Last Wednesday, the history department held its annual “Feminist Coming Out Day.” I will start the discussion of my opinions on the fact that Feminist Coming Out Day exists by clarifying two salient points. First, I am a feminist. Second, to me, feminism means that people of all genders should have equal opportunities for self-expression and access to society.
Feminist Coming Out Day comes from a place of good. For one day each year, the history department promotes discussion of women’s issues (also known as everyone’s issues), and empowers students, faculty and staff to vocalize their support for gender equality and explain to others why feminism still matters. The problem, for a large part, lies in the idea that feminism needs a coming out day.
Today, we associate the phrase “coming out” with “coming out of the closet.” Though this phrase is largely attributed to the LGBT* community, really anyone can be a closet anything. Closet Taylor Swift fans, for example, listen to TSwifty, but only when alone, and choose not to discuss their undying love for her Speak Now album with others for fear of persecution. Closeted feminists, in this context, choose not to discuss their beliefs about gender equality for fear of the judgment of others.
The use of the term “coming out” for a day implies that feminists at Boston College spend the other 364 days of the year in the proverbial closet. In my experience, it is hard to be a feminist at BC because many of my peers are misguided and believe that feminism means things that it does not. Often, it is easy to retreat into the feminists’ proverbial closet in order to keep friends. When faced with adversity and ignorance, we often sit back while people bash feminism and promote misogyny. Quite often, those who do not understand what feminism really means are inclined to label us as aggressive, radical man-haters. As very few among us want to be associated with ideas of aggressive, radical man-haters, very few of us are likely to be very vocal about our beliefs on gender equality.
Despite the closet image that the term “coming out” provokes today, it did not always refer to exiting a proverbial closet where people who identified with socially unacceptable sexualities were assumed to have spent most of their time. Originally, “coming out” meant joining a society of peers in conjunction with revealing one’s own identity. This is exactly what BC feminists need to do.
Though it may not always seem like it, there are many BC students who identify as feminists, and together we can educate those of our peers who hold on to misguided ideas of what feminism means. If feminists at BC come out to join a society of our peers, we can promote discussion of issues surrounding gender and equality and we can make real change.
The history department’s Feminist Coming Out Day fosters this discussion for one day out of the year. This is great, but gender inequality exists every day. In order for gender equality to be achieved at BC, students, faculty and staff must engage in conversation about gender issues every day, not just once a year.