Thursday, May 15, 2014

The "F" Word

So here's the thing: I am a feminist.

Before we get into what I believe and why I believe it, I want to ask you a question. What comes to mind when you hear that word? On a basic level, what does the word feminist make you think of?

Feminism, in its simplest definition, is the belief and promotion that men and women should be given equal opportunities and rights.  That doesn't sound too bad to me.

Why, then, does the word carry such a negative connotation?  Why is it that mentioning an "F-word," or worse, claiming to be an "F-word," is enough to cause a person to be looked out with suspicion, distrust or even disgust?  To even identify with it is to identify with things like masculinity, hatred of men, stereotypical "angry" feminists you see comically portrayed in the media, or even (gasp!) lesbianism.  The word seems so extreme and radical that girls are scrambling to remove themselves from any association with it.

Which means issues remain unchallenged and no progress is made, which is the most disappointing part.  

I choose to look at feminism as it was originally intended to be: the idea that I, as a woman, should have the same rights that my brothers do. In the future, my daughters should be afforded the same opportunities as my sons.

I don't hate men. I definitely don't think myself above them.  I don't disregard everything that comes out of a male mouth.  I've been married to a man I love very much for three years and I respect him, listen to him, love him. We are very much equals and supportive of each other's goals.
So now, let's talk about what I believe:

1.  I believe I should have all the voting, educational, and legal rights that my male counterpart would be given.  We've come a long way with this in the 20th century, thank goodness, but it's still startling to see how recent these reforms are. Women couldn't vote in an election until 1920. Harvard Medical School didn't accept women until 1945....and the number of men and women enrolled in college wasn't equal until 1980.

2.  I believe that if I were to ever be hired for a job, I should be paid just as much as a man who is offered the same job, granted that our work and educational experience is the same. In 1963 women earned less that 59% of what men did....that is 59 cents for every dollar. The wage gap between men and women has narrowed, yes, but is still significant. In 2012 women only made 77 cents for every dollar made by men. 

3. I believe that if I were ever raped or sexually assaulted in any way, that I in no way should ever be made to believe that it is my fault.  Never. Ever, ever ever.

Does this sound crazy? Do I sound like I have hairy legs and should be out burning my bra on the front lawn?


The reality of the situation is that sexism really does still exist, but those who speak against it are automatically pushed into the category of crazy, bossy, or militant.  

It's bizarre, and the more I think on it the more I come to realize how deep rooted these issues are. Even now, I'm hesitant to post this because in some weird way, I don't want to publicly categorize myself like that either.

But then I think on it even more, and I remember that I'm tired of feeling like wanting equality between genders is some massive ask, which immediately designates the asker as demanding and angry and overbearing.

That's just simply not how it should be.


Heidi said...

Amen sister! I still struggle with the misconceptions other people have about me identifying as a feminist. But you got married young. Yup. But you plan on being a mom. Yup, genetically programmed for it.

It's mind boggling how people don't "get feminism" and furthermore how they don't understand that there is still work to be done. We're extremely lucky we live where we do because the struggle is much more pronounced in other parts of the world where women are still treated as secondary citizens.

Natasha said...

I definitely believe in equality, but because of some of the completely insane things I've seen held up as feminism, I'd rather just avoid any labels. I'd like to think that most people don't think those things when they talk about feminism, but I know that a lot of women (and even a few men) do.

I know there is still a lot of discrimination happening to people of both sexes. We have different problems, but they are just as important.

A while ago I saw a video of what would happen if men were treated the way women were. The man is sexually assaulted and then not taken seriously at the police station. The reality is that men aren't taken seriously if something like that happens to them. It might happen less, but I think percentage wise it is probably reported even less by men than women. I think sexual crimes are misunderstood and treated very badly all around.

I don't think we really need a label, but if we are going to use one, I would like a new inclusive one for people who care about everyone's rights.

Gaby said...

frankly, i don't understand how any woman could not be a feminist. and the wage gap frustrates me beyond anything! clearly we still have a lot of work to do...


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