Sunday, March 18, 2012

Feminism, Femininity, and the V word

As one of my fellow bloggy friends pointed out, the word 'feminist' has become a bad word.  When did this happen?  And why? It seems that most people believe a feminist is someone who believes in the superiority of women, seeking to set themselves apart from their counterparts by changing e's and a's to y's and removing men completely from the cycle. 

"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," as the saying goes.  Sadly, that was backlash to the equality movement, and it was totally understandable. To a certain extent, it still is.  Women still earn less on average than men.  They are also still expected to complete their standard workplace jobs and then go home and complete most of the typical "female" jobs.  Women were told they could do it all, be it all, have it all...  But it seems the men forgot that in order for the women to get anything close to fair, they had to share. 

So, women became strident and demanding.  When the mainstream became ashamed of some of their demands and claims, the detractors added to it.  "You don't want to be a feminist," they sneered.  "Baby killing, man hating, painting with their own menstrual fluids.  They are jealous of men.  They want to BE men."  It was simply another way to slip the vagina back into a neat, little, lace-covered box (pardon the pun). 

When I was in college, I took part in an underground production (at an all-women's college!) of "The Vagina Monologues".  I used a whip and wore my hair in pigtails, playing the part of a dominatrix.  I played the part of a woman comfortable with being a woman and having a very feminine power.  The idea of embracing sexuality and power was a little too risque for the school, so we performed via word of mouth from dorm to dorm to avoid sanctions by the hierarchy. 

It was really the first step in embracing true feminism.  There is nothing wrong with demanding your due.  It is not strident to want equality.  It doesn't mean you want to be superior, it simply means you want to be held as important.   But feminism is more than equality, it is also about femininity.  We are not men.  We will never be men.  We should not fight the way men do. 

In "The Princessa ", Rubin argues that we should embrace the power that women naturally have.  Our ancient ancestors saw the importance that women had in the lives of their families and in the life-giving connection to the earth.  Our industrialized society bound women in steel corsets, and we lost that connection to ourselves.  And now, it's worse. 

When women became afraid of being called feminists, it gave the misogynists a chance to swoop in and decide for them. Men are deciding how women should use their sexuality and their ability to choose.  It's time to stop being afraid of feminism and in effect of femininity.  I am a feminist, with all the strengths and weaknesses that go with being a woman and being human. 

Are you a feminist too?

1 comment:

Lilybean said...

You know what I was thinking, though, after I wrote that blog - it's also about something more subtle than the feminist image problem. Take birth control. 99% of us apparently use it at some point in our lives. That makes it an every-woman issue. But feminism is a political issue. Most every woman wants to use birth control, but only a fraction want to be political.

Of course now something as simple and seemingly straightforward as birth control is political, so I think we're about to see a shift.