That’s the theme question and writing prompt for Day 2 of #FemFest. This is my answer–today, anyway.
Yesterday I spent a considerable portion of my day thinking about how to talk to two young women who–independent of one another–pooh-poohed the very idea and existence of feminism as something that either didn’t concern them or that they didn’t feel a part of. In talking to the first woman, I learned that as a “working-class black woman,” she didn’t feel at all welcome in or comfortable with feminism–in fact, she believes feminism is pretty exclusive. Being white and new to active feminism, I don’t feel equipped to talk much about why that is (I’ll write more about this in a future post), but I did my best to assure her that my brand of feminism, and that of most of the feminists I’ve encountered, is the inclusive kind.
In the second case, a young blogger declared that feminists are a bunch of whiners who feel inferior–who believe they’re not yet equal to men and are fighting to become equal, which is silly because duh, we already are. She declared that, as a strong woman, she couldn’t possibly be a feminist, because feminists are obviously weak if they think they’re not equal.
In both cases I gave it my best shot, but I have no idea whether I got through. Frustrated, I turned to Jenn Pozner for help during her daily waiting-for-the-subway-Q-and-A.
@jennpozner How do you talk to young women who buy into the stereotypes about feminism and feminists?
— Rosie R. (@MMASammich) February 27, 2013
While I waited for her to respond, I pondered whether my question was a) stupid, and b) answerable via Twitter. After ten minutes, I was certain I’d caused poor Jenn to roll her eyes so hard she passed out. I wondered whether I should call 911. Then this popped into my feed:
Patience+info+clarity+humor…& I listen. MT @mmasammich How do u talk 2young women who buy into stereotypes about feminism &feminists?
— Jennifer L. Pozner (@jennpozner) February 27, 2013
I went back over my attempts at communicating with these two women, and I felt pretty good about them. And I realized how close I’d come in the second case to not even trying. Who was I to tell a young woman that she was wrong in her assumptions about feminism? And why would she listen to me? I’m one of THEM! I even closed the tab with her post in it and tried to move on, but it just kept niggling at the back of my brain, so I went and found it again and I told her some of the reasons I think feminism is important:
It took me many years to get past the lies society taught me about feminists and feminism and to call myself a feminist. Feminism is not about seeing your gender as unequal. It’s about noticing that our society doesn’t treat us as equal and deciding we’re fed up with that and want it to change. Feminists are the reason women have the right to vote, own property, get a bank account without our husband’s signature.
I still shave my legs and wear makeup, and I don’t hate men. I don’t feel inferior–but I am tired of being treated as though I’m inferior, and I’ve decided not to tolerate it anymore. Believe it or not, I’m stronger than a lot of people. I’ve survived some of the worst humanity can dish out, and I’m still here. Still fighting for what I believe in. As for things that aren’t fair, I’d much rather write about them and talk about them and work to change them than do nothing, but I certainly do my best not to whine. ;)
I think you’ll find that there are as many kinds of feminism as there are women (and men) who identify as feminists. Some of us are pretty cool people, once you get to know us. :)
That comment has not been approved and published, and it may not be. But I believe there’s a good chance that blogger will see things at least a little bit differently over time because I took a few minutes to be patient, provide clear and concise information, keep things light, and most importantly, to pay attention to what she was saying and respond to her specific criticisms.
And this is why my feminism is important. Because when I hear that something I wrote helped someone “get it” or made them feel something or helped bring them to a place where they felt comfortable declaring, “Yes! I am a feminist!” I know that I have to keep writing and talking and working for change. When I see my daughters’ eyes opening to the patriarchy that oppresses all of us (male and female), I know their lives will be better for that understanding, and that they will go forward and carry on the fight until there’s nothing left to fight anymore.
Feminism is important because there are still people out there who think women ought not to vote, work, or have a place in government. Because rape culture teaches us that our bodies are not our own, but made for men’s pleasure. Because boys are taught that it’s bad to be “girly.” Because the patriarchy hurts us all.
I am more than my body. More than my role as a mother and lover. I am more than a vehicle to transport my breasts and vagina to a man’s bed. I am more than a baby-making machine. And so are my daughters. And I will fight until the day I die to create a world in which they don’t feel the need to apologize for being female.
This post has been part of Feminisms Fest (#FemFest on Twitter). Learn more.
What is feminism to you? Why is it important?