Sometimes I feel silenced in my views, even by people I love. Sometimes my wonderful husband, or my friends, or women in my life, will pooh-pooh me when a conversation tangetializes into feminism or ableism or “othering.” I do it too often, I go on rants, I get too worked up and passionate about it. I am boring.
It’s one reason why I like writing so much. I do tend to ramble on about topics that impassion me, and writing is a release valve of sorts. I get really passionate about mistreatment of people who are considered “other” — women, gays, bisexuals, trans, racial minorities, disabled, mentally ill. I think it dates back to something my mother told me when I was 15 — I had just been diagnosed with Bipolar II, and mom gave me this warning:
|“Don’t tell people. They don’t know how to handle it.
Bipolar scares people. They’ll treat you . . . differently.”
She worried if I was as open about mental illness as I was everything else, I would lose friends and opportunities; that I would learn to be ashamed of myself. She was right about being pre-judged, but wrong about the effect on me. It didn’t make me ashamed or hurt that people I thought were my friends viewed me differently after learning about mental illness — it made me angry. I was still me, and being diagnosed with bipolar didn’t change that fact.
As I grew older, the experience of being judged on something that was so intrinsic to who I was, something I could not change, made me more empathetic to others. I often tried to imagine myself in someone else’s shoes, experiencing their day-to-day life. I still do this. I think it might be part of my tendency to assume fault for any and all situations.
If I have a negative interaction — whether with a stranger at a store, or an angry driver on the road, or a family member or friend — I think about it for several hours afterward, trying to see where they are coming from, what might be going on in their lives. Maybe, I tell myself, They’re not feeling well. Maybe they’re fighting with their spouse. Maybe they’re stressed out/ depressed/ lonely/ isolated/ sad/ suffering from post-partum depression. Maybe a loved one just died, maybe they just got fired. Maybe they’re just angry at the world.
The way I see it, we’re all pretty much the same, because we’re all so different — the differences balance out. If we want others to accept us, flaws and all, then we should to strive to do the same — just try not to let yourself get bogged down in toxic relationships in your desire to try and be understanding and forgiving.
These constant attempts to try and “get” where other people were coming from meant I was arguing and voting for gay rights, filling my husband’s ear with the problems of ableism, agitating for mental health awareness, and getting angry about sexism long before I realized I was a feminist. I didn’t consider myself a feminist for a long time. I mean, I believed that women should get equal pay, and have access to the same opportunities as men, and vote and all that sort of jazz. But I thought feminists burned bras (myth, fyi) and had hairy armpits and hated men, and I emphatically did not fit any of those boxes. It wasn’t until I took a Women in Literature course in 2007 that I realized I am totally a feminist.That class opened up my eyes to a whole new world. I’ve always been interested in History and Psychology, and now they combined to guide me to new areas of study: Sociology and Feminism. The problem, as I mentioned earlier, is that I can get pretty damn excited about this stuff. Really excited. And it turns out, most social settings are not condusive to my animated, tumbling explanations of how the bible has systematically oppressed and demonized women throughout the ages, nor do people like it when I’m at a gathering and someone cracks a rape joke, only to have me stare blankly at the offender and ask, “How is rape funny?” in front of everyone.It’s not just rape jokes, either. I have a habit of naming the behaviors I see, as though naming them takes away their power: “OH! See, that right there, what you just did? That’s gaslighting! You’re trying to derail the validity of my opinion by saying PMS — an intrinsically female trait — has made me irrational! This is necessary for you to do, because the topic I’m trying to discuss makes you uncomfortable, and you would rather tell yourself I’m over-reacting — right?! Right?! Am I right?! Hey . . . where are you going?”
|I’m still talking! That is just rude!|
Blogs and movements decrying slut-shaming and victim-blaming have really taken off, too, with places like Project Unbreakable really bringing home the statistic that 1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual violence.All told, however you prefer to experience the internet, there’s a feminism education tool for you — videos, tumblr images, blogs, articles, entire websites, wikis, news articles — it’s all there.Yet despite this plethora of knowledge and awareness, only a few taps of the keyboard away, anti-feminism still exists. I’m not talking about the obvious sexism of the Republican party, I’m talking about the so-called “gentle” anti-feminism. The make-me-a-sammich and get-in-the-kitchen jokes that we’re not supposed to call people out on because it’s “just a joke.” The cracks about PMS’ing. The ever-growing gender gap in shopping, clothing, and toys. I’m talking about Bill Maher giving himself a “pass,” claiming he’s not sexist while using
sexist, demeaning, ‘othering’ language.I’m talking about this whole idea that liberals and atheists are “post-sexist,” as though somehow equality has been achieved — or at least mostly achieved — and it’s only those troglodyte Republicans and religious people who treat women as sub-par.
It’s almost like these guys don’t understand that they have been socially ingrained with certain mindsets and behaviors that are so deeply imbedded in their psyche that their sexism is often subconscious and unrecognized! I mean, really, feminism isn’t just about the women, here — sexism has done awful things to men, too. Like the ridiculous claim that men “always” want sex, or the myth that a “manly man” doesn’t show emotion except when it’s ‘appropriate’, or that men don’t talk about their feelings or get depressed or scared or lonely.
Equality puts us all on even footing — it removes the unrealistic expectations from both genders. Feminism still matters because we have a long way to go. We don’t need to teach our sons and daughters that girls and boys are so different they can’t even play with the same toy sets. But to teach these lessons, we have to accept that far from being “post-feminist,” we as a society have actually managed to regress in our gender expression and acceptance.
edit: Also, wooooo! 200 post mark!