Saturday, June 22

The Gosh-Darned Feminists

"Consider that any word that(is)feared and derided has incredible power. And how beautiful and strong that makes it."

So here I am, laying it out there. I am a feminist. And that's not a thing to be scared of. I'm not out there, roaming the night, hating the menfolk, imagining a world that is run by women. No. I am out there (hardly ever roaming the night because let's face it, I'm in my pyjamas by 8pm), hating the chauvinistic attitudes of many menfolk and the institutions they've created, imagining a world where men and women co-exist and share equal levels of independence, power and autonomy. A fine line, maybe, but there is a line.

"Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women...
Today the Oxford English Dictionary defines a feminist as "an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women".[8]"

I get a bit tired when gals like you and me shy away from the word 'feminism'... a lot of people believe, mistakenly, that feminism is about getting rid of all men, and making women in charge of everything... about women being more important than men. That's not the case. Feminism seeks to right the wrongs, to redress the imbalance of power that has been in place in most patriarchal cultures since the beginning of history. Do you think we women should have as much rights as men? Yes? You're a feminist. Do you think that women should be treated with as much respect as men? Yes? You're a feminist. Do you think that a woman should be paid as much as a man? That women are as valuable as men? Yes? Well congratulations, you're a feminist. It's not hard.

And yes, men can and should be feminists.

And I'm a Christian.  We were created equal, men and women, in God's own image. Therefore, God has both male and female aspects. God cannot be described in solely male terminology if He created women... Women who reflect HIS IMAGE. And I absolutely believe that the gospel is pro-woman; the gospel is about cutting down the barriers, about the good news that is for ALL PEOPLES, regardless of race, gender, employment status etc... (here's a super duper photography project on equality, and how, deep down, we are all the same)
I don't have a lot, personally, to say on this topic right this second, because the inspired-side-of-my-brain is notably absent... so typical! But I am constantly composing feminist tirades in my much-beleaguered head as I go about my daily business, and I'm sure one day soon, the stars and the moon shall align just so and I will actually be able to write something right then, in the moment of inspiration! It'll be amazing!
But in the meantime, because I'm so desperate just to start this conversation, here is a wee round-up of some of my favourite links on feminism and sexuality, feminism and weight(sigh), feminism and beauty and... how having a period is actually pretty hardcore.

Body Politic:
Lena Dunham, the talented, funny and smart writer of HBO's Girls, is unswerving in her commitment to appearing nude - in all her normality - in the show, and there's always a bit of a fuss in the media about it, because, well, she's NORMAL....
Carolee Schneemann: “Men can use beautiful, sexy women as neutral objects or surfaces, but when women use their own faces and bodies, they are immediately accused of narcissism."

As women, weight loss, or general thinness, is often the only way we can make up for our perceived flaws: The thinness was supposed to make up for my other beauty failures. I felt that I always understood Sarah Jessica Parker's extreme thinness because of this. Her face was a target for disdain, dismissal, mean humor, even loathing. It wasn't the face of a model or a TV star, even though she was a TV star. So, of course she was intensely thin. It made sense to me. I wanted to be thinner to distract people from the rest of me.” Kate Fridkis, in Thinness as a Disguise....
Really, it's winning, on some strange, highly-present level. Winning, somehow, at being a girl... the unspoken rules for girls strictly demand body compliance. 
Where being thin is women's law, and that law is wringing girls out, pressing them into exhausted quiet.”

In this Salon article on how actresses complain about having to gain weight, Mary Elizabeth Williams asks "Does the world really need another slender actress moping about she had to put on — and I’m quoting directly here– “all this weight”? Especially when her supposedly beefed-up version is still so damn slim?" Williams goes on... There’s something about moving up or down the scale, in and out of a pair of jeans, that brings about an intense identity shift. 
But there’s something even odder about the media and audience
obsession with weight gain and loss.
It’s the congratulatory magazine covers when a celebrity mom gets back in her “bikini body,” the way that US gushes that “Fortunately for [Jessica] Chastain, she was able to get back to her trim figure quickly,” as if being slightly curvier was such a freaking hardship, that are the really tortuous, disgusting things here. Gaining weight for a role may be a job. That doesn’t make it an ordeal. And dropping it shouldn’t automatically be a cause for celebration.”

Gender Marketing and Children:
Tom Burns talks here about how he bought 'boys underwear' for his daughter, and why:
"And I had to stand and tell her that no, no, they didn’t make girl versions of these brands of character underwear and I didn’t really have a good explanation why....
In her mind, "Star Wars," Pixar, and superheroes aren’t just for boys, so wearing them on her underwear doesn’t feel odd at all. But, thanks to stupid gender marketing,
there are whole generations of girls being told that these creative properties that they love are not for them. 
And, again, that’s sad and strange and seems to be leaving a whole lot of money on the table for the underwear manufacturers.”

Last year Gwyneth Paltrow, of Shakespeare In Love and (dubious) GOOP fame, released a line of bikinis for little girls.... Now I'm not against fun swimwear for kids, and have on occasion bought two-piece 'togs' for my daughter... as in, singlet and pants combos, or tankinis... but there's something inherently repellent about little triangle bikinis that try to emulate and suggest something sexual...
"A representative of a child safety charity Kidscape reportedly told the Daily Mail, "We remain very opposed to the sexualisation of children and of childhood. The dangers have been discussed at length, so it is a great pity that such trends continue and that they carry celebrity endorsement."

The 'Perfect-Face' Pressure(or Make-up as a tool of the Oppressors):
If you have been reading my blog for years, you will know - oh wait first THANK YOU - that I have an issue with my skin. As in, I have skin. And it is yuck. I have adult-acne... in fact it looks like I have meth scabs. My skin has been a major issue since I was young, and will probably continue to be so for years and years to come... So I have been a big fan of make-up, and have definitely been through phases of not-leaving-the-house-without-it... but it's a love/hate relationship, because of course it is my own issue of self-esteem and self-loathing... and a societal issue of expectations put upon women(by women as well as by men) of needing to look lovely. I could devote a whole post on this topic(as well as the others) but it basically boils down to strategic marketing by giant pharmaceutical and beauty conglomerates. Obviously. :) But in the meantime:
- Why this mother has said goodbye to make-up... for her daughter:
" I have to ask myself what is more important: that my daughter sees me as physically beautiful, or that she sees me as confident and comfortable in my own skin?- Destany Fenton
- How come in the Dove Bear-faced campaign last year where a number of celebrities posed with no make-up, all the women had perfect skin? That doesn't make me feel like I can 'bear' faced at all....
Porn Stars before-and-after Make-Up: Ok, I don't want to put as much make-up on as these women, nor do I want to be a porn star... but I am amazed at how
a) TRANSFORMATIVE their make-up is and b) how underneath their amazingly made-up faces they look really ordinary... 
And I don't know if this a) inspires me to try and up my skills in the make-up department, or b) feel happy in my skin knowing that everyone is equal.... (see my previous link on being created equal) Hopefully the latter, because it would save a lot of time and effort if I could give up my make-up habits!

And finally, to wrap things up, here's
A Lighter Side To Feminism:
-Why do women have to pose the way they pose in photographs?? Here's what it would look like if men also felt the pressure to pose sexily...
-Why do men joke about periods as a really wussy, pathetic excuse or symbol of weakness? Here's why periods are actually not for the 'weaker sex'(warning: naughty language and some pictures of horror movies involved) You're welcome.

UPDATE: I got through that entire piece and didn't mention vaginas once. Except just then.
Here's a cat puppet telling us that we should not be ashamed of the word 'vagina'(oops, that was twice)
I promise, there are no dirty pictures, and no dirty words...

I'd be really interested to see if this generates some conversation... Who among my readers would call themselves feminists, and who wouldn't... and why?


Cat said...

I used to tell people that the feminists burnt their bras in vain when it came to me .. .. .. because I am proud to be a SAHM and cook and sew and be a homemaker .. .. .. but then a friend reminded me that my views my ideals are feminist and strong in that I believe that woman shouldn't be undervalued as homemakers and being a homemaker IS a job - an unpaid job - but a very important job.
We kinda had this convo over coffee did we not LOL?

Jen said...

What a great, though-provoking, meaty post! Lots to think about.

Anonymous said...

I used to not think of myself as a feminist, because I thought that meant you had to burn your bra, and I really need mine to be comfortable.

Very good points - especially about body-image and make up. And, in case you've missed them, here are another couple of pages you might like:
Stop making a scene
And, in relation to the power of periods (for a laugh)Russian Tampax commercial