To those hush-hush f-words out there

February 8, 2009 § 2 Comments

PERSON X: I’m just so sick of how women are excluded from math and science, make only 77 cents to ever man’s dollar, get whistled at by strangers for simply existing, and don’t have the right to their own bodies.

ME: I know. It sucks, but it’s so great that you’re a feminist because that means you can understand what’s wrong with society and use your knowledge to fight the patriarchy!

PERSON X: But I’m not a feminist! [cue wincing and squeamishness]

Now, if I had a dime for every similar interaction, I could afford a dual lifetime subscription to BITCH and Ms. Alas, I make no money from a tabooed word. I just get to be sad for all the people out there (boys and girls, men and women, and everyone inbetween) who miss out on the liberation and fun that is feminism.

The thing is, I can totally understand why all those ignorant PERSON X’s out there are afraid to label themselves as feminists because I was one of them. People-pleaser that I am, there was a time in middle school when I told a friend who played the ME in this scenario that “I believe in equality, but feminist just seems like a harsh term.”

I was young and naïve and afraid to express myself, but there’s no excuse. Trust me: I am trying to make up for that horrific slander now!

When feminists are portrayed as man-hating lesbians who like to burn their bras in public, it’s pretty conceivable that teenagers who just want to fit into a heteronormative patriarchy (i.e. high school) wouldn’t associate themselves with a widely believed stereotype. As with all persuasive discrimination, the most widely known definition for those labeling a group fighting for equality is created by the oppressor. Unfortunately for feminists, a lot of the people in control of what we think are the creators themselves of the taboo on feminism.

BUT, lucky for us, ignorance can be easily remedied with some helpful education. If the real definition for a feminist as anyone who believes in equality were perpetuated, it would be pretty damn hard to argue an alias.

Through my writing program and some pretty awesome blogs introducing me to the coolness of being a feminist, I claim my title profusely and proudly. I encourage PERSON X to do the same. I also encourage…well, demand…that all you fabulous and influential feminists out there help those afraid of screaming the f-word loud and proud to realize their potential to use their knowledge to fight the patriarchy and claim their feminist identities!


§ 2 Responses to To those hush-hush f-words out there

  • Kyla says:

    So true Shira, In 7th or 8th grade my boyfriend got me a feminist patch. My pants needed a patch, but more than that, I needed a voice. I’d declared my feminism a few times, I mean, hadn’t I marched for woman’s rights long before I neared the translucent line between girl and woman? Didn’t I play with ‘Keep your Laws off My Body’ stickers as a kid, and get read Our Bodies, Ourselves (updated and expanded for the 90’s)? I was rather unsettled, though. The patch was prominently displayed on my desk, where few saw it. I was timid.
    What is there to be timid about when your fight is for morals and ethics, you ask? Anthony Wilden says, “All dissent must be of a higher logical type than that to which it is opposed.” Any stand against patriarchy or misogynistic society, be it in your mind, or in your blog, or exerted in your every action, is this concept, the higher logical type. It seems like such a blatant statement, but I was blinded from it.
    Mass media tells us we can’t be someone unless we look like someone worth being. Gym teachers tell us we throw like girls, run like girls. Adults tell us to stop acting like little girls. In a system of stereotypes, it’s easy to trace ‘male’ to dominant characteristics and ‘female’ to the more incapacitated ones.
    I was silent and struggling under these stereotypes, I still am. Maybe back then I was uncomfortable because I felt like I didn’t settle perfectly into the much-milked stereotype of the feminist. I wasn’t lesbian, particularly hairy, and I only really listened to Ani DiFranco when I was sad or nostalgic. Maybe I was caught in that terribly cyclical mindset that in order to resist one thing, you must be not just an advocate for the other, but a speaker. I hadn’t read much Adrienne Rich, see.
    As a vegan, I subjected myself to not eating lunch everyday rather than finding my own food, or inviting other people into the spectrum of my palate. So it went with my feminism. My ascent to radical politics came from growth of consciousness. I located alternative media, fringe culture groups and other like-minded people. I began, in other words, to create the world I wished to see. I’m still working hard. My voice was quiet at first, maybe even fickle. Slowly though, I realized the impact something like a zine or blog or story could have one someone else. I realized that females in mainstream society are given sexy clothing and corny one-liners (if they speak at all) rather than a soapbox or a microphone. So while this patch as a symbol didn’t solely develop me into who I am, it was that somewhat confrontational approach that convinced me that I wasn’t just weird for not laughing at sexist jokes. Stereotypes weakened me, but finding far-reaching groups keep me passionate and convinced that everything we do really is progressive.

  • shira says:

    What a beautiful comment, Kyla!
    You show perfect examples of how the only way we may combat stereotypes is by revealing personal, human, relatable examples. Fear of empowerment comes from stereotypes of feminism, which (I believe) originate from abstract notions that are so abstract because they have little basis in reality.
    This is getting me thinking of starting a combatting stereotypes blogging chain…

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