“one of your feminist rants”

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!
Or, when a former friend told me that he thinks women are “overreacting” when they talk about how scared they are of walking home at night, and complained that the protagonist in a film is being melodramatic because “her rape wasn’t even that bad; she didn’t even fight back.” I responded by explaining rape culture, even though his eyes glazed over and he just looked at me with a blank, uncomprehending gaze.
I guess I’m considered a buzzkill, is what I’m saying. I feel an ongoing sense of vague disappointment that most other people in my world are not nearly as fascinated with women’s rights and issues as I am, and that my fascination and passion is often dismissed as “feminist ranting.”I just find all these concepts so incredibly fascinating and important — male privilege and body shaming and rape culture and ‘othering’ and gender divisions perpetuated among the next generation. I love the ways we’re coming up with to deal with these ingrained societal issues: There are feminism 101 blogs and feminist terms dictionaries to easily and quickly explain concepts like male privilege in an even-handed fashion. There are blogs and tumblr campaigns to bring awareness to body shaming — I particularly like this website, where you can search images according to height, weight, and shape in order to get a better idea of the incredible variety of body types within any given height/weight.

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.

Lego ad, 1984

Lego ad, 1984

We made a mistake. Somewhere along the way, we got complacent, and we cultivated this unrealistic binary of manly vs. feminine. This concept restricts and alienates pretty much everyone, because most people are a mix of both so-called “boy” and so-called “girl” interests. We are not post-feminist. Liberals can be sexist, too. Just because you’re liberal doesn’t mean that offensive thing you said isn’t sexist. We need to stop perpetuating and allowing perpetuation of divisive gender roles — we need to be better examples for the next generation. Part of that means that feminists — male and female — should no longer silence themselves and let “soft sexism” slide.

edit: Also, wooooo! 200 post mark!

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2 thoughts on ““one of your feminist rants”

  1. Yah cuz body shaming for men totally doesn’t real!!! It’s not like every girl and dude is ready to pounce on a guy with a flabby stomach, or thin as fuck, or just a straight up fat bugger. Shaming by women against men totally never happens! Isn’t that the first thing they teach you at those fire alarm pulling, rape accusing Canadian universities?

    • I never said it didn’t happen to men. I’m married to a man, I have a son, and I have fathers and a brother. I’m a humanist and feminist, and I care about equal rights for all. Let me ask you something — if every feminist in the world all at once collectively agreed to stop talking about body shaming for women, would it stop? Would body shaming for men (by men and women) stop?

      No, it wouldn’t. The solution is not to say, “But, but, but .. it happens to guys too, therefore your argument is invalid!”

      The solution is to say, “It’s wrong to body shame.”

      It’s wrong to body shame women. It’s wrong to body shame men. It’s wrong to body shame.

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