Alright, it’s time to talk specifically about feminism. I can tell because the other night I was talking to a stranger, just dumb getting to know you ish small talk, and after I’d already mentioned my school work I mentioned this little blog and described it as fun because “It’s feminist assertions, but supported with Disney video clips.” I know, I’m hilarious. This guy was like “Wait, would you call yourself a feminist?” I said, “Um yea of course, very. Abso-fuckin-lutely.” And this guy was like “Really? You seem so nice…” (that’s a paraphrase because I was annoyed and had kinda tuned out.)
Now, what even is that about? First of all, have you seem my haircut? Is it that shocking that I’d identify as a feminist? And secondly, where did this guy learn that feminists were mean or unapproachable?
Oh, wait. He learned that from pop culture like everyone else. Crap.
Ok so, the second wave of feminism was angry. The most well remembered image of this movement is of bra-burning at the Miss America pagent, and these women were portrayed as man hating, unshaven, in-your-face girls who were whiny and discontent. Of course there were problems with this feminism, such as it’s lack of understanding/acknowledgment that women’s problems needed to also be deconstructed along the lines of race and class. And maybe anger was also a problem. But listen, it was the 60’s, freakin everyone was angry. It’s just that anger is not a quality that is attractive in women, so those pioneers got painted red in the media. They got painted as unappealing, as over there.
So time goes by, women get out of the house, hell one even gets close to a presidential ticket, and everyone relaxs. It worked, we all think. But the stats show a different picture. Women are still earning 76 cents to every one male-earned dollar. Women are still overwhelmingly the victims of domestic and sexual violence. Women are still doing the majority of housework including childcare, 51% on an average day versus only 20% of men. (stats as of 2009 http://www.bls.gov) If the stats don’t convince you, watching TV should. Television commercials are an excellent place to observe how seriously we all take gender roles. Need an example?
Maybe even a man or two? Seriously? Someone actually wrote that line?
But really, what better evidence do you need than in your own personal life? I feel all the time how gendered power is, how sexual roles and rules are alarmingly different, how a lot of guys are immediately disinterested when they find out that I’m smart and into my own autonomy. And that might sound shocking, but I promise you, it happens everyday. And I don’t know a single girl who hasn’t tried to change something about herself to acquiesce someone they like.
So what is my self-perception as a feminist? The bottom line is that I believe that women are just as capable as men in doing almost anything. And in some cases, some really important and miraculous cases, we are better equipped for the job. I think that gender roles are bullshit and I think that everything about our culture, our language, our laws and our values upholds these differences. I want to dismantle things. Marriage for one, the one couple family system for another, and mostly the language we use that so insidiously undermines our progress towards equality. And yes, there are days that I’m angry. I certainly feel no need to apologize for my anger, and I feel that its justified. And furthermore, I’m not always angry. Far from it. And I don’t hate men. First of all, they can be fun, and believe it or not they make great friends. And ultimately they are just as caught up in the system as us girls are. They have restricting roles as well (though they are less restricting and usually more fun, but I digress…)
As usual, I could go on, but that feels good for now. Next time, before you answer ‘no’ to that question of are you or aren’t you, consider claiming this controversial label. After all, controversy is cool, women are cool, equal rights are cool. And the movement has moved on from its cultural stigma. It’s broader now, and (at least I believe) more optimistic and inclusive (though I draw the line at Sarah Palin…)
Here are some fun feminist images. Come on over to the dark side y’all, we won’t bite (unless you ask nicely.)