What I Learned From Feminism
Feminism gets a bad rap. I think it’s because people don’t really understand what it is or what it means. They assume that a feminist is someone who wants to invert the status quo: that they want women to hoard all the power and have men become subservient. That we think women who are homemakers or traditionally feminine are somehow bad. Some even think we hate men or are angry all the time. All of this is untrue, I am sure there are exceptions to this rule but individuals who express feminism in a certain way don’t define what feminism is.
I became a feminist because, well, when I was in high school a lot of my peers and family members confessed something awful to me: that they had been sexually abused as children but when they told someone, an adult in their family, they were told, “That’s what men are. That’s what men do.”
This was devastating. The fact that it had not happened to me felt like I was an exception to the way things work. In all honesty, I have known more women who have been sexually assaulted then who have not been. This is heartbreaking and has a lot to do with how men and women are conditioned. If a girl is raped, society questions her sexual history and what she is wearing. If a man rapes, they say, “Boys will be boys.” Going out in a dark alley and getting assaulted is responded with, “Well, what did you expect? You’re a girl.” Instead of teaching us that men should be accountable for their behavior, we’re taught that women have to adjust to their “nature.” I don’t buy that for one second. Being a girl in a pair of shorts when it’s hot, after dark, should not feel so scary. That’s why I became a feminist.
Here are a few things it taught me:
Get Laid. Fuck It, Get Laid A Lot
There are three waves of feminism. The first was the suffrage movement. Next it was in the 1960s, when middle american housewives (the Betty Drapers, if you will) decided that they had enough. They felt confined and oppressed by marriage and at the time marriage was oppressive. During this time it seemed more productive for women to be “less feminine” because at the time they felt so objectified. Women who were sexual were wrongfully seen as betrayers of the cause because it was perceived that they were playing into male expectations. Then the third wave came along in the ’90s and we were like, that’s bullshit. That’s just another way of imposing a box on who a person is. Everyone should be able to be as sexual or non-sexual as they want. Every girl should be able to dress how she wants. Every girl should be as conventionally beautiful as she wants. That’s what feminism is supposed to be: letting any person be exactly who they want without judgment.
Homemaker or CEO: Do You!
My mom was a homemaker. My dad went to work. It doesn’t matter if those roles are reversed or divided. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a stay-at-home mommy (or daddy) and third wave feminism teaches us that we should not persecute anyone for their choice to do so. Have 10 babies, have no babies. It’s up to you.
Girlie-Girls And Tomboys And Everything In Between
Gender roles are an imposing social structure that says women should be one way and boys should be another. Feminism showed me that this is nonsense. When I was a teenager I equated males with strength and intelligence, whereas women were weak and emotional. So for a while even though I wanted to wear lipstick or a dress, I didn’t because I thought it somehow made me less respectable. This was stupid. Feminism helped me realize that asserting that you are “not like one of the other girls,” means that you think there is something wrong with those other girls. There isn’t. Wear a dress, wear a tie, wear a dress with a tie, who cares. It doesn’t make you less intelligent, less of a feminist, or less respectable.
Don’t Hate Your Body
One important lesson, was that so much of society is constructed around judging women’s bodies. Advertising especially is designed to make women feel deficient. You’d be perfect if you just got a little botox, if you just tried this new diet, if you just got this perfume. It’s an easy way of selling products but its affects on our psyches sucks. We’re taught from such an early age to compare ourselves to other girls to the point that we may even needlessly resent them. We’re taught that we should be/look a certain way in spite of how we actually look. No matter how great we look, we always feel a little bit inadequate. Teaching women that beauty is of the utmost importance is poison.
It’s a lesson that men aren’t taught. Just how many men wakeup early each morning to straighten their hair, shave their legs and slather on foundation. There’s nothing wrong with doing those things but sometimes I have to question why I do them. Like, I hate shaving my legs. I absolutely hate how much of my life is devoted to shaving my legs but when I don’t I feel self-conscious like I’ll be judged. What’s up with that?
If you ever feel like something is “just something you do” and notice that men aren’t conditioned to be doing it too, its roots may lie in a flavor of sexist thinking. What’s worse for women is that “vanity” can become a distraction from what is really important, which comes down to how well our minds work. Our brains are the only thing we’re going to consistently have because bodies, well, they just change over time. Our brains are going to get us those jobs. Our brains are going to get us out of those unexpected crises. Our brains are going to be what helps a friend. Our brains are what’s going to get us romantic partners because let’s be honest, no matter how physically attractive you are to someone, if you can’t hold a conversation with them, they’re going to say, bye bye.
Body-shaming is poison because it affects our self-esteem so profoundly. If women don’t have the will, I’m talking the inner-strength and confidence, to put themselves out there then we won’t be able to empower to each other.
It Don’t Matter If You’re Black, White, Muslim Or Republican
Feminism is for all women, I do however think some feminists fail to make it inclusive. The needs for women maybe different based on culture, political and religious beliefs and often this goes unacknowledged. For example, it always ticks me off the way women who wear burqas are perceived by some “feminists” as weak or victims of male patriarchy. How a woman chooses to express her religion is up to her, the same way the length of her skirt is up to her. However, when it comes to liberals or conservatives it presents an even greater issue. Mostly because of the pro-life, pro-choice debate. I guess to me, the solution is, if you are pro life then other feminists should not see that as a weakness or as a failure in reasoning, because our beliefs are up to us alone, right? However, I think if you are pro-life, you have to consider how legislatively and profoundly a pro-life policy would affect women who are pro-choice. Then decision on how to vote is up to you.
So are any of you feminists? Are you interested in learning about it? Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti is a great, easy read. So is A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word by Julie Zeilinger.