Author Archives: tomboyinhighheels

About tomboyinhighheels

I am a perpetually perplexed 28 year old woman living in Toronto. This is my blog.

I am a Feminist, Part II

Why am I a Feminist?

I am black. I grew up with two tenets: don’t let anyone treat you differently or as less than because you are not white, and do not act white.

The first one: okay, I get it – every race is beautiful, don’t judge someone based on their skin colour, we’re more similar than we are different, nobody is better than the other, racism isn’t cool, etc. I agree, except it seemed when it came to me being a girl, the same rules didn’t apply. Not so much as a kid, but as I moved into puberty, the rules changed. It did matter how light my skin was, how straight my hair was. I didn’t have the same privileges and freedoms my brothers did. I was getting mixed messages; one moment it’s “You can be anything you want to be” and the next it was “You can’t be outside at night”. Sex ed, despite being liberal, still talked about “male urges” while ignoring female urges; not only did it fail to talk about female masturbation, it kept positing sex as being the same as intercourse/procreation – which is not only heterosexist, but positions women who actively want to engage in sexual activity (outside of procreative purposes) as being deviant. While racism still exists, it seems as though people in general recognize and understand it and know it’s wrong; With sexism, people will still cite biological and traditional justification of it.

I grew up knowing black people who believed that being black meant not getting an education, having kids young, and talking like they just got off a plane from Jamaica or Atlanta. They believed this. They believed that black people who went to school, got good grades, and spoke Canadian english were trying to be white. They believed this.  YOU’RE BLACK! How can you believe this nonsense? But as I got older I realized that a lot of women believe in similarly limiting attitudes: believing that their worth as a person diminishes if they engage in sex too often, or dress in a way that suggests they like sex – or even if they just like sex! Or changing their choice of post-secondary study because “what if I get married and want kids? I couldn’t possibly be a doctor.” One time at work I was replacing the jug for the water cooler and a female coworker noticed and said, “Oh! What are you doing? You can’t do that! You’re a woman!” – which puzzled me because I clearly just did, which I pointed out, and she just kept chiding me, saying “but you’re a woman! You shouldn’t be doing that”. YOU’RE A WOMAN, TOO! You honestly believe this s#*% about what you can and cannot do?

Another reason why being black influences me so much is because of my ancestry. I mean, if my ancestors could endure the tolls of slavery, I think I can replace a water jug.

Black women have added a lot to feminist thought and it inspires me. I love this piece by Sojourner Truth. Her speech helps to understand the social constructs of gender and just how malleable these understandings are. Women are strong, a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for, and we should draw on that strength more often. There is nothing weak about being a woman. If a man needs me to lean on him to make him feel like a man, than he ain’t my man. The black women before me didn’t fight just for me to be complacent and accept the status quo.  I’d rather live alone than serve a man and his ego; black women spent too many years being forced to do so. I love and respect myself, and my ancestors, too much to do that. And I wish more women loved and respected themselves more to want that for themselves.

In Part III, I will continue writing from a personal standpoint in describing another reason why I am a Feminist: my little brother.


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.


Do Men Keep Lists?

I was blog surfing and came across this post, essentially about composing a list of qualities you’d want in a potential mate. The author was a women. A poster, presumably male, wondered why women even have these “lists”.

Do men not have standards? Is it really as simple, for men, as “she doesn’t smell, she looks good, and she knows how to cook”? I have a hard time believing that.

I composed a related post a little while back. My list isn’t a long one, but it definitely illustrates that I have more standards. Would I like a guy who doesn’t smell, looks good and knows how to cook? Sure. But to spend quality time with someone, potentially for the rest of my life, it’s going to take more than that.

I wonder if that’s why so many people have affairs. I mean, if they had really taken the time to set some more personal standards, maybe they wouldn’t be as interested to look elsewhere. I hope that doesn’t make it seem as though I think the people they cheat on are losers; They are probably great people, just not right for the person who cheated.

What’s your list? Do you even have one?


I Ran Into Him…

…during my lunch break today. The guy I dated the longest (6 dates total). He spotted me walking back to my office and cycled over to me.

What an awkward conversation. Why did he stop to say hi?

Why did he drop by my office a couple of weeks after he dumped me to return my book, hand me one he recommended, and then proceed to ignore my 2 Facebook messages?

Why did he say he wanted to be friends after he dumped me – even invited me to a party – and then drop off the face of the earth?

Why did he have sex with me, only to dump me days later and apologize because he normally isn’t into “casual sex”?

Why is he talking to me?!

He went away after a few one-word cold responses on my part. I wish he had left sooner.

Sometimes nice guys aren’t so nice.


I Don’t Wear Swimsuits

The photomodel has given her rights on her own...

Image via Wikipedia

Is this odd?

I was recently having lunch with some women, and the subject of swimming came up. To my surprise, they were all quite enthusiastic about the activity. They loved the exercise (okay). They loved the peace and calm the water brings to them (sure).

They liked their swimsuits. Wha?

One wore bikinis regularly to her local public swimming pool to hang out with friends.

Minutes into the conversation, they realized that I was quiet. They turned me. I said that I don’t like swimsuits, so I don’t have much of an affinity to the art of swimming. “Not even a 1-piece?”, they asked. My response? “Hell no”.

When my roommate first moved in, she had a friend over. I was cooking in the kitchen, and they joined me in there for some conversation. My roommate started talking about her time in Brazil, and how she had to buy a skimpy string bikini while she was there because the locals were laughing at the regular bikini she wore on the beach.

She went into her room and handed us the two bikinis she was referring two. They really didn’t look much different to me. Then her and her friend started laughing because it wasn’t like she was pathetic enough to wear one of those 1-pieces. I gave a chuckle, turned my back, and concentrated on stirring my overdone pasta.

You couldn’t pay me enough to wear a bikini. And I’d only wear a 1-piece if I was assured that there weren’t going to be a lot of people around – preferably people I don’t know. I might as well be walking around in my underwear, and the only person I’d want to see me in my underwear is the person I’m intimate with – not the world.

If you are a woman, do you like wearing swimsuits?