I’m going to talk about feminism today.
Now hold on—before you roll your eyes, groan to yourself, and click out of this blog, bear with me. I am not here to go on an anti-man tirade, I promise. Nor am I here to scream at you if you open a door for me. But one of my darlings has requested to hear my views on feminism and why I call myself a feminist. I’d also like to clear up a few misconceptions about feminism.
Saying the word ‘feminist’ is kind of like saying a really dirty word. People grimace, look at each other, and deny any involvement or association with it. That’s because the word is so loaded with connotations and stereotypes that people generally just tiptoe around it. Here’s a few of my favorite misconceptions about feminism:
1. Feminists don’t shave.
2. Feminists hate men and blame men for everything.
3. Feminists are lesbians.
4. All feminists are pro-choice.
5. All feminists are extremely liberal.
6. Feminists are angry at the world.
7. Feminists hate it when men hold the door for you, pick up the tab, give you their coat, or do anything chivalrous.
8. Feminists are ugly, fat girls who just can’t get laid.
There are loads more, trust me. So let’s go through this list one topic at a time,
then we’ll get to the real meat of the issue.
For number 1: Um, yeah. The personal habits of each and every feminist kind of vary, as far as I know. There isn’t a giant rulebook for feminists that order us not to shave. I’ll let you know now, I do shave. I have issues with hairy armpits. I have issues with hairy legs, though I will admit during the winter sometimes I’m just too damn lazy too. And don’t look at me like that, I know some of you girls don’t do it regularly during the winter. As for shaving anywhere else…none of your business, pervert.
Where this misconception came from: This comes from the first big boom of pornography in the 70s and the second in the 90s. Not to say porno hasn’t existed forever, but it had a huge popularization and acceptance in those specific decades. Women in pornos are big-boobed, shiny, and very, very, waxed. Media took waxing and ran with it, basically shaping society to believe that if you did not wax and shave every slightly hairy orifice, you are gross and dirty. Feminists didn’t like that. So in protest to society, a few of the more hardcore ones refused to shave or wax. And maybe I’m a weenie compared to those brave gals for caving to the demand to shave. But like I said. I have issues with hairy armpits.
Number 2: Feminists don’t hate men. Not really. Okay, anyone who knows me has heard my pissy men rants and dealt with my cynicism. Hopefully, they know that I’m joking or in a bad mood. Come on, we all rant about something when we’re feeling cranky. And yes, there are feminists out there that hate anything with a penis. But they do not represent all feminists just as Westboro Baptists do not represent all Christians. Osama Bin Laden does not represent all Muslims. A gay man who uses a lot of wrist movements and wears pink sparkly scarves does not represent all homosexuals.
So why is this the most common misconceptions with feminists? Because while we don’t hate men, we do not like living in a male-dominated culture. We do not like that a lot of businesses still pay a man more than a woman for doing the same job. We do not like that if a woman chooses not to get married or have kids she is looked down on. We do not like being patronized. Don’t pretend that this doesn’t happen. Come on, girls. Has one of your friends, grandparent, random stranger ever made you feel like a failure for not having a boyfriend? Ever had a guy, even jokingly, tell you to get back in the kitchen? Have you ever looked at an air-brushed model on a magazine cover and felt crappy about yourself? Ever wondered why we still don’t have a female president? (I am not advocating Sarah Palin or Hilary Clinton. I’m just asking if the thought has ever wandered through your head.) We do live in a man-dominated culture. For thousands of years, it was mainly men who ran things. Men fought the wars, men did the business, men led the countries. It’s a man’s, man’s world. Someone even wrote a song about it. And feminists, well, we don’t like that. We want women to have a say in society. But after hundreds of years of nothing but Y chromosome culture, it’s gonna take a while for society to adapt to that.
Number 3: This is like the shaving issue. Some women are, some women aren’t. This is a misconception about feminism, because during the second wave of feminism rebirth, around the 70s, this also takes place during boom of thousands of people who came out as gay. Some did one or the other. A lot did both.
But once again, this is by no means the case for every single feminist out there. I am straight. I have friends who are feminist and straight. On that same token, I have friends who are feminist and gay or bisexual. But it ain’t the case for us all.
Number 4: This is a really tough one, because I’ve had people yell at me about it from BOTH sides. But truth be told, the pro-choice/pro-life issue is NOT the litmus test for feminism. Pro-life feminism exists. Here, I’ll prove it: www.feministsforlife.org
And guess what? I’m one of those pro-life feminists. I’ve been yelled at by pro-choice feminists for being just that. Those pro-choice feminists see access to abortions as a health care issue, a woman’s right issue. There are also feminists who would never ever get an abortion but really hate the government telling them what to do if they get pregnant. I respectfully disagree, I see it more as a humanitarian issue. The government also tells me not to whip out a gun and start shooting random civilians and I’m pretty cool with that.
What really grinds my coffee beans is how some people see feminism as NOTHING but pro-choice/pro-life arguments. There is sooo much more to it than that!
Number 5: Goes right along with feminists not shaving and being lesbians. Some are, some aren’t. Most feminist periodicals and websites do have a liberal slant. But so do most TV channels, (exempting Fox News of course) magazines, newspapers, (exempting certain ones from more conservative counties) you name it. But I in fact, am not a liberal. I’m a moderate. Yeah, Hilary Clinton is a feminist—but guess what, so is Sarah Palin! Nancy Pelosi is feminist—so is Ann Coulter! (I get a certain amount of glee imagining Ann Coulter’s reaction to being called a feminist as she really loathes the term.)
Number 6: We are not. I admit I do hate the world most mornings, but that’s just cuz I haven’t had my coffee yet. See above, we dislike living in a male-dominated society and we are trying to be vocal about it. A vocal woman is not an angry woman. I like to think I’m a pretty positive person and most days I’m rather fond of the world.
Unless it’s early and I don’t have any coffee handy. Then the world can go screw itself.
Number 7: I’ll tell ya right now. If you take me out on a first date and do not hold the door for me, offer to pick up the tab, and insist on walking/driving me home, I will probably never call you again. I feel awfully repetitive, but this is not the case for every woman. Feminism can mean different things to different women just as any political ideal or even religious ideal. For the more hardcore (and kind of bitchy to be honest) feminist who sees a man holding the door for her as a testament to her strength or see him offering to pay as an insult insinuating that she can’t pay for her own meals—whatever. To each their own. I, and a lot of other feminists, don’t see it as demeaning a woman. I see it more as common courtesy. I grew up with three very gentlemanly brothers (and am excited to have a very gentlemanly brother-in-law as well) so I’m used to it. And on a more selfish lazy note, I am a broke college student. If you want to buy me dinner, feel free. If you want to spare me the agony of pushing a door open—go right ahead. If you want to offer me your jacket because I get cold when it’s 70 degrees out, go for it.
Of course, this may have more to do with my inherent laziness and stinginess than my appreciation of chivalry. Point is, for ever feminist it’s to each their own.
Now who wants to buy me another coffee?
Number 8: Okay, now you’re just being mean. I am perfectly able to ‘get a man’ if I want to, as many drunken frat boys have pointed out to me when I walk down the street to get a coffee. So are lots of women who call themselves feminist. Frankly, this is more of an insult than a misconception but I still hear it a lot. What it boils down to is, I do not NEED a man to be a happy, fulfilled woman. I do not need a man to feel pretty. I do not need a man to feel sexy. I can do all of these things just by trotting down to the coffeehouse in my red high heels and I don’t even have to suffer the pangs of a broken heart. That goes for all women. Unfortunately, it’s a very widespread idea that if a woman is single she is therefore unhappy. I love chick flicks, but I’ll be honest, if some guy chased after me while I’m in an airport, proclaimed his love for me and begged me to stay, I’d probably say something along the lines of, “Very flattered and all, but I’m off to Oxford, cheers!”
Yeah. Man does not equal happiness.
So how do I define feminism? Well, I’m pretty fond of good old Oxford’s definition of feminism. “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality.”
Wow, that’s pretty simple, isn’t it! I think that women should be allowed, authorized and even encouraged to run for president, senator, or Congress right alongside men. I think women should be allowed to vote. That’s political. How about social? I don’t think women should be treated as pieces of meat or robots made for male pleasure. I’d like society to be a little more equal-ended and not so masculine. I don’t want a totally female-dominated society either—but it wouldn’t it be nice if we had a society that was dominated by both genders equally? And economic—if a woman does the same job as a man, works as hard as that man, I think she should be paid as much as that man. I think she should have the same financial rights as a man.
Do these seem like horrible, terrible, unreasonable requests?
Here are a few things I’m active in as a feminist. I donate time and energy to women’s counseling centers, to help women who have suffered at the hands of an abusive partner. I am very against female circumcision that still goes on today in many African countries. I donate time and energy to centers that help victims of rape. I donate time and energy to women in the Middle East who have been tortured and maimed for allegations of infidelity, actually being raped, or even daring to walk down the street with painted fingernails. If you’re interested in helping me in any of these causes, contact me, and I’ll send you a ton of info and websites on the matter so you can help too.
That is what I mean when I say I’m a feminist. This is what a lot of women mean when they say that they’re feminist. I respect women who want to climb the corporate ladder just as much as women who choose to be a homemaker and raise a family. It shouldn’t have to be one or the other.
You don’t even stand a chance,
I’m not taking off my pants,
I’m here to start a one girl revolution!
I’m not a Barbie doll, shopping mall, silicone substitution!
I thought I told you, I’m a soldier,
And I ain’t leaving till the battle’s over—
ONE GIRL REVOLUTION!
What are we selling, our brains or our belly buttons,
Why are you buying, don’t you know that they’re lying?
What are you crying about, don’t just sit there and wait
As they’re selling us out!
ONE GIRL REVOLUTION!
--Saving Jane, “One Girl Revolution”