Oh no, the dreaded F- word!
In all seriousness, I am a Feminist. That means that I am “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”. I am “a man or a women who says: Yes, there is a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better” (via Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, hear her “We should all be feminists” TED Talk).
I get pretty tired of people—mostly, but not always white men—saying that because I am a Feminist, I must:
- Hate men
- Hate marriage
- Hate children
- Hate bras
- Hate skirts
- Hate society
- Hate myself
But I don’t hate any of those things at all.
- I love my father, uncles, male cousins, male partners, male friends, male colleagues, male mentors, male role models… the list goes on.
- I don’t hate marriage, in fact, I think that committing to another person for life is a beautiful thing, whether it is a marriage contract, a civil partnership, a hand-fasting, Living-Apart-Together, unrecognised or undefined. Being in love and being loved in return is a great part of life.
- I love children, in fact, I have spent my life from age thirteen until the present caring for them as babysitter, tutor, mentor, teacher, and carer. I think they are so important.
- I don’t hate bras, I just don’t wear one because it’s uncomfortable and I don’t need it.
- I don’t hate skirts, and in fact, I wear them frequently.
- I definitely don’t hate society, because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it! I want it to be more equitable, with all individuals having the same access to food, water, healthcare, education, politics, social programs, economic contribution, and work opportunities.
- I definitely love myself. I try very hard to be accepting, loving, and respectful of myself, my mental health, my mind, and my body. I believe in self-love and body positivity.
So, why do you have a problem with my identification as a Feminist?
Because I don’t have a problem with you. At all.
I have a problem with patriarchy, a system which places men who conform to certain ideologies about masculinity in a position of power over other people. This system disempowers both men and women, because it forces men to change themselves to fit into the stereotypes of masculinity, and the men who don’t or can’t, are left disempowered, frustrated and angry. Many of them have redirected their anger at other people of different sexes, genders, ages, sexualities, abilities, races, and classes. It is easier to blame other victims than blame the true perpetrator.
Hasn’t the system already done enough to disempower us all? Why do we have to fight each other? We all want the same things: Equitable access to the things we need to survive in our society.
I am taking this one step farther, because I think that feminism is useless without intersectionality. It is pointless to point out inequities relating to gender and sex (which are different things: gender is your personhood, sex is your body parts), without also acknowledging: race, age, class, ability, sexuality, and other divisions in society. Socio-cultural issues are not that simple. All women do not have the same experience, just like all men do not have the same experience. We are all empowered and disempowered by different facets of our selfhood.
For example, I am white, western, middle-class, able-bodied, and post-secondary educated. I am able to participate in certain situations and have access to certain rights because I am those things. These are ways in which I am privileged and empowered, and that empowerment can often blind me to the ways that I contribute to white privilege, western perspectives, classism, ableism, and the issues relating to education access. But, I am also young, queer, and of the female sex. I frequently encounter barriers because I am female, because I am not straight, because I am androgynous, and because I am a young person. I find myself being denied opportunities and rights because I am ‘abnormal’ or ‘inexperienced’ in these ways.
I don’t get to speak for all women. I don’t get to speak for all queers. I don’t get to speak for all twenty-somethings. The only experience I can draw from is my own. I can only be an ally to those who are disempowered in ways that I am not. I should not speak for them. I think that, if I do, I am not a feminist… I am an oppressor.
No one gets to tell anyone else what to do, how to think, what to say, or how to behave.
And I am really tired of people telling me to stop misbehaving.
To borrow from Joss Whedon’s Firefly, “I aim to misbehave”. Because the inequities in our society will never change if I behave, if you behave, if we all behave and fall in line and accept that society is the way it is. No great change ever happened because people stood by and did nothing. They happened because people stood up and said no.
I am tired of feeling unsafe when I walk alone at night. I am tired of being shouted at on the street because I am female. I am tired of being told that I can’t wear the clothes I want to wear or treat myself and my body the way I want to treat it. I am tired of being told that my youth means I don’t understand the world enough to comment on it. I am tired of being told that my sexuality is ‘greed’ or ‘a phase’. I am tired of being told how to behave, what to say, how to think, or what to do.
Have you ever been in a situation when you questioned the status quo, and someone told you to fall in line? Did you see sexism, homophobia, classism, racism, ableism, ageism, and other kinds of discrimination in their perspective? How did you deal?
Leave me a comment, I’d love to chat about it.
If you liked this post, check out my perspective on problems in standardized education systems in last week’s post: School: Is it the only way to learn?
Thanks for reading!