I have ranted and babbled about my feminism and various women's rights and health before, and I hate sounding like a broken record or a raving lunatic (okay, maybe I like the latter a little bit), but recently I have been struggling deeply with the state of feminism in the United States. I shall call this my State of the Uterus Address... (heh.)
A few months ago, I was at a bar talking with a group women I had just met. In my slightly inebriated state, I mentioned that I was a feminist and started yapping, as I do when drunk, about equality and all that nonsense. Anyway, after I dropped the F-Bomb, I realized I had made a dramatic social faux pas. (Sometimes, I really should just say to myself, "Courtney, no one wants to hear about your weekend bra burning and baby killing, you pinko lesbian man-hater!")
"I am not a feminist," one young woman said with indignation and a slight flavor of superiority, while the other ladies nodded in agreement. "I'm perfectly fine with a man taking care of me."
The Lady Center of my brain (it's where some of us store details about cute shooz and Sex and the City) screeched and wobbled and maybe fainted when I heard this. (Then again, the Lady Center of my brain could have fainted because its corset was too tight, but we can't be sure.) Unfortunately, it was not the first - and sadly won't be the last - time I have been looked at by women of my generation as some sort of aberration because I self-identify as a feminist. The screeching and wobbling comes because I get so worked up, so confused and frustrated and angry when I hear this, that I have trouble articulating what's going on in my head.
So, weeks later, with space and time and a lot of thought in between, I'm going to attempt to explain. Attempt being the operative word.
Fuck You If You're a Feminist-Hating Woman
I feel somewhat compelled to apologize for my visceral anger on this subject, but there is little I hate more than hypocrisy, and that's exactly what it is when American women sit there and sniff, "I'm not a feminist. Ew. Gross." So I'm not bloody well apologizing!
If you're an American woman who hates feminists, you need to check your comprehension of history. You can vote. You can drive a car. You can make personal and unique decisions about your body, your future, and your entire life. And why can you do this? Not because some man took care of you, but because the women who came before you were Feminists.
I won't get into the complex and varied history of the Feminist movement, but feminism, just like women as a whole, has evolved and changed over the years. And the women so many revile, the stereotyped bra-burners with hairy arm pits, have done far more for the state of women than many will ever recognize.
It is this stereotype which harms all of us, I think. Feminists are not responsible for this militant angry man-hater stereotype at all, but our culture (it's the Patriarchy, baby, and it's alive and well), in an insidious attempt to retract any gains women have made over the years, has reinforced this Frightening Feminist notion again and again and again. In fact, this has been so pounded into our collective mind-set that the word "Feminist" pulls up a very distinct image, one that is unfeminine, and intimidating, and, well, ugly. It is of a woman who would beat down men and take over, kill your unborn babies (or eat them, I'm not sure), and have sex with your daughters. Or something. Am I right here? Are you scared of feminists?
The Proof Is In The Pudding
True feminists, like true feminism, are about equality. It is about equal treatment for women AND men, for people of all races and backgrounds and futures.
And yes, there is anger, there was anger, and there might always be anger. It is born of frustration at being repeatedly told that you're not good enough or smart enough simply because you have ovaries. And for those who think they have never been told these things, you are out and out wrong. Women everywhere are told this every day. Give a more critical eye to the advertisements and politics and economics of our world, and you will see that women have consistently gotten a pretty goddamned raw deal.
To clear up confusion, I suppose that maybe I should stop calling myself a feminist and maybe start calling myself a secular humanist or some such, but that just makes me sound like a pompous ass (note: I am one). But I will not allow the play into the fear of feminism. I am a feminist - and a proud one at that. But as I have said before, it is not what defines me, it is simply a part of me.
In this is a key of feminism so many often miss (or Ms.? damn I think I'm witty!). Feminism gives us the opportunity to define ourselves as women. And the longer we are convinced that feminists are grotesque, the longer we spend arguing whether or not we are feminists, or what a feminist is, or how Feminism is best performed, the less time we have to actually find our definitions, whatever they may be. When a woman hates feminists, when she denies the quality of the Feminist movement, it is an act of betrayal. It is a betrayal of those who have given their lives for the strides women have made in our nation, and betrayal of all those women who are still subjugated and treated as second-class citizens around the world. When a woman like Sarah Palin brags that she is not a feminist, yet is unable to deny that she would be in her position now were it not for the feminists before her, she is a hypocrite and a Judas to her sex. (And any woman who is anti-choice and would deny another the right to her own reproductive decisions fails to realize one very important thing: carrying a pregnancy to term is still a choice.)
The worst part of all of this is that the longer we spend debating what feminism is, the longer we argue whether or not we are feminists, the less time we as women have to become doctors, lawyers, mothers, teachers, politicians, and individuals. And in that, those who strive to retain any and all inequality in our society are winning.
And as a woman - as a person of any sex - you can be fine with a man (or woman) taking care of you, but that's not a reason to be anti-feminist. That's pretty much just plain laziness.
And for the record: