“Oh, you’re a FEMINIST?…”

Picture this: You’re sitting at a bar with a decent acquaintance when a woman shows up in the booth across from you. She’s cute, slightly heavy, in ripped up daisy dukes and a tank top that she’s bursting out of, as it’s just a cut above her nipples. Across the bar from you is another woman, in a backless tank, bra hanging out. You mourn aloud the appearance of these women’s need to show all to feel attractive, to hopelessly flirt with whatever man makes eye contact with them (as was happening), and your male friend across from you asks, “What, you’re a feminist now?”

You pause for a second, in fear of the highly negative association. What comes to mind when one thinks of a feminist? A short-haired homely woman with glasses and ill-fitting jeans, holding a sign and screaming? A man-hater who somehow is still for chivalry and gets offended when one doesn’t open the door for her? A successful corporate woman who is called a bitch for using her voice and having a mind of her own?

Then, there is me. Finally, I said yes.

My friend scoffed, then stared at the women in the bar. He proceeded to say… well, nothing. Eventually he told me, “I have no opinion on the matter.”

And eventually he brought up discount cigarettes and casual sex he was having some chick. I didn’t bother to get his 1 to 10 hotness rating.

Scenario number 2: You’re listening to your favorite radio show. From shows past, you know that the host and his companions are pretty decent advocates of morality, revealing cheaters and lousy guys and the like (albeit with slightly sadistic means of phone sabotage). Then one day you hear that the youngest guy, someone who would remind you of a jerk due to his negligent comments, vocal bitterness about marriage, and disrespect for sensitive subjects, is having a selfie contest for Backstreet Boys tickets.

Note: A “selfie” is a self-portrait, usually a camera photo. The gallery of these photos, somehow allowed on their website, ranged from one photo of a preteen girl innocently smiling, to a giant pair of ass cheeks in lacy green boy shorts up front and center, along with another woman in panties leaning over a dresser butt in the air and boobs swingin’ in the shadows, and a naked profile shot of someone’s thigh, rear and waist.

All I could imagine was the horror of the mother clicking through this gallery, trying find her little girl’s adorable photo.

I wrote an email. A strongly worded email. Not surprisingly, it has not yet gotten a response. But I stated my disappointment in the contrast between the show’s usual morally upright temperament, and a contest in which women compete with other women for these concert tickets all based upon how their looks (not intelligence, compassion, security, etc) are judged by a 23-year-old boy. Think: what message is this sending to this little girl?

Also, what if the biggest Backstreet Boys Fan in the world happens to be a gay man? Or someone who’s not so attractive but has the biggest heart capacity for love or emotion anyone’s experienced? Or… you can continue this.

All this being said, I posted a status about my thoughts and feelings on Facebook, which got about 90% less attention than the photo of my shoes I posted the next day. (And damn, they’re awesome shoes, but still…) The comments I got in regards to the contest explained that it may be insulting to deem someone a feminist, due to the negative extreme; that, or it was antonymous with someone who was for equality between the sexes.

However, any label can be considered negative due to extremes. For instance: “Oh, you’re Catholic? You must’ve hated the Jews and must be totally anti-abortion and close-minded.” Or, “Oh, you’re black? You must live in the ghetto and be uneducated.” Or, “Oh, you’re a woman? You must be an idiot who wants to have fifteen kids.”

Yes, these are all terrible stereotypes I am relaying. But what is the stereotype of the feminist… and how do we conquer this? How do we avoid NOT labeling ourselves in such a way because of fear of the stigma that comes with it? Don’t those against feminism WIN that way? If we are afraid to admit to what really are, and savor it, and be proud of it, who’s to say we’re right or wrong if, in reality, this fear is keeping us from fully existing? Note: the same theory applies to other groups and communities, not just feminism.

It’s a fear, yes. I was scared to tell my friend that I’m trying to get more involved with feminism and be part of the movement towards women’s equality. And yes, he judged it, but in the end, so what? What’s the worst that could happen? I lose a close-minded friend.

This fear is what’s keeping us from moving forward. We know these judgments are wrong; stereotypes in themselves are of negative connotation — it’s part of the definition. So what’s the point of holding onto this negativity, by enabling it with our doubts? Will we change the world this way? The answer is no, and never.

So, I’m a feminist. And that’s that.

Jo

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