Let’s Talk Feminism

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One of my best friends saw my bullet journal today, and noticed that in capital letters on the front cover it reads “FEMINIST!”, because I am, a feminist. Upon reading the word, she asked me if I truly am a feminist, and obviously my reply is ‘yes’. It is the answer I will always give, no matter the circumstance.

 

Once upon a time, a fellow (male) student asked me, because it was the natural direction of our conversation, “Are you a feminist?” and my quick-witted reply was “Are you not?“. I had never been so proud of myself for being so direct about my opinion. Usually my wit doesn’t come back to me until I exit the social situation. #introvertproblems

My friend then continued to ask if I’m a radical or extreme–I can’t remember the exact word she used–feminist, which is when I replied ‘no’. Partially, because I don’t consider (my) feminism to be extreme, but also because I didn’t really feel like getting into an argument at the time. And I could take a guess at the ‘kind of feminism’ she was thinking about. You know the stereotype: lesbian, bra-burners, men-haters, they don’t shave. I am none of these things, but that does not mean I’m not a feminist. It also doesn’t mean that they aren’t feminists (unless the men-hating part is real and not an exaggeration).

Granted, I think shaving is a chore I’d rather not do, but I just cover up the hairy parts of my body. More importantly though: CAN WE NOT SHAME WOMEN FOR HAVING HAIR ON THEIR BODIES?? (because, you know, it grows there.) Yes, opinions about beauty differ, but you have to accept that your own opinion isn’t the end-all-be-all-Holy-Truth that you think it is. If someone decides that they do not need to shave to be beautiful, who the fuck do you think you are to tell them otherwise? Are you seriously attempting to shame them or make them feel insecure about the hair that grows on their bodies? Why are you insisting on breaking that person down, instead of praising their bravery in defying society’s standard idea of beauty. Does hating make you feel content? Are you proud of your behavior?

Feminism is about equality. It’s about women having the same rights as men. It’s about men having the same rights as women. It’s about equal opportunity: men and women starting at the same level on the job market, in social situations, in all aspects of life, regardless of their gender, regardless of their race. That last one is to all the white feminists out there. Feminism means equality across the board. It’s basic human decency, a.k.a. respect. That is my idea of feminism. It means men don’t have a foot in the door when it comes to being business savvy; when the woman applying for the same managerial position has the exact same qualifications, but she has to knock on the door and wait for someone to give her a pass in order to even enter the room. It means female midwives are not preferred over male midwives who have the same exact education. You can accept that you obstetrician is a man, but not your midwife? Double standard much?

If FEMINISM = EQUALITY, then why not use equality because feminism has a negative connotation? What is it about the word feminism that bothers you so much? Personally, I will adamantly use the word feminism until people stop rolling their eyes, or start grunting, or complaining about the incredulously bothersome discussion that will most definitely follow after the word is uttered. Can we not do this right now? #AmIright? #High5Bro Because why make a problem out of something that has been going on for ages, something which has always been accepted as totally fine, and please stop making a big deal out of this one tiny thing. — No, you’re definitely not right, and we are, in fact, doing this. For one, because it is a problem. A sexist joke isn’t not sexist because it’s a joke. All of these little tiny things that feminists ‘whine’ about are part of a bigger problem. The patriarchy denigrates female characteristics, and feminism is about raising them back up to their male counterparts. It’s not about taking down masculinity.

I use the word Feminism because it’s about not devaluing things that are considered feminine/female. Here is some food for thought:

  • the-future-is-femaleDo you think female superheros are considered badass, because their power and strength are linked to masculinity?
  • Why is expressing feelings something only women should do? Because it’s not manly? It’s expected of girls, because they’re what, girly girls? And why is that combination of words not considered a tautology (e.g. a round circle), shouldn’t a girl automatically be girly, because, you know, she’s a girl?
  • Why is it man up and don’t be such a girl?

I use the word Feminism because I consider female characteristics to be of equal worth and value as male characteristics. (Not to mention that female and male characteristics are only split up that way because of historical customs and stereotypes. And here I use the word ‘historical’ as a synonym to ‘of the past’, while we’re supposedly living in the future. But who am I to challenge basic ideas, right, am I not only a girl?)

Feminism is about women owning their own bodies. No more body shaming, no more slut shaming (see my earlier post on this), no more caring about ‘the male gaze’, no more shaming your fellow woman, because she has the same insecurities that you have. And whatever you feel the need to say about her body, she has already thought that exact thing multiple times herself, and felt awful about it. So how about you don’t rub it in, yeah? Feminism is about helping other women, and not shaming them to please men. (look up Most Girls by Hailee Steinfeld and watch the video clip)

Female empowerment does not look the same on every woman. For example, women can wear a tiny cross around their neck, or a hijab might cover their hair. Neither of these two things make less of the fact that she is an empowered woman. Who are you to say what feminism and female empowerment look like? It is about giving every woman the power to choose, and not reneging and taking that power away when you do not agree with her choice! The above is an example of white feminism, we are so blinded by our own ideas of emancipation that we forcefully push our own values onto them. And tell me how is that different from men controlling women? Here’s another idea some Western women try to claim as not feminist: A woman who actively chooses to be a housewife, has lots of kids, stays home to take care of them, and still feels empowered. In this case, the woman isn’t emancipated enough. She is following the stereotype. But you know what, maybe she was offered all of the options, and still chose to be a housewife? (Edit: I am aware that in some of these cases these could be a sign of oppression, but each case warrants its own scrutiny. And if there is oppression, it is still not our job to force them to act differently. All we can do is lead by example, and make sure every person has access to education. Let every woman and man decide for themselves what they choose to do, and what they choose to wear.)

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I can go on and on about feminism, but this is already over a thousand words, so I’m going to end it here. Feminism is the direct opposite of sexism, so think twice before you say you’re not feminist. And yes, every -ism has its extremes, the idea is to find the equal middle ground.

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The Only Thing I’m Asking for Is Respect

Even though this is a new blog, I’m immediately bringing out the big guns. After finishing All the Rage by Courtney Summers, I felt inspired. Coincidentally, International Women’s Day just passed as well, so there’s no better time to address this issue.

In All The Rage, Romy is sexually assaulted by the most popular guy in town. Everyone loves him, he’s the son of the sheriff and can do no wrong. The novel deals with the aftermath of her rape, how she works through the trauma while no one believes what happened to her. It’s hard to read through because of its dark honesty, Summers holds no punches. This book is very important, because it shows that rape culture is not a joke. It’s the reason why many woman and men don’t come forward after they were assaulted. Somehow, the way we, as a society, deal with rape, it’s as if the victim is responsible for the rapist’s actions. In this story Romy works up to forgiving herself, something she should never have to do, for lying, for holding in the truth, for not fighting back hard enough. But it is also about working through her trauma, and learning to live with what happened to her.

Slut-shaming is a concept tightly woven into that of Rape Culture. It’s this idea that a woman who enjoys any kind of sexual activity or is very sexually active can be summed up in one word slut, from then on that becomes her only worth, i.e. she’s always good for a lay. Even when a woman dresses provocatively, she can be branded. One of the most common questions a rape survivor is asked is What were you wearing? As if the amount of clothes someone has on automatically provides the perpetrator with some kind of justification. The sexual assault is rationalized and offenders get off easy, this is called victim-blaming. For some inexplicable reason the fault lies, not with the rapist, but with the survivor of rape, because they were asking for it. How fucked up does a community need to be to blame someone for being sexually assaulted? Honestly? It makes me want to scream bloody murder.

rosea-posey“Judgments” by Rosea Posey

Even in my own life, when I’m picking out clothes for example, I question my choices. For the longest time, I didn’t want to wear low-cut tops, because I didn’t want to show too much cleavage. Nowadays, when I want to feel sexy for myself I will put on clothes that make me feel that way, and I will stress this again I wear sexy clothing to make me feel sexy. It is for me. I changed my way of thinking, because this is learned behavior. Society taught me to cover up my skin. I can’t remember if it was ever said to me explicitly, but when we were in school, one of my best friends had to change out of her shorts once, because they were too short. The implicit reason? “It would distract the boys”. Society teaches girls to cover themselves up so that boys would be able to control themselves. Why don’t we teach boys to control themselves no matter what situation? Boys will be boys? Hell no! Boys will be taught how to respect other human beings.

I’m tired of choosing not to wear a specific kind of t-shirt or dress. Because yes, I still catch myself going for the safer option. The option that will keep me invisible when I’m trying to have fun with my friends. I work to rewire myself every day. To fix what has been ingrained in me since I was young. I’m waiting for a world that starts teaching respect at day 1.