I want to start off by saying that I understand where many of you are coming from. Where the idea of being connected with something that has been linked to women being superior rather than equal is an issue you don’t want to be a part of. Where, from your comfortable spot in the world, you’ve been fortunate enough to never have experienced the constant harassment, sexism and unrealistic expectations that are placed on women. And please, don’t take that as an attempt at an insult, because it’s not. I truly am happy that there are women who have managed to find these places because it means that to some extent, feminism has done what it’s supposed to.
And for most of my life, I was like that. In fact, if you had approached me ten years ago, I would have joined your cause, riled up about the horrible ideas that feminism was forcing on the world.
I grew up without experiencing much of what they were claiming was happening. I was raised in a very loving, Christian home, in which, while my dad was the ‘leader’ of the family, the relationship between him and my mom was a partnership and they worked as partners to keep the family.
I wasn’t even mildly attractive, so I didn’t get hit on much. The few instances I did were silly situations with other high school boys that were easy to shut down because of their feeble attempts at an overused pickup line.
For the most part, my parents weren’t overly concerned with gender stereotypes. While they did frown on my dressing like a boy and geeky pursuits, they were quite content to allow my sister and I to participate in activities typically deemed for males only, and encouraged my sister greatly when she wanted to join scouts.
Even when it came to employment, I never ran into any issues because I was very, very good at my job and I was rewarded equally for it.
Over the last ten years, however, my eyes have been opened. They’ve been open to how blatantly I managed to miss the signs throughout the first two decades of my life, and even worse, I became subject to a lot of it through this past decade.
I come from a relatively small town, one that has only experienced a lot of growth in the last ten years. I know at least 7 girls that I have been friends with who were raped or sexually assaulted while we were growing up. But it never clicked. And those are just the girls who came forward. I know there were more.
From the time I was 18 until now, I have been sexually assaulted a handful of times, sexually harrassed so many times I can’t count. I’ve had five stalkers, I’ve had men jerk off through a window while staring at me. I’ve had men manipulate and coerce me into doing more than I was comfortable with and then toss me aside like a piece of garbage because I wouldn’t sleep with them.
If I stop for a moment to think about the number of times this has happened, a montage of situations flash through my mind, and could play on for quite a while.
And here’s the thing. I’ve seen many of you anti-feminists blame it on the way girls dress, or that they must be doing something to incite this. Well, not that the outfits are an excuse, but I’m living proof that it doesn’t take wearing revealing clothing or flirting to have this happen. For the most part, I have always dressed fairly modestly. And I’m still not gorgeous. In fact, if I were to look at the most recent barrage of stalkers, and men who called me a whore or a slut for refusing their advances, the only thing I did was work as the sole female of a video game store.
Over the last ten years, I’ve worked at jobs where I’ve been told I couldn’t handle the responsibility of management because I’m a woman. I’ve been told by fellow Christians that I’ll never be a true Christian, Godly woman or good wife because I’m not a girly-girl and because I refuse to stop speaking out against things that are damaging people around the world.
And yet all of that pales in comparison to the inequality and travesties facing women worldwide. I’ve witnessed the effects of sexism in Guatemala and Cuba first-hand. It doesn’t take a poli-sci nerd to know about the depths that women are effected in Afghanistan, India, China, Africa and many other countries as well. Women who are refused education, who are told that they must cover themselves because if a man gets worked up and rapes them for seeing an ankle, it’s the woman’s fault.
Even in the US the war on women is being waged by men who believe they have the right to control a woman’s body. That it’s up to them whether or not a woman receives birth control, abortions or proper health care.
If you think that feminism is about putting women in power above men, then you need to stop looking at the wrong sources. Because there are many of us who want nothing more than to see equality. And who aren’t just about looking at women. We believe that the only way to have equality is to educate woman and men on the issues, to help women who have been harmed to understand that all men are not the enemy.
Here, on the homefront, much of it is about making sure that women can go about their daily lives without fear of being harrassed or assaulted. It’s about teaching men and women so that we can educate our youth against domestic violence. And to those of you who believe it’s not as bad as we are crying out that it is, just look at the women’s shelters across the country, who have waiting lists for women who are trying to get away from bad situations, who rarely have an empty bed, and who are constantly fighting to make changes in their communities.
Feminism isn’t about us vs men, about taking them down and proving we are powerful. It’s about creating a world where your sex doesn’t determine what happens in your life, and where women are granted the same opportunities as men. Where BOTH sexes know how to respect one another, how to love one another, and how to work together.
When I first heard about your campaign, I was furious and I was hurt. According to your campaign I must be a man-hating, victimized, power-hungry sod who hates the traditional family, spits on Christian values and believes in putting down men who join our cause. And then I realized that you, with all your cries that feminists are uneducated, are just as uneducated.
Because most feminists that I have met personally and know are like me. And many of us are everything you proclaim to be. Loving wives who want nothing more than a partnership with our husbands, whom we adore. We are proud to be wives, mothers, Christians, women in the workplace.
We are not victims. We were victimized by situations that occurred, but speaking out against them does not make us victims. It means that we are taking a stand. It means that we want to see a change and we want to help other men and women be protected from it ever happening to them.
I’m a feminist because we need to see change. I’m a feminist because there are still churches and pastors today who teach that if I’m not a stay-at-home mom who pleasures my husband whenever he demands it that I am against God, and who tells my husband that if he is not the bread winner, does not ‘dominate’ me and if he chooses to be a stay-at-home dad then he is not a real man.
I’m a feminist because I believe that women should not have to be recognized as ‘female scientists, female journalists’ or the female version of any career, but that they should be recognized for what they are: scientists, journalists, CEOs, without having to preface it with their gender.
And you know what? As angry and hurt as I was by your campaign and your insinuation that all feminists must be horrible, man-hating crazies, I don’t hate you for your choice. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you must be a feminist or you hate your own sex. But I am going to ask you to stop for a moment and look at the fact that you’re lumping us all into one category is just as awful as feminists who are ‘hating on you’ for not joining the feminist movement.
You’re entitled not to be a part of it. You’re entitled to be happy about your life, proud that you feel that you don’t need feminism, and proud of you who are. But don’t ruin your message by doing to us what you claim we’re doing to you.
If you’re going to take a stand, take some time to educate yourselves on it and to understand that while our views may differ, there’s one thing we have in common. We’re all women, and we’re all just trying to make this world a better place for our families and our friends to live in.