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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Am a Feminist, and…


It’s International Women's Day and blog against sexism day, and I want to take this opportunity to put in a good word for feminism, sexism’s worst enemy. Feminism is that handy little -ism that’s so hard to define but so easy to love. Have you ever felt afraid of feminism? Don’t be embarrassed – many people have at one time or another. (As a teenager, I myself was occasionally heard to say things like “I’m not a feminist, but… I think it fucking sucks that women earn 68 cents for every dollar a man earns!”) Here’s a few general truths about feminism that may help to allay any residual suspicions you have:

1. Feminism has improved the lives of many women all over the world. Feminist movements have helped women in various cultures gain the right to vote, to work, to control their reproductive lives, to marry whom they choose when and if they choose, to divorce, to own property, to not be considered property, among countless other basic human rights. Feminism is still fighting for all of these things around the world and right here at home.

2. Feminism has a long and glorious history. Check out the great and readable overview in the new issue of Bitch magazine.

3. Feminism inspires smart, funny, pissed-off, culture-savvy magazines like Bitch. And ass-kicking bands like Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, and Luscious Jackson. And lovably crusty, unapologetic, erudite, culinarily tasteful blogs like I Blame the Patriarchy .

4. Feminism promotes the interests of women and men. Honest. Rigid gender roles suck, have you noticed? This is true for men as well as for women. Feminism wants to make sure that men can cry without feeling like losers, enjoy honest emotional connection with both men and women, and follow sports or not according to their inclination. Feminism works for a world where everyone, regardless of gender, can choose a career they really love, feel good about their as-is body, and get the respect that all human beings deserve.

5. Feminism does not try to sell you things. If something masquerading as feminism tries to sell you a diamond ring , a cigarette, a thigh-firming cream , or a boob job, you can bet that it’s not really feminism. (Okay, actually feminism may try to sell you things like washable menstrual pads, dildos, or shirts that say What Would Joan Jett Do . But we can safely say that feminism won’t hit you with slick ads selling nasty shit made by heartless corporations.)

6. Feminism promotes better sex. More choices, more respect, more honesty, more comfort with both bodies of whatever sex and gender, more possibilities to figure out who it is you really want to have sex with, more positions. And then there’s all those dildos… Truly, the idea that feminism is anti-sex is a myth. (The only kind of feminism that’s anti-sex is anti-sex feminism, but that’s a miniscule subgenre and we haven’t been hearing much from them lately because all the lipstick feminists and pro-porn feminists and GLBT pride folks have been partying so loudly.)

7. Feminism thinks about the big picture and reminds privileged Americans not to get too complacent. Feminism reminds me that in my own country, reproductive rights are under fire, two out of three adults living in poverty are women, and violence against women is rampant. It makes me aware of the horrors that are systematically committed against women and girls around the world, from female circumscision to female infanticide to suttee, and reminds me that globally approximately 90% of sweatshop workers are women. At its best, feminism understands that sexism is intertwined with and exacerbated by racism, nationalism, class privilege, corporate greed, and homophobia.

So run out now and subscribe to Bitch, or Ms. if that’s more your style. (Or both, what the hell!) Read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks, Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, and Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein. Join NOW. Support Planned Parenthood or NARAL. Work your ass off to have George W. Bush impeached. It’s what Joan Jett would want you to do.

12 Comments:

Blogger jpn said...

Hoooooeeeee!! That's my girl! You said it all much more eloquently than I probably would have (speaking of ranting...). My only problem with International Women's Day is that (aside from it being only ONE day each year) we need to mention it all --- I'm looking forward to a future where having a special day for women just wouldn't make any sense, since there'd be no reason.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Chantel said...

Very eloquently put. I told a story and you gave a beautiful speach.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

10:41 AM  
Blogger DoctorMama said...

Thank you.
What does "I'm not a feminist, but ..." even MEAN? Is it code for "I don't hate men, but ..."? "I'm not a lesbian, but ..."? "I like pretty shoes, but ..."? I've always been astounded when otherwise intelligent women use that line, but I have come to realize that it must mean something different than I thought it did.

11:25 AM  
Blogger E. said...

It means "I'm a feminist, but I'm afraid to admit it."

Afraid why? I think when I was in high school I was afraid people would know how opinionated and pissed off I was, how little I actually fit in with what seemed to be the norm in the small town where I lived.

And maybe for some women afraid other people will believe some common myth about feminists (they all hate men, they're all lesbian separatists, they don't have a sense of humor, etc) and apply it to them.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

Well said, Queen.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Great post! I was once told that i couldn’t be a Feminist because i was a man. I disagree, i believe in equity & liberation for women and in my eyes that makes me a Feminist and i am more than proud to be!

7:36 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Great post, E - you've articulated a lot of what I feel about feminism so well. I get a lot of "I'm not a feminist, but..." in my Women's Studies classes, which always depresses me. I hear it a lot at the beginning of the term and always resolve to eradicate it by the end. And it seems to work, for the most part.

8:17 PM  
Blogger naive-no-more said...

This comment is totally off subject, but I had to tell you about it right away.

I'm sure you've heard of these and probably even tried them yourself already. Me, I'm behind the times and thus have not used those handy little to-go finger toothbrushes.

They work pretty awesome in a pinch and I recommend keeping a few in your purse for those occassions when oral hygiene cannot be sacrificed.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Charlie said...

Good post. Regarding statements that start "I'm not a feminist, but...", when I hear them my mind substitutes "My understanding of feminism is a caricature that that certainly doesn't describe me, but..." The good news is that when you hear it, you can be the first to tell them what feminism really is.

1:40 PM  
Blogger E. said...

Thanks, everybody!

Charlie, that's a perfect translation. Well said.

Hell yes, Dan, we need more feminist men.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

Cheers - I just bought that shirt and I loooovve it.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

That sound is me applauding you!

10:23 AM  

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