It’s International Women’s Day again, and as usual I have many feelings on the subject. I forewarn you that this post is likely to be somewhat meandering and a little incoherent. I want to say things like “feminism is a verb” (it isn’t, of course, but I mean this in the sense that it’s not static; we should be doing things), and I want to talk about privilege, and echo chambers, and how proud I was to be at the biggest world-wide women’s protest in history. I want to talk about the mushy mummy feelings I got watching my little girl skip off to school this morning with her beloved book about ancient Egypt clutched to her chest. I want to talk about how Mary Poppins started a conversation about Suffragettes in my house. I want to express my joy at reading our first Famous Five book together and rediscovering the fact that George defied all the female stereotypes of her day and ours. Any one of these subjects and thoughts could fill a blog post on their own. But together, listed like this in all their chaotic glory, they remind me that feminism is part of my daily life.
So, let’s talk words. I like words.
Is “feminism” part of your life? Does the word scare you? Annoy you? Empower you? It’s a word that provokes a reaction in almost everyone. I remember a Facebook post I read recently that resonated so well with my frustration over the negative reactions to the word “feminism” that persist. It reminded readers that feminists are not man-haters. They are not female supremacists. They are not misandrists. All of those things already have words. This word advocates equality. The lash-back is usually along the lines of “Oh, but then I’m a humanist.” And why is that missing the point?
Because humans have not been systematically oppressed for thousands of years in the majority of cultures. Women have.
That’s feminism 101, right? To me, it seems so basic that I’m constantly amazed that it still has to be said. But spend any amount of time on any social media site where there are feminists, and you’ll see just how gross it is out there. As my wonderful friend, Audrey, said once (and I was so sad it was on Facebook so I couldn’t literally high-five her in the moment): “In my book, if you don’t identify as a feminist, you basically identify as a jackass.” And there are jackasses everywhere. [Side note: Audrey is an outspoken feminist who articulates herself far better than I do on the subject. You might want to check out her blog.]
I fly my feminist flag high. I probably annoy a lot of my “friends” with it. (I say “friends” in quotes because I’m referring to social media friends who are not necessarily part of my real-life close circles. I’m pretty sure most of my real-life friends are right there with me.) But, I want to remain conscious of shaping my world in a positive, active way. There actually isn’t a verb associated with feminism. There’s a website called feministing.com, but while the word is cute, it’s also clumsy and weird. When I joined the Women’s March in Paris (yes, I threw that in because Paris. Awesome.), I wouldn’t say I went out feministing. But I was being active. I was making sure my voice was lifted with the other millions of women who marched. If I could have, I would have brought my daughter along, so her voice could be heard, too.
Some people criticised the Women’s March as a display of flagrant, ignorant privilege. Why march for wage inequality or pop culture representation when there are still girls being forced into marriages or having their genitals mutilated? Why, indeed. Because we CAN march. We marched for the women who don’t have the luxury of standing up or speaking up. We marched for those girls and women as much as we marched for ourselves. We marched for all women who are not treated as humans first.
Last year, there were wonderful advancements in the feminist movement. New energy, new attention. Female-led movies dominated at the box office. Gendered marketing took a hit and stores started dismantling the pink isles. Super hero costumes outsold princess costumes last Halloween for the first time in over a decade. But then came the Orange One. The pussy-grabber. And he was voted into power by the majority of white women, leaving many other women (of all races) feeling betrayed by their own. Around the world, we felt the ground shift, felt our achievements start to slide backwards. Sure, it was one election in one country. And sure, I don’t live there or have a vote there. But we can’t be silly enough to ignore America’s influence over almost every western culture, as well as farther afield. Movies, books, television, toys, music—all the things that children are so heavily influenced by—have a huge base in American culture. That should not be glossed over.
As I mentioned when I started this post, I don’t really know where it’s going. Which is a nice metaphor for the state of feminism right now. It’s rambling. It’s kind of disorganized. But, it’s got a lot to say.
We need feminism today, as much as we did in its first wave, second wave . . . we will need it until all women are given equal rights with men. If you already feel that you, or the women in your life if you aren’t a woman, already have equal rights, stop for a moment and remember the ones who don’t. Look outside your own life, culture, or country, and seek out the inequalities that, I assure you, do still exist. That is the first step. You don’t have to call yourself a feminist if the word makes you uncomfortable. But, if it does, ask yourself why it does. Remind yourself of the definition, the true definition of feminism:
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
That leaves the only true, valid answer to the question, “Why are you not a feminist?” as “I don’t believe women should have equal rights.”
Is that you? No? Then, sorry, you’re a feminist, my friend. Welcome. We have hats.