Liberating Words: I Have a Friend Who Does Not Call Herself a Feminist

The poems in our ongoing “Liberating Words” series were written in an interdisciplinary course for high school juniors at The Winsor School, an all-girls school in Boston, Mass. The course, “The Personal Is Political: An Interdisciplinary Look at Feminism,” is co-taught by Libby Parsley, a History teacher, and Susanna Ryan, an English teacher. The second unit of the course focuses on the history and literature of second-wave feminism—the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. Students read a compilation of poems by women writers from that period and then wrote their own poems; the assignment asked them to represent an issue or problem they see as central to 21st-century women’s experience through the very personal genre of poetry.

Phil Roeder / Creative Commons

I Have a Friend Who Does Not Call Herself a Feminist
by Izzy Thorndike

feminism is exclusive
she says
it has capitalist and colonialist and white supremacist ideals
(because that is what it was born from).
it is only here to serve

it has done its part
but at this point, it is too divided and
too incoherent and
nobody knows how to get what they want without tearing down someone else. because that’s what we’ve learned since the beginning of time-the pecking order
how you get ahead-
is by stepping on the weaker “man”

and I agree.
I know far too many white
women who are willing to look past the things that seem little to them
like a woman lying on the street, curled up, dirty, holding out a single grubby hand asking for your spare change.
but they ignore her-
avert their eyes-
so they can continue to feel comfortable
in this movement that they endorse so strongly.
but at the same time-

I can’t abandon feminism so easily.
is it because of my privilege?
with all that feminism has done for me, as a white person, I think it is time to take up my privileges
(both those that I was born with, and those that all the feminists that came before me have sacrificed to get for me)
and use them to turn feminism into something inclusive.
something for everybody.
I’m still a feminist.
I want to
Decolonize Feminism.

Izzy Thorndike is a junior at the Winsor School. They are passionate about reading, activism and food.

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  1. Let’s get something straight. This is revisionist propaganda to discredit the feminist movement. I know. I was there in the mid-70’s, working at the Los Angeles Feminist Women’s Health Center. And our movement was never about straight women. It was always inclusive of gay women. We marched against the forced sterilization of women of color, and took actions against snuff films where women in developing countries were murdered in the making of porn movies. We gave self-examination presentations for women to learn about their vaginas and examine their clitorises and vulvas in all the communities across the LA area. We ran an abortion clinic and a well-woman gynecological clinic providing birth control that served all women.

    We were a diverse group, not all white, although predominantly so. Yes, in some ways those of who were white were racist and classist and ageist, but we knew it, and we did consciousness raising around those issues. We struggled with those issues. Just like this renewal of feminism must also struggle with those issues because the dominant male hierarchy want to divide us any way they can.

    However, the rise in power of women is inevitable, and as we discover that women’s power comes from our collective strength and ability to cooperate with each other, to care for each other, and always to be inclusive rather than exclusive, than we are really and truly unstoppable.

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