If you gathered up all the feminists in the world and asked each of us what exactly we’re working for, there could be a million different answers. But the overarching goal is basically equality. We don’t want our gender to be a factor when it comes to education or opportunity or safety or anything else where gender is irrelevant.
Over the course of discussing feminist ideas with various people who scoff or laugh in my face, I am coming to realize that many of these people just don’t understand what I am talking about. How could they? Most of the people who don’t understand are men living in a patriarchal society so how can they understand? And I don’t mean that disrespectfully, I am just putting myself in their shoes and realizing, they just don’t get it.
So. I am attempting to break it down a bit based on my own personal experience and the experiences of others.
It can be terrifying to demand equality. In fact, it can be terrifying to even broach the subject of inequality even in a theoretical sense devoid of action. It is terrifying because of unpredictable reactions (especially from loved ones) that hurt and maim. And it is terrifying because when you decide to take action in order to create change, you open yourself up to the possible feeling of futility.
And yet, we persevere. And why? That is what people who don’t understand feminism (or, for that matter, any other social movement) don’t understand.
So, dear reader, imagine this:
You grow up watching all the young boys in your neighborhood go on campouts, learn survival skills, participate in father-son activities. You have to stay home.
On Thanksgiving, you watch as all the men go to a movie and as the only girl your age left, you hang around the kitchen trying to help but really just make a nuisance of yourself. You can’t figure out why, since you’re still too young to cook, you aren’t allowed to go to the movie.
You are taught over and over and over again that your worth lies not in your abilities, but your body. How you look, what you do with it. You learn of the dichotomy that women are supposed to remain pure on the one hand, but are glorified for sexuality on the other. It doesn’t make sense.
You believe for many years that college and any other education is only a fall back plan for if you don’t get married.
You’re praised for any “boyish” traits you have, and criticized for any “girly” traits you have.
You’re taught to not be raped.
As you start to get older, you realize that many people see you as someone to fill a role instead of as an actual person.
When you start to think about all these things and talk about them, people say there’s no problem. People laugh at you. People claim you are creating the, “systematic degradation of men,” for wanting to create a more egalitarian world.
You feel scared to walk alone at night, just because of your gender.
You constantly feel the gaze of strangers–usually men. They stare unapologetically and are basically creepy. But it’s socially acceptable behavior.
You are walking around your neighborhood as a seven-year-old when men start cat-calling at you.
People with loud voices think it is okay to silence you because what they have to say is more important.
You were culturally raised to be passive–even the most opinionated of women can have some area where they feel it is unacceptable to speak up, often in the areas where speaking up is the most essential.
For years you believe that any “inappropriate” thought had by a man is your fault.
You feel guilty for having a large bust.
You start to realize that many “praises” for women are mere pandering and platitudes.
You see people blaming working mothers for their grown children’s life problems.
You see men cringe and say it’s inappropriate to use words like, “tampon” or “uterus” or “ovary” or “menstruation.”
If you are in a bad mood or upset or teary, you see people blame your period–never mind that you’re not on your period.
If you are on your period, you see people claim you are irrational and incapable of functioning normally.
You see that no matter what you feel or when you feel it, you aren’t taken seriously because of the existence of menstruation.
You see members of your sex constantly objectified.
Through the course of dating, you come to realize that many men feel some sort of entitlement to your body.
You learn that because you voice your opinion and think independently, you are deemed “scary” by members of the opposite sex.
When you suggest that girls in your church should have the same opportunities given to boys via Boy Scouts, you hear, “That wouldn’t work unless there was more make-up involved,” and “Girls don’t need anything like that.”
Through the course of your life, you start to think that while society wants men to lead, interact, gather, and teach, society wants women to remain solitary and at home.
You watch movies and can rarely if ever find a character of your own gender with whom you truly relate–most characters of your gender are filler characters.
You watch movies and realize that most of them are through a masculine lens–even the “chick flicks.”
You are in high school American History class learning about women’s suffrage and hear the boys in your class complain on and on about women.
You basically just feel unequal.
The above list is quite lengthy, it’s true. But it is by no means comprehensive. Every woman has her own experiences, many far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. And this list is by no means meant to represent the behavior of all men. But the behaviors and feelings on this list are pervasive enough to be examined.
I recently watched a video clip of Joss Whedon (writer/director/creator of many great things including Buffy The Vampire Slayer) wherein he explained that over the course of his career reporters have asked him over and over and over, “Why do you create these strong women characters?” He supplied many answers, but continued that these reporters should be asking everyone else why they don’t write strong women characters.
I hope anyone who doubts the need for feminism reading this has garnered at least a small understanding of what we’re trying to do: it’s all just equality. For more information visit this awesome tumblr site.
P.S. I still get nervous every time I post something like this.