***WARNING: WHAT IS ABOUT TO FOLLOW IS SOME OPINIONS AND SHIT.*** I have been meaning to write for weeks, but because of my work schedule, it’s been nearly impossible. For those that don’t know, I have a job where I am taken to different “on-site” locations and these projects can last anywhere from three to six months, and it can be very physical at times. Anyhow, a few weeks ago, I was in one of the offices here, and I overheard a conversation between two of my coworkers:
Man A: “Yeah she was one of those crazy feminists, super bull-dyke-man-hater.”
Man B: “Ugh, that’s the worst.”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s STILL REALLY 2015 and conversations like these are STILL taking place. At this point, I promptly turned around and said, “Hi Offensive! By the way, that’s not feminism. A feminist is someone who believes in equality for men and women.” Blank faces stared back at me, with a hint of sheepish embarrassment that a woman had actually overheard their remarks (despite the fact that they were sitting 10 feet away and it was an open room), and had felt the need to comment on their erudite conversation.
Man A: “So….we’re feminists?”
Me: “Do you believe in human rights?”
Man A: “….Yes….”
Me: “Then there’s your answer. Human rights, these are good things.”
When I was a little girl, I didn’t really understand gender roles or stereotypes. I liked playing with plastic dinosaurs, thinking I was going to be a veterinarian/taxidermist when I grew up (that way I could memorialize the pets I couldn’t save), and playing time-machine on my swing set in order to re-enact some of history’s greatest moments; a personal favorite was Nero playing the violin while Rome was burning. I’m not even kidding. I stood on top of the slide and pretended to be Nero playing the violin while my best friend and brother pretended to be Roman citizens burning in the flames (For the record, none of us were abused as children).
It had not occurred to me that girls and boys had different opportunities in the world until one day, my friend (the same Roman-citizen-burning-in-the-flames-friend), sat me down and started telling me about what she had learned in a social studies class about girls having greater difficulty in life advancing. I was about ten or eleven–I remember because she was two years older and had gotten picked to attend a young women in leadership-esque conference and I thought that was “super cool” and wished I had been old enough to also attend (and this was the mid-late 90s, where the Spice Girls’ GIRL POWER! was all the rage).
Flash forward almost twenty years later, I went to a university which had a ratio of roughly 80% men to 20% women, and I have a job that often makes me one of the only women in the room. Luckily, the pay policy in my job is very strict; a woman and a man entering at the same time will never have disparity in pay; “Equal Pay for Equal Work,” is surprisingly one of the few gender-blind policies we have. Apart from that, conservative patriarchal values reign supreme in this career field, although it is slowly changing.
The conversation between my coworkers that day in the office just really made me think about how there continues to be this dirty connotation with the word “feminism” (and, for the record, their language regarding the woman was disgusting. That in itself is another issue). I have never not been able to do something in my life because I was born female; that doesn’t mean I haven’t received criticism and haven’t seen the pervasive negative attitudes against women in my career-field (and let’s be honest, the freaking world). I also realize that the things I can do today (receive formal education, vote, own property), were not things women could always do (and STILL CAN’T DO in parts of the world). My university didn’t start accepting women until the late 1970s, and when it did, they were not welcomed with open arms. I am NOT a victim; however, I have no problem calling bullshit when I see it.
A few months ago, the “I don’t Need Feminism Because,” trend on the internet popped up. Obviously, I preferred the “Cats Don’t Need Feminism Because,” version, but I couldn’t help thinking–are these people actually f*%^ing serious? So, I took the time to come up with a few “I don’t need X because,” of my own:
1. “I Don’t Need Civil Rights Because,”
2. “I Don’t Need to Access to Medical Health Services Because,”
3. “I Don’t Need Food and Water Because,”
4. “I Don’t Need Protection from Convicted Felons Because,”
5. “I Don’t Need Tuna Because,”
(Just kidding, I need Tuna. Where is the Tuna?)
Sexism, like other forms of bigotry, is deeply interwoven into our society to the point where it can become “sneaky” and part of the, “Well-that’s-the-way-it’s-always-been,” mindset. A simple but perfect example: “You throw like a girl!” This is a seemingly “innocent” phrase that implies that the thrower is weak. Think about insults thrown around: Sissy, pussy, little bitch. It takes anywhere from roughly a month to a year to form a habit, and these are sayings children learn early on. What is this saying about our culture that we continue to associate being female with negative circumstances? In much the same way that none of my family or friends ever said, “You are white, therefore you are better than anyone who isn’t white,” I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I couldn’t see how my life has been shaped by certain racial prejudices prevalent in society (like how white privilege isn’t a real thing, right?!), and how as an adult I’ve had to reexamine my beliefs and throw down the bullshit card because of certain things ingrained from childhood (Because just like it’s easy to spot the “bad racists,” it’s easy to spot the “bad sexists,” right? <–for the record, that’s sarcasm).
Feminism is not man-bashing. Feminism is about protecting the rights of BOTH MEN AND WOMEN. If we don’t need feminism, what should we tell those 1,000,000+ trafficked persons? If we don’t need feminism, why are so many men still afraid to come forward about being raped? If we don’t need Feminism, why am I still seeing articles on my Facebook newsfeed that go along the lines of, “In Defense of being Child-Free” (It’s 20-freaking-15–who the eff cares who makes humans with their genitals and who doesn’t??), why are we still so worried about the gender identity of children? We’re reaching a point where we have the ability to move past these centuries-old prejudiced ideas about humans, because they’re just that–prejudices. Stripped of everything, humans are the same at the core. We are born the same way and we die the same way: man, woman, gay, straight, black, white, brown, whatever–made up roughly of 55-60% water and organic materials, we are, in the words of Chuck Pahluniak “the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” Maybe that’s a little bit of a messed up way of looking at things, but in a way, the dark humor is grounding. Take away the lofty ideals of one group being better than the other, for whatever imaginary and arbitrary reasons, and realize that life can be pretty shitty for the lot of us, so the best thing to do is buckle down and do your part to not make it as shitty for the next person. THAT’s why we still need feminism.
Oh, and I take back the part about us all dying the same way–that goes for everyone except 50 Cent, because let’s be real, that guy has been shot like, 9 times. That’s some crazy bionic-CIA shit going on right there.
Happy Women’s History Month!