Thursday, November 23

Yiwei Sun: Being a ‘bad feminist’ embraces both equality, individuality


Roxane Gay, the author of this year's common book 'Bad Feminist,' spoke at the 2015 TEDWomen conference in Monterey, CA. (Creative Commons photo by Marla Aufmuth/TED via Flickr)

Roxane Gay, the author of this year's common book 'Bad Feminist,' spoke at the 2015 TEDWomen conference in Monterey, CA. (Creative Commons photo by Marla Aufmuth/TED via Flickr)


At UCLA, I always have no clue how to answer questions about my feminist inclinations.

My answer could be “Yes! I am a feminist!” because I believe women deserve the same rights as men, but at the same time “No” as I read Vogue and cry when watching a melodrama. A more fitting answer would be that I am a “bad feminist.”

According to Roxane Gay, the author of this year’s Common Book “Bad Feminist,” we should not let being a perfect feminist keep us from celebrating our femininity when it comes defining our political identity. As long as you are doing the right thing, you should be proud of yourself.

There are many “bad feminists” out there who advocate feminism in their own ways at UCLA. They might not be members of a feminist group, but might retweet feminist posts online to spread awareness of these topics. Such political activists make up the foundation of a liberal and embracing culture at UCLA.

So we should not be ashamed of the limited things we can do to support political movements. By consciously doing our part, we are creating a conducive atmosphere for political changes that could create an equal and inclusive society. As we adjust our “bad” activist identity to shift toward the “better” end, we will be catalyzing the societal transformation without sacrificing our inclinations.

Personally, I am improving on petty things in everyday life to become a “better feminist.” For example, I Google and read more about a feminist post before I retweet it to understand the efforts behind a simple post and its significance. I also listen to music suggested by Rad Womxn Radio at UCLA.

Moreover, I subscribe to FEM, UCLA’s feminist newsmagazine, and learn how students around me are actively promoting feminism in various forms. When reading “A Feminist’s Up and Downs in A ‘Modern Family’,” I am inspired by how the author Gauri Ganesh supports feminism with ideas drawn from the television drama series that she enjoys watching. She beautifully integrates her personal interest with her political stance to refine her feminist identity.

A few years ago, I was not motivated to be a feminist. But as I learned about how these frontier female warriors pushed the boundaries to make many things possible, including obtaining opportunities for women to go to college, this call for gender equality resonated with me. I want to be a “better feminist” so that when my daughter realizes she can do as much as men do, she will not be limited by social expectations.

Some activists might be ashamed to acknowledge their flawed feminist identities or reluctant to acknowledge their feminist inclinations. But at UCLA, I am never ashamed of being an imperfect feminist.

We might be a “bad lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ally” who is not determined enough to promote LGBTQ equality on a daily basis. But we can easily do better if we stop by the UCLA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Campus Resource Center and sign up for LGBTQ Ally Training, or just talk with students there to learn one or more useful ways to help. An act as simple as respecting students who use gender-neutral restrooms can be very helpful.

Or we might be “a bad environmentalist,” buying bottled water every day to quench our thirst, but also recycling whenever we can. To be a better environmentalist, we can learn about the green technologies online or just stop by and attend an environmental event offered by UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Some people might argue that being a “bad activist” equates to being complacent about the current problematic system. However, it is not entirely true. While we recognize the faults with the system, it is not possible to fight for every movement because of the limited resources we have. We should clear this misunderstanding and recognize that “bad activists” are calling for changes in the systems within their abilities.

When we introduce ourselves as feminists, we are often thought of as perfect activists who uphold every rule and regulation any movement has trumpeted. Yet the reality is sometimes we just fit the basic principle of being a feminist – support women’s equal rights.

There is no reason for me to reject my inclinations toward feminism or vice versa. I find satisfaction in dressing myself up as well as empowering women to gain independence. Both contribute to the complete person and flawed human being I am.

Similarly, I do not stop helping fellow women because I am an imperfect feminist, nor do I stop reading fashion magazines and minimizing my chances of having my appearance determined by men’s preferences, in order to live in perfect accord with some contemporary feminist principles. My personality and personal worth are not dictated by the positive or negative labels imposed on me.

I am a “bad feminist,” but I am proud to be one. I am actively doing my part to push for gender equality as an independent woman. But maybe I do want to be a “better feminist,” honing my skills to support women’s rights while keeping my personal preferences.

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  • Carol Moore

    If we adopt the minimal definition of feminism – “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men” – almost all women are feminists. All the other cultural/social/ideological differences are just varieties of feminism where a thousand flowers bloom. Don’t call yourself a bad feminist, you are a feminist with your own particular perspective…