Part one: My Question:
I noticed an intriguing bio online recently. I was entertained until the last line: No feminists please. In 140 characters this guy appeared to be intelligent and witty and, obviously not knowing him, I was somehow sure that if his imaginary partner were up for a promotion and overlooked due to her gender, he would not be happy. So why the aggressive aversion?
Over the past six months it has become very clear that something in the feminist fabric is changing. In September of last year The California State Senate unanimously voted to enact the Yes Means Yes legislation. The act states that to engage in any sexual activity both parties must be making “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision”. Though the lobbies for this group were predominantly women, how many men would have been involved in this to make it happen? With so much support, why are there still women not calling themselves feminists?
It’s pretty simple. In the face of this progression we are still confronted by the Cee Lo Green mentality. The men who claim that ‘If she was unconscious, how could she say no?’. A mentality that allows Urban dictionary to add a word such as Manism. Manism is the belief that men are entitled to take what is theirs as the dominant sex. You might know this as misogyny. Related words in the search include prick and arrogant. And yet, this is supposed to be funny.
I am not one to ever be accused of being overly politically correct, that’s the truth. But these throw away words/concepts, even as a parody, shine light on a deeper issue in our culture and force me to ask myself: has the term ‘feminism’ gotten lost, is it enough anymore?
‘Feminist’ has become synonymous with a group of women who cry loudly for equality from way up high on their pedestals. Woman with no sense of irony or humour about the world they live in. It’s real motives are lost behind indignation and misappropriation of a movement.
The Misappropriation of a Movement
You’ve probably already seen it but I’ll give you a minute to get over how adorable that was. Done? Ok, now let’s talk about what we actually just saw. Adorable girls, dropping very real statistics and using very real language. Take a shot for how many statistics you actually heard and clap for each timeA you squealed at a little princess raising a finger like the diva they told her to be. Pretty sober aren’t you? It’s just a whole lot of noise. The real objective of this ‘Awareness Campaign’? Selling T shirts.
If you actually watched till the end, which I didn’t originally because honestly their overacting upset me, you’ll know that T shirts are $15 with $5 going towards ‘kick-ass charities’ They don’t even tell you what charity they’re supporting! This video is doing for feminism what Madonna did for the cross necklace. We see you wearing that cross, doesn’t make you a Catholic.
When women are wearing feminism as a fashion accessory, we have lost the plot. Not only that, but we have silenced 50% of our potential supporters: men. The T Shirt doesn’t come in their size. (It’s a metaphor guys).
Bad Habits are Hard to Kick
We are still cultivating the idea that there are qualities that belong to one gender, and in this case, there are whole issues. Gender stereotyping runs so deeply that it impacts our word choices. Working in a kindergarten, why do I have to tell my little male pupils that they look handsome when I want to tell them they look beautiful? Beauty is in a smile, in honesty, in vulnerability. Can men not possess these qualities?
Words like weak and sensitive and beautiful surpass gender and move into basic human expression. Let’s treat them that way. In the same token, some little girls really do just want to colour and play with dolls. Just as when I feel beautiful, I want to express that. With no fear of finger pointing and cries of ‘cultivating stereotypes’. Isn’t true gender equality the flexibility of expression and opportunity?
I kept asking myself, is this word, feminism, really enough, because it seems so one sided and not at all representative of my understanding of the goal. The goal being, as expressed famously by Gloria Steinem, ‘A world with…no arbitrary distinctions, but rather a universal bond between individuals’. Individuals. So how do we account for the day to day elitism within the movement? As a woman, why am I afraid to be a part of this feminism, and what is left?
Part Two: My Conclusion
Times We Got it Right
Luckily there is, what should be, feminism 101, and it’s called HeForShe.
Feminists are not downtrodden women rising up, but a human being who is concerned for rights pertaining to women and equality. I found it obvious. But it’s the best thing we’ve got so far.
In the early 40’s a generation of women lost their men to war. So, without flair but with duty, women got to work. Sure, thems were different times. But it wasn’t a question of ‘He won’t let me!’ it was an answer of ‘Here we are!’. No one called them weak. No one called them whiny. No one called them incapable. Because they were not. They were this:
look at the purpose.
And even this:
These days, only 60 odd years later, women are discouraged from applying for jobs involving heavy lifting. Where are our ice luggers?
Too many women are shying away from calling themselves Feminists because of a petty thing like a name. Movements evolve, names and concepts become distorted. People shy away from what is right for fear of being pigeonholed.
Swipe Right for Gender Equality
I don’t want to be a deadpan feminist. I will always see irony, humour and satire. There is nothing funny about pay inequality, rape statistics, and the basic violations of personal space we encounter daily; Education and awareness is key. But more than anything, let’s create a society where we do more than we say. We don’t just rally, we say yes when we mean yes. We do what we can, because we actually can. In the words of Paulo Coelho: The world is changed by example, not by your opinion. Honestly, I have only skimmed the surface and could go on in great detail, but I’d only be doing myself and this cause a disservice. I’d prefer to lead by example.
We are doing this to ourselves. And by this I mean perpetuating labels and by us I mean freaking everybody. Call yourself whatever you like, I get that the picture isn’t pretty right now. But focusing on the picture is how they are selling those T-Shirts, it’s how people settle for the job they have instead of the job they deserve. We can change the picture.
Focussing on what people don’t know, and using your judgy eyes will never create a world that facilitates change. We need to stop defining feminism by the eyeroll to comment ratio. You could be the one who gets it right. The one who did not preach, did not lecture, but acted. Even in the most minute situations, you can make a difference. If not to anything else, then to your own life. And that is the starting block that turns the singular into movements and movements into realities.
A short post of mine with a similar theme was recently published by fbomb.com. Written by moi and edited by Julie Zeilinger.