign” a post?).

      That said, I’d be surprised if nothing was intersectional (this comment thread has already poked in that direction a bit). And some posts may not explicitly address issues of intersectionality but be written by “more diverse” people – that happens a certain amount with the regular content, as the relationship issues discussed are or are not directly influenced by the race/class/gender of the participants.

      It’ll be interesting to see, anyway!

    • meg

      Submit away! I’m sure Rachel and Elisabeth will write things, but we have to have posts submitted to run them.

      • Jasmin

        I hope you also seek posts out by women of color as part of an (actionable) commitment to imtersectionality.

    • Jasmin

      Especially since a name change is often a feminist act for WOC, specifically black women, and a rejection of racist stereotypes about marriageability, desirability, and the stability of black families.


    I am fighting: the pernicious, systemic attempts to keep my fiancé out of wedding planning because he has a penis (his mom says, “oh, he doesn’t need to come along to do X. He’s a BOY.” People ask me how the planning is going and cut him out of conversations. When I tell them he’s designing the cake/dressing himself/[insert wedding component here], they act like I’ve given a dog a driver’s license), and the flip-side assumption that I give a shit about every WIC made-up aspect of wedding planning because I have a vagina. People who act like my wedding isn’t legit because I’ve made different choices about things as unimportant to the prospects of a marriage as changing my name and my dress color. The subtle, painful, blasé sexism in the IT department my desk is in. Other feminists who exclude and degrade trans women. Other feminists who ignore or co-opt the experiences of women of color.

    I am not: guilting other women about their less feminist decisions (for example, when my friend who did not want to change her name was considering doing it anyway to appease her fiancé, I gave her a lot of feminist talking points and encouraged her not to back down. When my other friend who didn’t mind changing her name went ahead and did it, it was not something I wanted to give anyone grief about). Loudly calling out sexism in my workplace when doing so might make it really, really unpleasant for me in my workplace. I am American and haven’t worked for non-domestic (or at least non-Western) feminist goals much, and I know so many women are working so hard in and for other countries.

    • KC

      I would note that different cultures have different traditions about changing names, and “the bride wears white” wasn’t a “thing” across all classes in the US even until the 40’s or so. (“white weddings” were a thing in the upper classes before that and then having a dress that you *only* wear to your wedding very gradually trickled down – before that, people made/bought a new “good” dress if they could afford it [most common, and usually not white], and wore their “best” dress if they couldn’t afford new or couldn’t manage a new dress in time; it’s a bit hard to pin down exactly what happened in what class and geographic region in which decade, though). So… wedding is so legit, just maybe “vintage” or “multiculturally inspired” in some ways. ;-)

      And YES on the craziness of “groom must be incompetent at all weddingy things”. So, theoretically, according to cultural norms, men are supposed to be more competent than women at buying houses, but they can’t choose a reception venue to rent? And are supposed to be good at finances, but can’t do wedding budgets? And can choose their own jobs (and interview clothing and office apparel) but can’t be trusted to choose their own wedding clothes? Can apply spackle, can’t apply frosting? It’s pretty weird.

      I mean, there are some wedding decisions where experience/opinions matter (I wouldn’t send someone who’s never worn women’s shoes to pick out shoes for bridesmaids, for instance), and many women have more “wedding experience” (friends, sisters, magazines/media, etc.) than many men, but… yeah. It’s pretty strange to have this entire area where all grooms are just pre-judged as incompetent, when actually the skills they have in the rest of their life *could* be cross-applied just fine.

      (on the sexism-in-the-workplace thing: do you think it’s better or worse when it’s subtle vs. not subtle? I haven’t been able to decide.)

  • Jessica

    I LOVE this! Where I am fighting: Having more women pursue careers, encouraging more women to go into business (I am earning an MBA right now… and only 30% of my class is women, which is scary to me), pursue senior roles in business (critical to building the talent pipeline), and serve on corporate boards (seriously, it’s scary how few women are on corporate boards), greater representation of women in politics, equal division of labor at home, and improved family leave / maternity / paternity policies. I would like to get to a point where it’s completely normal for men to take a significant (6 weeks – 3 months) leave of absence after the birth of their children.

    Where I am not fighting: Sorry everyone, regarding name changing. It’s just less important to me to choose between my father vs. partner’s name.

    However, serious fist bump to everyone who has taken up this part of the fight. And I will join you in fighting to end the stereotype that of course a woman would change her name.

  • LAURA K.

    Wow. Thanks for writing this. I call myself a feminist, but I guess I have some thinking to do this month about which things I am fighting for and how I can be more active in that fight. Challenge accepted! (I’ll definitely be reading through all the comments after work today to get some ideas). And then when I figure it out, I can buy myself an APW “That kind of feminist” coffee mug for my desk, because I’ll finally be able to explain to people exactly what kind of feminist I am :)

  • Marisa-Andrea

    This is a very interesting article because I see the exact opposite happening in terms of the popularity of feminism, particularly among women of color (WOC). Feminism as of late has gotten pretty UNpopular among WOC (especially with the Hugo Swyzer debacle) and I think a lot of WOC are moving away from being proud to call themselves feminists or identify with the movement in any way. In other words, I think a large segment of self-proclaimed feminists are actually moving AWAY from feminism because of the issues mainstream feminism has had in maintaining white heteronormativity as the norm (and at the same time, silencing WOC and queer women). As a black woman I don’t find the term feminists scary as much as mainstream feminism tends to be generally annoying. Just my take.

    • meg

      Mainstream feminism is problematic. I just worry that if we walk away from it… what do we have left? It’s a good word, we better work on shaping the conversation.

      Rachel is going to write about this, though, for sure.

  • Meg

    This. I couldn’t even read the rest of the post because had to comment. So this! “I am an ardent feminist, but I feel no particular pressure to have every one of my choices push the cause of womankind forward. Because hey, it’s a big team, and we can all take turns.”

  • Carvaka

    I absolutely LOVE this post. I am exactly that kind of feminist too. I am forever trying to articulate to people that you can be a feminist without all your choices being feminist choices. Or to put it another way, not every choice I make is feminist or has to be feminist and that OK. Well, Meg said it much better anyway. :)

    I particularly agree about last names too. It’s completely ok for a woman (feminist or not) to feel like her personal decision is to take her husband’s name. I don’t judge her at all (although it makes me a little sad). I just say that we must be aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of women are still making this choice and only a very tiny small majority of men are… and then we must try to unpack why that is. Many women feel like their names are their fathers but most men feel their name is ‘theirs’. It’s complicated but there is also the fact that many women see examples of other women changing their names all their life and most men don’t see other men doing it. Hence men develop a sense of ownership on their names that maybe women don’t. Of course personal circumstances matter at an individual level, but that doesn’t need to stop us from acknowledging a gendered pattern.

  • Hmmm. I thought I was a feminist. Or at least maybe a ‘feminist-thinker’ (if such a thing exists). But after reading the comments, I am not sure. Guess I have the month to think about it, read about it, and learn.

    Though, I am most shocked at how quickly some of these comment threads turned to puffery about who is the BEST feminist and the MOST RIGHT feminist. And how viscerally some people reacted to things that I really feel are a personal choice that we should have the freedom to make without judgment or complaint. I think it will be an interesting month.

    • meg

      Wait! You don’t want to call yourself a feminist because you think that some people who are feminists are rude/ argumentative/ disagreeable? That does not make sense to me.

      Lots of, say, women are rude/ argumentative/ disagreeable, but I still call myself a woman. Lots (LOTS) of mothers are rude/ argumentative/ disagreeable, but I still call myself a mother.

      I don’t agree with those comments, but that doesn’t make me question the fact that I believe in equality between the sexes, and that I’m willing to fight for it.

      • KC

        I think we use floating cultural definitions when we’re choosing which words to use to explain or categorize ourselves, and those definitions contain positional/factual content (you have to agree with X to be a real Y, or you have to know how to do X to be a Y) and tone/overtones (if you’re not mad, you’re not a Y) and also shift with context and time period.

        There’s plenty of both positional/factual and tone reasons hanging out for someone to go “wait; I thought I was feminist, but I’m not quite like that” and hence to either not want to use the label or decide they don’t actually fit under this umbrella if that’s where the edges of the umbrella are (must approve of full access to abortions? must feel deeply aggravated at specific gender expectations [like: men hold doors open for women; men ask for the father’s permission before getting engaged; women, upon getting married, are now the assumed gift-givers/thank-you-note-senders/party-planners] that they might either not care about at all or actually kind of like? must assign “feminist” as the most or one of the most important identity elements?).

        So: this person might just be going: I thought I was under this umbrella, and maybe I’m not? Or maybe I thought I was squarely in the middle of the umbrella but it turns out that there are people who have opinions on issues they’re saying are feminist which are not how I see them or are not things I’ve ever thought about in those terms (vocab quiz: patriarchy; intersectionality; rape culture), so maybe I’m only at the edge of the umbrella if at all? More data needed. :-)

      • Oops, maybe I didn’t phrase my comment right. First, it’s not that I don’t want to call myself a feminist, because I very much do. But I am seeing/learning that maybe feminism isn’t what I thought it was and I am looking forward to the month to learn more (and explore it more outside of APW).

        The second part of my comment was meant more to explain that I thought parts (though CERTAINLY not all) of this comment thread were less well-thought than most other comment threads at APW and there was a lot of “I am the RIGHT kind of feminist because of this…” and I was really surprised, and frankly, a little turned off by that. Most people have admitted that feminism is a pretty complex topic with very complex opinions and feelings, but yet many were so very quick to point out how others were wrong or right.

  • Jenni

    “I want women to pass on their last names to their children.”

    I would *love* to see advice on how to discuss this with a more traditional-minded partner. My name, he’s fine with my choice. Children’s names … well, it was our first engaged argument.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      I had this argument with one of my best friends recently when we were dreaming about futures. He said something about future “his last names” running around and I called him out on assuming any kids would have his last name. Apparently he’s okay with whoever he marries deciding to do whatever she wants with her name, but kids will have his. I’m already indignant for hypothetical wife.

      It did remind me of the importance of having these conversations with friends. Stakes are different.

      • KC

        I love that you are already indignant for his hypothetical wife. That is pretty awesome. :-)

        (and I totally think that having these conversations with friends is an awesome way of getting people thinking, because very few people are at *all* comfortable with instant U-turns on things they’ve just assumed previously… but more can pull off a U-turn more rapidly [like, possibly fast enough to not have a fight about it] if they’ve been previously informed that there *is* a road going in the opposite direction, and have had time to grind through that and some of the real implications and have had time to discard some of the “but this is the way we’ve always done it?” weight.)

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          This one surprised me in part because he’s the one who introduced me to the other road. (Road=Family where siblings were passed different names.) I am hoping my clear strong reaction could help grind through the implications of the assumptions.

    • AnonCat

      This is definitely an issue in my relationship. He is the last male his-name, so assumes he is the last of the his-names to be able to pass it on, and he has a very rare name in which he had an immense amount of family pride. I would really like to give the kids my name also, but I can’t think how to do it. Combining a foreign, impossible to spell 10 letter name with a foreign, difficult to spell name 6 letter name, is just a recipe for disaster. (An combine that with the foreign language hard to spell hard to pronounce but honor’s my culture and religion first names we want to give them? Oy vey. I don’t want to burden my kids THAT much.)

      I just feel like I’m out of options on this one.
      We could
      1) give them his name (boo patriarchy and what about my family’s name? On the other hand, their hebrew names will only have my name probably since he isn’t Jewish, so maybe is is fair? but those are rarely used, unlike last names.)
      2) give them my name (won’t happen. His kids having his name is a hill he’s willing to die on, metaphorically)
      3) hyphenate/give them both as two last names (too long and unspellable. We each already have a hard time communicating our names to people)
      4) give some kids one name and some the other (a possibility, but will they hate it? I LOVE sharing a last name with my sister.)
      5) give his name as the last name and mine as a middle name. It’s what my mom did. It’s okay. I don’t love it.

      Any other ideas?

      I really wish we lived in a culture where lots of names are common. I feel like I would love to give the kids names like Hebrew-name English-Name several-generations-of-family-last-names mylast hislast. But that would be overwhelming and weird. 3-4 is the most that is socially acceptable, I feel.

  • Beth

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, although I will! But I honestly didn’t think about all of the aspects of getting married that are stupidly unfeminist until after I was already married. Some of them I did. I had both my parents walk me down the aisle, I saw the groom before the wedding, our vows centered on us being partners, etc. But certain things now, I wish I had really really thought about before we even got engaged.
    1) Diamond ring, for example. I kind of thought I really wanted one, but now I realize meh! I don’t. And I feel kind of weird wearing it because I’m not a blingy jewelry wearer ever in my daily life. But I have guilt that my husband spent a good chunk of change on it and I do think it’s pretty… It’s complicated.
    2) The “surprise” proposal. I really wanted it, but after reading so many articles on here, I now question why I wanted it and have found that the reasons don’t actually add up with my feminist beliefs. I wish we had just discussed it more.
    3) Name change. I did not give this any thought at all before getting engaged and this is one thing I am NOT fighting for. For myself. I am fighting for this choice for any other woman in the world, but for myself it was never a question that I wanted to change my name. I have never really liked or felt attached to my last name and have always looked forward to marriage as the acceptable reason to actually go ahead and change it that wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I like my husband’s last name a heck of a lot better and did not really have much angst or debate when it came down to it. I like how it sounds and it feels right to me. I also do want to have a one-name family. I have friends who haven’t changed their name and friends who have and I think it’s all valid.

  • Meredith

    I love this thread so much and just read every last post. I even came out of anonymity to write this.

    I call myself a feminist and am usually confused when (smart! modern! kickass!) women (or any other socially-conscious person) do not do the same. I like wearing pants AND dresses, I shave my legs/pits when I can be bothered, and I am also trying to learn how to be an ally.

    My fights are specifically stopping rape culture and preventing gendered violence, language, media representation, and choice. I think all of these combine into what will become equality for all genders: safety, representation and bodily integrity.

    I’m getting married after promising my very patient (male) partner that I would when all people can, and while it’s not true everywhere, it is for our home state. I still have extremely mixed feelings about this as we plan for *OUR* day and every time I but up against the WIC, I want to run in the other direction. We’re skipping the engagement ring, any diamonds, and any name changing, BUT we are doing a big to-do with friends, family, food, wine, and music.

    tl:dr This is the perfect place for me. Thanks to APW and all y’all for being awesome.

  • Thank you for this post, your perspective and your optimism! I definitely identify as a feminist but settling into it in a way that allows for grace under pressure and not reactionary over zealousness has taken time (and continues to take time on occasion). I think part of feminist wisdom is also garnering that we are all of one human kind and no one greater than the other all equally valuable. Looking forward to this months posts as usual ! Thank you again!

  • Rachel

    On the name change front…

    I’m not fighting for the right to keep my name and not change it…but for the very good reason that here in urban New Zealand it feels like changing my name (or not) is a battle that’s totally been won already (by others…woot)

    I know it’s my choice.

    Plenty of friends have gone one way or the other (or opted for both) but it doesn’t feel “feminist” to not change my name.

    The thing would be different if I was in small-town New Zealand, but I’m happy that that’s just not something I have to fight for.

    My intention is to happily go by either name. If Prince William can be Duke of Cambridge in England, and Earl of Strathearn in Scotland, then I can be Ms Myname at work and Mrs Myname hisname or Mrs Hisname socially, as the whims take me.

    Or just Firstname. Firstname I like the best in most situations.

    • Rachel

      Also, here’s another thing: At some point, I think its good that we start taking some rights for granted in our every day life (that’s what our feminist foremothers fought for.)

      Taking time out occasionally to appreciating them yes, on reflection, but in the day to day living our lives taking it for granted that we expect respect and equality.

      I want to take it for granted that every adult gets to vote. Or that there is one salary scale for men and women (not separate ones, as there were when I was born).

      That doesn’t mean ignoring injustice and inequity, but sometimes it’s easier to progress if you feel entitled to stuff, than if you feel grateful for basic things.

      I’m thinking here of stereotype bias (experiment where people who filled out race/gender information by way of priming, before sitting a maths test, performed worse than those who filled it out afterwards – theory being they were primed to be reminded of their status.)

      I haven’t managed to reconcile how you avoid over-focussing on barriers, and also fight injustice . That’s a tough circle to square.

  • A non-moose

    Late to the party…

    I’m probably more or less a choice feminist–I believe feminism is ultimately about equality, but I don’t believe *every* choice a woman makes will be a feminist choice simply because she’s female (plus, men can make feminist choices as well). In the education/career thread I was incredibly disheartened to see a comment from a women who discovered a love for teaching but was afraid to actually go into teaching because she was afraid it would betray her feminist side. Being told/believing you can’t do something because you’re a woman? Not feminist in my view. You can be a feminist and be a teacher or a secretary or a stay at home mom. Are you doing something that you love and has value to you? That’s the important thing.

    I do think women can make un-feminist choices as well though. Defining yourself *entirely* on your relationship? Not feminist. Can feminists have wonderful, meaningful relationships? Hells to the yeah–we see them everyday here. But to think you’re less of a person if you’re not in a relationship, or to “settle” for a marriage because you think you *need* to be married to be complete, these things break my heart. I have an friend in a downright toxic relationship but she will never leave him because she’s afraid of being single and I don’t believe that choice is a feminist choice just because she happens to be a woman.

  • Rose in SA

    Very late to the party, but I was thinking about this all last night so I wanted to get it down…

    I’ve learned a lot about feminism since I started reading APW and I think I still have a lot to learn. I would say I am a feminist when I read the definitions and debates like the one above, but I have been wondering intermittently over the last few months why that term still doesn’t resonate with me as a way I identify myself.

    The theory I have come up with is that as a white woman in South Africa, my inherent privilege as a white person overshadows my gender in almost every aspect of my life. I have societal advantages (a financially secure upbringing, access to excellent education and hence access to excellent jobs) purely as a result of my whiteness and even though there might still be situations where a white man has greater advantages, the disparity between the other race groups is still so vast as to make the gender difference seem less relevant in my life currently.

    Alongside those thoughts is the fact that as a society South Africa is acutely attuned to issues of equality and issues where anyone’s rights might be infringed upon. In trying to rectify the racial wrongs of the past, many gender related inequalities are also being addressed. This is not to say that all is perfect (women in management is still a huge issue), but I feel like as a society we are on the right path.

    Just my perspective, but it might offer some insights into a different cultural/societal view

    • feelingfickle

      Super late to the party here but this is a really thoughtful point to me. I like to call myself an intersectional feminist because I believe fighting for my own rights is only as important as fighting for the rights of other marginalized groups…but your point of view here is incredibly interesting.

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  • jullie

    This is random, but I didn’t know people still listend to Ani. She was a big deal when I was in High School/UMass in 2000. She and Dar Williams were like the end all, be all of my GLBT dorm floor. I had no idea the new generation even considered her, let alone acting like she’s some new thing. I like it, but I just find it amusing.

  • Sarah

    I know this post isn’t solely about name-changing, but…

    As a recently engaged woman I have had the name-change/feminist decision swirling through my mind quite a bit these past few weeks. As a young twenty-something I thought I’d never get married nor have children, and instead spend my life traveling the world, researching and writing. But four years with my now-fiance and four years working in schools = yay for marriage and babies and nesting (while still traveling and writing and being awesome)!

    I’m so thankful for APW who has so many posts on name-changing, even giving a space to women who decide to go the traditional route of taking their husband’s last name without being seen as a “bad” feminist.

    My current last name is a huge part of my identity. My first and last name are often said together as if they were one. It is my mom’s maiden name and most of my other family members still have it. My name isn’t connected to sadness or violence as others may have experienced (to whom I extend love). I like my name just fine – I simply made the decision that, for me, I WANTED to change it. I’ll keep it as a middle name, give it to my kids as middle names, and maybe even make it one of their first names. In the end a name is a name, whether you want to keep it as part of your identity or give it away. The funny story about my maiden name is that it isn’t even part of our actual lineage, but an adopted name given to my great-grandfather by his step-father! In the end our ancestor’s last name was taken from me long before I was given this one.

    I love APW for the fact that it embraces all ideas, lifestyles, and experiences as feminist as long as we remain true to who we are rather than succumb to a norm that is outside our understanding of ourselves. For me, changing my name IS a feminist choice, because I made the decision freely for myself!

  • Louise

    I know this is an older post, but I’ve only just now had a chance to really read and think about it. I had to respond because it made me realize, right now, my husband is fighting more than I am. We moved to India so i could take an amazing job opportunity. He gave up his job so I could pursue my career here. He is not working, and he does all the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. Everywhere we go, people ask what he does, and he tells them honestly. In India, its pretty shocking that a man would be supported by his wife, that he would be ok with it, that he would cook, etc. I don’t get much shit for this, but to him, people are openly amused and surprised and often encourage him to get a job. But he’s happy and I’m proud of our arrangement. Wish I could make enough money for this to be practical when we move back home!

  • Erika

    I did not change my name when I got married. We are expecting a daughter in December, and she will have my last name. While this is a personal family decision, it is also a feminist decision, and I don’t really have words for how fiercely I feel about it and how glad it makes me. I have told some family and friends about the baby’s last name, and there has been a similar reaction every. single. time. “Oh, that’s different. Why did you decide that?” As if we have to justify it. Even the one amazing friend who got it right away (and was moved to tears) wanted to know our reasons. I am expecting to answer this question about a gazillion times over the next few years. And every time I answer it I get to send a little feminism into the world. That’s worth the annoyance of having to justify giving my child my name.

    I know I am late to post but I hope some others considering this choice will see this. This is part of feminism in 2013 and I am proud to be a part of it.

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  • L

    Love the “Neither of us changed our names”! I’m using that from now on! Thanks!

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