I'm pretty sure when I originally started calling myself a feminist, I did it for myself. I wanted it to be okay for a woman to be an engineer. I wanted a concrete reason why I could be cool and single at the same time. I didn't want to buy trendy new clothes every year because some industry told me I had to. And if you would have asked me ten years ago what feminism would do for me, those are the things I would have listed, and I didn't really expect the list to evolve much. I mean of course I knew feminism was "for" other things and causes, but I wasn't a domestic violence victim or a citzen of a country where women are property, so I think I saw feminism as a very independent, somewhat isolationist kind of idea... it does some thing for every woman.
That philosophy has really changed for me. It's funny, because I predicted that as I grew older my ideas about relationships, career, God, famlies etc would evolve and develop, but I never thought I'd be a different kind of feminist. I guess I didn't think there were different kinds to be. But somehow the movement has gotten me to think of it outside the circle of who I am, and it's gotten me to look seriously at other women and value who they are. Secretly, I really used to write off women who weren't scientists like me, but then started to question why people outside traditionaly male fields were any less valuable. I used to hide the fact that I liked to crochet or write poetry, because those things made me feel "typical" and feminine. Then I started to wonder why society was so eager to pidgeonhole me into being girly or not girly, and asking why it mattered anyway. I mean, I hate people asking how tall I am, why shouldn't I be equally offended at people trying to assign a "feminine" factor to everything I do or say? And when you start thinking along those lines, you can't help but see the same things done to men... gender has to be expressed and categorized and mass-marketed, and mass marketing always means dumbing down and reducing to a lowest common denomiator, am I right?
I haven't tried to express these ideas in words much, so it's difficult for me and I struggle with it a lot. Just like I struggle to find my place in this society, and to be an example of the person I've discovered that we should all try to be - one who recognizes all the screwed up ideas about gender, economic status, race, religion, sexual orientation, everything else (they're all equally screwed up). I think that's what I discovered when I decided to be a feminist. It's not so much the idea that if I break out of this traditional sphere of womanhood, I can accomplish things, it's about the idea of reshaping the sphere entirely so it's not this thing you have to break, it's something big enough to fit all of us inside it. It's about free speech and getting everyone to use it. It's not about telling people to think about women, it's about telling people to think, period. It's about publicizing the fact that the media is really fucking wrong when they talk about big life issues... the money issue, the work/life balance issue, the finding your soulmate issue... as consuming only one gender. We are all thinking about these things in our own way, and we can't wrap our whole mind around these things
I became a feminist because I wanted to talk about what I observed, but it gave me more than a voice, it increased my observations exponentially and unpredictably. I think my new goal is to package it like that when I talk about it and tell people to be feminists. It's not just and idea you adopt to raise your status or help women here and there. I mean, it is, but it's more than that. It's something you adopt because without it, you can't grow. It's not about getting the kinds of food you want to eat, it's about getting to eat food you didn't know existed, and never would have known about if you hadn't broken out of the little isolated jars we all get put in.