Adam Ash

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Fems Rule: how a Chinese Canadian went from anti-feminist to feminist

From here via Bitch Ph.D:
Have you hugged a feminist today?

I'll admit it -- it took me a long time to come to grips with identifying myself as a feminist. In fact, I used to call myself an "anti-feminist". I coined the phrase to describe the disconnect between my feelings towards gender and my understanding of "feminism".

I was one of those many who bought into the bad PR of feminists, who believed all feminists were the shorn-haired, bra-burning, unhygenic women who advocated a rejection of the phallus in favour of lesbianism and sperm cryo-freezing to propagate the species. I believed that to be a feminist was to be White, fervently pro-woman, anti-man, angry, unapproachable, overly-academic, and insular. There was no way that I, a woman, who considered herself "normal" (i.e. not one to shun traditional female identities) in almost every way, who chose Disney over Dworkin, who appreciated a little dose of chivalry once in awhile, who, well (and not to be crass) loves some good dick every now and again, could be a feminist!

I knew sexism was real; I wasn't blind to the inconsistencies, the inadequacies, the injustices and the hypocrisies of the female experience. Yet, I felt feminists were extremists -- crazy women who wanted as little to do with someone like me as I felt I had in common with the perceived "them".

It wasn't really until I started blogging that my eyes were opened to the diversity of feminism as it exists today. Though separatist extremist feminists existed during my childhood and continue to exist today, it was really not until I started reading cornerstone feminist blogs (notable early regular readings included Rox Populi, Shrub.com, Sour Duck Pandagon and Alas, A Blog) that I came to understand that feminism was not about male hatred but this great thing I had believed in all my life: gender equality.

Male feminists? Feminist gamers? Feminists who wear makeup? Feminists of colour? It sounds crazy, but I honestly didn't think it was possible. The word, feminism, itself, seems to hide that true meaning, sounding more like "female supremacist" to my pre-encounter ears than "gender activist". My stereotype of the feminist was so monochromatic, so monotonal and one-dimensional that I wasn't aware of even the possibility of a complexity in the term.

It's a testament to the power of the patriarchal media that this false, narrow-scoped depiction of feminists could be so pervasive. The idea of the strong, self-determined female was so threatening to male dominance that the surest method of control was to deny young women the understanding that this movement was meant for them. I'm sorry to say I bought into it.

As with all things, it takes time and exposure to cause someone to re-evaluate their perspective. Although I wish I had some amazing "pre-encounter/post-encounter" trauma to relate that set me fastly and firmly on the path of becoming a self-identified feminist, but I actually arrived at this identity as unassumingly as I had strayed from it. My feminism was, it turned out, perfectly normal, nothing to be ashamed of and obvious, even. There was no bra-burning inherent to the cause, no violence to the phallus I could perceive, no misplaced, unjustified, anti-intellectual anger and bitterness, just a widespread grouping of like-minded men and women who believe, as do I, that the genders are, have been, should be, and should be treated as equal. Though I still struggle to find a way to fit my appreciation for romance and male chivalry into my feminism, I still worry about my Yellowness in the predominantly White feminist climate, it has become easier to see that feminism is not a box that anyone can fit perfectly into. Rather, feminists are mere people, as different and similar as any other community united by mindset rather than background.

Nonetheless, just as I re-defined feminism as an ideal for myself, I now believe that feminism, as a movement, still needs to re-define itself. Though the world of blogging has been quick to underscore the "normalcy" of feminism, the world outside the blogosphere has been slow to embrace this. The everyday layman still believes feminism to be a dirty word, and far too many of my friends found it unbelievable that I, far from butch, could be "feminist". And still, there are those within the feminist movement who believe that true feminism cannot exist outside of identities not unlike the "feminazi" stereotype. These feminists do the movement a disservice -- after all, it is only by encouraging women dissuaded by the "abnormal" reputation of feminists to realize their own feminism that gender equal ideals will begin to take real root in our society. And we, as feminists of all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds should take it upon ourselves to spread the understanding that you don't have to be anyone but yourself to be a feminist: it is not some exclusive club or secret cult, but a simple stand that anyone, regardless of lifestyle or personal choices, CEO or housewife, can take and embody. It is not until every mother, daughter, and sister realizes their own strong femininity is, itself, a form of feminism that we can realize a more universal and accepted position for feminism in America.

So, yes, I am a feminist. I am a vocal, activist-y, liberated, free-thinking, insecure, movie-going, comic-book-reading, video-game playing, dietin' and exercisin', studious, educated, ignorant, opinionated, long-haired, make-up-wearing, bra-toting, skirt-donning, leg-shavin', dick-lovin' feminist of colour. And there ain't nothin' wrong with that.

Thus, I would challenge you, dear reader, to walk up to the next person you see and ask them whether or not they believe that men and women deserve equal pay and equal treatment under the law, whether women deserve rape and sexual degradation, whether men deserve to die in wars in place of women, and whether both parents deserve leave when a child is born. Ask them whether they believe women are just as capable, as honest, as loving, as strong, as opinionated, as controlling, as independent, as beautiful and as worthy of respect as men. Then hug them and tell them that you have just hugged a feminist today.

I'm sure they'll be surprised.

4 Comments:

At 12/11/2006 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful essay and I must say I wholeheartedly agree! I wish more people would look at feminism as a gender equality battle rather than woman superiority complex. Thanks for posting!

~R

 
At 3/30/2007 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goddamnit wemon...shut the up! you get trated equaly. you get the same jobs as me. your even more respected than men because without you we'd be nothing! iv never seen a man do anything that you whine about and were im from wemon get paid the exact goddamn same. hell wemon are even more respected here in the south. now i know what youv heard about things in the south and 99.9% of those things are completly untrue. so please for the love of god... SHUT UP!! it irritates me and everyone i know. men and wemon...or boys and girls since im only 14 years old. and dont think just because of my age that i dont know what im talking about. im not your average teen. 139 iq and about to go to lsmsa im very well educated and thought about it before i sent this... please for the love of god be quiet cause im tired of hearing about how you get mistreated because is total b/s!

 
At 4/05/2007 7:19 AM, Anonymous Tee said...

Anon, you are a stupid little boy. The fact that you feel entitled to come here and tell a woman what's what and to "SHUT UP" and "be quiet" just proves the need for feminists to speak up loud.

 
At 5/02/2007 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do agree feminists should speak up loud. What brings me a grief is a contrast in women and men attitudes on that how women (with an essential aid from many men) came up with the invention of this ideology called 'Feminism' to actively follow their interests as a 'social class' defined based on their common interests while men, dispersed and un-united are still busy with their traditional inter-men class conflicts (such as nationalism, religion and economical conflicts) and with their traditional upbringing that manipulates them into thinking they are responsible to support and protect women hence feeding feminism to its extremes. Feminism as a social movement has enjoyed a big deal of man-bashing by inventing fake historical notes about how the traditional social institution, the so called 'Patriarchy', favored men over women, about how men enjoyed their life in such societies and, on completely ignoring men in their political agenda (while many stupid men are helping them on this: ignoring their own interests in favor of the women's interests!)

Feminism also proves another bitter fact that women are no better than men: again what men were traditionally wrongfully doing to other men now is done by women against men! It is another evidence that there is no hope for humanity: men and women are equally bad!

If you think I do hope that someday with the eventually inevitable decline in the current popularity of Feminism or, with an upcoming of a 'masculinist' movement things will get better, you are awfully wrong. Selfishness is a biological property of humans (like other animals). This fact includes both men and women! Things will get different but certainly not better!

 

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