Posted by: CeCe | May 24, 2013

Journey to feminism

My journey to becoming a feminist was a long and convoluted path.  I had always believed that feminism was tantamount to bra-burning, that feminists never wore dresses, skirts, or makeup, didn’t have their nails done, didn’t believe in having cute hairstyles, wore masculine clothing, were lesbians, and hated men.  I also believed that instead of advocating for equal rights, feminists wanted to see female superiority.  I’m not sure if these ideas were ingrained in me by society or by my upbringing (I’d like to think it was the former), but there I was.

Even as I began identifying with feminist ideals, I eschewed the title of “feminist”, because of the negative connotations of the word.  I would say that oh, I believe in equal rights, not feminism.  And maybe I did.  At the same time, however, I found myself subscribing to the view that some jobs are just “men’s jobs”, and there are some places that women just don’t belong.  I even made jokes about how we’d better never elect a female president because her time of the month may make her do something irrational, without even realizing how sexist that view really is.

Looking back, it seems shocking that I ever held that opinion.

Another example of the same thing was when, a few years ago, I was shopping with my nieces, and my 13 year old niece wanted to buy a bikini.  I told her no, because I thought that 1) her mom would kill me! and 2) my niece was, and is, a very beautiful girl (and she’s also sweet, and extremely smart), and I was worried that her wearing a bikini would give men “the wrong idea”, as though she would be responsible for what perverts would think.  The person I am now would buy her the bikini (after checking it was okay with her mom), and then tell her to own it and be proud of who she is.  I would tell her that she’s not responsible for what anyone might think of her, especially if they’re dead wrong, and that as women, we shouldn’t have to cover up our bodies for fear of causing some idiot to come slobbering after us, or judge us unfairly.  I would tell her this now.  I wouldn’t tell her that then.

I suppose in a way my attitude towards “provocative” clothing was caused by my own experiences, in which any time I was harassed or assaulted, I was asked what I was wearing, as though it matters.  Society convinced me that if some man thought that he had a right to put his hands on me or say degrading things to me, it must be because I was doing or wearing something that caused it.

One of the many reasons I’ve begun to identify as a feminist is because of the things I’ve experienced; the harassment, the molestation, the assaults, and the rape.  I’ve come to understand that the patriarchal society in which we live would like to convince me that they were all my fault, thereby releasing the perpetrators from taking responsibility for their actions.

I’ve seen this same thing played out over and over again in the media, where a woman is raped, and all the people with cavemen mentalities come out of the woodwork to blame the woman for her assault, and make assumptions about what kind of person she is and how she must be lying, because we all know that all women always lie about being raped for “attention”.  I’ve found myself shaking with anger and wanting to scream, and trying to find some way to express my rage, but having been robbed of a voice for so long, I couldn’t bring myself to actually speak out.  When my objections to these people finally exploded out of me, I found that I was both relieved and… incredibly sad.  How can people still think like this?  I don’t know.

But feminism has opened my eyes in so many ways.  I see the blatant and not so blatant examples of misogyny and sexism for what they are, and I’m repulsed, angered, and saddened by them.

So yes, I am a feminist.  I wear the title proudly, because not only does it mean that I believe that women are equal to men, I also believe that most men are capable of so much more.  Most men are not rapists or misogynistic, and at least a few of those who are misogynistic probably don’t even realize that they are.  Maybe they see themselves as “nice guys” who were betrayed too many times, or they’ve been convinced that every scantily-clad woman is just begging to be objectified or raped, or they’ve been convinced that the unattainable idea of beauty that pervades our media is the way that women are really supposed to be, so they set unrealistic expectations for us.  Perhaps they’ve been convinced that women are irrational due to our emotions, especially during That Time of the Month, during which nothing we say can possibly be trusted (even though that really isn’t the case with most of us).  Most of them don’t realize how misogynistic these views are.  But as a feminist, I do.  And as a feminist, I hope that I can join in with all the other feminists around the world in turning the tide, and showing these men that they don’t have to be like this, and society doesn’t have to be like this, and we’re all worthy of so much more.

I don’t speak against patriarchy because I hate men.  No, I love men.  I speak against patriarchy because, as a blog writer for the feminist blog Shakesville said, it’s not fair for anyone.  It’s not fair for women because it so marginalizes us and subjects us to horrible treatment, and it’s not fair to men because it convinces them that this is normal and acceptable and they just can’t help it because they’re men.  The huge number of men who are decent and hold egalitarian views is proof of the heights which men can reach.

I’m a feminist because men and women deserve better.  Women deserve freedom of movement and expression.  Men deserve to not be treated as though they’re less of men when they are sexually assaulted, and to not be treated as though each of them is a rapist.  And I will never, ever stop fighting until we’re all there.

I asked my friends on Facebook what “feminism” means to them, and one of them said this, which I think completely sums up everything feminism really stands for:
I believe in equal pay for equal qualifications and work practices. If I do just as well in my job as a man with the same education and experience level, I want to be paid the same. I don’t want a superior position because some quota has to be filled in the way of affirmative action for women. I want a higher position because I’ve earned it and I am better suited for it than another candidate. 

I believe in equal opportunities. If a man can get away with certain social behaviors, I want to be able to have the right to do these same things without the judgment. I want to be able to drink in a bar alone if I should choose. I want to be able to wear whatever I please. If a woman wants to have a traditionally masculine career, then I believe she should be able to do so. I want these things for my daughters.

I want to have my husband open a door for me if he beats me to it… but I want to be able to do the same for him without him feeling ashamed and without older people shaking their heads at him for not being a “gentleman”. I just want equality, not superiority.

Exactly.

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Responses

  1. 😀 Yay! Thank you for using my response. I feel like I’ve contributed to a little bit of someone else’s art. haha

    Very well written, as always, CeCe! ❤

    • Thanks, Kari! ❤

  2. You’ve got me to thinking, Cece 🙂

    I think that you’re dead on, when you say that being a feminist is to be unashamed that you are a woman.

    • That is definitely a huge part of being a feminist. I want to do away with language that seeks to make it seem “bad” to be a woman, like when a man is raped, especially by another man, he’s seen as a “b****” by some people. This is totally sexist and unfair. So yes, part of being a feminist is embracing the feminine side of creation, and understanding that being a woman or having feminine characteristics isn’t something shameful, it’s beautiful. Even if one is a man with feminine characteristics, there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re strong but tender, and both rational and emotional. And we should embrace that!

      Thank you for your comment! ❤

  3. […] Journey to feminism (aseekersmusings.wordpress.com) […]


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