I Think Therefore I Am: A Feminist
AUTHOR: Brigitte R. Lee, Psychology, SUNY Cortland, USA
Imagine yourself eating dinner with a group of people you(i)ve never met. You are to introduce yourself, give a little background about your beliefs, your ideas for modern culture, music and politics. This is a very low-key group of people: small business owners, a schoolteacher, a musician, a writer, some office workers, and other average individuals you would run into everyday. You may hear others reply with their political parties, comments on current events or list off their educational background, number of children, or favorite author. There will obviously be different beliefs and opinions sitting around the table to your left and right, but since you are all new acquaintances, you more than likely won(i)t hear many arguments, or see eyebrows raised.
Now it(i)s your turn and you throw the word "Feminist" into the mix, and I guarantee someone will give you a glare, or even a judgmental retort. Most often a response to a feminist individual involves obvious physical signs of annoyance and your basic stereotypical classifications. Immediately someone is judging “the feminist” in a much different manner than any other at the table. The Feminist in a group of people such as this is going to be the rebel, the radical, the repugnant stench in the room. If it is a man, he has probably stunned the group or just been dubbed as not masculine, and if it(i)s a woman, she(i)s already been classified in a number of different ways.
It seems more and more these days I am hearing about the definition of Feminism: what it is, who its believers are, what they do, why they are or are not right or wrong, or a lesbian. More and more, people are criticizing or defending the ideas that women are being too aggressive for "equal rights for equal pay", or "unfeminine", "butch", "radical", "anti-men", "anti-religious", and etc. The list really could go on for an absurd amount of time, but you know that already. You probably also already know that Feminism gave women much of what they have today. The feminist beliefs gave the female sex the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to have custody of their children, the right to have a bank account. You probably have heard/read/been lectured to about how there have been many women throughout history, mostly within the previous century that opened up many of these doors for their fellow woman, and gave them what they have today. You probably know all of this already. However, what you might not know, especially if you are not a feminist, is what it feels like to declare yourself as one. I dare you to try it. Walk into that dinner full of strangers, or your job, your class, or even your next family gathering, and just try to explain that you(i)re an individual that believes in feminist ideals. Then I suggest you to count how many eyes roll.
This right here folks, is the problem. It(i)s not trying to "survive" the Feminist wave that is gaining some speed in a spring of revolutionary ideas, progressive measures in politics and medicine, discovering (not discovering?) weapons of mass destruction and lastly sweeping the television world with reality star wannabes and homosexual (stereotyped) comedies. It is trying to survive the idea that you are one. I even, have occasionally, wondered how my path led me into this extraordinary direction towards the empowerment of women. I guess my answer is rather simple: the understanding that all peoples deserve each their own rights, the same as any other, is a birth right, and it just takes a little soul searching to realize this.
Do you really want to know what it feels like? What it feels like to openly call yourself a Feminist and not sink in your "combat boots” when someone asks you if you(i)re a lesbian simply because you believe in civil unions, or that birth control shouldn’t give someone the liberty to judge you for being protective? Do I have to be the one to believe that the government doesn(i)t need to have a say in every aspect of everyone(i)s life? Adding the word "Feminist" to your resume isn(i)t always that easy. It(i)s almost as extreme (in some cases) as explaining to your family that you(i)re in an interracially committed relationship, and they are racist, or attending church with your conceived-out-of-wedlock infant crying in the back of the room. And maybe in some very extreme circumstances the same as telling your homophobic father that you are bringing your boyfriend to the father-son luncheon. Think I(i)m pushing my comparisons? I don(i)t. I don(i)t think it(i)s too far when you have to ask a very close friend to please remove the word "dyke" from your vocabulary when you are asking me why I want to call myself a Feminist. Would it make a difference if I were a lesbian? I would still consider the word dyke an extremely harsh and cruel way of showing you’re uncomfortable with me being an independent, outspoken individual. Should that stop heterosexual women from wanting to have respect for being a woman, and not just some American citizen that doesn(i)t have a penis? Are you using that word to distract me? Are you trying to cover that you are uneasy with the idea that Feminism scares your manhood? Instead you choose to make me uncomfortable by using a word that forces me to clarify that my sexuality has nothing to do with Feminism. I don(i)t think I(i)m going too far when I want to declare to the world that I have overcome the fear of public speaking with the giant leap of auditioning for The Vagina Monologues, and actually got a part. I do understand that the word Vagina scares a lot of people, as well as the word clitoris. However, I do no think it is vulgar, as if I were cursing.
I think I(i)m just getting started.
Pat Buchanan, a Republican that ran for the party(i)s nomination for presidency twice in the early nineties, and was senior advisor to three presidents, said this about women, "Only the mass reconversion of Western women to an idea that they seem to have given up-that the good life lies in bearing and raising children and sending them out into the world to continue the family and nation-can prevent the Death of the West". The "Good Life"? Are you kidding me? The only “Good Life” I am certain of is the one that shares its name with the title of a Weezer song. So I should be thankful that I was born with a vagina so that I have the luxury of giving birth to watermelon sized humans, staying at home to raise them with their every need for the rest of my life, and then just turn them over to society when I(i)m done? I should thank my lucky stars because I don(i)t have the "Bad Life" of seeking out education for myself, and being politically knowledgeable, or well read, or have a career of my own? It seems to me that no one can expect a good life based on his or her gender, or race, or creed, or career, or etc. So I(i)m [not] sorry Mister Buchanan, and I beg to differ.
This is what I have to look forward to raising my baby girls in? The notion that they will be expected to stay home and raise children, and have a "good life" doing so because it is the non-feminist approach to it all.
And yes, I do want children, as much of a shock that that may seem to some people (a woman that calls herself a Feminist is capable and willing to have children), I would like to share in the joy of conceiving a child with the one I love, or adopting a child with my partner, or giving my lover my egg so she can carry our baby. Again, my sexual orientation is of no concern here. But just because I happen to not want children yet, and I call myself a Feminist does not imply that my Feminist beliefs have influenced me to believe child bearing is evil. Buchanan comments on Feminists: "To be (i)pro-choice(i) on abortion is today almost a defining mark of the (i)modern woman(i)." Yes, that(i)s right, simply because I believe in equality for both men and women (the “modern woman” that I am), that automatically means I insist on having abortions until I settle down from my wild ways, smarten up a little bit, and grow to be responsible enough to not kill my babies and eventually want to have my first child when I(i)m 46 (please note my extreme sarcasm). Why does it seem like everyone looks at feminism like it(i)s such a bad thing? Is it really horrible to believe in the possibility that our little country could actually care about its people, and their beliefs, and the fact that not everyone that lives here is a Republican, or even interested in politics?
I do not want to be a stereotype. I do not want to have to explain my beliefs every time someone wants me to explain my purpose, my cause. I do not want to have to describe myself. Why is it so necessary to have to explain what you are to people?
I am a Feminist. That does not imply anything about my sexual status, my beliefs on abortion, my career, or that I hate men. This does not mean I burn my bra, or that my mother was a hippy flower child. Because I am a Feminist, it gives me the grace and understanding to forgive you; you that wanted to put me in a category of butch broads with their panties in a knot; you that thinks of me as a radical woman because a man can(i)t be a Feminist (and don(i)t think they can(i)t). You that judge me for wanting you to understand me not disregard me; hear me trying to defend the idea that every man and woman is equal.
I am a Feminist; do not question me again