“As a society, we encourage girls and women to be emotionally accessible, and in touch with their feelings; we say that it’s an innately feminine trait. We say it, that is, until they have feelings that make us uncomfortable, at which point we recast them as melodramatic harpies, shrieking banshees, and basket cases.” – Tori Amos
Call me a feminist. Go ahead; throw it my way in the shape of a demoralizing insult. Want more ammunition? I am also a liberal with democratic and republican views. It sounds silly when I see it written down. Most people think I am joking when I explain this, but countless of encounters have ended badly since apparently there is no possible way you can uphold different flavors of political thoughts: this is just not done. Because of the methodical bracketing we all fall into, you either belong to one group or none, and you would not dare to transpose the doctrines. But I am not delving into a partisan debate. This has nothing to do with political parties and everything to do with a certain mentality related to a particular stand: Feminism.
When I claim to be a feminist, people look at me like I will grow a second green head that will start spouting hate towards the “other” sex, towards chivalry, good manners and everything that this society has become. They look at me like a man hater, a woman who doesn’t know “her place” and who is making everyday a different problem with her cries of injustice. Apparently I don’t physically fit the bill either, since many people associate feminism with women who won’t shave, who are lesbians or don’t wear bras because they burn them in bi-weekly meetings of garment punishment. I have been told by older women that there is nothing to change in society, that I am doing more harm than good since women were not meant to vote or hold power, be independent, have a voice or choose what to do with their life except nurture their families and live precariously through their kid’s freedom, always under the feet of men.
I disagree. I am a big advocate of women’s rights, and that is what makes me a feminist: I want women to share equal ground politically, socially and economically with men. I want women to be respected and to own their lives and bodies. I want to be looked at as an intelligent human being just walking somewhere on the street, not as a piece of ass to be cat-called (sorry for the crass analogy). I want to be able to speak my mind around my male co-workers, who make sexist jokes about women’s place being in the kitchen, without being afraid they will call me a prude with no sense of humor and bully me till I hide my voice. I want rape to stop and for the survivors to not be demeaned. I demand to not be harassed by the public for speaking out, to not be censured and mistreated by a culture that shows its patriarchal injustices at every turn of the road. I want for the egalitarian system to take off with open wings and wash away the continual attacks that we suffer as the “weaker” sex.
I want men to be free too. Don’t believe for a second that in this type of society both sides of this coin are not suffering because you will be fooling yourself. Men always have to present a tough exterior, show no feeling except anger, and keep quiet when something bad happens to them because they have to “take it like a man and not act like a woman about it.” Men also suffer from rape, body shaming and unnatural expectations as women do. The restrictions and straightjackets in place for both genders are crippling us, yet we are more oblivious to the suffering of the people right in front of us than to the knowledge Pluto is not a planet anymore (which is sad on both accounts, I really liked Pluto).
The point of this is not to explain myself. On the contrary, I am trying to reach out with my siren call and bring people over to see, read, and analyze, to question everything, to make sure there is no gap in between our sources of information and our understanding. I want people to question why if a man calls himself a feminist, people think he needs to resign his “man card.” When in all reality he is standing up for something so much bigger than all of us, and he is courageously going against the tidal wave of misinformed or unaware people.
I want you to question why if a woman sleeps with ten men she is a slut but a guy is a player? Who is measuring that? Why do *I* have to learn to be careful with the way I dress? To not flirt, to not be nice, to not talk to guys that I don’t know, because apparently that is an invitation for them to rape me even if my consent is nowhere to be found? Why do women have to be sure to not walk anywhere alone or if they do, to have their keys between their knuckles, to have their cell phones handy, to look around everywhere and be alert and ready to run? And why do we blame women if something happens when they are alone? Why do we question why they were at that place, for living at that neighborhood, for not being careful enough?
Why is sexually harassing a woman considered a compliment? Commenting on my appearance in a crude and “come hither” way is NOT acceptable! When I say NO to a man’s advances, why am I suddenly a slut, a bitch or any kind of name your mind can conjure right now? Believe me it has happened before.
When women get promotions, why do people speculate that she slept with someone or “stole” the job because of the women’s movement? Why can we not have earned it? And on the same note why do I have to drop my femininity in order to move up the corporate ladder?
Why do women in the military suffer from discrimination, contempt, rape and have to prove to be as good as their male counterparts at every turn? Why do I have to leave my uterus and my body open for other people to decide what to do with it? Why are we being compared to cows??? Am I just supposed to live a subjugated life and breed? Why is Viagra covered by health insurance and birth control considered an unacceptable medicine?
These injustices have been going on for so long that most people do not see the imbalance in society. It is there, I promise, in the degradation of women who are not thin or molded like the public wants them, in the playing of our insecurities that if we are not all beautiful, blonde with blue eyes and white smiles we just don’t deserve to be happy. Most products for women sell because advertisers prey on the fact that you hate yourself. They supply the lie that you will only be good enough if you use this, wear that, or just look pretty and don’t speak your mind.
This is why I need feminism: to be able to look around and not be attacked by all the signs that point to me being inferior. Those signs are quite common and evident every day. I want women to regain control of their bodies and their stand in this world. I want us to change the way things are by teaching boundaries and respect, that we are all deserving of the same things, that the “battle of the sexes” is not really a battle if we could stop the blatant discrimination, that “no” means “no” and it is not ok to treat a woman like she is a thing, that when a woman is drunk or doesn’t want to follow through with something that was initiated in mutual accord, then the guy should step away and not use brute force to get what he wants.
Teach men to not rape. As I have seen in a post somewhere, the fact that so many pretexts are made to defend men’s behavior makes them look like rabid animals who will jump women on the street at the least provocation, suggesting that men are brainless and logically challenged. If your mind is saying: “Well, most rapists are outcasts/deranged people who should be shun out of society and thrown into a pond with a shark”, then that poor shark would be outnumbered 1000 to 1, because on recent studies done by the RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim, 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger, 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance, 28% are an intimate and 7% are a relative. The rapist is not a masked stranger. According to Robin Warshaw’s, “I Never Called It Rape,” 8% of men admit committing acts that meet the legal definition of rape or attempted rape, but they don’t usually think of themselves as rapist. Other studies report this number is as high as 15%; some men have said they had done it and they believe every male rapes, some just keep it quieter than others.
You may think this does not happen often but from my personal experience and reality this has been and is an everyday deal of anxiety for my safety and not knowing when the next blow will come. I see the attacks against my sex; I feel them and wish that I could just block it all out. This is just a reader’s digest of what I am trying to change and save with feminism, but it gets harder every day. I was raised with the firmly planted idea that if I can defend what I feel to be right, I should do this without hesitation. I should stand up for what I believe. People failed to mention that doing this will tear me down more often than not, that reading about so many topics — injustices related to rape, the “war’ against women’s bodies, young girls being traded for marriage or sexual slavery or having their genitals mutilated, women dying because they need an abortion and doctors are not willing (or are legally unable) to perform one, the constant criticism and “blame the victim” mentality that suggests that we are the ones at fault — would leave me filled with despair on most days. Fortunately, there are others who stand up for what they believe too. I am thankful for the people who are rowing alongside me against the dark tide of misogyny and machismo. We just ask for fairness, safety, dignity, and respect, and we all hope to see some change before our time is done.
So yes, I am a feminist. I am proud of it as well. And knowing how feminism helps women and men alike, how this moniker is not gender exclusive, I cannot understand why everyone isn’t a feminist, can you? Go ahead and pick up a paddle. We could always use more hands on deck.