Quick Question: Am I Selling Out?

April 7, 2012

I am writing an essay loosely about the history of women in Oklahoma and how Oklahoma became the “2nd Worst Place for Women” in the country. And I’ve noticed something curious. I am consciously avoiding the word “feminist” (and “feminism” and “anti-feminist” and all other forms). As a feminist, this worries me. How does a feminist write about feminism without using the words that are most efficient in describing her history and environment? And, more importantly, WHY am I doing this? Here are some of the reasons. #1: I worry that the average reader will be immediately turned off by the term. That’s the only reason, actually. I mean, I write freely for readers who identify as feminist but for those who don’t, I worry that all they’ve ever heard about feminists is negative so I censor myself. I don’t assume the average reader is entirely uninformed, just that they’ll be slightly turned-off. And I want to reach them with my writing, not turn them away. It’s about considering my audience, and I’m actually generally okay with manipulating my writerly voice in this way.

So my original quick question: “Am I selling out?” I know is just a personal thing that only I can work through, but how about this: What are a feminist’s responsibilities to the average non-feminist? More broadly: What are a social justice advocate’s responsibilities to the average non- social justice advocate? Even more broadly: What are a writer’s responsibilities to her or his readers?

Curious what all you smart folks have to say,



2 Responses to “Quick Question: Am I Selling Out?”

  1. Courtney Says:

    I’ve been thinking about your post this week, and just wanted to give a quick reply. I think a writer has a responsibility to herself first and foremost. And I think honesty is at the heart of that responsibility. (By honesty of course I’m not suggesting that fiction isn’t responsible. I just mean an honest response to the world and an honest desire to share.) If your purpose is to inform an uninformed, general audience, then it might be great to avoid contentious terms. It might also be great to define them and explain what you mean. I think the writing is what’s important. An audience, which you have no control over, is either going to go there with you or not. That’s just my thought.

    • okiefeminist Says:

      Yes! That’s a great way to put it, avoiding contentious terms in order to inform. I just wish the term wasn’t contentious. Also, I love what you say about writing from honesty. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately, too. Sometimes I wonder if my writing is overly emotional, and thus turns some folks away. But then I think that even if some people think I write with too much emotion, that’s okay because that’s kinda my strength. Formality definitely ain’t.

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