Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Angry Feminist Rant. Probably Slightly Incoherent.

Questions people often ask feminists online:

Why would you choose to align yourself with a group with such negative connotations?

If you really believe in equality, shouldn't you call yourself an equalist or a humanist, not a feminist?

You know what?  As novel as my understanding of feminism may seem to some people, I didn't blindly come up with it and pull it from whole cloth.  Nope.  I'm a creative person, but I'm not THAT creative.  Instead, I looked around at the prevailing use and definition of the word feminism in feminist circles.  Because really, who are you going to believe-- haters or people who have never bothered to read up on the topic, or people that are immersed in the topic, and have an understanding of the topic, and are part of the community?  It's like when non-Christians try to tell me I'm not Christian because I don't go to church every Sunday, or believe every tenant of whatever Christian denomination they're most familiar with.

And like Christianity-- or any religion, or any political movement, or any other thing someone can self-identify as, there's a lot of wiggle room inside one broad definition.  There are some crazy feminists out there!  I don't know any feminist who denies that!  But there are crazies in Every. Single. Movement.  Modern feminism-- the feminism of women in my age group, the feminism of third wavers, the feminism that is what most people on the internets are talking about when they talk about feminism-- it bears very little relation to radical feminism or the feminism of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon.  Sure, there are still radical feminists out there!  And there are enough of them that if all you want to find are radfem blogs, you could probably do that!  But that is not what the MAJORITY of the modern feminist movement is.  It's incredibly stupid to disavow an entire movement because of radicals who share the label.  You don't throw the movement away-- you get active IN it, and do something!  Granted, most of what I do is just blogging and talking to friends and leaving comments on the blogs of people who drastically disagree with me, but I want to do more, and I want to hold on to feminism, because I believe in it.  I believe that women are every bit as valuable and capable and worth respect as men are.  I believe that who you are should matter more than the genitalia you bear.

As to the name?  Well, the movement is about equality, yes, but with a focus on women, and on advancing women to be equal with men-- as well as on changing some things that do go beyond pure equality.  The equality feminism wants isn't to make men's situations worse to match women, but to make women's better to match men.  But it's true-- while equality is the core, much modern feminism goes beyond that, and looks to ways to better life all around.  Extending paternity and maternity leave, for example, are feminist goals-- yet this goal isn't just pushing for equality, but to expand the status quo into a better situation for both genders.

I think it's kind of awesome, actually, that feminism wants to make things better for everyone, and I have no shame in belonging to a group that prioritizes women.  Every group must have some kind of focus, or nothing will get accomplished.  Feminism is ultimately, fundamentally about women's rights.  By the definition of feminism, things that fight for women's rights are feminist, even if they also fight for other things!  And you know what?  Something having equality at it's core doesn't preclude it from saying "Hey!  Situation X is bad ALL AROUND, let's fix it!" or "Situation Y affects women only, but let's fix it!". (What, you might be wondering could possibly affect only women*?  How about breastfeeding.  Or menstruation.  Or policies surrounding childbirth.  Parenting sure as hell is a men's issue as well as a women's issue, but the choice between a diva cup or tampon or pad and dealing with it when you get one break every X number of hours but have a very heavy flow is an issue most men don't face.

Feminism is still needed.  We've come a long, long way from when my mother first started teaching and was required to wear skirts, and a longer way from when my grandmother was a girl.  Married women and women with children are allowed to hold down jobs.  The wage gap has gotten a lot smaller and isn't as simple as a company literally setting different pay scales for men and women.  It's illegal for a man to rape his wife.  But really.  We've still got a long, long, long way to go.  And I think feminism is necessary to get us there.

Quite simply-- I'm proud that I'm a feminist.

(ok, this is being very cis-centric, and I realize these issues may also affect transmen, but please stay with me.)

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