Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why am I first a feminist?

I think my response hit a nerve with the guy at work who sent me the "nagging" article. He gave me the old, tired idea about how feminists are always looking for problems in everything, acting out their anger from childhood, and there's never any hope for happiness in their lives - just frustration and bitterness. I honestly don't know if he was kidding or serious, but it didn't matter. The argument was just ridiculous.

Feminism is my favorite cause. Though it may not address every problem in the world, it really addresses so many. If it were possible to get rid of sexism completely, I honestly think that people's lives would be vastly improved. And when I think about it, I realize that my co-worker is half right about anger being part of my motivation. I'm angry about things I personally have experienced due to sexism, and not just in my childhood. And I'm even more angry when I see other women enduring similar things and worse. Let alone the fact that men often lose out too (Some argue with me that this is a reason I should stop beign "so angry" - because "men are hurt by sexism too", as if they think my cause is to equalize suffering as opposed to ending it!)

Blatant mistreatment of women may come from just a few men who are simply selfish and mean, who take advantage of their priviledge and power. But it's mental inertia (from otherwise well-meaning men and women) that keeps those power structures in place. It's hard to envision different possibilities and to change one's habits of thought. Easier to deny other's suffering and pretend that your own isn't really that bad.

I find solace in doing something about this, even if what I do is really very little. There's purpose in making things even a little bit better. Maybe that means I'll never be truly content with my life because I see sexism "everywhere". The truth is, when I don't speak up about what's right - that's when I'm frustrated. When I finally say something, even if it's not well received, even if it's not perfectly written or very original, that's when I'm able to relax and enjoy life.

Here's a quote I found from the (now defunct) Ms. Magazine web boards:

"Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions... for safety on the streets... for child care, for social welfare... for rape crisis centres, women's refuges, reforms in the law." (If someone says) 'Oh, I'm not a feminist,' (I ask) 'Why? What's your problem?'" - Dale Spender

I'm so glad I copied a bunch of stuff that I liked from those boards, because it's all lost now! Unfortunately, most of the quotes have no attributions. Well, blogging isn't "real" publishing, right? And if, by some insanely remote chance someone reads a quote I copied and recognizes it, they can always let me know they said it and I'll be happy to give credit.

Here's something else from the Ms. Boards:

I'm a feminist because one day I discovered that the rest of the world doesn't think equality is obvious.

I'm a feminist because I had enough of being treated like a sweet little girl and having my opinions dismissed.

I'm a feminist because I can't stand to see my beautiful, smart friends agonizing about their weight, dumbing themselves down, erasing themselves for guys. It's awful.

I'm a feminist because this world leaves me no other choice.

I'm a feminist because I'm anti-bullshit in general, and in my life, I see a lot of anti-woman mentalities.

I'm a feminist because I believe in equality, for all people to be seen as people, and not a role, not a thing, not a race, not a group, and certainly not a stereotype.

Well, I can't agree with these more. Feminist is the first way I describe myself.


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