As I’ve been reading through the Feronia Project lately (oh, I’m so proud of our brainchild!) I realized that we’ve never covered some topics fundamental to our message, predominantly feminism.
Now, if you just cringed as you read that “F” word, this post is for you. There are a lot of pop culture stereotypes about feminism as a philosophy/perspective and feminists as people who follow said movement that aim to pollute and dismiss its legitimacy. It’s probably got you, too.
My favorite false definition about feminists comes from the always-entertaining misogynist, Pat Robertson: “Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Oh, Pat, so funny I forgot to laugh!
Or my second favorite, Mr.“It makes her a slut, right?” himself, Rush Limbaugh: “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”
Mainstream media perpetuates these stereotypes about feminism, and general stereotypes about women (easy, bitchy, catty, stupid, weak, inferior, naturally submissive, etc.) to the point that people who would otherwise agree with feminist philosophies are shrieking in horror if someone labels them a … wait for it … feminist.
Lucky for you, I have a simple test. Raise your hand if you self-identify as a feminist. Anyone? Ok, now raise your hand if you believe in access to equal wages for equal work. Did you know that, on average, women only make 74% of what men do? Did you know that women account for about half of the U.S. workforce? Additionally, many women experience the “double day,” in which they are primarily responsible for the household labor and child raising in addition to their paid work. Clearly women must be more natural at vacuuming and caravaning than our counterparts, right? Why else are all cleaning advertisements targeted toward women? Please sense my sarcasm and blame the patriarchy.
Did you know we’re still not covered by an equal pay act? Just this year, the U.S. senate voted it down AGAIN. If you think that people should not be discriminated against because of their sex, gender, race or origin, and that domestic labor should be equitably divided, you might be a feminist.
Next, how about the ability to live a life free of sexual exploitation and violence? Yeah, us too. As we’ve reported many times, sexual assault rates around the world are beyond comprehension. In the U.S., 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. In many cultures, sexual violence and oppression are used as tools to control a society, bring shame to human dignity, and justify discrimination. In many cultures, women are systematically raped as a practice of war; within our own military, 60% of women have experienced sexual trauma while serving. Feminist philosophy proposes that people, regardless of sex, gender, color, creed or origin should never fall victim to physical, sexual, mental, or emotional violence.
You with me yet? How about the right to vote or hold political office? Feminists think that all people have the right to participate in their government, regardless of their gender identity, chromosomes, or physical characteristics. That all people are born with intrinsic value equally, and while we are of different perspectives, we are of the same worth. Fortunately, a relentless gang of feminists fought for almost 40 years to rectify voting rights in this country, because before 1920 only white dudes could cast a ballot.
The US ranks 90th globally in the amount of women holding office in national legislature. When you digest that only 6 states hold female governors, only 17% of seats in the Congress are held by females, and zero presidents have ever used a tampon, it’s not difficult to see how reproductive health is on the back burner.
Reproductive rights is a biggie within the “feminist” community. Feminism argues that all people should assume control of their own bodies, and that females have the human right to control their fertility. Think we’ve always had the right to buy Emergency Contraception the morning after? Think again. Yes, the feminist movement is still relevant, and fighting tirelessly for you to maintain ownership over your own body.
Feminist philosophy argues that no people deserve to be oppressed by a hierarchy of power regardless of sex, gender identity, color, ethnic identity, ability/disability, origin, or access to resources. It believes that all people deserve dignity, respect, and the right to a life free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.
Do I have your attention yet?
Feminism is a life perspective spoken from the “feminine” perspective, one that encourages traits such as compassion, compromise, non-violence, community, and human dignity for all. Opposed to this are patriarchal practices of discrimination, hierarchies, conflict, systematic violence/aggression, and dominance/subordination. In a nutshell, feminism believes in freedom, justice and harmony – woot!
Before I go, a couple more things. Contrary to faux news, feminists are people who are in alliance with the guiding principles I’ve laid out before you, and they are not confined to any particular gender, sex, race, class, ethnicity, origin, or other demographic characteristic. You do not need to reject femininity to be a feminist. That’s a biggie. In a culture such as ours that is obsessed with image and categorizing people, it’s often assume that in order to be a “true feminist,” you must reject things like shaving, wearing make-up, being heterosexual, enjoying the company of males, wearing a bra/dress, or being a stay-at-home mom. For me, feminism isn’t about the physical, it’s about the spiritual.
Simply put: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” -Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler