What It Was

March 8 is International Women’s Day.

When I was growing up, I took feminism for granted. Of course I was a feminist. Why wouldn’t I be? I don’t remember ever even consciously thinking about it. It just was.

Of course, I did go to UVic. At UVic, you could be a feminist liberal environmentalist and still only be slightly to the left of center. Perhaps this is why I never felt particularly radical. But that was later. Before that I grew up in a series of very small towns, surrounded by very average people. I didn’t know any “intellectuals.” For a good part of the time we only had access to two channels of TV. And of course, there was no internet. There were books, of course, and I read a lot. But it was mostly mysteries and horror and those 800-page historical romances, not Gloria Steinem.

And I still felt that way.

But now it seems that feminism has become a bad word. The same way liberal has.

What the fuck is up with that?

In one of my tutorials this week, we somehow got into a discussion of feminism. One student said that perhaps the current backlash has to do with the natural tendency for kids to rebel against whatever their parents did. Maybe. Another said that her problem is that she doesn’t really know what feminism is. And that turned into a discussion of Women’s Studies and why it’s called women’s studies. Someone said, “Yeah, why no men’s studies?” and a bunch of them jumped into say that it’s because everything else is men’s studies (so all is not lost). A number of them (male & female) said they were interested in taking a Women’s Studies course, but felt intimidated. Some said that Gender Studies would be a better name (I agree with this, but mainly because “gender studies” reflects a continuum rather than a polarity, not simply because it would be more inviting). A few said they had been warned not to take WS courses by friends/siblings who had taken one. But the one student who had actually taken a WS course declared that it was to his (yes, his) surprise “normal.”

Yay. And whew. I guess all has not gone to hell in a handbasket. Yet.

So for my student who wasn’t sure about it, and for anyone else who has ever said “I’m not a feminist, but [insert right you believe women should have here]”, here’s the definition of feminism:

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

You believe that women have equal rights? Then you are a feminist. No buts. You are.

It makes me sad that so many people seem to think feminism is something scary or shameful when it should be just what it is. (I mean, seriously. You don’t believe in equality? You’re not just an anti-feminist, you’re an ass.)

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3 thoughts on “What It Was

  1. Eden

    In the interview in each issue of BUST, the subject is always asked if s/he is a feminist. A while back I was actually enjoying an interview w/ Gwen Stefani until I got to that question. She was non-committal and said she didn’t understand what “feminist” means. In one discussion in the BUST lounge, I read this comment:

    “[Dolly Parton] the kind of feminist who did the real down and dirty feminist work so that assholes like PJ Harvey and Gwen Stefani can blithely say they aren’t feminists, while reaping all the benefits provided by women like Dolly’s efforts. They’re standing on the shoulders of giants just like Dolly, those two, and they seem to mistake that perch for a toilet.”

    I am a feminist. Hawk is a feminist (and uses the word freely). I think the word and what it means has been perverted. This is a good topic for a very lengthy blog entry 😉

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