Sunday, June 22, 2008

The periodic "My Feminism" post.

(yes, I used the word 'periodic.' deal.)

The neverending discussions go on. I had drinks last night with a friend who wondered what feminism was doing for her, a black woman.

As it always upsets me to see people who are otherwise feminist turned away from feminism, I had to think about this yet again.

My feminism was there long before I used the term. I wrote zines, protested at frat parties and refused to give blowjobs to high school boyfriends just because they wanted them.

My feminism was always somewhat caught up with sexual behavior. Up until I was in college I never felt like I was denied anything because I was female. The smartest people in my classes were always girls. I never felt bad speaking up and telling guys they were wrong. But the double standard in sexual relationships pissed me off.

So even now, it may be a somewhat bourgeois thing to fixate on, but I think about feminism and sexuality a lot. It's a prime interest for me. I've never liked the rules of relationships, so I've always been trying to renegotiate them for myself.

My feminism wants equal rights, not special protections. I wrote an angry Op-Ed in college in response to a girl who wrote a column about being a "lady." I ain't no lady, I said, but that doesn't mean I don't deserve human respect. I believe of course that there are certain things that affect women more strongly than men--the threat of rape, even though men are definitely raped too (and don't get me started on the normalization of prison rape), is something that women live with, the aforementioned sexual double standards, pregnancy. But I am not your victim and I don't need to be protected.

Nor do I believe that women are somehow better fundamentally than men, that putting women into the positions of power that are fucked to begin with is going to make them all better because those women are kinder and gentler.

My feminism is critical of power relations based on a linear hierarchy. (This translates into me feeling guilty being 'the boss' at work). Some of this comes from a general punk-rock tendency to say fuck authority, but it's since gotten much more theoretical. This means that while I am a (white) woman and therefore most sensitive to issues that affect me as a woman, I consider it my job to critique all power structures. This is because I am a feminist.

This means that racism, classism, ageism, homophobia (which seems the wrong word for what I mean in this case, which is the institutional second-class status of non-heterosexual people) are all things that it is my responsibility to notice, critique, and fight because I am a feminist.

What I did and do for a living is write about pop culture (and politics, but not nearly as much). Rock 'n' roll is important to me, films are important to me, comics are important to me. Literature and art, of course, but sometimes I like and write about things that are just plain fun and not contributing on some level to the Revolution. I like pretty things. My pleasures are important to me.

I don't feel the need to apologize for wearing heels, dresses, makeup, and shaving my legs. Part of my feminism includes revaluing things seen as feminine as well as trying to separate the gendered identity given to essentially non-gendered qualities (the age-old "he's got balls" comment? Yeah, got nothing to do with balls).

For instance, housework, nursing, teaching, anything nurturing, and compromise are all seen as feminine and therefore devalued. Listen to the critiques of Barack Obama as "feminine" and you know what I mean. These characteristics are obviously not gender-related (listen to Obama and Clinton's campaign rhetoric again). Obama's 'feminine' characteristics were some of the things that drew me to him, but for many people they are negatives. That's a feminist issue.

But the perception of pretty being incompatible with smart, the idea that sexual means stupid, the thought that wearing makeup means you haven't sufficiently examined, well, that's a feminist issue too.

I believe that as feminists we should realize that these gendered traits are in large part socialized or even consciously chosen, and that's not a bad thing. Being a feminist doesn't mean no gender performance, it just means recognizing that these things are optional and that they're not linked to any biological sex traits. Which is why I think that feminists who are transphobic just don't get it.

Pop Feminist says it well: "Where gender is a celebration of possibility."

I can't deal with every issue out there that I should write about. This is my space here to do what I want, and so sometimes I miss issues that might be important. Sometimes I'm writing about Madonna. But that sure as hell doesn't mean my feminism is somehow harmed by intersectionality. Or even by making choices that aren't necessarily the purest of the pure feminist choices. I bring a feminist lens to everything I look at, and that's the point, really.

(Cross-posted at Season of the Bitch with additional pictures.)