Definitely more ramblings than structured essay, a sort of rant but mainly an observation stemming from something that angered me when I first saw it and now just saddens me.
When I think back to myself as a teenager I see a shy girl unafraid of discovering life, experimenting and living, experiencing and learning – basically doing what every teenager does. I was taught to always aim for my dreams, that everyone was equal no matter what their skin colour, background, family, gender, sexual orientation were, and that it was important to fight for one’s rights, for freedom and for our own personal views. Obviously we would never have had to do that if oppression, inequality, prejudice and racism were not deeply rooted issues in this world, and by still fighting against these problems, and teaching our children to fight against them, at least we can tell ourselves that maybe someday things will be a little bit better. I will always keep that hope, no matter what. When I was a teenager the Riot Grrrl movement was also in full swing and we had no issues with stomping about in our Doc Martens and dresses screaming along to the lyrics of Rebel Girl. I have posted Kathleen Hanna's Riot Grrrl Manifesto at the end of the post, as it is still so valid today, nearly 25 years later. Nowadays my views and aims are a tad more sophisticated but pretty much still amount to the same thing. And I still wear dresses and Doc Martens.
I was horrified when I came across that Women Against Feminism website that went viral this month. I wanted to write about it, as I do with anything that upsets me, but at the same time I was loathe to give it any more publicity than it had already had. Then again, what I say isn’t going to stop people from posting their views on the site, but I do hope that one day my daughter will read this and thank me for bringing her up in the same way that I was brought up.
I’ve had time to think a bit more deeply about the subject and ask myself why such a website would even exist in the first place. If these women are so intent on saying why they are against Feminism, then what image of Feminism do they have in the first place? If you read through some of the posts it appears that the whole idea of Feminism has been so distorted that Feminists have now become “angry vaginas” who are against women staying at home to raise their children, who disrespect men, or more accurately hate men and tend to go on men-bashing rants and who don’t think it’s a good thing to dress in a feminine way (??!!!). Yes. I feel like I have missed something along the way. Have I just been so out of the loop on everything and not realised that women today have forgotten about the past and think that equal rights no longer need to exist? When did the satirical image of a Feminist become what other women actually really think is a Feminist?! When did Feminism become something women would publicly fight against? What did the movement do so wrongly that women feel the need to post about it on a website?
I think it all really boils down to this phrase, taken from a quote on the website, “In the United States women have the same opportunities as men”. I fundamentally don’t agree with that statement, however that is besides the point right now. Yes, maybe it appears that in this country men and women have equal opportunities, in the very, very near past this was definitely not the case. Maybe because in this day and age women have the right to vote, use contraception, marry and divorce multiple times, have children without being married, work the same jobs as men and aim for the same dreams as men, people tend to forget that not that long ago this wasn’t so. Have these women forgotten what their ancestors went through so that we could live like this today? Do I need to remind anyone that women have only been allowed to vote in the US for less than 100 years? Also, if I remember correctly, the Suffragettes wore dresses and were pretty feminine (unless the images and photographs from the time were doctored of course, ahem). (The latter is not a serious argument but meant as a light joke, based on the assumption that Feminists are not allowed to be feminine – you only need to read a few of the posts to see that this is a common reasoning for being against Feminism).
So basically what I am trying to say is that on the one hand the Feminist movement needs a serious image revamp, and on the other hand people need to be given a more accurate view of what Feminism has given them. If so many women think so badly of a movement that gave them the rights they take for granted today, then somehow the message has been perverted into something it isn’t anymore. Being a Feminist is not about forcing people to all feel the same way about different topics, but about being proud to be a woman and for continuing to fight for what you think is right. I’m proud to be a woman, I love wearing dresses, I am currently a stay at home mum and I will gladly stomp all over any document that declares that I do not have the right to decide what to do with my reproductive organs.
“I’m not represented by women who dress up like vaginas”. Um what? How does one dress up like a vagina?! After reading through some pages on the website I now have the image of a Feminist being a woman dressed as a vagina (?!) wearing combat trousers and boots and a tank top, with a buzz cut and screaming about how men are evil and married women are stupid. See what I mean about Feminism having a bad rep? Where did this come from? I have to say that as a Feminist my vagina is pretty much happy most of the time (apart from around the time I gave birth – I would say that I had a pretty angry vagina after that). “I don’t need Feminism because my boyfriend treats me right”… Why does that mean you don’t need Feminism? My boyfriend treats me right too, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to stand up for other women who are being mistreated or abused! I feel like a lot of the comments on this website come from misinformation and misinterpretations. And also of a lack of willingness to look back and understand what Feminism really means (although there are some who do specify “modern Feminism” which shows that at least they are not against the movement that gave them the rights they have today, just against what the movement has become in their eyes, which kind of validates what I have been saying).
I’ve written a few posts about the subject in the past, and instead of going on a continuous rant about why the Women Against Feminism site angers and saddens me, I will post a slightly edited version of a piece I wrote in 2005 just below. I think that post stemmed from coming across something that angered me too! Of course, everyone is entitled to have their own opinions, and this is mine. The original post can be found here. (See below to links to other articles).
I Was Born a Woman
I didn’t get into Feminism. There is no real moment in my life that I can say “that’s when I became a Feminist”. I was born into it.
I was born a woman. I was going to be either a boy or a girl and I pulled the girl straw. No choice, no plan, no nothing. So there you go, you accept it and you live with it and you learn to be happy with what you’ve got. I never wished I were a boy. I never even dreamt about being a boy. I never wondered what it would be like to live as a boy for a day. I’m damn proud to be a woman. Just as I would be damn proud of being a man if I had been born a man.
Feminism is not about being superior, or better, or worse. It’s not a closed discussion about how women are fighting against men. We all share this world, and it’s up to us to accept the fact that we are all different, to accept that everybody has different bodies, minds, faces and opinions. Feminism is about being a woman and being proud of whom you are. All humans are equal. It’s up to each and every one of us to fight for the consistency of this equality.
I can’t say how I “got into Feminism”. It’s always been a part of me. From a very early age both my mother and my father instilled deep in my heart the need to stand up for my rights and for my thoughts. Strong women constantly surrounded me. My whole family is full of strong women. We have not had it easy, but we have always managed to get over every mountain, build bridges over every river and make the most of every straight path. So I think it is right to say that I was born into a Feminist family and make every effort to continue this line.
For me Feminism is not about ranting about how women are so much better than men, about how we should rule the world and about how we should stomp out men and male dominance.
No. Feminism is what you want it to be. In my opinion Feminism is regarded too often as something pejorative, and this is because of the way it is portrayed. Annoyingly, Feminism is looked down upon and challenged while, even today, male chauvinism is still accepted and seen as normal. This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to jump up and call all men pigs, but it means that it is up to us women to prove that we are not trying to show that we are better, but that we are trying to prove we are equal and therefore should have equal rights everywhere. We can get rid of the acceptance of chauvinism in society and move on to a new, more equal world where women don’t have to constantly fight.
Apart from the close female figures in my life; my grandmother who bought up her first three children on her own during the Second World War, who outlived her four husbands and lived to tell her tales long after the age of 90; my mother who battled violent and addicted men and who has always been a role model and who shows everyone that they can accomplish anything in life; and then a special woman that I have never met. She’s been by my side since I first came across her on my tenth birthday, and since then has been a constant influence. Her name is Marge Piercy and she is a Feminist and political poet and novelist. Her characters are always strong and rounded, but not without flaws. Real women who have to deal with the struggles of everyday life, who sometimes make the right choice, sometimes the wrong one, but they never let society pull them down. Whenever I feel that it is all getting too much, I pick up one of Marge Piercy’s writings and she helps me believe in myself again. We all have our own demons; it’s up to us to choose whether to fight or to flee.
As women have to deal with so much, learning to accept who we are and why we are, accepting our bodies, our wants and our needs, and learning to understand that although what we want might often be frowned upon, there is no need to not go out there and get it.
Feminism is all about being a woman and fighting for it. You want to have sex, have sex. You don’t want to sleep around? Then don’t! You want to have a career? Have one! You want to be a housewife, and stay at home to bring up your kids? Then do just that! We have to choose what is right for us, without letting pre-assigned unwritten and ancient social “laws” bring you down.
Feminism is not about fighting men, but about fighting for what’s right for YOU. This is what Feminism is to me. Being a woman is a right, and it’s up to us to make the most out of it.
We only live once, why not make the best of it, and be able to live to tell the tale to the next generations.
Be strong and be real. And never keep your mouth shut. Because once you have said it out loud someone is going to hear.
An article I wrote in 2012 questioning why people were trying to take away my rights to decide what I did with my body: Why are people trying to take my right to choose away?
An article I wrote in 2013 about the "Traditional Sense of Marriage"
An excellent article written by my friend Cristiana Bedei on how blogging gives women an opportunity to express themselves in a way that they could not before: The Discreet Power of Blogging is Allowing Women to Express their Expertise