Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hey, Lady

Whenever I hear a self-described lady say: "I'm not a feminist, but ..."

I want to stop her right there and tell her whatever she plans on saying next is completely unimportant.

It is of no value or consequence.

Because that's what women were ostensibly told before our grandmothers and great grandmothers fought for the right to vote. Before our mothers secured the ability to be in control of the size of their families. Before they refused to accept the standard choice of careers.

I hold my tongue. Perhaps it's also the lady's choice to define herself and feminism so narrowly.

Feminism, for women like her, has morphed from a word to a dreadful afflictions. Perhaps it references a person she believes to be the opposite of womanly. A pushy broad she'd like to keep at arm's length. A woman she neither liked nor wished to emulate.
A woman exactly like her mother.

Feminism for those women, and lets not forget the men, is something entirely different. To them feminism is the basic component of a free society.
It has nothing to do with who opens doors for whom, or who stays home with the kids. It's not about forcing women into military service or mandating that men mop floors. It isn't about turning people into something they're not. In so many ways feminism is the exact opposite.

Although I'm sure our comfort with specific gender roles does blind us to the real issues of equality.

Personally speaking, I find the idea that feminism can be boiled down to the assigning of household chores insulting. But I had to mature to realize the hubris.

Like many young women trying to find my own voice, I mouthed the same anti-feminist idiocy that took my very existence for granted:

"I'm not a feminist, but ..."

And what I meant was:

"I'm not a man hater."

"I'm not angry."

"I don't think I'm better than you."

" … But I am ... better than you."

What I didn't understand was that feminism wasn't about any of those things.

Feminism isn't about obliterating feminine traits or emasculating men. It's about teaching boys they are not masters of the universe and teaching girls they are not victims of it. It's about having respect for each other, and realizing we need to work together.

In my way of thinking, feminism doesn't even have much to do with personal fulfillment, although that is certainly a benefit. On the contrary, feminism has everything to do with equality. It has everything to do with acknowledging the need for all people to be afforded the same opportunities - regardless of gender - for the betterment of society. It's acknowledging that where you have empowered women you have stronger communities.

Feminists are everywhere women are respected. It doesn't matter what they wear, or what they do, or even which pair of chromosomes they posses. When we accept feminism, it means we believe men are capable of nurturing. We believe women are capable of leadership. It means we are not narrowing the possibilities.

It's not special treatment. It's equitable treatment.

So, dear ladies and gents, if you believe women and men should be treated equally under the laws of society in which we live, you may call it whatever you like, but you are a feminist.

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