Today is International Women’s Day and despite the fact that there are many many writers and speakers who have talked about this subject in a better and smarter way than I ever could, I need to get some stuff off of my chest.
1. Feminist is not a bad word.
Just the other day I sat down to try and talk to my mom about feminism and why some women refuse to identify as such. “I don’t understand why a woman wouldn’t want gender equality,” I said. To my surprise, she didn’t agree. Instead, fear and caution clouded her eyes, and she simply said, “some people don’t believe in that stuff.” That stuff? But why? Who in their right mind doesn’t want gender equality? Or is it the word itself?
In my family, I think it’s the word, the label. I was raised by strong women, taught to never take shit from anyone, especially men, but yet I was never taught about feminism. Rather, that word was used to describe angry women who constantly yelled about politics, alienating themselves from all of the “normal” people who just dealt with the world and didn’t complain.
2. I am angry.
I was finally, gradually, introduced to feminism and what it means over the past ten years. Part of my awareness of it was brought about when I came out as lesbian. In the early days I was shocked by the things men would say, do, assume, when they found out I was gay. It was as if the fact that I’m attracted to women was a personal affront to their own life and ego, and I wanted to know why.
So I read and studied and listened to women who were smarter than me, who understood what I was just beginning to really see, and I learned. I’m still learning, honestly, which I think is something that never really stops. But when you start to become aware of the ways in which women are oppressed or taught to feel or perceive themselves, and how damn fragile some men’s egos are, you become more aware of sexism and its presence in your day to day life. You also become aware of the pressure to just let sexist jokes and comments slide at the risk of sounding like an angry feminist that hates men.
But that’s the thing….I AM angry. Not all the time of course, but when something keeps happening to you over and over again and you start to see not only how it has affected you and your life, but those of the women and young girls around you, it’s frustrating. We aren’t angry, hateful, people. But we’re pissed off that we still have to fight this shit, that we, somehow, still aren’t equal to men in so many ways.
Oh and by the way, your racist, sexist, misogynistic, ignorant, homophobic, ableist, jokes aren’t fucking funny.
3. I will keep fighting.
Many of the people around me have noticed the change in me over the past few years as I’ve become more aware of the world around me and the issues facing women. I think it really came into view for them after the election last year, and their reactions to me have been varied. Some are okay with it, willing to talk about things, but others have told me to keep quiet about those things, that people shouldn’t discuss politics or equal rights with each other. To be honest, it’s made me self conscious about it sometimes. I feel like by just bringing up the subject or adding to a conversation that’s already happening, that I am living up to what their idea of an angry feminist is. I can see that they don’t understand why I just can’t let it go and deal with it. Or why I can’t just be more like them. I don’t miss the cautionary, condescending look they throw my way when one of the subjects is broached.
But I’ve never been that person to just conform. Despite being soft spoken, introverted, and awkward as hell, I’ve also always been full of fire and passion. I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to be quiet and sit back and hope that one day it all changes, especially when it has an impact on my life every single day. It changes when we start talking about it, when we don’t let those sexist comments or jokes pass us by unchecked. It changes when we fight and make ourselves heard and demand to be treated with the respect we deserve.
So maybe some of the people don’t like me as much anymore, but if they only liked me when I was quiet and uniformed, then maybe I need to evaluate our relationship.