Tag Archives: Feminism

Failing at feminism: girls who say “I hate other girls”

Oh, you all know at least one. Who knows, maybe you are one. A girl who hates other girls. A girl who says, “All my friends are guys.” A girl who generalizes about other girls, calling them “bitches” and “superficial” and “annoying,” and using all of those things to justify to other people why you don’t have female friends. Here’s a newsflash, cupcake: you don’t have female friends because you’re an asshole. And quite possibly a huge bitch.

There’s nothing wrong with disliking other individuals, regardless of gender. But when you start proclaiming for everyone to hear that you’re just too awesome to hang around with other people of your gender, you’re saying less about their personality flaws and more about your own. You’re so convinced of your own amazing special snowflake-ness that you’re completely discounting the fact that there may be more women out there just like you. If you don’t like girls who are into fashion and makeup and like to go to the mall, I promise you that you aren’t alone. If you’re annoyed by girls who seem to expend all of their energy on getting guys to like them, there are tons of girls who also hate that. If you like sports or cars or computer programming or video games, well, these are not the domains of men exclusively. Think about it. You’re a girl. You possess all of these qualities that you value in a human being. Why would you choose to believe that you are the only one out there who possesses those qualities as well as being female? It just doesn’t make statistical sense.

Why the need for an “I hate other girls” proclamation? Is there some underlying desperation for male approval, some need to prove that you’re so different from all the other girls out there, when all that boils down to is that you’re one of those chicks who just wants dudes to like her. And does it by insulting and generalizing about other women. And here’s the thing, once you do it, you start to make it OK for everyone to do it. So saying, “Girls are bitches” or “Girls are shallow and catty” just opens up the door for guys to say those things. And I know that girls who hate other girls are the first one to say, “Oh, I’m not like that. I’m like a guy! I like guy things, and guys are easier to be friends with.” So you probably shouldn’t be surprised that all those women that you’re being an asshole about aren’t banging down your door to be your friend. Because by saying all that shit, you’re being shallow and catty. You’re reducing women to stereotypes, while somehow frantically begging everyone not to apply that stereotype to you.

Not to mention, female friends can be awesome. You have stuff in common! You can have easy conversations, or crazy adventures, or build stuff together. You can play video games, or go to baseball games, or take apart engines. Whatever it is that you like to do. Why is it that so many girls think that they can only do those things with guys? People deserve better than to be reduced to their gendered stereotypes. I have awesome female friends. I can have heated discussions about TV shows or great novels or how to best insulate a drafty house against winter winds. We quote bad movies and veto outfits and critique each other’s writing. With some friends, I do “girly” stuff like go to the mall or shop for makeup. But that’s not the sum total of our friendships. We are complex, whole people who interact with each other in complicated and interesting ways. If I were to decide one day that I’m too good to have female friends, or that I hate other girls, I’d be denying myself some of the best and strongest relationships in my life. And, frankly, I feel a little sorry for those girls who have decided that they’re just better than the rest of their gender. Because they’re missing out. We’re awesome. You should want to be our friend.

No more Ensign Sexypants: female sci-fi characters who don’t suck

Being a female character in sci-fi can be a tough gig. You’re either one-dimensional eye candy whose only defining features are contained in your spandex uniform top, or you’re the most ridiculous Mary Sue in existence; the badass who’s good at everything, beautiful, smart, tough, and sassy. If you need a flaw, hmm, unlucky in love, maybe? Finding a well-written, well-acted, fully developed (in the character creation sense, you pervs) female sci-fi character is harder than you think. Sci-fi has always been progressive: in the storylines, in the creation of technology, with world-building and species invention; but sci-fi writers, with a few exceptions, have often failed their female characters, and, by extension, their female audiences. Here are some characters who defy the trend:

-Laura Roslin (BSG): I have rarely had love for a TV character as much as I have for Roslin. She’s simultaneously kind and cunning, manipulative and generous, vulnerable and strong, and she loves to airlock people and/or Cylons. She’s led astray from time to time, she plays the game, she makes mistakes, sometimes huge ones, but still remains solidly Roslin. Her relationship with Adama Sr. is one of the most realistic, most touching, and most heart wrenching partnerships I can think of. Her ruthlessness in dealing with her various nemeses and annoyances, most notably Baltar and Zarek, is inspiring and a little scary all at once. Not to mention, in a cast of young, unreasonably attractive women, Mary McDonnell not only holds her own, but elevates the standard for beautiful and captivating, while being a few years past the Hollywood ideal of a leading lady.

-Samantha Carter (Stargate SG-1): Carter got off to a bad start; I’ll admit that. Her first few episodes made me cringe. Her dialogue was forced and awful, and she was really pretty annoying. She got better, though. Much, much better, as far as I’m concerned. She was a little too awesome at times: she solved all of the problems, she was the rational one, the smart one, the one to fix everything just in the nick of time. Carter still managed to avoid being one-dimensional. She had love interests, friendships, hobbies, and dorky pursuits. She carried traits of her entire team: the military/warrior mindset of O’Neill and Teal’c, the humanity and love of science and knowledge of Daniel Jackson, the diplomacy and leadership of General Hammond, and the heart of Dr. Fraiser. She was completely unapologetic about being a geek, and while she was often a bit of a know-it-all, no one was ever surprised that the pretty blonde woman was the one with the answers.

-Zoe Washburne (Firefly): My love for Zoe is pretty much boundless. Sure, she’s got a lot of that tomboy badassery going on, she’s a crack shot, she makes even Jayne look like a sissy, but Joss Whedon (who has a pretty good track record with female characters, for the most part) actually made her a person on top of all that. She’s got a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. Her marriage is realistic, with give and take and sweet little moments of humor and affection. Her instincts are military, but she has an inclination toward the nurturing that she doesn’t try to hide. She worries about the crew. She focuses on the people as well as the details. I love that she’s not the usual “under the tough-as-nails exterior lies a soft, squishy, heart of gold.” She manages to mix the heart in with the toughness, the humor in with the strategy, and she doesn’t put on a front. She’s all of who she is, all of the time.

-Aeryn Sun (Farscape): Aeryn, while being in possession of the aforementioned “tough-as-nails exterior,” still has one of the most compelling redemption and development arcs in modern sci-fi. Over the course of the series, she is forced to question everything she had believed to be true for her entire life. She is thrown into a complex group situation, where she has to interact with people (and, you know, not-people) in a non-military context for the first time pretty much ever. She never loses her general badassness, but, over time, her fragility and uncertainties surface, and she has to figure out how to reconcile the person she is becoming with the person she’s always been. Plus, she can pilot a Prowler like no one else.

-Donna Noble (Doctor Who): Donna, of all of the recent companions, partially owes her place on this list to being the only female companion who is both older than 25 and not in love with the Doctor. Companion as potential love interest can only go so far before I’m just rolling my eyes in annoyance. More than that, though, Donna is AWESOME. I know that’s not a universally held opinion, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s such a good character. She’s the Doctor’s equal in many ways. She’s his friend, his companion in the truest sense of the word. She’s resourceful, and brave, but she’s far from perfect. Occasionally overconfident and judgmental, often shrill, and intermittently completely exasperating, Donna still manages to be a real person, even while she’s saving the day/world/universe/all of time and space. She’s a temp! And she’s a really good one! She calls people out on their bullshit, whether it’s her boss and coworkers, her mother, the Doctor, or a bunch of Daleks. Plus, anyone who loves her grampa that much has a special place in my heart. (Side note: Were I to ever make a list of the best sci-fi grandfathers, it would pretty much begin and end with Wilf.)

As a point of interest, after I finished writing this, I did a quick Google search for “Sci-fi women characters,” with several variations, mostly because I like to see how my ideas line up with other people examining the same topic, and also to make sure I’m not ganking someone else’s ideas (even unintentionally). Want to know what I found? “Hottest sci-fi women.” “Sexy sci-fi woman characters.” “Hottest sci-fi girls.” “Sci-fi fantasy woman costumes.” Oh, boy. We still have so far to go.

I suck at being an adult, and I don’t care

As my 32nd birthday looms large on the horizon, this little voice that has taken up residence in my brain is starting to get louder. It’s always nagging me, asking me, “Why aren’t you a grown-up yet?” I hate that voice. I ignore it as much as possible. Mostly because I hate that there’s this one-size-fits-all set of preconceived notions about what an adult is: what you should have, what you should do, what you should be. And every time I realize that my life doesn’t match up to those notions, a little feeling of failure creeps in.

What I’m realizing more every year, and what I’m trying to remember so I can drown out that obnoxious little voice, is that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all life. For every way I don’t feel like I’m a “real” grown-up, there are ten ways that I’m glad my life is exactly the way it is. I don’t own a house, sure, and that bums me out sometimes. But I see my friends who own houses, and it can consume their lives. Every weekend is a new household project. Taxes and insurance are outrageous. And while renting doesn’t build up any equity, there’s something to be said for realizing your boiler is broken, picking up the phone, saying, “The boiler’s broken,” and having someone else be responsible not only for getting it fixed, but for paying for it as well.

I’m married, which is pretty “grown-up,” but I don’t have kids, which sometimes makes other people see me as not a real adult. I won’t get into all of my reasons here, (mostly because I already have), but I see a bunch of positives with not having kids, where others see it as a giant negative. My Facebook feed is clogged with people lamenting not having quiet time, a parade of birthday parties and school functions, and assorted other complaints that come with the territory of having a child. For all of these people, it’s worth it. For me, it wouldn’t be. Being a childfree adult means I can nap at will, don’t have to provide a nutritionally balanced dinner, and can wander away for the weekend on a whim (well, as long as the dogs are taken care of). It’s all the best things you dreamed being an adult would mean, back when you were a kid: ice cream for breakfast, never getting out of your pajamas, and playing video games until 3 a.m. Sure, people with kids can certainly do these things, but not without a certain amount of effort. So +1 for being an adult my way, I suppose.

I don’t have a “real job.” This one bugs me the most often, I think. A “real job” being one that has prestige, pays outrageously well, and uses my expensive higher education in even some small way. Instead, I work in customer service, and have for the past 15 years. When I start getting depressed about my job, though, I remember a few things. Like, I can pay my bills. I have health insurance and a retirement plan. I have a schedule that I love and that allows me to work full-time in four days, instead of the standard five. I don’t take my job home with me. Sure, it stresses me out from time to time, but I don’t spend all my time at home checking emails and freaking out about work-related shit. I leave the job at the front door of work, and there’s something to be said for that. I’ll never be rolling around on giant stacks of cash strewn over my bed, but quite frankly, that’s horribly unsanitary, and I choose to believe that having a lot of money brings its own set of problems.

Everyone I talk to who is around my age has the same feelings every so often: that they aren’t doing something they’re supposed to; that something is missing; that they aren’t as adult as they should be. And if we all feel this way, how valid is it, really? Maybe this is the new way to be a grown-up: pick and choose the parts that you want in your life, and disregard the rest. Because, seriously, what good is it to be an adult if you aren’t having any fun?

The mystique of the girl geek

As I’ve said before, I’ve always called myself a “girl geek” or a “nerd girl.” In the strange mix of sci-fi,  grammar obsession, zombie movies, computer parts, and feminism that is my brain, it’s recently floated to the surface that maybe I should take a look at those labels. So I’ve been wondering lately, why the qualifier? Why do women who enjoy traditionally “geeky” pursuits need a special label? Why can’t we just be geeks? I’ve come up with a couple of theories:

-Geekery (geekism? geekishness?) is still widely perceived as a male characteristic. Which is really strange, because there are so many women who would identify, or be identified, as geeks. There are a huge number of women who enjoy video games, sci-fi, computer programming, comic books, and other traditionally “geeky” interests, yet we’re still looked upon as some kind of elusive beings, the stuff of legends, rarely seen in person. That’s a load of bullshit. Women have interests just as varied and intellectual as men, but it’s still seen as unusual or remarkable in some way.

-Unfortunately, even in this day and age, men are people and women are women. “Male” is the default. So if a woman wants to identify or categorize herself, she’d better make sure to be clear: she’s not a “geek.” She’s a “geek girl.” Like a different species.

-We still have something to prove. How many female gamers have gender-neutral gamertags or male avatars? And how many did that because by identifying yourself as a woman, you open yourself up to not only the ridiculous and often horrifying treatment you get from other (male) gamers, but because when you play as a woman, you have to be better, faster, more aggressive, and more skilled than the guys who are playing? You’re a girl, so you’d better be exceptional if you want to get into the clubhouse. Guys are allowed to be mediocre. If not, it’s because they’re still getting used to the game, or they’re having an off day. If a girl is mediocre, it’s because she’s a girl.

-We want to set ourselves apart. We’re not “those girls.” We’re not vapid and stupid and concerned with superficial pursuits. That’s all well and good, except it’s self-defeating. By painting the female default that way, we’re making it harder on ourselves to show that being intellectual or nerdy or fun is normal. It’s not unusual or weird. Not to mention, I find very few guys who feel it necessary to justify that they like video games and Star Wars as well as being sports fanatics and gearheads. People are complex. I can lose an entire day watching a Firefly marathon and still spend an hour at Sephora looking for the perfect neutral eye shadow. I can build a computer or a network from the ground up and still get pissed if I break a nail in the process. I’m allowed to be multi-dimensional.

-We think it gets us respect. And, to an extent, it does. A little bit of nerd cred never hurts, and can be a huge asset in certain situations. Sometimes it catches people off guard, and that can be an asset too. It’s a little insulting to be judged on looks or gender first, and then intelligence as an afterthought, but it happens all the time.

-Guys like it. Yes, I’m rolling my eyes. No, I don’t personally care if guys like it, as I’m married and my husband is perfectly happy with my current level of nerdiness. However, the “hot girl gamer” archetype is so pervasive that it’s almost a joke. Since I mentioned Firefly already (and will do so whenever I have a chance), I’ll use this example. I follow Nathan Fillion on Twitter. I love Nathan Fillion. If Nathan Fillion ever retweeted or followed me, I’d devote a week of blog posts to subjects of his choosing. Recently, he tweeted: “Help me settle a bet! Hot girls play Halo! I know at least 5! Back me up, @Rileah!” (Rileah being Rileah Vanderbilt, a member of “Team Unicorn,” a group of very good-looking women who recently made a video parody to prove that geek girls do exist.) He got tons of replies; I’d guess hundreds, if not more than a thousand, many with pictures to prove it. Here’s my question, though: why does it matter if the girls are hot? Is it because a good-looking girl is made even more attractive by being interested in “male” pursuits? Does it not “count” when girls who aren’t traditionally beautiful-looking play FPSs because they’re doing it for their own enjoyment, not to impress dudes? I’m not trying to single out Nathan Fillion, but he brought up an interesting point, one that comes up all the time: do hot girls have more credibility if they’re geeks? Or do geeks have more credibility if they’re hot girls? Why can’t women just like to shoot things without trying to get attention for being a girl who shoots things?

    One of these days, I hope we can progress far enough that geeks are geeks, regardless of gender, and that people will stop being surprised when girls are smart and interesting and multi-faceted. In the meantime, I’ll be in good company with some really awesome girl geeks.

    Some great girl geek sites and blogs:

    Geek Girl Diva
    Frag Dolls
    Geek Girls Network
    Nerds in Babeland
    Geek with Curves

    Failing at feminism: Facebook edition

    Facebook is an endless source of amusement to me. It’s like some odd mix of nosiness, schadenfreude, and mild revulsion that’s bewitching and addicting. One of the things about Facebook that’s both an advantage and a drawback is that you get to know way more about people than you previously did. In some cases, this is a good thing, like old friends I’d lost touch with, or acquaintances from my past who I now find I have a lot in common with; things I’d never had learned if not for the weird cocktail party that is Facebook. In some cases, though, I would definitely have preferred ignorance. I hate learning that someone who I had previously liked, or even just felt sort of neutral about, has political views that I find abhorrent (and I’m sure they say the same about me), or that they’re a thinly-veiled racist, or an insufferable preachy “believer,” or that they bought their dog from a pet store. Certain things I’m just happier not knowing.

    One of the most annoyingly fascinating things about Facebook is seeing what people “like.” Sure, TV shows and stores and chocolate cake, that’s all innocent enough. But then the “Go make me a sandwich” groups pop up. And the “Curvy girls are better than skinny girls” one. And the “I’m too hot to be a feminist” one. And, my favorite: seeing “So-and-so likes ‘hitting bitches’” pop up on my newsfeed. And on and on with the oh-so-witty and hilarious woman-hating groups. You’re so funny! You’re so edgy to have clicked that “like” button! You’re… a girl?

    Come on. Seriously? I expect it from certain types of people, most of whom I’ve defriended or hidden from my newsfeed, but I don’t expect to see it from women. And it makes me sad and it disappoints me. I have a number of people who are Facebook friends who are younger, in their late teens and early 20s, and this is a big chunk of who I see doing these things. I’m sure all of us have done stupid things and pretended to like things we don’t, and it’s often for a guy, sadly enough. But to actively support something, even something as dumb as a Facebook group, that insults and dehumanizes you, or worse, encourages violence against you? How does that make sense?

    I can sort of see some of the underlying reasoning. “I don’t want guys to see me like every other girl out there,” “Guys like girls who like ungirly things,” even, “I’d rather be the one making fun that be the one being made fun of,” but publicly showing support for these things is not the way to go about proving you’re different. It doesn’t make guys like you. It makes them think you’re on board with them treating you like shit. And so they will.

    The body-shaming groups are a little different. I think in some cases, like the “Curvy girls are better than skinny girls,” the person joining really might think they’re advancing the “beauty at any size” movement. Or showing that they’re proud to look the way they do. The trouble is, they’re taking the age-old route to get there of building one group up by insulting another. And that’s not advancing anything. It’s setting us back. Of course, not everyone looks at the world through feminist-colored glasses, so they might not even think to examine what a group like that is really doing.

    Casual sexism, like casual racism and all types of casual assholery, is pervasive and damaging. You don’t need to self-identify as a feminist to realize, “Hey, wait a minute. That’s really insulting to women. And the sandwich thing is old, tired, played out, and not funny, on top of being insulting.” All of those little clicks and “likes” and updates are showing people little slices of who you are. Don’t show them that you’re a self-loathing jerk.

    I traded my biological clock for an Xbox: understanding the childfree

    We’re going to start this one with a statement of fact: not everyone wants to have children. If this fact confuses you or causes you great moral outrage, proceed with caution. It’s only going to get bumpier from here. If you’re capable of processing that first fact, but are still kind of tilting your head, wondering if it’s really necessary to point out that very simple, basic notion, let me assure you: it is. I just want to make sure everyone’s clear on that before we go any deeper. Mostly because life experiences have taught me that way too many people have a notion in their head that having children is not a decision; it’s a predetermined fact. And for someone who has decided not to have children, that notion is equal parts infuriating and exasperating.

    People who have decided not to have children call themselves a variety of things, but “childfree” and “childless-by-choice” are the two most common. Some don’t call themselves anything special, because they are optimistic enough to believe that making a personal decision like that doesn’t need to be given a name. Unfortunately, it sort of does. Because being a parent is seen as the default, and anything that is different from the default seems to need a name so people can process it better. If I have to use a name, I prefer “childfree,” because any version of “childless” implies that children are the desired result, and I am lacking in them. There’s also the fact that “childless” is often used to describe someone who is infertile, or who wants children and does not have them, for whatever reason. While the childfree may be infertile, it’s usually by choice.

    When I was younger, I would have classified myself as “militantly childfree.” It was a defense mechanism, really, since at every turn, I was being told I was wrong and young and stupid and didn’t know my own mind. Being part of the over-30 set now has brought me a little bit of credibility, I guess, because while the questioning and the insulting still exist, they’re a lot less overt. So I’d say my current stance is more “gently childfree.” I don’t begrudge the people I know who are parents any happiness with their children, but it still doesn’t mean I want any of my own. And it really doesn’t mean I want to try to be convinced otherwise.

    Childfree people get a lot of shit from other people about making this choice. You know, because other people totally have the right to pass judgment on what is, at its core, a very personal decision. Here’s some of the crap we hear:

    -”You’ll change your mind.” This is probably the most infuriating, because it assumes that someone doesn’t know their own mind well enough to make a major life decision. And yet, no one says this to anyone who, at 19 or 25 or 30, decides that the only possible way their life will be complete is to have children. Why is that? Why are people who decide the “default” given the benefit of the doubt that they know what they want, while those who decide something that requires an awful lot of contemplation are assumed to be flighty and immature? Do you tell someone who’s pregnant that she’ll change her mind? That it’s permanent and you can’t undo it? That a baby is a big decision that affects the rest of her life and she can’t possibly know at 19 or 25 or 30 that it’s something she’ll want forever? Of course not. But try being a woman who wants to get her tubes tied before having any children. Try telling people that your life plan doesn’t include reproducing. Then, suddenly, you’re an idiot who doesn’t know her own mind, regardless of age.

    -”It’s different when it’s your own.” This one comes in response to someone saying they don’t like kids, or don’t have the patience for them, or any other reason that involves not actually wanting a child around in your everyday life. The argument is that when it’s your own child, those things don’t apply. You love it no matter what. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Plenty of parents can’t stand their own kids. And even if there’s a possibility it’s true, should someone really take that chance? That maybe they won’t hate kids once they have one? Seems awfully unfair to the hypothetical kid if it doesn’t turn out that way.

    -”You’re selfish.” So? Quite frankly, I have the right to be. If I decide that free time, discretionary income, peace and quiet, and flexibility with various parts of my life are important to me, then it would be awfully dumb to think I could still have all that with a child. As parents are fond of telling anyone in earshot, having children changes everything. And if someone doesn’t want everything to change, then why do we try to force that? Plus, isn’t having children one of the most fundamentally selfish things one person can do? What are the reasons people give for having kids? “I want someone to love (or to love me) unconditionally.” “I think my DNA is special enough that it needs to be propagated.” (That one’s clearly a paraphrase. Save the angry emails.) “I want a little me.” “I want a perfect combination of me and my spouse.” I want, I think, I want, I want, I want… I have rarely, if ever, heard a reason to have kids that doesn’t start with “I want.”

    -”You don’t know real love until you have children.” Yeah. Fuck you very much. Who are you to decide that the love I have for my husband, or my parents, or my friends, isn’t “real?” There are lots of kinds of families, and the ones created from choice are just as meaningful and full of love as the ones created by biology.

    -”It’s a miracle.” Every living organism ever since the beginning of time begs to differ. Everything alive reproduces. One could argue that it’s the least miraculous thing possible. It’s happened billions and billions of times and will happen billions and billions more.

    -”You’re not a real woman.” Yes, I’ve heard this. Yes, the person was serious. Yes, I did somehow manage to stop myself from telling the person to go fuck themselves. Aren’t we as women, hell, as people, past deciding for other people what makes them a “real” woman?

    -”Who will take care of you when you’re old?” Do me a favor. Go to your local nursing home/assisted living facility. Talk to some of the residents. Ask them when their children last visited them. Producing offspring doesn’t guarantee you security when you’re old; money does. Most people end up having to pay people to take care of them in their declining years. Plus, fifty years sounds like an awfully long time to wait for a payoff, and frankly, the investment is too high for the potential return.

    -”But you’re such a good dog mom!” Last I checked, you can’t crate kids while you’re at work. Not to mention, dogs are pretty self-sufficient, except for the feeding and walking stuff. They amuse themselves. I don’t need to teach them values and spelling and how to use a fork and stuff. The dogs=children thing is not even a thing. Seriously. I love my dogs; hell, I love them more than I like most people, but they are not a substitute for children.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that all the choices are valid. Just because you don’t agree with mine doesn’t mean you need to belittle me, infantilize me (and how’s that for some irony?), and insult me. And take a moment to think about this: if someone has decided that they really don’t want children, why would you spend so much time trying to convince them otherwise? Does it minimize your choice as a parent if someone takes a different path? If you feel that children are The Greatest Miracle Ever and being a parent is The Most Important Job In The World, wouldn’t it be preferable if every child was born to parents who are 100% certain that they want them? After all, a child is a permanent decision, and I’d rather take the very very small chance that I regret not having one than risk the more likely outcome that I would regret it if I had one.

    Why “feminist” is not a swear word

    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:

    Tomato Nation: Yes, You Are
    Fucking Dumb Blog: Men are people and women are women
    Feminism 101