Trickle Down Feminism

Every day, I’m reminded that I don’t carry the same amount of authority, legitimacy, or credibility of a man.

Take a simple, ultra-Canadian example: Holding the door.

Every day, my male partner opens the door for me. He’s sweet. I appreciate his gestures. And nearly every day, my male partner will hold the door open for someone else and is greeted with appreciation. What a gentleman! How kind of you! And look at that cute beard and butt!

(He is so handsome, y’all. And yes, I get the feminism-irony. But I don’t care. HIS BEARD IS SO CUTE.)

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For me, it’s a different story. I awkwardly try to hold open the door open, but most often, someone takes over and insists I go ahead. And by someone I mean an older white dude.

[Remind me to tell you about how much I love to make older white dudes uncomfortable by being overly chivalrous towards them. It’s honestly the best. Try it.]

Now in this scenario, I can either go on and prance through the path that’s been cleared for me. OR, I can stop and insist for them to go ahead. Because I’ve literally already gone out of my way to hold the door open. I’VE ALREADY COMMITTED TO THIS.

On the one hand, I accept the gesture and hand over the rights to the heavy door that’s already inconveniencing me. He gets the karma, I gets ta get outta there.

In this scenario, I feel entitled. I feel the perpetuated social message that modern women expect men to dote on them. To take care of them. This so called “women’s privilege”, filed next to free drinks, asking-for-it harassment, and sexpectations.

On the other hand, I decline the gesture. I insist they walk through the door.

In this scenario, I’m ungrateful. I just don’t understand how nice men are and I’m a “crazy” feminist who thinks I can do everything by myself, and I don’t need no man to do things for me. (We literally don’t.)

Walking away, I think: Yeah, dude. I deal with a bunch of stuff on the regular that’s annoying. That’s potentially dangerous. That’s almost always unfair.

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Yet, let’s face it. Every day white cis-woman problems are nothing compared to what some other folks have to go through.

Not even close.

And I’m not saying that white, cis, straight women don’t face discrimination. I’m not saying we don’t face garbage scenarios. We do. (Sit down, Becky.) But it’s important to recognize that it’s not enough to talk about White Feminism. It’s not enough to treat men and women as the pillars of which we ought to equalize. There’s so many people who don’t benefit by mere gender equalization, whether they identify as something outside of “male” and “female”, or they have additional oppression such as race or class or ability.

Most people have come to terms with the fact that trickle down economics is bullshit. Yet, it’s kinda how first-wave feminists (and contemporary White Feminists) philosophize their own movement.

The movement started with white, upper class women earning the vote. Earning the right to own property. Slowly fighting for sexual liberation. High profile careers. (Thanks for that BTW.) Currently, the big fight is for wage equality. But when do we, as white women, stop and realize that all of those things we’ve fought for have not necessarily been resolved for non-white women, trans, gay, or disabled folks….

It’s no longer good enough to fight merely for women’s rights, because this inevitably neglects other groups. It’s not enough to allot social power to the top of our white washed social hierarchy and expect it trickle down. Because what happens is similar to trickle down economics. Those White Feminists cling to the power they’ve desperately fought for, and it’s like they won’t step down off their soap box to make room for other bodies and their voices. (Again, the irony. I get it. Don’t worry, you’re probably the only one reading this. Well, and my mom.)

White Feminists continuing to being vocal for their own issues isn’t the problem, but their loudness inevitably mutes many of the other issues that haven’t been given the same mainstream validity. Often, these White Women discredit those who fall below them on this social hierarchy, because they’re likely scared to lose their place. They believe they’ve earned their freedom by pulling up their boot straps, and others must too fight to climb up to their accomplished level. With this mentality, they may as well be shouting from the rooftops: “Social equality should not be a handout.” 

Alternatively, and sometimes, this power is handed out. Though sparingly and with conditions. Power is redistributed to how those with the power see fit.

“Sure, you can have a little space on my platform, but you better be polite. Well mannered. Appreciative. You’ll dress and behave and wear/dress your hair in a way that I deem appropriate. In ways that I deem are not oppressive.”

Equality occurs on White Feminist terms, based on White Feminist ideals, White Feminist culture, and with the concept of gender-alone bias at the forefront.

But can we just like, point out something here…

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We’ve had nearly a century of this trickle-down garbage philosophy, and guess what, we haven’t achieved full gender equality for white women. Something’s not working here (because patriarchy), so why do we continue to act like social power is going to trickle down to those whose stories are barely legitimized? Why insist on holding the door to equality for folks who are already actively holding it open themselves? 

Call It What You Wanna Call it, I’m a Canadian Bern-Aholic

Human culture is fascinating. Over a period of thousands and thousands of years, we as a species have congregated and made extraordinary advancement in art, technology, and science. Thinking about the fragility of our very existence – and the existence of all that we’ve created – is perplexing. Each step of the process of our cultural evolution was dependent on the last. Even the horrendous events of history brought unprecedented scientific advancements. I do not applaud – nor will even cite – these advancements, but we benefit from them regardless.

I find this even more incredible because it’s actually really difficult to be human. It’s difficult to remember. And to think. And to feel – to feel both hope and shame; love and loss. It’s difficult to know what’s coming next, and it’s difficult to know there’s an end. Yet, it’s just as difficult not to remember, not to think, not to feel. And just like it’s a burden to know it all, it’s difficult not to know just the same.

A friend of mine and I used to spend our weekends on top of small business’ roof tops asking philosophical questions to each other while we sipped on sugary ciders bought by strangers, or travel mugs with Baileys because that’s all that was ever in our cupboard. (Sorry mom.) We asked all types of questions that teenage women never get credit for asking.

What exists out past the stars?

Is there objective truth?  What if your “purple” is my “green”, and no one would ever even know or think to contest their reality? 

Do you think once you learn about the meaning of life, that’s when you die? 

These days, I’m so exhausted the most interesting thing I can ask myself is why did we think it was a good idea to sneak out of our warm homes to sleep on asphalt in the freezing cold after we spent literally all our money on 2Ls of ice cold Growers?

But that’s what we did. And now I look at both of us and we’re in the final stages of our Master’s degrees – me in Arts and she in Architecture – and it makes me so proud how far we’ve come. It makes me proud that our kid selves conjured these wild questions and spent the last 10 years or so really trying to answer them.

So far, what I’ve discovered is this: time passes regardless of the questions we ask or try to seek answers to. Time goes on and will go on forever, whether we are here to track it or have long used up our share. So, human culture is evolving and changing (and hopefully growing) with or without your conscious effort. And here we are, at the most evolved stage of human life that we ever have been (until tomorrow, of course), and we have the opportunity to be an active member in the change that’s going to happen regardless.

From my perspective, human evolution has always been and will continue to be about social equality, in which natural forces of human nature of greed and jealousy and gluttony have created barriers to it’s fulfillment throughout history. Yet, I feel hopeful that goodness really does prevail in the end. And I am hopeful that together, we will truly be the change we want to see in the world. (Thanks, Gandhi. Your citation score must be wicked.) And sure, this is the same kind of hope that I feel when I wish that Ben Affleck won’t be re-cast as Batman ever, ever again. Which, of course, is naive hope surrounded with a lot of doubt in those with the power to actually do anything about it.

So, my preachy moment of the day is this: Don’t watch the clock, be the Time.

Be engaged in your community and your culture that has and will continue to evolve. Accept newcomers. Reject hatred. Speak what’s on your mind. And love who you inevitably love. Because your life is going to be difficult regardless if you’re compassionate or you’re selfish- if you’re patient or you’re irritable – if you’re curious or ignorant. But when it’s all over, there’s going to be a moment when you’ll be forced to look back and remember your life: the events you participated in, the propositions you thought, the emotions you felt. And in that moment (many years from today), you’ll ask: How does the essence of me, and all that I’ve done for the world around me, fare with what my culture has (by then) accomplished? Will you be on the right side of history? Or will you be stuck in the past bitter and shameful? Because, surely, by then, we’ll all just f@cking get along.


#Bernie2016 #FeelTheBern #CanadiansForBernie

*In no way is this affiliated with the real Bernie Sanders, although if he’d let me, I’d follow him anywhere.

Rants of a feminine feminist

Wait, who’s a feminist?”
“I said I am a feminist.”
“Oh. But you’re not the butch kind so you’re not really a feminist.”

feminism-memes-3Feminism is one of those words that literally no one understands. Those who disregard feminism likely do so because they think that being a feminist is akin to any number of man-hating, female-only cult-forming, kill joy stereotypes. For those of us who do resonate with feminism (GASP!!! Because apparently me being a feminist is surprising to people which is actually kind of weird and offensive), we recognize there is no such thing as a singular feminism. There are feiminisms. Not only are there an annoying amount of classifications in academic feminist literature, but each person interprets feminism in a way that works for them and their unique life experience.

This is how I see it: Feminism is not some institutionalized doctrine that has a list of rules to follow in order to be a member of the club. Feminism has no dress code, no required hairstyle, and no standard for one’s sexual frequency or preference. Feminism doesn’t have some obscure figure of worship (except for you, bell hooks), nor does it have required reading material to prove your investment. Feminism is not something you have to believe in full-heartedly OR ELSE *shakes fist*. Lastly, feminism is not solely about women. Hell, it isn’t even about absolute equality: it isn’t about having everyone agree all women can lift the same amount of weight as any man, it isn’t about ending “chivalry” (or complaining that it’s dead), and it certainly isn’t about hating or punishing men and taking away their jobs and freedoms.

Feminism – put simply – is the call for equal social, political, and economical opportunities for all people. All. People. Not “all people except men”, not “all people except those who dress like cats on the weekend”, not “all people except misogynistic assholes.”ALL. PEOPLE. (And actually, many theorists argue that feminism includes animal and environmental rights too.)

But, but…. It’s called FEMinism. That clearly does not include me because I identify as a dude. 

Shut up.

Feminism works to change the irrational ideals of masculinity as much as femininity. Remember that when you have kids and are offered paternity leave or when you cry during Bambi and fewer people crack a joke about it each time.

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states flawlessly (yeah, I went there, #sorrynotsorry):

“Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. that the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.” (We Should All Be Feminists, 2014)

It’s not that feminists believe male voices and experiences no longer matter as much as women’s. Instead, we believe it’s time to pass the mic around the table and hear from our side too. Because, for centuries, texts were written by men about men (so the language suggests) and we’re kind of tired of having theories and stories about men being assumed to relate to us too. Take biology for example: male researchers looked at male specimen and were all like “Yeaaaaaaah, that’ll also work for females. Probably.”

And all this talk about “male” and “female” is super limiting too, as a substantial proportion of the population does not identify as either one of those gender binaries. In fact, feminism can often be noninclusive to those who do not identify with these arbitrary labels. So, lets all be better about this and work on using gender neutral language when unsure, and/or ask individuals about their preferred gendered pronouns. (Check out a great read about cissexism here.)

Next, Imma talk language. Have you ever considered the words “mankind” or “history”? Or how some older buildings have bathroom signs that read: MEN and then the other room has a picture of a body in a dress? Perhaps it’s nitpicky of me, but part of being a feminist is at the very least acknowledging that language can, to some extent, be problematic when it denies the lived experiences of women who, not all that long ago, were denied to be human all together. So, masculine language like “mankind” and “history (his story)” is just a reminder that much of our social discourse is rooted in a patriarchal system that has traditionally limited the inclusion of women and their unique perspectives. And when we consistently regard men as subjects (i.e. in the case of the bathroom situation, as they are referred to as a noun) and women as objects (i.e. a body who is performing femininity by wearing a dress), we have a really big problem in terms of how we regard the worth of one another. If women are perpetually considered worthy because of their body alone, then how does this play into things like rape culture and the gender gap in the work place?

But… but… women have all kinds of amazing jobs. And important roles in movies, video games, and literature. And you can, like, vote and stuff.

Sure, this is true. In fact, part of the reason why we cling to the term “feminism” is in tribute to the work that our foremothers did in achieving “human status” for women with earning the right to vote and you know, making marital rape illegal. (Thanks, y’all.) But, just because we see women in powerful corporate, professional or civic positions doesn’t mean all women are provided with equal opportunities along the way (or while in those roles); it doesn’t mean that they do not continue to experience discrimination and abuse; and it certainly doesn’t mean that they earn the same amount of money as men in the exact same positions. Further, it cannot be assumed that the rights of female bodies are protected because of these “exceptional” women’s successes. Feminism accounts for and stands up to the vulnerability of all female bodies, which have been traditionally ignored and/or exploited. Yet, again, feminism makes ample room to include the consideration and protection of vulnerable male bodies too.

I hear it all the time: If feminism is about men too, then why do I only hear about women’s issues? Why doesn’t feminism address physical and sexual violence against men? In fact, I’ve heard people proclaim, “I’m anti-feminist because feminism ignores violence against men.”

I’m sorry, what?

Please do not blame feminism for issues of patriarchy. I will reiterate: Feminism is not primarily concerned with women’s issues. It’s not primarily concerned with men’s issues. It is primarily concerned with the patriarch, i.e. the gendered system in place that (among other things) promotes unrealistic expectations and standards for masculinity and femininity. The fact that our culture continuously ridicules male victims of violence and rape is not a fault of feminism. Feminism attempts to create an inclusive and safe space for everyone, but the problem is, men’s voices are not heard in feminist spaces because they’re very rarely part of the conversation. BUT WE KEEP INVITING YOU. Think of it this way: if you want to be part of my epic birthday group photo on Facebook, then you have to accept the invite and show up to the party. Because we can each only speak to our own experience, or we end up looking like douche bags by appropriating someone else’s suffering. As a feminist, I want to talk about the unrealistic expectations of masculinity, in fact, that’s what my current research does. My research is grounded in feminist discourse and it’s ABOUT men and the incredibly debilitating pressure that masculinity ideals cause.

Alas for my friends who haven’t read anything and are hoping to find an easy-to-glance-over list, this is a summary of what feminism means to me:

  1. Feminism is not only about women, it is about humanity, but we keep the language “feminism” to acknowledge the historical exclusion of women.
  2. Language can be a tool of discrete (cis)sexism, so watch your language. For example, I use the pronoun “they” when I can, and when giving compliments, I say “they’re an extraordinary person” (instead of man or woman, because you are not an exception; you’re not awesome for a girl or for a dude. Yet, I see the other side too where you want to celebrate one’s woman-ness or man-ness. It’s really just about being cognizant about the effect your language might have on others.)
  3. Feminism doesn’t mean you can’t hold the door open for someone or buy them dinner, that is an expression of love or compassion in western culture. Just don’t act like a weirdo or feel like less of a “man” when someone wants to treat you too. In the same way you don’t want me to think that you’re assuming I’m not capable, I do not intend to take your independence away either. Let’s all just chill out here.
  4. Feminism means that we reclaim our own bodies and we resist various degrees of harassment and abuse in ways that we know how. Feminism isn’t belittling someone for how they choose to deal with their victimization. It is about supporting and listening to and caring for one another.
  5. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you cannot be feminine, or should demean others for identifying as feminine, masculine, gender neutral, etc. For example, I have pink everything. That is not an excuse to call me “such a cute little girl” in my professional workplace.
  6. Acknowledge your privilege as much as your vulnerabilities, and recognize that you benefit from society in ways that others might not. Feminism isn’t about apologizing for who you are, but how you treat others. Be compassionate and open to hear others’ perspectives. (I’m talking to you, fellow straight, white feminists.)
  7. Women are _____.  But men are also ______. My _____ness is not a reflection of me being a woman or a man, it is me being a person. So stop limiting people for their so-called gendered  ______ness.
  8. Feminism isn’t some exclusive club. It’s a community. And when you join, you get to share stories, provide and receive support, and be a better you while keeping true to who you are.

Finally, it shouldn’t, but it takes great bravery (for all kinds of people) to stand up and reclaim the word “feminist” because of all the negative crap that’s attached to it. But for those of you who tell me antedotes about feminist-related stuffs in private, I’m thankful for you. And those of you who have things like a “Feminist Kill Joy” broach on your birthday wishlist, I admire you. And those of you who are aggressively annoyed by the fact that you’re now expected to change some of your impolite language so you stop offending “overly sensitive” people, well… sorry.

Oh, and…

OEm6oVH