I’m gonna get all gender-critic on your ass. Deal with it. It’s going to be the central focus of my PhD studies, so…yeah. Expect a lot of this stuff in the next few years.
I need to write about feminism, or womanism, or humanism – in my opinion, feminism and womanism and humanism are inherently the same construct with the same goals – because there’s been some bad shit in the press about feminism lately. And I say this as a hardcore feminist with zero apology about my feminism: Feminist sisters, quit it with trying to define feminism. We are in the postmodern age in which defining a movement for women only leads to more backlash and misinterpretation of our mission.
If we say ‘feminism’, womanists get up in arms because of the inherent exclusion of black women from the origins of feminism, as well as the missing context from lower-class women of any ethnic background; the nature of feminism in its original form mostly valued the worth of white upper class ladies who already pretty much had everything. The introduction of womanism into the lexicon attempted to rectify the wrongs done by feminism.
I’ll be the first to admit that feminism has a shitload of problems. At its worst, feminism is militant, obnoxious, and misunderstood. It seems to me, looking around, that feminism, or the act of feminism as a political movement, is the shit-filled moat around the actual goal that feminism is attempting to promote. The moat has been filled with anti-pornography, intercourse-hate, misandry, militant asshole-ism (what, it’s a word) and mommy/body/everything-shaming. I refused to identify as a feminist for a long time because I thought it meant I had to smear my body with patchouli, shear my hair short, and do a ton of yoga. Well….I did cut my hair, and y’all know how much I love my chatarungas, but it took me a number of years before I recognized what actual feminism means. And we’ve come to a point in which feminism, if we let it, can include all women everywhere.
My personal definition of feminism is thus: The mission for women and girls everywhere to be judged on something other than their bodies. The mission for women and girls everywhere to not be a target of rape. The mission to stop rape culture. The mission to stop body shaming by educating girls and women on the strengths of their minds, rather than the lift of their breasts. The mission for all women and girls to experience and enjoy sexual autonomy. The mission for full and total equality on every level for every woman and girl in the world regardless of ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
Note that I never said in that small manifesto “AND ALL MEN SHOULD BURN IN HELL ALL FEMINISTS MUST BE LESBIAN AND WE ALL MUST USE CAPSLOCK. ALL THE TIME. I MUST FREE MY BREASTS FROM THE CONSTRAINT OF BRAS. ANDREA DWORKIN IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL.”
Don’t jam me in a box.
Yet…I’m a feminist. I even did a production of The Vagina Monologues. That shows you I’m serious, because there’s nothing as serious as standing on a stage in front of your parents and siblings, shaking a pom-pom and screaming “C**T” over and over again.
There are many things I do that maybe don’t look like feminist activities on the surface but in actuality are just fine for any feminist to take part in.
I love baking, crocheting – right now I’m making a pretty awesome blanket for someone as a Christmas present – and pretty vintage dresses, and my taste in music is unbelievably twee (I say that while at this very moment the new Eminem album is downloading). I’m a runner but I also like lifting, kickboxing, yoga-ing, and hanging out on the elliptical for an hour while watching How I Met Your Mother reruns. I like green smoothies and sweet potato fries and every once and a while a good cut of steak. I like getting my meals paid for when I go out on dates and also like paying my own way if the moment calls for it. I refuse to apologize for who I am but I own up when I mess up. I’m strong, but I cry pretty much all the time. I watch a lot of romantic comedies. This week I cried watching that little girl cry hearing her mother sing and I cried the very next day when my car got towed. Emotional vulnerability is not weakness, it’s humanity. I like wearing UGG boots and super high heels and I’m obsessed with sequins and Nike gear.
I believe in a woman’s right to do whatever the hell she wants with her body. I don’t believe in abstinence-only education. The days of chastity belts are over. I learned all the various ways one can go about having protected sex when I was in grade school, and it terrified me out of the entire activity. So if you really want to scare your kids out of considering teen sex, parents, make them watch an old woman slide a condom onto a banana. Their eyes will BURN.
I like reading Epistemology of the Closet, Gender Trouble, and Discipline and Punish and then going home and reading Glamour. Because dammit, what is Jennifer Lawrence wearing to the Golden Globes? I want to know!
Did I mention I like men? Well I do. I like them a lot. One man in particular, but that still doesn’t stop me from drooling over Chris Evans in the new Captain America: Winter Soldier trailer (yes, I objectify him and I don’t see anything wrong with it considering the profound history of female objectification. Revenge!). I don’t think you need to be a misandrist in order to be a feminist. You can simultaneously work to end the patriarchy and find it lovely when a man thinks you’re attractive. There are good men out there, and they want their women to be as successful, or even moreso, than women. Any time there’s a divorce in Hollywood and it’s blamed on the man getting jealous of the woman’s better career, I get grossed out. When did we start teaching our sons that a relationship is okay as long as they are the chief earner?
I believe in male feminists. Even if they don’t self-identify, they are out there. I wouldn’t denigrate myself by being in a relationship that gave me a permanent date for weddings but denigrated my self-respect. I was raised in a family that honored and respected strong women. I was never told as a child that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Granted, it was my Dad’s job to foster that kind of dream in girls, but it didn’t end at the Gampel Pavilion door. It came home and it’s stuck with me.
I believe in every single type of marriage you can conceive. I also support people who legit just don’t want to get married and are perfectly fine with how they are in their relationship. Additionally I don’t think you need a relationship at all to be a happy person. The only person you spend your entire life with is yourself, so you better be happy with it.
I believe in victim support in the case of rape, and education in the prevention of further assaults. I believe in taking the necessary steps to avoid assault, but at the same time, those things will happen because A) there are crazy people in this world and B) we aren’t teaching our sons to respect our daughters. Wearing a short skirt doesn’t say “Come Have Sex With Me Against My Will.” Boys (and girls) should know that.
On the same coin as the short skirt and the message it sends, I don’t participate in body shaming. Ever. I’ve been body shamed way too much and I’ve had way too many things go haywire in my own body to allow myself to be dragged down into it. If I hear a friend complaining about their body or judging another person’s body or fitness level, I think to myself Your body works. Be grateful that it works.
Amanda Palmer annoys me sometimes, but she gets this right: “The most powerful feminist can do whatever she wants. That’s the point of feminism.” Don’t let your like-dislike of the activities I listed above allow you to buy into the concept of being a ‘bad’ feminist.
The only way you can be a bad feminist, in my estimation, is if you participate in any discourse, activity, or movement that contributes to the oppression of any woman, or any group of women. That can be the largest possible offense, such as raping and torturing someone, or the smallest aside, like calling a stranger a skank or saying that they’re fat or something because you’re in a state of judgment. It says more about the person saying those things, than it does about the person being labeled.
My point of this slightly militant blog is this: If you don’t want to self-identify as a feminist, that’s fine. That’s your prerogative, and as I’ve mentioned the word has gotten a lot of abuse over the past few years for being too exclusive and “too white” for the majority of women in the world.
As long as you believe in your soul that women should be looked at with the same view that we afford to men, and experience the same freedoms on various levels that are afforded to men, you are in fact a feminist. You don’t have to call yourself a feminist to be one as long as you keep that one belief as a constant in your heart.
One of my students this semester asked me, in a way that didn’t mean to be insulting, “I was just wondering why we need feminism.”
I gave him a very neutered response about the lack of equal pay for men and women, and the rampant abuse and religiously-funded violation of women’s rights all over the world, and insidious sexism, the insanely tone-deaf response of UConn’s administration to the severe rape culture prevalent on its campus, and yada yada yada. But I summed it all up by saying, “We need feminism because we’re not done yet.”
We’re getting there. We’re closer than we’ve ever been in human history.
But we aren’t done.
For now, I’m going to be thankful I live in the same era as Judith Butler, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, bell hooks, Sen. Wendy Davis, Janelle Monae, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Rodham Clinton (Clinton 2016!), Joss Whedon, Andrea/Andrew Gibson, Carol Clover, Brittney Griner, Michelle Obama, Lady GaGa, Malala Yousafzi, and so many others who are working towards redefining how we view and appreciate the woman’s voice in all of its colors, genders, and sexualities.
PS. If you are thinking about trolling any of my opinions expressed in this post, do yourself a kind favor and see yourself out. I’ll end up deleting your comments anyway.