f you’re concerned about being perceived as a “nice girl”, we’ve got a lot to talk about. Women and girls embrace or reject that label for myriad reasons; some of them make sense to me and some don’t. What NEVER makes sense to me is the notion that “nice girls” aren’t feminists. How did this happen? What are women afraid of? That the world will find out they’re not really all Sandys and are in fact a bunch of Rizzos at heart? (If you don’t get that reference, look it up…you’ll have a lot of fun playing around on YouTube.)
I know the “I Am Not A Feminist” meme has been around for a while and this post may seem like a late arrival at the party. Not quite. I’ve been quietly waiting to see what will happen to this inane (I can’t believe I’m going to dignify it with this word) movement. To my surprise, while there are many, many women (and thanks, Beyoncé for moving the discussion along) who proudly identify as feminists, there are innumerable women who don’t.
I find this baffling. I find this saddening. Mostly, I find it nauseating.
What the “I Am Not A Feminist” babbling, Instagramming and Tumblr-ing has shown is NOT that women and girls understand what feminism is and have rejected it. It shows that they have no clue what feminism is. It is SHOCKING that women who are the daughters of the generations who did so much work on the front lines of women’s equality have willfully forgotten or ignored what came before them. Complete ignorance or teen-style rebellion is the only justification I can come up with for claptrap like this:
For the record, feminism IS:
a) Not about claiming victim status to get ahead
b) Acknowledging that there is a war going on against your paycheck and your reproductive rights. I’m sticking with two agenda items only so as not to confuse anyone who joined the class a little late.
c) Not about asking for special consideration due to your gender, but asking for equal treatment in all ways REGARDLESS of gender
d) Not about hating men. That is a facile, outdated and red herring argument based on a splinter group of separatist feminists from the late 60’s and early 70s. Separatism didn’t survive. Neither should any justification to reject feminism that is based on it.
e) About being however you want to be. Being sexy is awesome. Be it for your man, your woman, yourself or anyone who has the good fortune to lay eyes on you on any given day.
f) Not about rejecting any tasks, chores or hobbies that are stereotypically female. You like to cook? Great! You like to repair the roof of your house? Also great. You get a kick out of knitting baby booties? Good for you! You want to smoke cigars, play poker and curse like a sailor? Have fun! The only person who can make you feel lesser for enjoying, or not enjoying, conventionally female activities is you. That’s your hangup, no one else’s. I’m quite sure that Gloria Steinem, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Bella Abzug, all the Riot Grrls, the Suicide Girls, Madonna, Lady GaGa, Beyoncé, and Caitlin Moran all had or have a few go-to recipes they enjoy making and sharing. Enough said.
My favorite definition of feminism, that I feel clears up so many issues, comes from Caitlin Moran’s Book HOW TO BE A WOMAN:
“But, of course, you might be asking yourself, ‘Am I a feminist? I might not be. I don’t know! I still don’t know what it is! I’m too knackered and confused to work it out. That curtain pole really still isn’t up! I don’t have time to work out if I am a women’s libber! There seems to be a lot to it. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?’
So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”
And if even more clarity is required, here’s a fabulous statement by a young woman who, let’s just say it straight, gets it.
“There is a basic lack of understanding of what the feminist movement is amongst many women today,” said Julie Zeilinger, 19, author of “A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word” and founder of feminist youth community The Fbomb. Feminists today work to preserve women’s rights and “to make legal victories lived realities rather than just words on paper,” Zeilinger said.
In summation, dear readers, being a feminist doesn’t mean being a sniveling, entitled, man hating, uninformed, scared disseminator of garbage masquerading as thought, theory or conviction. On the other hand, if you decide to vehemently represent yourself as anti-feminist and are looking for a few adjectives to sum up your point of view, feel free to choose from any of the above. It’ll give you a nice head start.