I am a Feminist, Part I

I was looking at my tag cloud and realized that the word feminism, or feminist, doesn’t appear. Not once.

Interesting.

I am a feminist. Actually, let me correct that. I am a Feminist.

What is a Feminist? I go by this definition:

  • Someone who believes that men and women should be considered and treated as equals (politically, socially and economically),
  • Someone who believes that, presently, women are not politically, socially or economically equal to men, and
  • Someone who makes an effort towards the advancement of women in order to achieve political, social, and economical equality.

I didn’t come up with this definition; I came across it while in university, and to me it explains it well and is easy to remember. I’m well aware of what others perceive feminism and feminists to be. They are entitled to their opinions, but to me, this is essentially – by definition – what feminism is.

I think most women are feminists. I think most women do believe that women should be equal to men and that they see inequality in their own lives. Given the stigma that the word “feminist” has, the fact that a lot of women don’t adopt it to describe themselves isn’t surprising. It’s disappointing, but not surprising. If I was highly concerned with wanting to get married and have babies with men, I probably wouldn’t want to call myself a feminist either – I’m not going to lie.

I say this because a lot of men are put off by it. I don’t think they are put off by the definition of the word feminist as I laid out above; a lot of men do believe in equality of the sexes (how far they are willing to bend in order to achieve this is another question). I think they are put off with the common perceptions that exist about feminism as a movement. And there are many.

My variation, and attempt without a mouse...

Feminists hate men.This one always perplexes me. I don’t know how one can equate me wanting to achieve equality between men and women with man-hating. Really? If I’m critiquing or suggesting an alternative way of thinking about masculinity, that’s not me hating men. Just like when I critique aspects of femininity, that’s not me hating women. I’m questioning how we can re-imagine our behaviour in a way that fosters equality rather than inhibiting it. Having said that, if you insist on holding on to an ideal of manhood that promotes the denigration of women, then yeah, I probably won’t like you. That doesn’t mean I hate men. I just don’t like you – and the attitudes you hold not only about women, but men, too – because your view of what a man is is likely just as limiting.

Feminists hate sex. There are variations on this – such as pro-sex feminists versus anti-sex feminists. Who is anti-sex? Anti-sex? Really? Usually feminists in this camp are those against public consumption of sex, or the proliferation of sexual objectification usually experienced by women, such as – and most notably – pornography.

I’ll just say this first: just because someone is against porn, it doesn’t mean they are against sex. Pornography is not sex.

Some feminists (MacKinnon comes to mind) have been brave enough to publish theories of sex, systems of power and patriarchal norms. Feminists – like anyone – fall along a spectrum or continuum of feminist thought. Do I agree with what all feminists believe? No, but at least they are adding to the conversation that needs to be had – and one of those conversations is regarding how central sexuality is to our understanding of equality.

I love sex (as many of my previous posts indicate). But I absolutely hate things that I feel are the sexual objectification of women (strip clubs, music videos, most men’s mags, etc). Am I pro-sex? Or anti-sex?

I knew a feminist who became a stripper so that she can put herself through university. Would she be considered pro-sex? Or anti-sex?

Feminists want women to have power over men. Wrong. If you come across suggestions of this, then it is not feminist thought. Along this same line of thought is that women should have everything; women want to be treated as equals but still want doors held open for them, for men to pay the bills, etc. Again, this isn’t feminist. This is a case of  a woman who wants her cake and to eat it too. I personally think that for women to gain equality the practice of chivalry has to end (I open doors for everyone, not just those with vaginas). Since a lot women like chivalry, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Feminists are angry, ugly women. There is some truth to that, haha. There are ugly feminists out there, but they’re not feminists because they are ugly. They are ugly because they are ugly.

Are feminists angry? Of course. Sexism makes me angry, and it should. Just like racism makes me angry – and it should. What the f*&#% is there to smile about?

Feminists are white middle class women. Last time I checked I wasn’t.  Sure, I can call myself a Humanist or Egalitarian – both great terms, but I personally prefer Feminist. Yes, I believe in equality for all, but by far the “ism” that has had the most overarching impact in my life has been sexism. So there my passions lay, in helping others understand it and hopefully do little things in their lives to improve the standard of women’s lives (in turn improving the lives of men). And when I say “women” and “men” I do mean all of them, not just the white middle class ones.

Feminism is about women’s issues. This one is tough because it’s true, and yet it isn’t.

It’s hard to talk about women’s lives without talking about men – how they impact women’s lives and vice versa. Even women who live women-centred lives are impacted by men in some way. I personally believe that to change women’s lives for the better is to change men’s lives for the better as well. It’s not about building women up so that they can tear men down, and it’s not about ignoring men’s issues (which is a post I hope to complete in the near future). Issues of abuse, violence, racism, classism, homophobia, parenting – these are all subjects that impact men as well. Women’s issues are everyone’s issues. Regardless of your political leanings, feminism has helped to allow the discussion of these issues to take place, thereby providing avenues of change for men as well.


In Part II, I will look at my reasons for being a Feminist from a more personal standpoint… assuming I’m up for it.

About tomboyinhighheels

I am a perpetually perplexed 28 year old woman living in Toronto. This is my blog. View all posts by tomboyinhighheels

4 responses to “I am a Feminist, Part I

  • marriagecoach1

    Speaking as a man, I would like to weigh in here. I don’t have a problem with your definition of feminism. The problem is that feminism means different things to different women. For example there are feminists college professors teaching that all married sex constitutes rape. Many feminists suggest that if a woman is not in the mood for sex and someone like me suggests that she voluntarily give her man sex because he is in the mood constittues rape.

    Like it or not, there is a huge backlash against men and raging reverse sexism called Misandry. It is even in the commercials where the man is always portrayed as this helpless boob who has once again gotten himself and or his family into trouble again. The Heroic woman swoops in to save the day all the while tossing off condascending and spiteful comments to her husband.

    In the name of equal rights, women sports reporters were allowed in men’s locker rooms but you did not see men reporters allowed in women’s locker rooms.

    In the name of equal rights the feminists sued the Saint Paul Fire Department in Minnesota claiming that the physical requirements were there to keep out women. The physical requirements were there to keep out men who were not strong enough to do the job, part of which includes grabbing a 200 lb man and throwing him across your shoulder in a Fireman’s carry and running down a flight of stairs to save his life. They got the standards watered down where 2 women could drag the guy downstairs. They even violated their own equal pay for equal work standards so now two women are doing the work of one guy and still getting full pay.

    Ms Magazine went bankrupt several times because they could not attract advertisers. They have a measly circulation of 150,000 subscribers. The magazine that follows Ms in Writers Market (the bible for free lance writers) is Redbook with 5 million subscribers. Ms now only publishes 4 times a year and is supported entirely on subscriptions alone.

    If you want respect for feminism, I suggest that you work in your own ranks and clean up the feminists act.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    • tomboyinhighheels

      Thanks for the reply. It was quite a long one!

      I could write a 20-page essay on the issues you brought up in your comment. I’ll try to give the Coles-notes version, commenting on the statements I don’t quite agree with, after first stating this: not all feminists hold the same thoughts, values and opinions when it comes to trying to conceive of how to achieve equality – just as how not all Conservatives think the same, or all women, or all Muslims, etc. So when you say that feminists need to clean up their act, that will never happen because there is no single “act”.

      Your comparison of Ms Magazine and Redbook are apples and oranges. Ms Magazine is a publication with a very political stance. Redbook is built on consumerism and popular opinion. Their demographics are different. I think it is safe to say that most decidedly political publications tend to have smaller circulation; it doesn’t make these publications less relevant. I read Ms now and then, but do I subscribe to it? No, because the content is very heavy and sometimes hard to read due to the subject matter. I can’t read about abortion rights, sex slavery, and stonings on a regular basis. Compare that to a magazine like Redbook filled with advertisements, fun quizzes, light articles, “how to please your man” tips, recipes… Not the same. At all.

      I took women’s studies in university. I loved it. Did I agree with or believe in all the curriculum or literature? No. In fact there were a couple of courses I dropped because I thought the teachings were not relevant as they made it out to be – but that’s like most subjects. You don’t have to agree with everything you’re taught, you make arguments against someone’s thesis, etc.

      You brought up the discuss of what constitutes rape. This is a very, very, heavy subject. It is not a simple as saying that when women have sex with their (male) partner when she is not in the mood that it is rape. It is also not as simple as saying that any time a woman has sex with her man despite not being in the mood that is it not rape either. Rape is about control and systems of power and dominance. Just because a woman isn’t physically forced to have sex, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she can’t feel forced to have sex in other ways. It’s similar – not the same, but similar – to the concept behind statutory rape; if a person is not in a position of true autonomy or power, can that person fully consent to sex?

      For example, say a woman emigrates to Canada to wed and live with a man. She doesn’t have any family, doesn’t know the language, doesn’t hold a paying job, etc. She is reliant on her new husband for her means. Do you think she would deny her husband sex if she wasn’t in the mood? Or do you think she would do it because she feels like she has to? If her husband is not physically forcing her, is he not still exercising his position of control in order to get what he wants? Can that not be considered rape? I’m not saying it is, I’m just trying to demonstrate that the issue is not as clear cut as it seems.

      As for the equal pay thing, when it comes to physical labour, I think of it like the Biggest Loser. On the show, contestants are judged on the percentage of weight they lose, not pounds – because obviously men would win every time. If two female fire fighters carrying one body is considered physically equivalent to a male fire fighter carrying one body, then the pay should indeed be the same because their physical exertion is the same. If two people are giving all they can to their job, why wouldn’t they be paid the same? Or are you suggesting that everyone should get paid on commission?

      Hope this makes sense.

  • marriagecoach1

    Only a woman could counceive of two women doing one man’s job and justifying equal pay. As a former employer, I would not consider this equal work, I have to pay two women to do one man’s job. Eqaul pay for equal work means equal work. Equal rights means that men and women can compete for the same job but the job goes to the one with the best qualifications. If the qualifications for the job is to carry an unconcious man down the stairs to save his life, that is what it means. Using your analogy, why not 3 very petite woman dragging the same body down.

    I find it interesting that you did not comment on the women going into men’s locker rooms. You also did not comment on the raging misandry and the sexist commercials.

    Bottom line is that many men feel that women in general and feminists in particular make out like women are superior and men are innately inferior. Witness the column by Maureen Dowd claiming that the only reason for men in society to day is to be sperm donors.

    Feminsts would do well to agree to a set of standards rather than forcing people to find out which particular brand of feminism she subscibes to. For example Republicans are all pretty much in snyc on a set of standards that they expect to live by and govern by. The differences between republicans tends to be rather small.

    Lastly most fire departments have a set number of fireman slots and budgets for the same. Now we have to add additional spots for women because they lack the upper body strength to do the job. We as a society are forced to pay higher taxes for this inequity. The basic test reuqiremenst used to be carrying an unconcious man down a flight of stairs. This most defiitely not equality but dominance on the part of feminists. I am rather sensitive about this because my brother in law was a fireman who died on the job in the line of duty.

    John Wilder

    • tomboyinhighheels

      I didn’t comment on the locker room thing, or the commercial thing, because I agree with you. I did mention that I was only going to comment on things I don’t quite agree with.

      You obviously are sensitive about firefighting thing, so I’m not going to comment further on that. I said my piece already: I don’t agree that because a woman can’t lift the same amount of weight a man can that she should be paid less. It’s fine if you don’t agree.

      And again, not all feminists consider men as just “sperm donors”. We are all not Maureen Dowd.

      Can’t help you any further, man.

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