How Words Work: Feminism
Hi everyone. Just your resident “angry feminist”, Jenn, here. Did you miss me? No? Oh. Well, too bad. I wrote a nice angry post for you anyway.
So what has my hackles up this time? Well, a couple of more famous women, who have benefited immensely from feminism, have declared that they are not feminists. Welp, I have enough problems with that already, but in particular, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Kardashian have both specified that they believe in equality and/or support women, “no hate” and other things people say when they don’t talk so ‘good’ but are trying to say “let’s support each other”, but they are not feminists.
Well, that’s just not really how words work. Here, let Amy Poehler help you.
Or, hey, maybe you’re not ready to listen to what a woman says yet, because you’re still on the fence about this whole women have valid thoughts and opinions thing. In that case, here is a guy explaining the same thing to you.
But joking aside, there are more problems with women being unwilling to use the word “feminist” when describing themselves. You’re causing the problem I think you believe you are trying to avoid.
If you are a woman who doesn’t believe you deserve equal opportunities and rights in society, then I guess you’re really not a feminist. I’m not sure what you are. A self-loathing masochist? But OK, you should just stop reading if that’s what you think. If you believe you are less deserving of being treated like a human being, then you’re right. Log off and please continue about your day. You probably have a sandwich to make for some man, right? Right.
OK for the rest of you – if you do believe that you deserve equal opportunities and rights, i.e. that you are a human being as worthy of respect as every other human being (i.e. men) on this planet, then by definition, you are a feminist. If you think you don’t like the word because you believe it means you have to hate men, burn your bra (by the way, who doesn’t want to do this? every woman I know does, they suck, even when they fit correctly – which is a different topic), be angry all the time, only vote for women, or…. I don’t even know what else you think, honestly, because I don’t understand – then what you should do is not say you’re not a feminist, but claim the term and make yourself a part of the label so that you outnumber the kind of exclusionary hateful outliers who have at times given the word a bad name. (See TERF, my particularly most-hated variety.)
Also, please realize that no change in this world is made by quietly waiting for people to give you your rights. It may not be necessary for you to be as vocal and demonstrative about your rights today as it was in 1895, but please don’t stand on the shoulders of women – feminists – who have come before you and secured the rights that you freely and rightly exercise today, and tell them that they don’t matter or you don’t want to count yourself among them.
I wish I had thought of this title, but here is a really great summary of more things that I agree with on this topic.
And here is someone trying to understand why exactly Kim Kardashian thinks she’s not a feminist.
One of the most frustrating ones I’ve seen to date, though this is older, is Kaley Cuoco. Sweetheart, you are allowed to be a feminist and “feel like” a housewife – in fact, you can even be an actual housewife which, I’ll note, you are not.
I was never that feminist girl demanding equality, but maybe that’s because I’ve never really faced inequality.
Well sweetheart, kind of, exactly. And also? Yes you have.
And while we’re talking about it anyway, let’s discuss anger for a minute.
I had a discussion about this on Twitter today with a couple of my peeps and one person observed that probably women such as these two actresses, don’t want to be pigeon-holed as “angry feminists”, which I assume is true, of course. And then, another friend said:
Is being pigeon holed as angry feminist that bad tho? I OWN that title. There are worse things you can be, right?
Yes, right. There are about a million other things that would be worse than being called an angry feminist.
I’m definitely not telling anybody that they have to be angry, but I’ll just leave this here.
In case these recent Olympics related sexist events weren’t enough, here are some things to potentially inspire anger for you, today, my non-angry friends:
A bunch of things women weren’t able to do until recent times. Source: Ms. Magazine.
Keep her job if she were pregnant
My parents married very soon after my mom graduated from college, in 1974. She had a degree in biology and wanted to work in scientific research. Every job interview she went on, they asked if she was married and if they planned to have kids. When she honestly answered “yes”, she didn’t get hired. She ended up working in a bank as a teller. With a scientific degree. Thanks, America. This sort of thing was perfectly legal, as well as being fired for getting pregnant, until 1978.
Report sexual harassment in the workplace
This wasn’t even recognized as a thing until 1977, so it was perfectly OK for your male coworkers to slap your ass, pressure you sexually, comment on your body positively or negatively, ask about your marital status, etc. That was all totes cool in the good old U.S.A.
Run the Boston Marathon
Here is a video about the first woman who entered the Boston Marathon, though there was nothing in the rules specifying gender, organizers considered her entry invalid. The rules were officially changed in 1972.
Get a credit card
Yes, until 1974 no women in this country were able to have credit in their own name. Think about what this would mean for you in your daily life right now. You couldn’t make any purchases without some tie to a man, unless you used cash exclusively. This is so ridiculous it’s mind-boggling. My mother couldn’t have credit in her own name until she was a married adult! Insanity.
Refuse to have sex with her husband
Well of course, because marriage is actually ownership of another human being, right? Wrong. I can’t even address how many things are wrong with this. Every human being always has the right to refuse sex to every other human being, no matter their relationship or previous status. Not until 1993 was it officially criminalized in all states for a married partner to rape the other. I was a junior in high school.
Compete as a boxer in the Olympics
This happened in 2012. 2012. Am I particularly concerned about boxing? No, but if women can do it then they should be allowed to compete in it, FFS.
Get a no-fault divorce
Until 1969 you could legally be prevented from divorcing your spouse if you didn’t have a good enough reason. This would traditionally be more difficult for women as they had less autonomy in society, and were, as we already saw in many examples above, just generally considered less worthy of rights and opinions, including who should be having sex with them when.
Have a legal abortion
Before 1973 abortion was not a right for women in this country. Of course this is Roe v. Wade. To this date conservatives continue to attempt to erode this right, with no positive results. Whether legal or not, women will terminate pregnancies, and this does not adversely affect rich and privileged people, but it does affect poor and under-privileged people, which is another reason why this kind of attempt at control over women’s bodies is particularly atrocious.
If you are a woman and you have a credit card in your name, you vote, you have been divorced, sexually harassed, or you believe you have a right to control what happens to your own body, then you owe these rights to all the feminists who came before you, who fought, usually quite angrily, for them, and you owe it to them not to crap all over their legacy by trying to distance yourself from the word because you think you don’t like it.
If you don’t like what you think the public views a feminist as, then tell them you are one and change their minds.
A little while ago a bunch of pop stars claimed they were not feminists, and this amazing woman wrote this brilliant response.