Let’s talk about the dreaded, taboo, hideous, scary, hated, scorned “F” word, shall we?
That’s right. Here we go… Feminism.
My journey with Feminism started, as it did for a lot of ladies my age (mid-30s), with Barbie, of all things. Sure, she’s been derided as the antithesis of a feminist many times, based on really very shallow things like her unobtainably tiny waist, huge perky rack, tiny arched feet, and perfect fluffy blonde hair. But Barbie was a boss-ass bitch, almost from the very beginning of her existence in the 50s. There were bumps in the road (a diet book whose advice on how to be thin read “don’t eat” stands out to me). But Barbie, along with characters from my neon-colored-80s childhood like Jem & the Holograms, Punky Brewster, and Murphy Brown, had a lot of girl power positive messages.
My Barbies were everything the boys were. I had a very rich imagination as a kid. So when the neighborhood boys played war with their GI Joes, I saw no reason Barbie couldn’t pick up a bazooka and blow away the bad guys too. She was a rock star, she was a spy, she was a kick-ass business woman-slash-lawyer-slash-millionaire with big shoulder pads and bigger hair. She worked as a mechanic on the florescent pink Barbie van my sister got, and when all our Barbies went on ski vacations (on the snowy train tracks) or to the beach to surf (in the sandbox out back) – Barbie was hitting the slopes just as hard as Ken, hanging ten just as tubular-ly as Ken, and because she had so many better outfits than our poor, neglected Ken dolls, she did it all looking damn good.
We didn’t have to have the special Army Barbie or Lawyer editions of Barbie to prove to us that she could be those things. She just was.
I was a bone-deep Feminist long before I knew the word.
Come Middle School, I had a pair of friends who were more politically tuned-in than I was (well, in retrospect, they really were not… but at least they tried). They talked about Women in Power and how we needed a woman president to clean up all the messes generations of boys had made (still true, but not HRC, please). They also worshipped Nixon, so…
Anyway – the infectious, innocent, naive-yet-fervent feminism of my early teens was an unshakable belief. Not only could Barbie abso-fucking-lutely be anything she wanted, so could we! We were going to be a lawyer (Crozzie), and a genius college professor wearing tweed and blowing people’s minds with estrogen-centric criticism of literature (Catherine), and a veterinarian-slash-novelist who had the children she dreamed about without waiting to find a man (me – and yes, the whole ‘fat girls can’t get laid or find love’ thing infected me quite young… *sigh* We’ll talk about that another day).
Then came the crunchy-hippy-manhating-combat boot-wearing-“feminazi” stereotype. Ah, we’ve reached the mid-to-late 90s, when the only people who called themselves Feminists were hairy-armpit bulldykes*. At least, that’s what TV & movies would have impressionable teenaged girls believe.
Josie, the voices whispered to me from every form of media, Boys don’t like Feminists. Don’t call yourself one. You’re going to have a hard enough time finding someone to fuck you – don’t make it worse. Shave your pits, curl your hair, paint your face, and be a LADY.
Well, it worked. To a point.
I shaved my pits and conformed to as many social mores as I was capable of, regarding traditional femininity. I found a guy who said he loved me despite my fatness (what a twat, in retrospect) and I stood by my man like a good girl should, even when he cheated on me with one of my best friends. Because fuck feminism, honor the patriarchy. Duh.
I am grateful that I worked through those days and moved on. Past him. Past those stupid thoughts. Past the mentality that tells girls they shouldn’t be smarter than boys or boys won’t like them. The subtle clues that let young Josie know that she shouldn’t like chemistry or science and she should focus on clothes and make-up to get boys to her like her. Ugh. It may be too late to be a veterinarian or to cure some form of cancer, but I did move past it.
And I met a man who actually loved me – all of me, even the shameful parts, the fat parts, the parts that seemed utterly unlovable to me. That man told me something I had never heard a man say before. He was surprised that I didn’t consider myself a feminist. “Why not, Nubby?” He asked. “I’m a feminist.”
I didn’t know man could be feminists, for one.
For two, I didn’t know any man would want to identify as one lest he be pegged a “f*g” or something by his macho-man fellow males.
For three, I had no idea how narrow and out-right WRONG my definition/idea of feminism was.
You see, I bought into the whole “man-hating” bullshit the 90s movies taught me. I figured, to love women, you had to want to hate men or want to oppress them the way women had been oppressed.
That is not true.
It is the reason some people want to change the term from Feminism to Egalitarianism or Humanism or something similar. Which is fine, but it is also not fine. It is reductive in a way I am not going to go into here.
Feminism is the radical belief that woman are people too. That’s it. A famous quote, paraphrased roughly. That’s it. A feminism does not hate men, rather, she/he believes that both genders (or rather, all genders) should be treated equally as we are all humans, we are all people, we are all worthy of respect.
And Mark understood that.
It was one of many reasons I fell for him.
Despite his influence, and his attempts to re-educate me (which sounds more deliberate than it was – he wasn’t trying to change me, just share his own experiences which made me re-think my own) I still did not really self-identify as “Feminist” because… you know… “feminazi”.
Then I discovered Tumblr. And yes, I realize there is a lot of bullshit on that website. There is a LOT of misinformation and a lot of hyper-aggressive über-libs (and yes, their conservation and hate-mongering counterparts… so much) who argue their point to the point that it turns reasonable people off, even if they have good points to make (EDITOR’S NOTE: Whoa, I used “point” a lot in this paragraph… should have edited it before publishing. C’est la vie, redundancy is my friend). But you know what else there is on Tumblr? A lot of GOOD information. And a lot of people who are THINKING about shit and talking about their thoughts and when they publish them on the interwebs, they make the rest of us think.
And I started to think.
And in doing so, I’ve realized that I was wrong about Feminism.
There are so many issue I had never considered: the differences in pay or advancement, women can expect in the US. The Pink Tax, which is a real, widely documented thing. The disparity in recruitment and grooming for STEM careers. The lack of women directors in TV and movies. The ridiculous way speaking roles are skewed to straight, cisgender, white men in TV & Movies (and books!) rather than women (or PoC, or anyone on the LGBT+ spectrum). The reality of RAPE CULTURE and how horribly we need to change the fundamental way we treat “gender” in the US (and the world, honestly). The need for intersectionality and the trouble with “white feminism”. Toxic masculinity and how horribly it treats boys and men, from birth.
When it comes to the multitude of ways we, as a global community of people, could change for the positive to rid ourselves of the oppressive influence – Feminism (or egalitarianism, or humanism, or whatever) is the way.
It says let’s not focus on the dangly bits between your legs, let’s foster the things you’re good at regardless of expected gender role. You want to build skyscrapers? Great! You don’t use your genitals to do it, so who cares if you’re a lady or a dude or anything in between? You want to be a nurse? Cool, gender doesn’t matter. You can do a great job and you should get paid just as much regardless of what lives in your underoos. Write novels? Work with children? Design clothes? Drive semi-trucks? Go into Space? Paint pictures? DO IT!
The world is a multi-hued riot of variety. We should embrace our differences, celebrate our similarities, and treat every single one of the motherfuckers living on this big, green rock hurtling through space with the same respect we expect ourselves. More, even.
Be kind, be accepting, be mindful.
It does not matter what you worship/believe/don’t believe, what color your skin is, where your ancestors were from or live now, what configuration your genitals are/were/will be, who you love/fuck/don’t fuck.
At the end of the day, we are all human beings.
People of Earth.
And until we meet some other intelligent races, we’re all we’ve got. So let’s just… love each other. Treat each other with respect.
Don’t be a dick. That’s feminism to me.
It took me more than thirty years to come to this realization, but damn it – I have done and I hope you do too.
If you’re not a feminist, why not?
If you are, when did you come to it? How? Why?
If you think I’m being racist against alien races or future/previous iterations of homosapiens (like homo erectus or the X-men/Heroes style mutants that are inevitably coming), let me know!
*=I use the phrase to make a point, per the time period. Not because I actually think this/thought this, or have any negative connotation toward lesbians at large, bull dykes specifically (whether they like or hate the term), or anyone of a less “feminine” persuasion at all. Forgive the stylistic choice, please.
Note: Image is “the F word” by Josie (featuring EGIRLZ font)