Friday, December 11, 2015

What Feminism Looks Like To Me

Advocating for women’s right politically, socially and economically is feminism to me. ALL WOMEN. A feminist scholoar named Bell Hooks  writes that it is “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” and I thought that was a pretty good way to describe it. 
In the Middle East and Africa women are treated without dignity and without respect. About 27.2 million women are genitally mutilated in Egypt.
The world needs more feminists.
According to Dressember, the average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12-14-year-old. Many victims are runaway girls who are sexually abused as children. Many of these girls are orphans and forster care runaways whom no one is looking for.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice's 2011 report, 83% of victims confirmed in sex-trafficking incidents in the United States where identified as U.S. citizens.
The U.S. needs more feminists.
One in five college students experience sexual assault during their college careers.
The schools need more feminists.
Eating disorders are a daily struggle for 10 million females in the United States.
Our bodies need more feminists
In Debbi Pearl’s popular book, Created To Be His Helpmeet, Pearl advocates a system in which godly wives live in complete subordinates to their husbands, with no “equal rights.” She went so far as to encourage a young mother whose husband routinely beat her and threaten to kill her with a kitchen knife to stop ‘blabbering about his sins’ and win him back by showing him more respect. (Rachel Held Evans)

Those who claim Christianity clearly need more feminists.

There are STILL churches who don't let women speak or teach men.

The church needs more feminists.
Conclusion: We all need more feminism in our lives.
Now that you can clearly see there IS A HUGE NEED FOR FEMINISTS I would like to share what feminism is to me and what it is not. I would also like to note that I realize there are many different kinds and variations of feminism. I am not here to argue but would like to share what feminism means to me. I’m still working it all out and I certainly don’t have it all figured out.

I would also like to note and admit that my context, privilege, and affiliations does affect my view on feminism. I still have blind spots.

Pursuing gender equality 
Gender equality to me is equal pay for equal work. It's being able to vote and speak our voice politically, socially and culturally. Women’s suffrage was a great accomplishment in 1920 but we still seem to be dragging behind on some concepts. We might teach girls in the classrom that they are smart and capable and brave. But at home, we role model that they are not as intellectual or physcially competent as boys. We continue to foster dumb sterotypes that women are poor drives, women are bad at managing money, and women have to use their bodies to be accepted. We continue to use phrases about girls as insults:
 You hit like a girl. 
Don’t be a little girl
You run like a girl. 
Scream like a girl
Culturally we don’t pay as much attention to women’s sports as men’s sports (for example, the United States Women’s National Team for Soccer won the world cup but culturally we paid far more attention to the Men's team and they did not even make it to the quarter-finals).
Seeing women as humans with inherent dignity and worth
I really REALLY am sick of women being over-sexualized. It's ridiculdous you know. Our bodies have the ablity to nourish and to nurture, to think and to feel. We can memorize facts and crunch numbers and run marathons. We have 90-100 billion neurons and 650 skeletol muscles in our bodies, yet as a culture we have focused whether or not women are sexy or not. Our sexuality has been based off of some very narrow concepts as well just as the size of our butts, boobs and waiste to mention a few. We are judged for how we look and not how we think, what we do, or how we feel. It's getting old. Women have inherent dignity and value because we are human. This is feminism. This has also caused me to look at the ways women have sexualized men (while it is not as extreme or as frequent) can still be detrimental. We are SO much more than our sex appeal. 
Gender equality in my marriage
 In my marriage to Scott we both lead and follow. We don’t have set gender roles. We do things out of competence and preference. Some of these fall under stereotypes for genders and some do not. For example, Scott does most of the cooking because I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it. Scott finds a creative outlet in cooking. When women ask me about recipes, I always feel a bit sheepish as I refer them to Scott because I really don’t have an answer to their question. On the other hand, I really enjoy decorating our home and this is probably considered a more stereotypical feminine thing. But I’m not going to not decorate simply because of rigid gender roles. I like it and I’m good at it.

No longer shopping at Victoria Secret
This is a very personal one to me and by no means would I try to impose this conviction on someone else. For years I shopped here because, yes, their bras are amazing and comfy.  And their dressing rooms are glamorous and posh. BUT, about a year ago I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is. I can’t support an organization that so clearly demeans, exploits and degrades women not to mention how many lawsuits they have had revolving around breaking labor laws. About a year ago I started working at a treatment center for adolescents dealing with severe eating disorders where I saw how much the media and modeling industry has impacted young girls and women. It only took a little bit of research to find that models (and Victoria Secret models in particular) were passing out on stage due to malnutrition and starvation. If anyone actually thinks this is sexy, then they need to get their head out of their ass. Obviously there are MANY clothing stores that unfortunately are not very inclusive. Victoria Secret is just one of them and they are very loud about it. Their images have shown us over and over again how you need to be tall, thin, young, have a certain color hair or skin tone in order to be truly sexy. This is also called racism, sexism, and ageism. A few years ago I about died seeing a 13 year old girl in the store being exposed to such degrading images as she hustled for all the lingerie lining the store. We can blab on and on about “all sizes and all colors” but if that’s not what we’re selling, I don’t buy it. (Literally).
Dismantling toxic patriarchies
A family, a church, or an organization that runs like a patriarchial monarchy where the male is king and what he says goes, is toxic. A church that has only male pastors is harmful to both men and women alike. We need each other. In the same way, a marriage where the male is in charge and calls all the shots is also toxic. We belong to each other, not in a competitive, whose in charge, I'll lead and you follow, way, but a we're in this together, way. Patriarchy does not empower women to be who they are. Toxic masculinity hurts men too as it comes from a socially constructed attitude that tells them to be agressive, be sex obsessed and yet emotionally constipated. This isn't good for anyone. The other day, a Christian pastor on a podcast I was listening to said to his female co-host, "women cry for the strangest reasons!" Right there I wanted to barf at his sexist remark. Males cry. Females cry. We all have feelings. These should be respected, not made into a sexist joke. 

Freeing the nipple
I agree with them on empowering women and gender equality. They are trying to work towards ending the sexualization of the female's upper half.   However I can't get behind "decriminalizing female nudity". I think in a different time in history, in a different place, with a different culture perhaps nudity would not be such a stigma but we live here in the present. Today if you run around naked you are now a registered sex offended. There are a host of other things I want to "free" besides my own nipple. That being said, I have not seen the film, so my views are subject to could change.
Telling Scott to breastfeed our children
Someday I really hope that there is better birth control options for men. I think men and women both need to take responisblity for procreation. I want involved dads and involved moms. I think stay-at-home dads are awesome and I think we need to work towards having better maternity and paternity leave for parents. HOWEVER, I do not expect Scott to breastfeed our children. While this might be physically impossible I also don't have a strong innate desire for him to do so. I'm more about him changing diapers. That's a higher priority for me. 
Man Hating and Not letting Men Open Doors for Me
I really don't hate men AT ALL. In fact, I like them and so I married one. I went to small, private Christian college where a couple people coined me as a "femi-nazi" because of my desire to have a career and not cook all day in the kitchen. This was a pretty extreme label to be given for just wanting some equality. One of the first feminists I ever met was a professor at my school and he got a lot of flack for it. He was not the "picture" you get of a feminist, being he was a white male in his 60's. He taught my Intercultural Studies class and my Human Sexuality Class and he had traveled all over the world and was passionate about advocating for social justice. He was gentle and quiet and ordered flavored frapachinos and at my college, (which was considered a "girly drink") and people would make fun of him. This was a great way for him to discuss the affects of sexism on our culture and I just loved him for it. 
Feminism gets a littel fuzzy when you start talking about chivalry and opening car doors and such. I like when men open doors for me. I liked when Scott paid for our first date and picked me up at my house in his car. This might be considered "traditional" but I LIKED it. That's the thing about equality, it takes into consideration preferences. However, I have evolved over the years as far as my dating concept goes. I used to think I would ONLY let a guy ask me out, pursue me and call me first. Now however I have found value in reciprical pursual. I was the one to give Scott my number in our relationship and I made it pretty obvious I was into him. I am not so naieve as to believe that men are fine doing all the pursuing. Men also have a desire to be wanted, to belong, to feel pursued. It's human nature. However, as women have, unfortunately, been treated as lesser, demeaned and objectified simply because of their gender, I am okay with a little extra respect being shown (aka doors being held open, walking me to my car at night, paying for dinner etc.).
Never going to the spa, wearing pink or getting a pedicure.
I am 90% girly in the stereo-typical way. I love manicures and pedicures. I adore eating chocolate and watching a cheesy Hallmark movie. I want my massages and bright pink nailpolish and my masscrea. I wear make-up and do my hair. I like to take bubble baths with lavender. I played with Barbies growing up. I like everything to be asthetically pleasing. I also wear every day this month actually. Just because I am a feminist DOES NOT mean I have to shave my head, become a football loving fan, love war movies and become a gym rat. But I can if I want to. I don't have to become like a stereo-typical male or stereo-typical female. I can be me. I can be Heather. And Heather likes her nail polish. A LOT. 
Thinking I’m superior.
For me, being a feminist does not mean I think I'm better than men and that one day I hope that women will rule the world. I hope we can all get over the whole "ruling the world" thing and start working together to get shit done. Cause there's a lot that needs to be done! I don't think I'm superior or more valuable or worthy. I think both genders of all sizes, colors and orientations are valulable. 
Taking off your clothes on screen.
I’m sorry and I don’t want to be offensive but this just isn’t feminism. This is getting naked. There is a difference. Sometimes getting naked on screen doesn't have negative consequences. But sometimes taking your clothes off on screen leads to supporting the pornography industry and that is the complete opposite of feminism to me. And the pornography industry has shown to be linked to violence against women which supports the sex trafficking industry. We have to think about people over pixels. We don't need to watch anyone get naked on screen to value all bodies. My body is worthy and valuable and important. But it’s also mine and not for everyone in the world to see.
So this is what feminism looks like to me as I see it today. I really want to advocate for equality between the genders without having to take my clothes off. Please feel free to comment. This is a conversation I definately want to have and I have so much to learn in this area still. What does feminism look like to you? 
And if you feel so inclined please suport me and my gals as we advocate for human rights this December. #dressember



  1. Hi Heather,
    What a wonderful, wonderful post! I read this while nodding my head the whole time. We live in a deeply unjust world full of horrid abuses that the world closes its eyes to. Here in the UK FGM has been illegal since 1985 and yet they do not prosecute even when it is found to have happened! The authorities pretend to be trying to stop this horrific, evil abuse and instead turn a blind eye citing "cultural awareness" To hell with hurting feelings! we're talking about the vilest abuse on vulnerable young girls.

    Young girls are starving themselves in order to achieve the unachievable. They're using airbrushed images as inspiration, even those models do not look like they do in those images. If only young girls (and young boys) were told constantly as they grow up how special they are, taught to celebrate their own special uniqueness and that they don't need to copy the latest hairstyle/fashion trends/fake tans or fake nails sported by whichever Z list celebrity the media are currently obsessed with :/ If only kids were told they're perfect just as they are, they don't need to copy anyone else.

    Thank you for writing this Heather, it's beyond wonderful! I'm off to share everywhere it needs to be read, hugs always dear wee friend xxx

    1. Rosie! Thank you so much for your comment on this post. It meant so much to me and I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner! I'm horrified about what you said about FGM in the UK. I didn't realize they didn't even prosecute! So scary that violence is termed as "cultural awareness" :-(
      I agree with you! Kids need to know they are enough as they are. I'm grateful for you reading this as I know it was a long one! Thanks for your kind words and support. oxoxoxo