I have a secret. Well, it’s not even remotely a secret, but it’s something I too often feel like I should keep to myself: I self-identify as a feminist.
No, wait, come back here! I want to tell you what I mean.
Feminism these days, at least my particular brand of it, is seriously misunderstood. As a matter of fact, if you’re not the sort who’s pretty well-versed in feminist theory, and may actually consider yourself anti-feminist, there’s probably one word that pops into your head when you hear “feminist.” And it’s not a very nice one. Not to mention, it’s really fucking unoriginal. So let’s just get it out of the way, first things first: I fucking hate the word “feminazi.” I hate it. It’s offensive on so many levels. If that word is in your regular vocabulary, take it out. Please. It’s awful. “Feminism” is not a swear word. That other one? Really fucking is.
I’m getting off track. I do that; sorry. I’m thinking about all the women I know, all the people, who, when asked if they’re feminists, would say “no.” Probably with some sort of disgusted face. I’m thinking about all of the female actresses and singers and authors who get asked that question in interviews, and waffle on the answer. Why are we so afraid to say yes? What is it about that word that stirs up so many negative emotions? And why am I so determined to de-curse the idea, the name even, of feminism?
Anti-feminists, or people who see feminism as a negative thing, often see it as a threat to traditional life. “Traditional” usually meaning religion, marriage, children, and a wife who stays at home while the husband pays the bills. What these people don’t see is that feminism has allowed a “traditional” life to be a choice. An option. Not a predetermined path. Not a life sentence. No one is saying that if you’re a feminist, you have to go out and get a full-time job and stay single and never have kids. It’s a matter of acknowledging that feminism has allowed women to make a wide variety of choices, including that of a “traditional” life.
For people like me, who have never wanted many aspects of that kind of life, feminism allows me to make a different choice. It gives me the option of having a full-time job, of choosing not to have children, of being able to own things that belong to me because I earned them, I paid for them, I wanted them, and I could get them without any help if I didn’t want it. And it allows you to stay home and raise your kids while your husband earns the household income. And it allows young women to write and perform songs or act in TV shows or movies, make a shitload of money, start their own production companies, and then get married and have kids, if that’s what they want. It allows women to play sports, and make scientific breakthroughs, and to hold political office (of any party), and to write beautiful or terrible things. It allows me to decide what’s best for me, and it allows you to decide what’s best for you. Feminism gives us the choice to do what we want; whether that’s climbing a corporate ladder, running a cattle ranch, raising a houseful of kids, or running off with the circus. It doesn’t force behavior on anyone. Anti-feminism does that. It says we can’t be trusted to decide what path our lives will take. It says men know best. It says be quiet, and do what you’re told. Sorry, but if I’m going to do what I’m told, it’s because there’s something in it for me. Like a paycheck, or career advancement, or personal fulfillment of some kind. Not just because some dude said so.
Lots of people are anti-feminist because they’re politically conservative. They think “conservative” and “feminist” are mutually exclusive concepts. You don’t have to be a raging liberal to be a feminist. As a matter of fact, if you’re a conservative woman who is politically active, you have feminism to thank for allowing you to even participate in the political process. If you’re the goddamned producer of Glenn Beck’s weekend show (and he has a female producer, really), you can thank feminism for even making it possible for you to hold a job where you support someone who does nothing but undermine and diminish your worth as a human being. But you have that option. Pre-feminism? Sorry, doll, but that’s no job for a woman.
There’s no shame in admitting you’re a feminist. There’s no shame in being a guy who supports feminism. There’s no shame in coming out and saying that women are people, and we should be able to make money, and influence the political process, and make decisions, and hell, even make giant, horrible mistakes. Commit crimes. Be ruthless businesspeople. Do all the wonderful and awful things that men can and always have been able to do without question.
You don’t have to be like me, or live like me, or think like me to be a feminist, too. You can disagree with almost everything I believe in, except for the fact that both men and women should have equal opportunites to be great or to fuck things up, to make money or to spend it foolishly, to create a family of their choosing, to do whatever it is that makes them feel fulfilled and important and complete. We can fight about everything else. As long as you’re OK with being beaten by a girl.
Some amazing and thought-provoking things to read: