I am an angry feminist. Why? Because the words "feminist" and "feminism" have become warped over the years to the point that a significant part of the population, or my friends and loved ones, don't consider themselves feminists. But in reality, dear reader, you are a feminist. If you are reading this, there is a 99% chance that I know and respect and love you. And everyone I know and respect and love is a feminist. Some of you just don't seem to realize it.
Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
Did you see that emphasis I added there to the end? It's the important bit. Oh, the first few words are pretty damn important - people seem to think there is one definition of feminist thought, and they are wrong, wrong, wrong! - but it's that last bit that makes you a feminist. Yes, you, dear reader, I'm talking to you.
This is something that has been rattling around my brain for quite some time. Many months ago, on a hunch I asked my Facebook friends and family if they consider themselves feminists. I am pleased to report that 8 people said yes, and only 3 people said no. But there were another 4 who gave thoughtful answers without answering the question. I can only assume that if they thought of themselves as a feminist, they would have said so. So that makes 7 people who do not call themselves feminists. 8 vs. 7. I don't like those numbers. It should be 15 vs. 0. Because 100% of you are feminists, I know it.
K said "No. But I DO believe we should get equal pay for equal work."
To K, I say "Equal pay for equal work is a central ideal of just about any flavor of feminism. Welcome to the Feminist Club. Do you want the bumper sticker or the lapel pin?"
P said "Well I'm not a shake-my-fist and yell "woman power" type, but I fully support gender equality. Like K, I'm not into the whole "sewer entrances" thing, but equal pay, equal opportunities, etc. Yes plz."
To P, I say "I really debated with myself on what column to put you under, but in the end you didn't say yes and you didn't self-label yourself as a feminist, so I put you in the "other" column. But I know you're a feminist. I do. I mean, you practically defined the word back to me. Would you like to sit next to K? She had the cookies last."
T said "No, I want to be treated like a human and with respect, forever the sexes are different and I don't wasn't to be treated with disrespect from other women because I'd rather be at home taking care of my family then trying to be all about having money and status in a career. I think women should just support each other, there its to much "in fighting"
To T, I say "I'm so glad you brought this up, because this goes to the core of what modern feminism is all about. Most of the feminists I know are fierce parents, many are stay-at-home Moms. And they demand to have that decision respected. You are a feminist because you choose to put family first - you made a choice about the future of your own life and you have the choice due to the feminists who came before you. So now you and everyone else better honor that or you're kicking butt and taking names. Please take a seat on the bus with your daughter, because I know you are raising her to be just as fierce as you are. There's plenty of room for your beautiful son, too."
H had a whole lot to say on the matter, "No, because the older I've gotten the more I just want to fight for the rights of people, regardless of sex or cultural background. I realize this may be idealistic/unrealistic because there are certain issues that are specific to women but in some ways I feel we have swung too far to one side. We need to find a happy medium and not pit the sexes against each other. We need to work together. My current world view centers around my children and having one of each I find it interesting the differences of how each are treated. Also because of the age of my kids, my focus is mainly on education. I see all these school programs geared toward girls, yet it is the boys that have dramatically fallen behind in school. Boys test lower in all subjects, and recently that includes math and science, more boys drop out of school and more girls go onto college and graduate from college. Women hold the majority of jobs and some how we still get paid lower. That part I don't understand and asked my own Facebook friends what they thought about it. So overall great for women, but now what about the boys? We need to help STUDENTS who need help. Education is just one area of feminism but recently this has been a focus in our family. Certainly there are many parts to feminism - equal pay, crime, health, etc but in an ideal world we should be fighting for everyone but then if everything were equal we wouldn't need to fight so much. Sorry this post was a bit rambling but I do think at the core of feminism was/is equal rights for the sexes but like I said earlier I feel we have now created situations where men have reasons to fight for their own equality but yet we women still aren't completely equal in others. So how about I'm a equalist. Just want to add, that my thoughts apply to the U.S. and other first world countries. In many parts of the world, women are suffering and there is much to be done."
To H, I say "If it's rambling, it was a brilliant, feminist ramble. I just wish you could self-label that way. You are a feminist because you want to fight for people's rights, because you are idealistic, because you want the sexes to work together, because you are concerned about the education of your children, because you rally for boys, because you are an equalist, and you realize that women in other parts of the world are suffering. Come in, take a seat next to your daughter, and make room for your son - with someone as strong, intelligent, and opinionated as yourself as his mother, he is going to be an amazing man who believes in equality.
B said "I am not clear on what it really means. I am in favor of equality. If I am in favor gay rights am I a homosexualist."
To B, I say "Tut tut. I have never said that to anyone in my life, but you get it a second time: tut tut. Don't mince words, I know you speak quite eloquently and know how to use a dictionary. You are a feminist because you are in favor of equality. Why don't you see if there are any cookies left?"
PD said "Interesting because my first thought would be no, but it is a little gray in places. I believe in inherent differences between the sexes as a generality (the average woman tends to be more emotional and the average man tends to be more physical, etc.) I think those differences need to be honored and celebrated. With exceptions, the average woman would make a terrible ironworker and the average male would make a terrible child care worker. Again, these are gross generalities. With that being said, I think there are double standards that need to be eliminated. Watching American Idol with my wife the other night, BOTH female judges were commenting on the male contestants sexiness, manliness, and such. If one of the male judges would have said to a female "I think you are so sexy and hot and I want you to have my baby", there would have been an uproar. At the same time, there are thousands of examples of men getting preferential treatment over women when none is due. I think it is the job of society to make social changes to correct attitudes, not the governments. The government has a role to make standards for themselves and to ensure businesses obey the law, yet I think it goes too far to have them decide or influence wages. I believe any job or position should be on merit alone, the ability to do that job, period. Whether it is race or gender or whatever, that should be the standard, no lower standards for anyone. In the military, women still have significantly lower physical requirements to achieve the same score and get into the same jobs, this is wrong. Men still get significantly more money in business for doing the same job as women, this is wrong also. Again, merit based and nothing else. Where I think feminism goes too far is reproduction issues. I don't think it is the job of government to force taxpayers to provide contraception or abortions for an individual. If we are a merit-based society then each person should be responsible for the decisions they make and what they do with their body. If you want to be on the pill, great. If you decide to have an abortion, that is your right, go for it. However, it is not right to make ME or anyone else pay for your decisions. Where I think feminism succeeds is changing attitudes within individuals. Most great social change starts with grassroots groups changing the hearts and minds of large groups of people to their way of thinking, not government mandating something and people reluctantly following. Equality in the workplace will happen much faster if individuals complain about inequality in their hometown company, which is where large support organizations come into play."
To PD, I say "You never disappoint me when it comes to hard topics requiring self analysis. Would you like to sit down before I continue? I don't want my favorite conservative to fall over when I tell him he's a feminist. You earned your ticket on the bus when you said the word 'celebrated' - celebrating women for being women is most definitely a feminist ideal. Your reaction to women getting away with what amounts to catcalling of men comes from a place of equality, because you made the connection that men would be treated badly for doing the same thing - wanting equality, not domination of a single sex over the other, is the core ideal of most feminists. You believe women should succeed based on their merit. You are in favor of pointing out inequality on the local, personal level. I am most honored to have you aboard."
C threw this out there while she was running by, "I like A's response."
To C, I say "I wish I could put you in the 'yes' column, but technically if you like someone's response, that doesn't necessarily mean you share the opinion. I believe that's what you meant though, and since A self-identified as a feminist, I welcome you to the bus. And let me just take this opportunity to assure you that although you may not have noticed it until recently, I am very aware that you have been a feminist for as long as I've known you and much longer than that. You raised three smart, sensitive, critical-thinking kids with your husband (FYI, I've got a pass for him if he wants to swing by later). You went to college, earned a degree, learned a profession, and pursued it passionately. You care about people and children, you support women who are alone, you give brilliant advice and heaps of moral support. You've travelled the world to help others. That quite possibly makes you the most influential feminist on this list. I salute you."
Is it getting crowded back there? Hey, T, M, P, L, H, V, A, and MD, you all be sure to make room for the new comers and give them a warm welcome. I hope you're not hogging the cookies. All 15 of you have earned your fill. Thanks for making me a happy feminist again, I love you.
So where should we take this bus next?
*For all of you Wikipedia-doubters, Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, and Google definitions all agree, almost word for word.