Monday, June 23, 2014

Why am I a Feminist?

I'm a feminist. I'll admit that I'm one of those people that is not sure exactly what that word, and everything it stands for, completely encompasses. But I work every day of my life to learn more and figure it out. I like that I learn new things every day. It's not always pleasant, and it is always eye-opening. For example, I recently read an article on The Frisky about things white people need to understand before they are prepared to intelligently discuss racism. It was a little uncomfortable, and it was definitely eye-opening. I read it and understood the things the author was saying. I agreed with every point. Then I shared the article on my Facebook page, and got a few likes-- and two argumentative (and hilariously defensive) comments from two white, straight, cis males. Of course, right? I'm just trying to educate others WHILE I educate myself... I'm not pretending to have all answers or know all the stuff.

And that's exactly how I feel about feminism. I don't have all the answers or know all the stuff. My stance evolves pretty much daily. I learn new words, terms, ideas pretty much daily (yesterday, for example, I stumbled upon the term neurodivergent, which I had never heard before. Here is an excellent blog post on neurodiversity). I'm a mellow person with genetic high blood pressure, so I really try to avoid the internet debate scene. I typically hide behind the notion that we're all entitled to our opinion and that it isn't my job or my place to change minds. But the thing is, I'm growing completely discontent with this attitude. It is my job to change minds. It's my job to not only share my ideas, but to back them up and argue them! So my plan is to try to actually stand up for myself and my beliefs when someone comes at me defensively when I share with him or her an idea that might be somewhat uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Being educated, especially on heavy topics that carry a lot of emotion and bitterness, is uncomfortable. I don't want to get too comfortable.

So I thought I would start this new chapter by sharing the things that have happened throughout my life that have culminated in my stance as a "feminist". I put the term in quotation marks, because it means different things to different people. There is no single, simple, neatly wrapped definition of what a feminist is. By reading the following list, I hope you will understand what feminism means to me. I hope you will understand what I'm fighting for and against.

Why am I a Feminist?

1. When I was in first grade, there were these two girls. They were both really nice, and I was friends with them both. One was black, and one was white. They happened to be cousins by marriage. The white one would go around saying "we're cousins, isn't that funny?" and even back then, I didn't understand why it was funny, because I thought they both liked wearing pretty dresses, they were both really nice, and were both human, so why was it funny that they were related? Why couldn't they be related?

2. When I was little and I wanted to play football on a team like my older cousin, because he, myself, and my brother would always play at my grandma's house and I loved it... and was told by my aunt that I could be a cheerleader.

3. I played softball for years, and once, when we were out in the field practicing before a game, a girl said to me "dude, shave your legs". I was nine. (That's also one of the reasons why now, as an adult, I don't shave my legs.)

4. I went to a Christian summer camp during high school. One time I got chewed out for wearing a "too short" shirt, because as I was walking up a hill, it rode up and a camp employee saw. The boys at camp never wore shirts. Even the male counselors and employees.

5. At that same Christian camp, they would split up the boys and the girls for a "talk"... the boys got to talk about dating (or something- I never really understood, but once the man who was speaking made a joke prior to the talk when we were splitting up that I only sort of understood that deeply disturbed me to the point that I won't even type it here- but it involved "petting"). The girls were lectured on purity and how "modest is hottest" for an hour.

6. While I'm in that same vein, the fact that my whole life, at church, I got lectured on how to save myself and remain pure for my future husband. The boys never got told to save themselves and remain pure for their future wives. (Also, it was always husbands for the girls, of course- what about the girls who wanted wives? What about the girls who didn't want anyone?)

7. Still on the topic- girls were lectured about how they should dress and act so as not to lead their "brothers in Christ" to stumble.

8. When I was 16, I got to go to Europe with the chamber choir I was a part of. When we came back, my English teacher asked us to share our experiences with the class. It was me and a few of the boys from choir in that class. I was talking about how I loved the big city we were in, but felt that the smaller villages we visited were more rustic and even dirty feeling. I got cut off by two of the boys, who were basically like "no, they weren't like that, she's wrong" and then dominated the rest of our time to share. I was only giving my opinion- I guess they thought their opinions were more accurate (and important).

9. In my first year in undergrad, there was a path between some of the dorms that was jokingly called the "rape trail" because girls were habitually assaulted there, to the point that we were told not to go that way.

10. At the dealership where I take my car to be serviced, all of the mechanics and service reps are men. All of the office staff are women.

11. One time my girlfriend and I went dancing at a club. This guy asked me to dance, and I agreed. He stuck his hand up my shirt and grabbed my tit- UNDER MY BRA. I kneed him in the groin, and then HE called ME a bitch.

12. One time a friend and I were walking back to my car late at night after an event. This group of about 6 men approached us and harassed us, asking if we wanted to party. We said no. The response was "yeah, you do". This is just one TINY example of men not respecting "no".


These are the bigger events throughout my life that have caused my beliefs and my stance on feminism. I definitely consider myself lucky. I'm 25 years old, this list could be A LOT LONGER, but it's not. Many women deal with these types of things, and much, much worse. This is why I'm a feminist- because these things, some cultural, some religious, some societal- shouldn't happen. Period.

I'm not sure what's next for my in my journey as a feminist, but this was the first step in me continuing my own education and beginning to educate others.

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