For my Feminist Theory class, I’ve been reflecting on my journey from being somewhat uncomfortable and rejecting of the label and or movement of feminism to where I am now.This is my (pretend) stage theory, which is the stages of mourning in reverse:
I don’t question my discomfort with feminism; I just have some vague notion that feminists are bossy, loud, judgmental, don’t shave, and their ideas are irrelevant in the modern world. Abortion is legal and I can go to college. Stop dwelling on the past!
Whoops! Sexism is alive and well. I am publicly sexually harassed at work and no one notices. I am discriminated against based on my appearance. But women in other countries have to deal with sex-based human rights atrocities (yes, I realize this is an uninformed assumption; that’s the point). However, our military has a huge rape problem. My view of the world has started to shift.
Okay, I might be kind of a feminist. But I don’t want to be identified with my parents’ generation, so I’m a 3rd wave feminist. Or a post-modern feminist. Or something. I still have a vague sense of alienation from the 2nd wave movement. I’m beyond the patriarchy (even though I’m not sure exactly what that is). Still, there are news stories about women being denied access to birth control. I might need to read some books about feminism to see what I actually agree and disagree with.
- Anger (this is me right now, btw)
The Republican legislature in Texas removes access to affordable health care, birth control, and safe abortion to women in my state (amid massive protests and demonstrations), thus violating the constitution. After reading mainstream feminist literature from different eras (The Feminine Mystique, The Beauty Myth, Lean In, The Chalice and the Blade) and the selections for this and previous classes, I realize I’ve been had. Much of what I’ve constructed my identity on as a woman, particularly the negative messages I’ve internalized about myself, are bullshit. The portrayal of first and second wave feminists as anti-mother, anti-wife, and anti-child is right-wing, patriarchal propaganda.
Current society, media, and legislation is wired to marginalize women, minorities, and people whose gender identity doesn’t easily fit into one of two categories. The admonition that “we have it so good” compared to other women, present and past, is an effective way to keep us quiet and inactive. I am incredibly pissed off.
- Denial and Isolation
This is where my metaphor breaks down; or maybe not. I believe our embedded power systems have effectively curbed public awareness of the feminist movement over the last two centuries. In fact (as we discussed yesterday) when Feminism is painted as a movement of exclusion rather than inclusion, women themselves often lead the charge to dismantle it. I would argue that I have spent most of my adult life in a place of denial and isolation from other women through both internalized and external misogyny. In fact, I believe we enforce the rules of the patriarchy as much as men in many situations.
What should this next phase be? How can we find a way to agree on some common goals across race, sexual identity, religion, geography, and any other divisions I haven’t thought of? Do we organize? Protest? Turn off the television and stop reading women’s magazines? Boycott princess dolls for our daughters? What do you think?