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I need feminism because…

July 12, 2013

I have been reading a lot of little things from here and there around these interwebs this summer.  And I have come to the conclusion that we, as women, need to pay attention.  We need to pay attention to the little things.  And we need to pay attention to the undercurrent of what things mean for our gender even if those things are at odds with our beliefs and values.  We need to think more globally, and realize the consequences, many of which are unseen and peripheral to the actual legislation, language, accusation, or name.  We need to claim our right for power.  Power of decision.  Power of independence.  Power.

Now.  I am not a person who stands up and fights for causes.  I use my anonymity in the voter’s booth.   I may sign a petition every now and again.  I mean, I won’t even answer political surveys over the phone…or anywhere.  I don’t want to be tracked or pegged as one thing or another.  I have grown up in a family where I am definitely a girl.  I have been taken care of.  I have been uninformed because I am being protected.  I have been overlooked when trying to have important conversations.  And, my family?  It has been the best family!  Because of some of those things listed!  And, to be honest, I have never “worried my pretty little head” about much.  And I didn’t mind.  I wasn’t that interested in all that stuff.  I still am not interested in finances…how gender stereotypical is that?  My marriage has some blurred lines around gender, but honestly?  It is pretty gender specific.

I just wanted to clear up that fact.  I am a product of the traditional family values.  I like many of these values.  But, I still think we need to claim our power as women.

I have lived a sheltered life.  I have always had more than enough.  Food, toys, recreation, clothes.  I have always had a nice home in a safe place.  I have always been safe in my home.  I am extremely lucky.  Blessed.  Grateful.  It is easy for me to think that everything is just fine.  If I look around my own life, everything is just fine.  Everything is more than fine, as a matter of fact.  So, what am I getting all up in arms about anyway?

Well.  I am not the only woman here on this Earth.  And I am not guaranteed that my perfectly safe, more than fine life will stay that way.  In fact, there is a good chance it won’t.  There is an equal chance that it will, mind you, but in might not.  My life might be shattered in any number of ways because of my gender or my children’s gender.  I don’t like it, but that is reality.

I started thinking about this because I saw a TED talk:

I was so impressed that a man stood on stage to say all of these things about violence against women.  I was inspired!  Having a man talk about this gave this issue such credibility.  I kept thinking about this, I kept hoping that what I thought was true:  maybe people would finally start to listen.

I also heard about the three missing girls who were held captive for close to 10 years.  I didn’t read about them or watch the news.  (In fact, I just googled this story to have something to link to.)  I had heard that these girls were 11 when they were taken.  (After reading the above article that is not accurate.)  I had also heard that they knew their captor.  This made me think of Jacob Wetterling, who was 11 when he was abducted.  And thus I had to have a conversation with Sarah about pedophiles, rape, sexual slavery, abduction, and how you need to pay attention to your gut at all times.  If it feels fishy, believe it is fishy.  If you are wrong, well, you may have hurt some feelings.  If you are right?  You may have saved your life.  The book The Gift of Fear, and some Oprah shows helped me understand these things.  I tried to give her some background knowledge about the darkness of the world.  I wish I didn’t have to.  Ever.

Next, I came across this uplifting story:

And again, I was inspired!  She did it!  She found a way to please her village, and fulfill her dreams.  Oh!  The world has come so far!

And to add to my glee about how we are on the right road, speeding through the debris I found this:

Again, I felt vindicated.  Dustin Hoffman?  In tears?  How can you beat that?

But there must have been something bugging me.  There must have been, because I kept these ideas in my head.  I collected them in the tabs in my browser.  I bookmarked them.  I thought it was because of the inspiration.  Because now even the men were paying attention.  I thought maybe I could use these with some unit for my classes.  Or something.  And amid these wonderful inspiring men and the woman who got permission from all the men in her village to become a teacher, that news story kept popping up.  And the questions kept coming:  Are women really safer?  Do women really have control over their lives?  (Even the ones who are not beautiful.) (Even the ones that are beautiful.)  These little nagging questions irritated me.

And that is when I found this:

http://awkwardsituationist.tumblr.com/post/52817821994/cambridge-university-students-were-asked-on-campus

Go ahead.  Click on it.  I’ll wait for you.

This made my stomach hurt.  Damn those nagging questions!  I read through every one of these–twice.  It lived on my tab for a long time.  I kept going back to it to read it again.  I had Sarah read it.  There was power in these words.  It named things that we are marinated in from the time we are born.  Things that we don’t give a second thought to.  Things that have been said this week to my son.  Things that have been said in this house.  Things I may have said:  “Quit screaming like a little girl.”  Gulp.  I would love for you to tell me which one is your favorite.

About that same time I discovered this:

http://flavorwire.com/403270/dustin-hoffmans-tootsie-tears-lets-stop-congratulating-men-for-discovering-that-sexism-exists

This one stopped me in my tracks.  It spoke to me.  Probably because:  Guilty as Charged.  I never, ever thought about Dustin Hoffman in this light.  And, it is a fact that we accept things because someone is nice to us. We, as a rule, don’t rock the boat.  Even if it needs to be rocked.

Then this came to me:

http://www.tnetimes.com/article/575-president-jimmy-carter-speaks-out-womens-rights-and-southern-baptist-convention-religion-christian-islam-god-subservient-inferior-freedom-democracy-equal-work-pay-tradition-mandala-/

Thank goodness.  But again with the men!  As if nothing can be taken seriously if a woman is doing the talking.

And, yes.  That does look remarkably like a chip on my shoulder.

I guess I have been pretty good at staying in my own house and ignoring everything.  This Ted Talk helped a little:

But it wasn’t all about gender equity.

And the kicker, I listened to this:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/07/10/daily-circuit-abortion-states

Now.  I listened to this as neutrally as I could.  We all have a side.  Historically, our side (whatever that may be) is the only thing that matters when it comes to controversial issues.  I tried to take the value part out.  To listen in the third person, so to speak.  And, what I kept thinking is how convoluted this whole discussion has become.  How the sides all play out these ridiculous scenarios.  How something that, in my opinion, should be a private matter between a woman, her own values, and her doctor has become this huge tangled mess.  For what?  Why?  Why is this such a public thing, when it seems like it is the most personal, heartbreaking thing.  What is it that people are really afraid of?  I don’t have the answer.  I never seem to have the answers.  I just think it is all connected.  There is a thread that ties all of this together.  And whether you (or I) am pro-life or not, is kind of irrelevant.  When you take out the emotional and value appeals and look at the discussion impartially, it was amazing how much time and energy was put into this issue.  THIS issue.  There are many bad things that happen in our country.  There are many things that can be perceived as evil, and wrong.  Why is it this issue that has such power?  Does it have anything to do with feminism?  Does it have anything to do with women having the right to make a choice about having a baby or not?  Does it have anything to do with how babies fundamentally change women’s lives?  And how historically this was a way to make women depend on patriarchical societies?  I don’t know.  All I know is when I listened to this program, that is admittedly biased to the pro-choice side of things, I was caught off guard by how complicated everything was even for people who seemed rational, and good-hearted.  Not the least bit evil.

There were also some other things that I listened to, and read about pertaining to women who study math, and women who study technology.  And how these fields are labeled “male.”  And I could go google and link to these stories as well, but I have written a too-long post already.

So.  I just think that we still need feminism.  Because I don’t think being a girl is an insult.  And I don’t think that being a girl makes you weak, or makes you unable to take care of yourself.  Girls are just as strong, and sensible as boys.  They deserve every opportunity, and deserve to make their lives for themselves.  What do you think?

P.S.  I know I brought up controversial subjects here today.  I usually don’t.  I hesitated because of this.  But, I also write about what is rattling around in my head, and this is what is rattling around.  I would love to hear your comments, but if you can’t say things in a professional, respectful way.  Please keep your thoughts to yourself.  It is the same rule in my house:  If you can’t say it nicely, don’t say it all.

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4 Comments
  1. July 13, 2013 5:56 am

    That tumblr collection is fantastic. I saw the Dustin Hoffman video the other day. You raise excellent points and I’m glad that you are able to talk to your kids about all of these issues because I know how difficult that is!! And they shouldn’t BE controversial subjects, so yay that you felt bold enough to write about what was rattling around in your head. I feel the same way.

    • July 13, 2013 7:00 am

      Liz-
      Thank you so much for your comment! I forgot to write about the whole birth-control controversy that is related to this as well. Birth control. That has been accepted and wide spread my whole life until two or three years ago.What is that about? Anyway, I am glad that you commented because it is risky putting yourself out there on topics like this. Yikes.

  2. July 14, 2013 7:31 am

    Writing about these issues takes courage, so go you! I stopped short when I saw the title of your post because I’ve been thinking about women’s issues a lot lately too, and working on a post about them. Most recently I read an article in The Atlantic by Stephen Marche on women, work, and why balancing the two should be considered a family issue, not a women’s issue. Interesting to get a male perspective for the reasons you bring up above… and he makes some good points.

    I need to watch some of these links you’ve put up!

    • July 15, 2013 5:57 am

      Willow,
      Thank you so much for commenting. I was kind of freaking out to hit the publish button on this one. I really like to remain neutral, but I am just not satisfied by what I have been hearing here and there. I will have to check out that article you mentioned. I love the Atlantic! Here’s the thing, I have been so grateful to all the men who have been writing and speaking on behalf of women without thinking about the implication. We are still (as a culture) putting more credibility upon what men say just because of their gender. If women write about things like this, it is perceived as being self serving and has an air of dismissiveness about it. I had never thought about it until the whole Dustin Hoffman thing. I was positively swooning after I saw the first clip, then when I read the second article, I was floored. Not that it is Dustin Hoffman’s fault. It was just my perception that shocked me.

      Anyway, I can’t wait to read what you have to say about this issue! It is an important one, and I think we need to start paying attention before we move backwards. It seems like we already are.

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