I want to discuss the “F” word today… That’s right, that dirty word FEMINISM.
When I see a woman exclaim that she is “NOT A FEMINIST” it always catches me off guard. One of my favorite quotes is this: “Do you believe that all humans are equal? Do you believe that women are human? CONGRATULATIONS, you are a feminist!” I have no idea who first came up with that stroke of genius but I’d like to shake their hand. Ladies (and gentlemen), just because you don’t suffer gender biases (or more likely do not notice them in your life) doesn’t mean that there is no longer a need for the feminist movement. On the contrary, the need is more necessary than ever. It seems crazy to say that, because we can vote and we can drive and we can hold positions of power, right? That’s just “we”, though. The “we” that are lucky enough to live in regions that started fighting this battle long ago. Even in our “progressive” country, there is still a great divide between the rights of men and the rights of women, even more so for women of color. There are women in this world who aren’t afforded the “privileges” (basic human rights) that we take for granted. As an American woman, I will never be told that I can’t legally drive, that I can’t choose my partner… that I can’t choose the very clothing on my back.
There was a story about a college age couple travelling in India that I read last year. They were on a bus together and were beaten to a pulp. He was tossed from the bus and she was taken somewhere where she was subjected to the most vile and dehumanizing acts you can imagine. She later died of her injuries. Of course her attackers were arrested and prosecuted, right? Wrong. There are no laws against rape in the region in question. Think of that… sink your teeth in… NO LAWS AGAINST RAPE. This means that rape is legal. Are you with me? LEGAL. Little boys are being raised in a culture where people do not tell them to treat girls nice. They are witness to daily “normalcies” that show them that their mothers are not their equals. Their MOTHERS. The women who bore them, the women who feed them, the women who love them more than ANYONE ELSE ON THIS EARTH. They are not being taught to respect women. This isn’t a theme that’s exclusive to this region of India. There are many other countries in which women are oppressed. There are still women who are oppressed right next door.
As a mother of two boys, I feel that it is my responsibility to make sure that they grow up and know how to treat women, likewise how they should expect to be treated by their partners. My oldest son is eight. He already knows that there are little girls in this world that don’t get to go to school. He knows the story of a little girl who is forced to stay at home to do the farming and to fetch water and to cook and clean while her bother is allowed to attend school and makes very few contributions to the household. He knows that her parents barely acknowledge her existence and that he is lavished with praise just for being born male. He knows, at eight years old, that these things are not fair.
So, ladies… What is it about the “F” word that you reject? Does it conjure up images of Jane Fonda straddling a missile launcher? Do you imagine hordes of bra-less, man hating women with hairy armpits and think, “that’s not me, I’m feminine. I like feeling pretty and girly and I LOVE men.”? Because I’ve got to tell you, that’s not me either. I’m a gottdamned lady! I can be everything soft and feminine that I choose and I shave… But I don’t have to and nobody can make me. I love my husband and I was free to choose him and he me. I can work or I can stay home to raise my children, I can follow my husbands lead or pave my own way. I can educate myself as far as I am driven. I can be a rocket scientist or a Rockette.
Until women of all walks are granted these same “privileges”, feminism is still relevant. Until no child is denied an education based on her gender, the fight is not won. Unless you realize that you are contributing to the problem, we have not succeeded in our quest for equality. Until the rights we have (and have not yet won) are a global norm… Fight your fight ladies, and gentlemen this goes for you too… Embrace your inner feminist, loud and proud.