I just recently declared myself a feminist. Despite being a woman for thirty-six years, I only started calling myself a feminist in the twilight of 2014.
It took listening to other feminists speak for nearly two years via Twitter to convince me that not all feminists were man-hating, non-shaving, militant lesbians who wanted men to be ground under their boot. With feminists saying other feminists were faux-minists, it was the same kind of crap that led me to throw my hands up. Nobody is happy with the advancements made by other feminists, no matter how big or how small. Women are our competition. We tear each other down instead of build each other up. And it's bullshit.
It wasn't until I witnessed a conversation via twitter by the lovely Feminista Jones that I really took a look at why I'd resisted feminism for so many years. Her response to my rather spiteful comment was simply, "Nah." And she followed with a couple of tweets about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Apparently I wasn't the only one who wasn't a feminist because of all the shit other feminists have told us we have to be. And it forced me to take a look at why I resisted being a feminist.
I was so leery to don the cape of feminism. Like many people, I was taught feminism was “Up with women! Down with men!” I saw many issues affecting men like the pressure to be the breadwinner and the “men don’t cry” rhetoric. My father was my best bud until I hit pre-teen years and then he just… disappeared. Because he didn’t feel, as a man, that he should be involved like he was in his daughter’s life. I watched male friends be beaten in parking lots for being “gay” or “girly”. Sensitive was thrown around like some kind of insult and still is. We have to walk around with these masks of perfection and invulnerability and it’s complete horseshit. I saw women with unshaven bodies and no makeup burning bras and American flags. I watched so called feminists tell men they were worth nothing more than genetic material donation. I saw women tearing down other women in the name of a cause that I now understand they knew NOTHING about. Until this year, feminism was a dirty word and still is in a lot of circles. I threw the baby out with the bath water because of horrible examples of humanity donning the title and ruining what feminism truly is.
I have never understood why women would chastise women for doing what is in their hearts to do. If a woman wants to become a stay at home mom and raise her kids, AWESOME. If that’s what works for her, then that’s what’s best for her and her family. Friends of mine in the workplace were coerced into coming back from maternity leave with the horrible sword of Damocles that they couldn't ever come back like their husbands were going to chain them to the house with a chain a'la Black Snake Moan. There is nothing wrong with being a career woman. If you want to be the breadwinner of the family, that's amazing! If your husband wants to be a stay at home dad? GREAT! I am not cut out for the role of domestic majesty. If I were left at home with my offspring, I might be the kind of mother to chew off their heads. My son's dad? He's a great dad. My son used to make mother's day cards for his dad and make father's day cards for me. Why? Because we didn't fit traditional roles and still don't and really never will.
It is important for men to speak up about being feminists so that other men don’t feel/think/believe/whatever that they’re alone or the only one or the single guy standing with the cheer squad while the football players and the band kids make fun of them. Every man who steps forward and says, “I’m not perfect, but I’m sure as hell trying and, damnit, this shitting on women and making men be some weird machismo stereotype is wrong!” is one more voice saying “No, dudebro. Not cool, man. Not cool.” when someone sells a shirt that says something as incredibly damaging as, “It’s not rape, it’s a snuggle with a struggle”. (Yes, unfortunately, that DID happen.) Men who are likely to assault women are more likely to listen to another man than to any women who dare be heard instead of merely prettily seen.
I've run into the women against women thing more times than I care to count. I get sick of my coworker saying things like, “I make decisions about people and if I don’t like them, they WON’T stay.” It’s like the thought never crossed her mind that diversity is a good thing and maybe SHE needed to open her mind a little. She’s STILL trying to figure me out. I’m a woman who rarely wears makeup, my hair is almost always in a ponytail. I don’t shave every day or sometimes even every week. I wear jeans and tank tops year round. I don’t give a damn about fashion or makeup or television. I don’t like rom coms like she does. Yet I wear Victoria’s Secret and support her in her decision to be a super girly girl who doesn't leave the house without makeup and who shaves every day, sometimes twice a day. We have a right to be who we are. All of us.
We all need to be excellent to each other. (Wow. Just dated myself there…)
Sometimes it feels like cheating to call myself a feminist, even for me as a woman. I don’t face the myriad of issues other women face. But, more importantly and more scary to a lot of people, is hearing a sexist joke and saying, “Not cool.” When you see a woman who is being street harassed, walking up and simply saying, “You okay, sis?” Putting yourself in the line of fire is a scary, scary thing. And anyone who is willing to take up that mantle, anyone willing to say there is an injustice? That’s a good thing. Male, female, transgender, inter-sex, gender fluid... whatever your orientation, whatever your gender... you want equality.
If not me, who? If not now, when? [transcript]
And, since I've talked about some heavy shit (and I love this girl for real): a moment of humor from the lovely Laci Green.