Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Feminism

Well, I'm at a loss for something to write today. Hopefully the well has not run dry already. Anyway, I got an email today from The Feminist Majority with this little "What Does a Feminist Look Like? " video.

Kids today, said the old crone in me, don't realize how far the world has come. I probably didn't realize how far it had come even in the 60s when I was working. I do know that there are opportunities out there now that I didn't have. I know that salaries may not be completely equal, but they are more equal. What is best and most important, though, is that young women are growing up with more of a sense of themselves. I doubt any patronizing moron would pet either of my nieces on the head as was done to me on more than one occasion in my working years. I know they each have a level of self assurance that I'm still striving to arrive at. That makes me very happy. I doubt men of their generation think it's "cute" when their intelligence shows. (Can you tell I'm still pissed off about my experiences? Oh, the stories I could tell... )

Of course, to be fair, my problems with self assurance weren't just because the world I grew up in completely objectified women. I grew up with crazy damaged people who damaged me, not out of malice, but because they didn't know any better. Such is life. I'm working on it. But back to the topic at hand.

Even though our society has come a long way in it's relationship to women, I think we still have a long way to go. Strong, successful women in the public eye - women like Oprah, Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton among many - are helping to reshape how we view women, but evidence of the double standard is still very clear. Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, there is no question that she is reported on differently because she is a woman. Her laughter is assessed, her dress, her sense of humor. There are rumors about her relationship with her husband, her sexuality and her femininity. How many questions have you heard asked about whether male politicians love their wives - or sleep with them, about whether they are butch enough? How many news reports are there on whether John McCain's laugh meets some standard of worthiness? If a male politician sheds a tear, we ascribe humanity to him, if Hillary cries, we call her either weak or a fake.

We still judge men and women by very different standards. Men are allowed to lose their tempers without much being ascribed to it. A woman loses her temper and she's unstable, a bitch or "it must be that time of the month." Give me a break. I think things have improved, but I think we still have a ways to go. Certainly the world as a whole has a long ways to go. Women are still being burned alive in India and imprisoned in Arab countries for crimes like talking to a man. Women are being raped regularly in the Sudan and Darfur and all over the world. Young girls (and young men too) are being molested and incested and we still have very little clue about how to handle it or the depth of damage such actions cause to their victims.

Lots has changed. But lots still needs to be improved. I could be mistaken in this, but I think there is still a tendency for doctors to dismiss women's assessments of their bodies. I was "yes dear-ed" by more than one doctor and I paid a heavy price for it. So have many other women over the years. One of the blessings to arise out of feminism is that young women are more prepared and more apt to stand up for themselves at the doctor's office as well as in other areas of life.

To be a feminist isn't to be anti-male. To be feminist is to be pro human, to recognize that women are more than just pretty play things for men, more than "just" mothers and housekeepers. The idea of feminism isn't to diminish the gifts of men, but to acknowledge the many gifts that women also have to offer. As many men have discovered, when they open up doors for women, they open up doors for themselves too.

The biggest lesson we will learn when we truly embrace feminism (and when we move beyond racism and other forms of bias and hatred) is that improving the lot of any person or group of people in society, improves the lot of all of us. It's a win win solution. Or that's what I think.


jaycoles@gmail.com said...

Raven, You are so wise. Thank you for your thoughts. j

WH said...

We have come a long way, but still have a long ways to go yet. We humans are slow to learn and as you indicate, all too often we're hypocritical too.

Jeni said...

Excellent, concise, thoughtful and also, very correct!

Unknown said...

Loved it! You're so right!

Raven said...

jay simser - wish I felt wise. Thanks.

billy - we have come a long way, I think, probably further than the current nightmare around us indicates. I feel like I live in a parallel universe and that what I see on TV (which I watch way to much of) reflects a make believe truth being put out there to control and mislead. And now I sound paranoid, but I feel paranoid... and dreadfully angry... one reason I'm trying to avoid politics at the moment. Ach... I itch to rant.

jeni - thanks... I felt like there was much more to say but...

hi kim... thanks.

Linda Murphy said...

Excellent post! My father's family and country verged on being appalled by me as women are still just babymakers, chefs and housewives. They actually told me it was "so nice that my husband gave me permission to visit without him." ??

Another time my father insisted on holding my hand while we walked in town and crossed the streets. I was 30 years old and objected vehemently to having to hold his hand. So he made my male cousins try and that was just icky and I refused that too. We had it out and my cousins were astounded that I would object to this. And I am not even a confrontational person.

Finally my father told me he would only pay for college if I was a secretary. That way (his words, not mine) I could work all day and maybe get a waitress job at night. ??? Right. My mom and I paid for college myself and I still laugh about that one. (no offense to secretaries there-it's honorable, but not what I wanted to do)

Wow-a ramble for me! Sorry! Anyway obviously, I identify with your post.

Raven said...

Linda - wow... Amazing that there are areas of the world/cultures where not much has changed. My mother wanted me to be a teacher or to get a job in a big office so I could meet a nice young man. Of course she hated every nice young man I met, but that's another story. Teacher or secretary or wife were about the only options when I was growing up. Seems like a zillion years ago - fortunately the world has come a long, long way since those days in the dim past.