If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my feminism

Unlike the “L” word, I always drop the “F” bomb too soon.

After dating someone who nearly had a grand mal seizure every time a feminist-inspired thought came out of my mouth, I made a promise that I’d never put myself (or another person) through that again. Don’t get me wrong, this person and I tried. We talked about it, shared articles and videos about it, we tried not talking about, and I even went to a counselor to seek interpersonal communication advice. Nothing worked. He saw the world in pink and blue, and I saw it in purple; neither of us were ever going to change. And what mutual misery that was. So, since, my strategy has been to bring up the F-word as fast I can. It usually goes something like this:

“Hi, my name is Jimmy…”

“Hi, Jimmy…I’M A FEMINIST, OK, AND IF THAT’S NOT SOMETHING YOU CARE ABOUT AT LEAST A LITTLE THEN WE CANNOT DO THIS. FEMINISM IS REALLY MISUNDERSTOOD; IT’S FEMINISMS NOT FEMINISM, YOU KNOW? AND MY FEMINISM ISN’T PERFECT, BUT I TRY TO BE OPEN MINDED AND HEAR OTHER PERSPECTIVES. BUT I DON’T APPRECIATE BIGOTRY AND I NEED YOU TO AT THE VERY LEAST ACKNOWLEDGE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GENDERED LANGUAGE AND THE VAST LIMITATIONS OF PATRIARCHY IF WE ARE EVER GOING TO CONSIDER DATING OR GETTING A DOG OR STARTING A FAMILY, OK?”

And then he pulls the, “M’am, I just need to know what kind of pizza you want” since apparently he wasn’t hitting on me and my feminism is seemingly irrelevant to pizza deliverers. Thanks a lot, Jimmy.

For the better part of this year, I was struggling with the choice between my romantic relationship and feminism, because they clearly didn’t mix. Witnessing my angst, one of my mentors gave me the best piece of advice. She said, “Sparks are easy. Mutual respect, support, loving-you-exactly-as-you-are….that’s worth holding out for.” And of course she was – and is – right. As I’ve recently re-learned, being with someone who “gets it” is definitely worth holding out for.

[Am I not-so-subtly coming out to say that I’m seeing someone amazing? Noooooo. Gross. I don’t even like him that much.]

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But it’s true. I write about my life and put it on the internet. I’m opinionated. I’m stubborn. I have shifting boundaries on what constitutes as humor. I write poetry. I am a romantic. I am sensitive. I make weird ass song-noises all the time THAT ARE ADORABLE. And I can be annoying as hell in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and you can. I have endless quirks and I recognize that I’m not easy to figure out. But I’m tired of feeling insecure about these things. I want to be appreciated for every one of my flaws, every one of my qualities, and every one of my fundamental understandings about how the world operates. I want to feel nurtured to grow and be a better person, not feel like I’m an inherently bad person who needs to. And I want to make my partner feel the same way. And some couples, no matter how good they are, aren’t able to maintain that kind of mutual esteem.

SO, yeah, that’s kinda why I make sure to bring up that I’m a feminist immediately. Because for whatever reason (i.e. institutionalized misogyny) there’s something about the word (i.e. it’s not inherently male-sounding) that divides people. And just like some people can’t see it’s relevance, I can’t not see it. Even the counselor I went to when I was feeling isolated in my social circle advised me to stop using the word feminism because of how offensive it was to my boyfriend. And thankfully, in that moment, I realized, it’s not that I need to change my language or my opinions (because that’s terrible advice), it’s that I don’t have to be around people who I can’t be me around.

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And after I accepted that, I was rewarded with 1) the relief from feeling like the whole world hated me, and 2) the introduction to a person who truly gets me, builds me up (buttercup darling), and encourages my idiosyncrasies. And when I say things like, “No, I don’t want cheesey bread AND pizza, that’s just a capitalistic ploy I won’t buy into,” he responds not with an eye-roll but a, “Huh, I guess that makes sense.” And then orders cheesey bread anyway because it’s delicious. And if that isn’t perfection, then I guess I need more social experiences.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that if you’re in a situation like I was, know this: you will not have any success in changing someone’s worldview. Because worldviews are only changed internally. And, truly, none of us hold the kind of merit to go around “fixing” people as we see fit. That’s not at all fair to anyone. But you do have the power to choose to be around people who are accepting and respectful of who you are, and not around people who do the opposite (mindfully or not.)

Because, I don’t know about you, but I know who I am and I’m pretty stoked about being me. I’m awesome. So, as I’ve said before, if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my feminism. But definitely not with my friends. Please do not get with my friends.

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If I could meet 18-year-old me for coffee

If I could meet 18-year-old me for coffee, I’d order us herbal tea. I’d tell her she was brilliant, and she better listen to me. I’d warn her life gets harder, but there’s no real cause to worry. The road bends and bumps and fissures, so, “Slow down, there is no hurry.”

I’d urge to read in her spare time, to keep writing every day. I’d tell her to spend more time with Gram, and to go outside to play. “The mountains are the answer, no matter what the question. And if you pause to take it, a fresh breath can be a lesson.”

I’d tell her she was beautiful, but to take that makeup off. “It’s clumpy and distracting, and you’re really better off.” I’d tell her not to dye her hair so much, to wear some longer skirts. I’d urge to let more women in, and to chill, because heartbreak really hurts.

I’d say, “Enjoy this time, have fun but study. School is harder than it looks. Stop chasing boys and tequila shots, you’re more than just your looks.” I’d tell her not to lose her dreams, but to loosen up her grasp. “They’re going to shift, disappear, and change, so just enjoy the lapse.”

If I could meet 18-year-old me for coffee, I’d order us herbal tea. I’d sit about 3 seconds until I realized this girl made me, me. And then I’d let her be.

Get Your Elbow Off My Spleen: A(nother) Feminist Rant

Turns out there’s a perception that feminism is more a cop-out strategy than anything else. By this, I refer to the idea that feminists are apparently sad and angry at the world for their own shortcomings, which I’ve discovered through various social media posts. Like, perhaps feminists aren’t (conventionally) “pretty”, so they must just be hating on western standards of beauty and try to make “pretty” women feel bad about themselves and shame men for having natural, hyper-sexual instincts.

[Erm, no.]

Perhaps they don’t get cat-called, which must imply those naturally hyper-sexual men don’t find them attractive, so they just rant about other women getting all the [gross and aggressive?] attention on their commute to work.

[Nope.]

Perhaps they aren’t sexy enough to get raped, so they draw attention to the possibility of rape culture to uplift their own ego.

[The biggest of N-O’s (and other curse words) to the person who drew my attention to that one. Stay away from google images, friends.]

Perhaps they didn’t get the job in a “man’s field” that they like really, really totally wanted, so they’re just lashing out on men who worked super hard and actually applied for those positions, because otherwise they’d be far more advantageous than a man.

[I can’t make this stuff up. And no.]

Perhaps they make less money than the men in their office because they don’t spend as much time on the golf course making business connections. (Or perhaps it’s because their voice is just a bit too… nasally. Or squeaky. Or manly. Or high-pitched. No, you know what, it’s probably because they just don’t work as late nor as hard. Or maybe it’s because they have kids. Or maybe it’s because they don’t have kids and is actually [whispers] pretty slutty. Actually, no, it’s probably because men are more at risk of dying on the job. So really men just statistically deserve it.)

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Perhaps they’re a feminist because making excuses is easier than just sucking it up and working hard to look a certain way, talk a certain way, work a certain way, and simply be a certain way.

I’m really not trying to make bold accusations, but is this what it is? Am I understanding these criticisms correctly? Is feminism perceived as a set of excuses that people use to explain why they are the way they are? Truly, I want to know. Is this what you think when you think of feminism?

Because if so-

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Sorry for cursing.

But I mean it. Because I understand more and more each day why some people don’t identify specifically with the term “feminist” [check out a really thoughtful piece that discusses this here, which, in fact, is clearly demonstrated by the aforementioned examples of what feminism supposedly means.] Regardless, when I see or hear the types of statements above, I physically cringe. Feminists – or anyone promoting social justice – aren’t pounding their fists in attempt to validate their shortcomings with “excuses”. They share stories of bull-shit scenarios that have limited their personhood and stripped them of the respect they deserve. And at least for me, feminism provides the space to do that. Feminism isn’t just whining about ______, it’s about empowering your damn self and others’ selves while promoting awareness of situations in which other people (or social systems) are impolite and/or hateful jerk faces.

See, to me, feminisms (and the like) are kinda like snuggling and watching a movie. BUT, when you’re the one under a bony elbow. Its the, “Hey babe, just so you know, you’re elbow is literally puncturing my spleen. Can you please adjust it?” In these scenarios, the other person was clearly comfy and had no reason to understand their partner’s pain before they said anything, solely because IT WASN’T THEIR SPLEEN BEING PUNCTURED. So really, how would they know? Yet, after they hear their snuggle partner’s perspective, they typically respond with a, “Oh! I am so, so sorry. Are you okay? Can I kiss it better? Here, please take my spleen.” [Gag.] Yet, that’s not what typically happens when feminists stand up and talk about gender inequality (sometimes even with their partners). Instead, they get: #NotAllPeopleWithElbows or “I just don’t think this is a problem about elbows. Have you ever considered your spleen being especially sensitive? Have you tried moving it to a different part of your body?” or (the icing on the cake), “You know, real people with spleens are strong and don’t play the victim card. They don’t just blame elbows for all their problems.”

The way I see it, any case of precarity can be seen in two ways. We can frame a person as being empowered or powerless, and we do that through our responses to their narratives of struggle. So when we shut people down for “victimizing themselves” or “making excuses” or “being too emotional”, we strip them of any power they’re trying to create for themselves and others like them. Because that’s what stories do, isn’t it? Stories facilitate the sharing of ideas and perspectives from unique minds that we don’t have access to otherwise. And this is super terrifying to do, but it’s also greatly empowering. Storytelling provides a reflexive space to understand the “stuff” we couldn’t before. Without sharing pieces of ourselves, we can’t empathize with those we don’t share an experience with. But we TRULY can’t empathize with others when we deny or trivialize their experiences altogether. So when I hear that feminists are just conjuring a list of excuses to explain _______, I can’t help but think: Is it really my “excuse” that you have a problem with? Or is this just a way to make up your own excuses and avoid something in your own life? Because as hurtful and hateful as acts of prejudice are, we also have to consider where they’re coming from (and why) in order to make them stop.

This in mind, what is an “excuse”? What is its purpose? And who does it benefit? I understand the term “excuse” as a way to validate someone’s behaviour. But… if feminists were relying on feminism as a crutch to validate their shortcomings or their behaviour, who would that even benefit? What would be the purpose? If it was just an excuse, literally nothing would change for them but their own mindset, which would merely perpetuate a cycle of fulfilling these lousy expectations. So why bother? Why go through all the trouble to speak out against the Patriarchal Rules and Conditions (that most people sign without reading thoroughly) to be treated like you’ve committed social treason. This concept of “excuse making” when it comes to social injustices doesn’t make any sense to me, and it is certainly not what feminism is about. Yet, do some people do this? Probably. Do they also call themselves feminist? Maybe. But don’t lump a movement – or a lifestyle, as my friend would say – into your shallow experiences with excuse-making people who probably have a much deeper story anyway.

Alternatively, when we consider the types of rationale used to shut down feminist antidotes about inequality in the workplace, rape culture, the objectification of the female body, trans discrimination, sexuality legitimization, issues of intersectionality, etc., the purpose of these statements becomes pretty apparent. Feminisms (and the like) are often shut down so people can continue to express their “opinions”, participate in their [bro] “culture”, and practice the right to make “jokes” at “sensitive” people’s expense. (OH, all while protecting their feelings, because #NotAllMen, Sub#Irony.)

Balancing the Social Justice Scale in 2015
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Practice Freedom of [Being a Jerk Face]                     Being Treated like a Person

And again, I know wonderful, progressive, and respectful men exist (exhibit A). But if y’all have to rub it in our faces and demand recognition for being “a nice guy”, we will immediately question you.

To close, I just don’t know why social equality is such a difficult concept to grasp. Have opinions, share them, share your stories if you’re comfortable. But don’t take ownership of other people’s vulnerabilities. I’m not asking for y’all (hereby referring to men, women, and non-binary folk alike) to start shouting from the rooftops that you’re a feminist. I’m not asking you to start reading bell hooks or join a twitter movement or even give me words of optimism. I’m merely asking to stop using the heteronormative power you have (be it whiteness, masculinity, wealth, heterosexuality, or your cisgender) to undermine and degrade the standpoints you could never personally understand. Stop using your social power to perpetually shame others for their size, colour, shape, and choices. I know you didn’t start it. I know prejudice has been more explicit and more violent than what you likely participate in. But in some cases, it’s not, and prejudice still has lethal consequences. [Insert today’s trending headline, Murder/suicide because of Some Jerk, here.] So before you imply that social awareness movements are cop-outs for people to make excuses for being treated a certain way, ask yourself: What is your story? Why do you expect to be treated a certain way? And why is your comfort more important than other people’s pain?

The 5 Stages of Becoming a Feminist

I haven’t always identified with feminism. Although, I’ve never denied it either. I merely didn’t know enough about the term – the movement – to truly grasp what it meant and jump on board. That said, I’ve been building my feminism for a few years, which has been influenced by an abundance of people, all with very different characteristics and standpoints. Be it the thick-skinned prof in my third year stats course proclaiming his feminism on the first day of class shattering the stereotype of who a feminist could be, the retired radical who explained to me that feminism isn’t just about women’s rights but about intersections of gender and race and class and sexual orientation and all kinds of other facets of identity, or the spunky colleague who never gives up, no matter how hard it gets, to stand up against all forms of discrimination: I have had a lot of help in building my feminism.

If you followed my previous blog during 2012, you might remember my post that questioned if I was “allowed” to be a feminist since I fully embraced the social expectations of what it meant to be “female”. During this time, I asked myself whether it was okay to believe in breaking down gender stereotypes if I still wanted to embrace my own ultra-feminine identity. I wanted to make myself look “pretty”. I wanted to wear high heels sometimes. I wanted to fall head-over-heels in love and take care of my partner in ways I could, and be taken care of in ways I needed. I liked shopping. I liked shoes. I loved the color pink. And I enjoyed playing house and cooking for romantic partners, family and friends. This apparent contradiction caused me anxiety for years. I believed in equality, and I believed in the ability to choose your own identity and not be ridiculed because of western society’s hetero-normative standards. Yet, my identity fell in to those standards comfortably. And I wasn’t sure if that was okay or not. Until now. Because yes, I like all that “girly” crap. But I’m also sturdy. I’m motivated. I’ve put myself through university and grad school. I stand up for myself and others. I live with passion. I slowly came to realize, I’m not a walking stereotype just because I appreciate some of the things I grew up being told to appreciate. Just because I appreciate girly stuff, it didn’t mean I was just a girl; it didn’t mean that being a stereotypical “girl” was a bad thing; and it certainly didn’t mean that I couldn’t be a feminist.

That said, lemme tell you: becoming a feminist is hard work. For starters, you have to be prepared for social backlash. Anti-feminists and people who are indifferent to gender justice are challenging to deal with, because you’ll never sway them, and you just have to get over that. This is not to say that feminism is the ultimate truth and I am here trying so save your soul by converting your mind. No. Rather, I’m saying it does not matter what you do or say, as a feminist, you will inevitably live up to someone’s terrible expectations if that’s all they ever expect to see. And learning to live with that can seem next to impossible. Additionally, other feminists can be difficult to converse with too. Like I said in an earlier post, there is no such thing as Feminism, there are feminisms. This means there are several different strains as well as individual interpretations. Every one has their own feminism, and of course those interpretations might clash. But, in my experience, even if your ideas conflict, there’s a deep level of respect that’s maintained and you’re never shut down merely for being a feminist. At the very least, you’ll always be heard.

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Feminism is also hard because it takes time and patience. And once you see the patriarch, you see it in all things and you will never unsee it. You can’t watch TV mindlessly, advertisements are horrific displays of grossness, and you overthink every piece of cultural paraphernalia you come across. It’s like being able to see a bizarre dimension that isn’t really talked about, and you’re not sure who else can see it but you get really frustrated by people who can’t. Think of it as the black/blue versus white/gold dress thing.

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People lost their minds about this dress, right? Literally no one could understand how someone saw different colours than what they saw. (Ok, except scientists.) Well, this whole illusion perfectly demonstrates what it’s like to be a feminist around other people who deny the relevance of feminism. That boiling inner frustration I know you felt, that UNDENIABLE TRUTH you knew about the dress being white and gold (or black and blue, I AM NOT TAKING SIDES) is how people feel about the patriarchy’s negative influence on our culture. Does it exist? Does it not? (Does it matter?) 

And, like all things, there are stages to dealing with the trauma that is becoming a feminist. And TBH, it looks a lot like the stages of grief.

The 5 Stages of Becoming a Feminist:

1. Denial and Isolation

After first being introduced to the idea of patriarchy, there’s an explicit period of denial. The glass hasn’t quite shattered for you yet. You argue that your identity is your own, stereotypes are ultimately meaningless, and it isn’t such a bad thing that men and women are treated differently. They are born differently, like genetically, you know. Excuses come up like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” which claim some kind of biological or inevitable difference between men and women that can’t possibly be related to cultural assumptions perpetuated in mainstream discourse. An image of what a “feminist” is – i.e. a butch lesbian who refuses to make sandwiches or shave her legs? – comes to mind and a person urges that they aren’t willing to give up the things they assume aren’t “feminist” like shaving their legs or wearing skirts or cooking for their partners.

Yet, over time, the realization kicks in: A lot of feminists shave their legs. (And a lot don’t.) A lot of feminists are stay at home moms. (And a lot aren’t.) A lot of feminists are men. (And a lot are androgynous and/or gay.) And then, something happens in your life, and the glass shatters. Women make how much less money in the same jobs as men? Men could legally rape their wives until the 80s? Sexual assault is occurring how frequently and going unrecognized? Girls are repeatedly being kicked out of school and suspended because their clothing are distracting boys’ learning? BEYONCE SAID SHE’S A WHAT? And smash goes the glass beneath you as you free fall into a rabbit hole. And your life will never be the same again.

You stay in this wonderland of a place, alone. In isolation, you think about how your whole life has been a lie. You think how you’ve been treated, how your friends have been treated, how women are treated in the media… And you don’t want any part of any of it anymore. You stay in your office, your bedroom, the corner table at the bar, and you just examine how truly different your world looks now that you see this strange new dimension. If you’re like me, you sit and tear apart your own identity some more. Being ultra-feminine, white, straight, educated… I immensely benefit from our culture’s social norms. How can I be a feminist while still being “me” without being a hypocrite? How can I speak out about racism and homophobia when I don’t have a clue what that type of discrimination feels like? How am I possibly going to be a good feminist when I don’t even know who I am or who I should be any more?   

2. Anger

And then you get pissed.

You just spent your entire life mindlessly. Why has no one said anything about this before? Why didn’t I listen? And all you want to do is talk about it. Dissect it. Figure it out. And then spill all your guts on the table and be like

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So that, eventually, other people can see what you see too. HOW GREAT THAT WOULD BE! Yet, they don’t. And that’s okay, you guess, but then you become the weird gabby gab who keeps talking about ALL OF THE feminisms and ALL OF THE patriarchy ALL OF THE time. Your friends just want you to chill and let people have their own opinions. And you really, really want to let them do that. But you can’t always let it go, because sometimes their opinions are super sexist or racist or full of hate. And you can’t stand to be around it any more. And it feels like parts of your whole world are burning up all around you. But you can’t let up this little tick in the back of your mind that says “Don’t give up, this is important”. So you post feminist stuff on social media, you argue about the meaning of Nicki Minaj songs anyway, and you probably lose a few followers on Instagram. I’ll be honest, you cry a lot. You feel defeated. You feel empty. But then, out of nowhere, “Flawless” comes on the radio and the part where Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about what it means to be female empowers your damn mind and it gives you goosebumps and you know everything is going to be okay.

3. Bargaining

The next phase is a longing for ignorance. This must be especially true if you are straight, white, middle/upper class, able-bodied, and cisgendered. If only I could go back in time and unsee what I’ve seen, unlearn what I’ve learned. Because ignorance truly is bliss. And it’s also much easier to be ignorant when you benefit from the system in place, because you don’t really have to recognize the advantages to think otherwise. To drop some examples from Standpoint Theory, the CEO of a company has no reason to understand the job or experience of a janitor. It does not benefit them or the company. But, it is absolutely to the janitor’s advantage to understand the role of the CEO if they ever wants to move their way up the corporate ladder. This is the same for social power. A man has no real need to understand women’s experiences because we don’t live in a matriarchal society. Yet, a woman is expected to understand the male perspective and participate in a more “masculine” persona (i.e. unemotional, childless, etc.) if she wants to play the game and get ahead in her career. In similar form, women who do not identify with feminism probably benefit from patriarchy in their own way. Because some women enjoy the esteem that comes from being/acting weaker or incapable to build men’s egos and earn their affection. Similarly, some women value their beauty above anything else and are delighted by daily cat-calling or receiving discounts or “special attention” for their appearance. I’ll admit it, I’ve been guilty of all these things. And I don’t think this is terrible, nor do I think it’s beneficial. I merely understand why cisgendered heterosexual women don’t shout from the rooftops that they are a feminist, because there’s a fear that they will drop a few points in desirability to others, including but not limited to future romantic partners and employers. Yet, my empathy doesn’t mean it’s not also frustrating when people deny the system in place that’s trying to make the world more inclusive for them too.

4. Depression

The next phase is depression. Because everything I just said is incredibly debilitating. You’ve been lied to your whole life, everyone around you seems to ridicule what you have to say, you potentially lose friends and romantic partners and employment opportunities. And that shit is bananas. And depressing.

Again, hang in there. You’re not alone.

5. Acceptance

Over time, (I can only imagine because I’m not here yet), a gentle wave of acceptance and peace flows within you. You begin to let go of the small acts of sexism that maybe don’t have to be reacted to so vigilantly. You begin to trust in your own vision and not let other’s opinions tear you apart. You become more confident in your body and your knowledge and your mind, and your insecurities over the “f-word” don’t seep into everyday conversations. You can let things go, while still being strong and grounded in your opinions. You develop better ways to communicate these ideas as to not make others feel guilty or wrong. This period of acceptance doesn’t mean you are or should always be an “exceptional feminist” because that distinction does not exist in a standardized way. You merely accept who you are, what you believe, and it no longer eats at you.

At least I hope so.

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