I get intensely annoyed when people assume that feminism is just a political movement, or something only for social justice activists. On top of all of the other negative stereotypes of feminists (“man-hater,” “a bunch of dykes,” the list goes on). Feminism is not about hating men; it is about the simple belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. That’s it. If you support that, then guess what? You’re a feminist.
I wasn’t always a feminist. I was shrouded in my ignorance of the inequalities and injustices and wasn’t sure “what the big deal was about.” Ignorance is sweet because we don’t have to attend to the immense pain many people hold in society. We can pretend everything is good and perfect and float away in bliss. But ignorance is also very damaging, because it is through our ignorance we unknowingly hurt and oppress others. When we invalidate someone’s pain or experiences, we invalidate their humanity.
My eyes opened when I was 24. I was sexually assaulted, and in my attempts to make sense of what happened to me, my close friend pointed the direction toward truth. “This is the reality of many, many women. But it’s not your fault.” I cannot emphasize enough how much I needed to hear that. Because I, just like many women, began to blame myself for what happened, that I should’ve been more careful, that I should’ve known better, as if I could be a fucking seer and see into the future. But after my conversations with my friend, I realized that I was beating myself up in that way because I had come to internalize all of the negative and oppressive beliefs we spout in society. Blaming women in every single way that we can think of for the violence that was pushed onto them. What was she wearing? How was she acting? Was she drinking? It’s as if I punched you in the face, and I and everyone around you blamed you for not ducking, or for not knowing better. It’s your fault for wearing that stupid t-shirt that made me angry, that’s why I punched you. Illogical, yes?
Yet people often fall to illogical arguments and beliefs in an attempt to resist change and resolve their cognitive dissonance.
People will also fight like hell to avoid taking responsibility and owning their shit. I see this all the time as a therapist. Thing is, we all have shit. There’s nothing wrong with having shit. But I would argue that it becomes “wrong” when you stop owning it and start pushing it on everyone else. I could go on about defense mechanisms and the psychoanalytic aspect of this, but that’s for a different post. My point in this post is, feminism is more than “a bunch of angry women.” Rather, it’s the acknowledgment of the deep pain in our society resulting from the denial of not only equal rights and opportunities, but of one’s humanity. Not only with gender, but with race, sexual orientation, and religion.
Even still, people have every right to feel angry. Because our current reality is, we live in fear every day. We have to be alert, yet we are criticized for it and told we’re over-reacting. But when we do experience violence, “well you should’ve been more careful.” Reality is, we live in constant Catch-22s. We are constantly treated by people, whether consciously or subconsciously, as less than and without respect. Our less pay for the same work is only a manifestation of this. You would have to be a robot to not be angry. To feel. You have every right to feel.
If you can’t see the issues here, or you never experienced them… well, your view is immaterial. Because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not true. No one needs your narcissistic perspective on this. This is reality for millions of people. Just because you never had to experience injustice does not mean injustice doesn’t exist. Not everyone is like you, or lives with the privileges you have. There’s a lot of shit in this world that people have to carry, and you’ve been fortunate to not have some of it. But don’t you fucking dare come in and say all the weight breaking my back doesn’t exist. At that point, I will respectfully tell you to fuck off.
On a personal level, my being a feminist is my physically, emotionally and spiritually owning my humanity. It’s my act in taking back the individuality that society has, and continues to, steal away from me. This is my striving toward empowerment. There’s more to me than my body or pretty skin and face. I have a spirit. I have a soul. I am human. No matter how much others may try to deny that, this is fact. This is truth.
I am human. And I have every right to feel, to be, to love, to exist. Feminism isn’t just a movement. It’s our empowerment, our dream, our reality, our lives.