About Feminism, No. 1

Let’s talk about feminism. Shall we? Because apparently to a lot of people, feminism is something that should be swept under the rug. At least, that’s what I’ve found.

When I was younger, I didn’t really think on the topic of feminism much. I’m originally from Maine, a very liberal state. Feminism isn’t much of a debate there. I’ve never had to fight people on my views or had to convince people that feminism is okay. Admittedly, feminism has always been important to me. It’s a drive I feel within myself; and even if I don’t always need it as much as others as a white, cis-gender woman, I’ll be here to advocate for the people that still do. But right now I’m a college student in Florida; and while a lot of the people I’ve met have been fellow feminists, I’ve also met a fair share of people who hear that word and want to go on a rampage. One of the first experiences I had when I moved down to Florida was with a group of friends that I met at a party. These people (most of them straight, cis, white, and male) began to make jokes about women and jokes about feminism. I — feeling completely uncomfortable and also regretting aligning myself with these men — clearly looked miserable. One of them must have thought, “Maybe I should figure out what’s going on with her and why she isn’t laughing at my hilarious and totally not-at-all ill-conceived joke.” So to solve this problem he looked me right in the eyes and said, “You’re not a feminist. Are you?”

Now, I’m not the same person I was when this happened last year. Now I know better. I know that it’s important to stand up for what that you believe in. But then, I didn’t. And I had just moved to a new place and they were my only friends, and I didn’t want them to cast me aside just because I’m a feminist.

I shrugged. “Kinda.”

I actually said that. I told them that I was kinda a feminist because I didn’t want to have to deal with the argument or the judgment that would have followed if I told them that I’m a women’s rights-marching, straight-up feminist. Just as an aside here: if you have to sacrifice parts of yourself so that your friends won’t judge you, maybe it isn’t worth it to stay friends with those people.

Looking back, if I’d have had the confidence then that I have now with thanks to feminism, I definitely would have stood up and given them a three-hour dissertation on how feminism is something this world desperately needs. I would have pulled out a sixty-point slideshow and educated them on everything. But I didn’t. Because I was afraid. I didn’t want to be judged and I didn’t have the backbone to tell them that they were wrong. After that, I found that this is a very real fear for many people — namely women — who believe in feminism but haven’t grown into their inner-advocate yet. A lot of men have a way of making us women feel small and, at some times, even useless. It’s hard to stand up to someone of whom you are afraid. This fear comes from past experiences and stories we see on the news. This fear, we are told, is invalid. But, look at the news, look at the women who have been hurt — or worse, who have been murdered by — their significant others. How are we supposed to see articles about how three women are killed every day by an intimate partner, and not be terrified? That fear alone is the reason it’s difficult to stand up against a male in a place of power. We never know what could happen. We are murdered for saying no, we are murdered for ignoring them, we are murdered for walking down the street. The fear that men in power have instilled in women since the beginning of time isn’t new; and we’re seeing examples of that with men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and countless others being brought to light in the age of Me Too and Time’s Up. Men who have sexually assaulted and abused women physically have thrust their power against women to ruin their careers and livelihoods, silence them, and traumatize them for as long as men have had power, and it is only just now beginning to be given the attention it deserves. But this is only the beginning of the solution to a much larger problem.

This is something that a lot of people think about every day. There are so many people out in the world who are feminists, but won’t admit to it because they’re afraid of what people will say to them. And to that I say, “Fuck those people.” Be who you want to be. There’s always going to be something that people can judge you for; and if there are men out there who are going to judge you for being a feminist, you probably don’t want them in your life anyways because your association with them takes away from your own power and goodwill.

I talked to a few people in the past week about what feminism means to them and why they think feminism is important to have. I spoke to men and women of different sexualities. I suppose I wanted to prove a point, as it is important for the world to know that feminism isn’t just for women and it isn’t just for men. It is mutually beneficial. After all, that is what equality is. Isn’t it? Why would someone say no to equality? Well, that’s simple. Some men say no to feminism simply because of the way it’s named. One popular argument being, “If feminism is really about equality, then why don’t we just call it that?”

First of all, feminism is called feminism because it’s about bringing females up to the same status as men. We’re fighting for the rights of females, because we don’t have the same every day rights as cis men. We could call it equality; we could, because that’s what it is. We aren’t going to, though.

It’s actually kind of hilarious that cis men want to take a word away from us, not to mention the fact that it drives home the point. They want to take the female out of feminism. They don’t even want us to have the rights to one word. They can have the rights to our bodies, to our minds; why should they get our word too? But that’s fine. There’s a reason most cis men hate feminism and it’s because they don’t know what feminism is. Sure, they know it’s about equality and equal pay and all that. But they also think we’re insane. They label us a “feminazis” and “irrational”. They don’t take the time to sit down and learn about it. And why should they? In one of the conversations I had, bisexual woman Annika said, “It’s kind of our fault that people don’t understand. We don’t take the time to teach people about feminism, we just get angry with them and refuse to comment.” And I agree, it’s definitely part of the problem. People who oppose us don’t take the time to learn. Of course not. They oppose us. Why would they want to learn? It needs to be our responsibility to teach in order to bring people over to our side. Getting angry is only going to reinforce their beliefs that feminists are all crazy. We need to educate. There are people like Gloria Steinem, who has used her platform for decades to inform the community about feminism. We need more people like this. We need women in powerful positions to stand up and to educate.

A person who wishes to remain nameless said, “I try to see from everyone’s perspective, even if it’s maddening.” There’s an importance in listening, just as there’s an important to being heard. If we ignore the needs of the people around us, what are we doing to make our communities better when most minorities intersect with the feminist movement to large and varying degrees? It’s easy to see equality only from one side of the spectrum. Looking to the other side, thinking as a man, that’s hard. I think if we do this, if we listen to the needs (no matter how maddening it is) we will be able to better educate the people who don’t understand. And we need to realize that there are people out there who are radical. There are feminists who take their beliefs too far. Does that mean it’s all of us? No. Does that mean it’s most of us? No. But they are out there. We need to see this from the other side’s perspective, and like Annika said, we need to take the time to educate, even if it’s maddening that that responsibility has fallen to us.

In an interview with Gaige, a gay man, he said “We have plenty of white, cisgender men in power who want to stay in control; and they feel that letting women and people of color or different orientations have any power will ruin everything. As an American you should stand for equal rights for other people.” There is so much intersectionality within our community; there are people struggling with more than just one problem and we need to be there for each other as much as we possibly can. If we’re not supporting each other, then what are we even doing in this life? There’s no point in bringing the people around you down. The LGBTQ+ community should be one of support and love, and this includes feminism. In his interview, Gaige also stated, “I completely support equality not just for different genders, but for different ethnicities and sexual orientation no matter what you believe in.” I think this is a viewpoint we should also shoot to have. Supporting everyone no matter what, that’s what our world needs.

Trans man, Kris, was asked if he would call himself a feminist. In response he said, “Fuck yeah, I’m a feminist. I am proud to be a feminist. I’m proud to be an intersectional feminist, meaning I view trans women as needing feminism, women of color as needing feminism, white women as needing feminism, and even men. There’s a common misconception that men have nothing to gain from feminism, but men do benefit from feminism. That’s not why it’s important. It’s important because it helps women, which helps society as a whole. I’m proud and thankful to be living in a society in which I can openly express my opinion on feminism without fear of retribution.”

Cis, white, straight feminism is easy. I’m not saying that these feminists don’t have it rough, they still face a lot of problems with violence and unequal pay. But, we need to look at the statistics. 44% of lesbians, 47% of transgender people, and 61% of bisexual women encounter sexual assault. 53% of trans women of color are sexually assaulted. These numbers are too high. These numbers are almost half, or above, and there are people out there telling us not to be afraid? These numbers are not a joke, they are real life and entire gender. White, straight, cis women need to start calling for the support of their fellow feminists. Putting pads on walls not only isn’t going to help, but it separates women into unnecessary categories. Step up and stand up for people who need us most

Feminism isn’t just for women. It isn’t just something that straight, white, cis women benefit from. It affects all of us — woman of color, transgender people, and as Kris said, even men. Sure, supporting feminism is a good thing to do because feminism is important. But it’s more than that, it’s coming together as a community for something that’s important. It’s supporting each other when the cause doesn’t line up with your direct needs. It’s knowing that that support will help your children and your sisters and your friends. It’s supporting other people selflessly. And with that support, it’s being able to proudly say, “I’m a feminist,” and know that the community will have your back.

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