(And are there free cookies and punch involved?)
Feminism is such a LOADED word jammed-packed with wholesome cynicism, abuse, and misunderstanding. But the good girls at The Lady Errant and She is Fierce have started a link-up on feminism, so before I knew it, I was contemplating, “Am I a feminist? What does that word even mean to me?”
When I started really getting into reading at the age of 13, I loved one series more than the rest, the Sunfire series. The books were about strong young women who pioneered during a particular American historical setting. For example, Caroline was about a young lady who decided she wanted to follow her brothers on the California Trail (for the Gold Rush), so she decided to cut her hair and masquerade as a boy. Of course, there was sweet romance involved within each of the stories, but I learned a lot about American history, too.
Through Laura I learned about the struggle for women’s rights; Megan, America’s purchase of Alaska, the spies of the Revolutionary War through Sabrina; and the Jamestown settlement through Marilee. By far, they are the books I have reread the most. I still have them. I love them and I wish I could have them with me here in Thailand.
Interestingly, I am currently reading Written by Herself: Autobiographies of American Women and I’m gaining a huge appreciation for what these women have had to not only endure and undergo because of their extra x chromosome, but what they accomplished.
I couldn’t believe it when Sara Josephine Baker (1873-1945) slugged a drunken husband down the stairs because he was preventing her from delivering his wife’s baby (among other things). Or when Hortense Powdermaker (1896-1970) (what a name, eh?) prior to her career as an anthropologist, was involved in unionizing garment workers. Or when Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813-1897) ran away from her brutal slave owner, only to remain in hiding for SEVEN years, so she could be close to her children and watch them.
I think books have fed my feminist soul as I have naturally gravitated towards stories with women as the role models or protagonist. When my brother and I starting getting into comic books when I was 14, I collected Wonder Woman comics, of course. I also remember declaring that I wanted to be the first female US president. (HA! What was I thinking???)
Does all this make me a feminist? I believe it does. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in men’s rights to a fulfilling and rewarding existence, too. Of course I do. I don’t think we need to be exclusionary, degrading or extreme in desires for equality. One of the reasons why feminism is considered a four letter word is because of the unbalanced views of a few who believe all men should be eradicated from their places of power or prestige. I think firebrand or radical feminism is perhaps just as misplaced and despondent as misogyny.
So, when we are having a conversation about feminism, we need to stop assuming it is a crazy extreme thing. I think this is why I wanted to be part of this brilliant link-up. So, let’s talk about feminism. I dare you to strike this matchstick topic at your next dinner with friends (or family) or at the bus stop. Why not? It’ll only give you and someone else something to think about.
19 replies on “Am I a feminist?”
You did a great job of explaining your views on feminism. I agree with you fully. I am old fashioned in some ways (I like when men will hold the door open for me, or help me carry heavy things), but I am all for equality for both sexes. The media always tries to play up the extremists in any issue unfortunately. I hate that.
Agree. I did do a great job. (*silence*) Just kidding! Yeah, I forgot about those old-fashioned views, which I think are just manners, so, yes. I am very much old-fashioned, too. I don’t need to “prove” myself that I can do something. I mean, I do, but not in like a man-hating way.
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In the final year of my degree I had to take a feminism module – nothing else fit in my timetable and that was that, I was doing feminism, like it or not. The lecturer was every stereotype going – lesbian? check. butch? check. man hating? check. We had many heated discussions, mainly because as a 21 year old young woman I wanted to exercise my right to wear make up on a Saturday night out, or high heels, or sexy clothes. Or to have sex with men. Her opinion was that I DID THIS FOR THE PENIS. Penis Power. It all boiled down to the power of the penis.
She infuriated me. I got so riled up that feminism turned out to be the module that I put the most passion into. I got my best results from the essays that I handed in.
She made me discover that I too am a feminist. I may not hate men, I may not be a lesbian, but feminist I am. And do you know what? By the end of the year, she agreed with me. I had earned my feminist credentials and she was just testing me all along.
Thank you for my morning laugh. Penis power! Oh my word, I would have killed the professor for “testing me”. But actually it was probably really good for yourself to see that even a differing opinion from a professor wasn’t going to prevent you from having independent thought! And beneficial for you to know of an extreme side of feminism – it’s not pretty. Cheers 😀
Lani, I love that you burned a bra for your post! Hilarious. I think I’ll have to read some of those books. You make them sound really good!
Corinne! I did not burn my bra! It’s photoshop. 😛 Although, it is definitely one that needs to be “retired”.
Haha, nice bra-burning. That Sunfire series sounded interesting! Reminded me of these Dear America books I read when I was a kid – similar to Sunfire in that each was about a girl from a particular historical period, but written in a diary format. I haven’t thought about them in years, but they probably introduced me to a different way of learning about history – can’t remember ever spending a lot of time on women’s history in school. Just a lot of Pilgrims, Revolutionary War, and the Civil War. I totally agree that feminism should be about equality in a non-exclusionary way. . .but I still think the MRA is a joke. Radicals everywhere giving us moderates a bad name.
Oh, right. The Dear America books. Yeah, they looked like what I would have liked when I was younger. I also loved to look at the covers of the Sunfire books. They were painted, and I’d look up who did the cover and found my favorite artists this way, too.
Had to look up the MRA, never heard of them. Hahahahahaha.
I too enjoy a good story about strong women and have found them through books, television and movie fiction. They always boost me up and help me remember stereotype the US society has been molding women into is dead wrong.
Remembering a couple of personal stories:
When I was pregnant men would hold doors open for me ALL the time! They would see me walking to the door and literally run to hold it open. The first time I smiled and thought it was sweet, but I quickly realized their attitude was one of me being a helpless female and I might break the baby if I opened the door! Post birth when I had my arms full of groceries, a baby in a stroller with a diaper bag on one arm do you think any man held the door open for me?………NOOOOO! (except my wonderful husband) But other women did and we would exchange knowing glances toward the dumb ass, smile at each other and go about our day.
I was in my 30’s when we moved from Northern California to Southern Utah. Yes, it was a huge culture shock but somehow I managed to get a job in a 98% Mormon male dominated society in a male dominated field! It shocks me to this day that I was hired and thinking back on it, maybe they were surprised by a petite woman with a strong personality and they thought they would have fun testing me. I was a city waste water operator and got my CDL (commercial drivers license) to drive semi trucks. I operated a backhoe, dug ditches, climbed down sewer manholes to make repairs and even took an engine out of a semi truck. My previous jobs were nowhere close to that so it was all on the job training. Yep, they thought they would have a bit of fun at my expense.
There were four men in the interview. You should have seen the look on their faces when I told them, “I know you are not allowed to ask me this, but it is something you need to know. I will not be having anymore children, I don’t get PMS and I am not afraid of anything!”
Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. I messed with their comfort zone every day by not fitting into the box they had me placed in. They saw a pretty, petite woman and would try to treat me like they would their wives, friends or sisters.
What they got was a pretty, petite woman that was not afraid to get her hands dirty and was the first to volunteer to be lowered into a 24 foot deep manhole to do the repairs. They would put me in situations they knew would make me uncomfortable, or whine and cry. I would turn it around on them by jumping at the chance to do something new outside of my comfort zone.
I guess I am a feminist also!
I love it! What an interesting time for you. I love Utah, it’s so beautiful, but I wouldn’t think about integrating into the Mormon culture. The thought would not cross my mind.
It was probably important for them to see a capable young woman in a “man’s field”. I like shocking my students when I tell them I use to drive/operate a forklift. And when I was zipping around on it, heads were a’turnin’ let me tell you. I also learned to cut pipes using different equipment, but my first job was working in a warehouse for a construction company, so…later when I had to do this, it wasn’t completely outrageous. Plus, doing archaeology is a rather dirty job! I loved getting dirty!
Good for you, Lin. You’re so amazing 🙂
First, looooove the voice. Second, I agree with you and this is what I am.
Hahahhahaa. Thanks 😀
First of all, the trend now is how to buy a bra that fits for women who go jogging, exercise. So bra-less is um..not really gravity-safe with age. 😀
The question, “Am I a feminist?” makes feel old — it just underscores women who deny that they are yet they would be ranting in anger if: a) they could not drive alone (like women in Saudi Arabia for the longest time) b) could not bicycle without a male chaperone or outside of recreational parks (Saudi Arabia again) c) a guy could divorce quickly whereas woman cannot (some Middleeastern countries)…and all in the 21st century. Today.
I do remember the bra-burning era..I was under 10 years old.
It felt like an old question until I received a rather extreme viewpoint on my facebook wall after I had shared my post. I was under the impression that most in the “Western” world were already feminist (aka for equality), but that is not the case. There is a lot of misinformation and old ideas about feminism still alive and kicking! Your Saudi example is a perfect one. It’s truly mind-boggling how many women around the world face “second class citizen” status, to put it gently.
Here’s my piece from my little world of bikes, women and mobility:
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Thank you for linking. I’m looking forward to reading your post 🙂
Love this! I have pretty much been a feminism from birth. 🙂
BTW I also said that I wanted to be the first woman president. I’m glad that didn’t last! Haha.
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I know, right? I was going to say the same thing. I’d go insane trying to get through all the corruption.