10 Problems Feminists Understand

As a feminist, I’ve found it difficult to maintain certain relationships in my life.  I have no problem being friends with people who disagree with me, but it becomes much more difficult when they encroach on my beliefs.  Audrey Lorde has a wonderful quote that explains this much better than I can:

“You will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you.”

The full text of that quote, which is equally awesome, can be found here.  Anyway, here are some of the comments and behaviors that have made some relationships difficult for me in the past.

1. Saying “I just don’t worry about it” or “it’s just not something I think about” to dismiss something I said.  While this may be true, it often leaves me feeling like the other person is invalidating my concerns; essentially it says they’re of so little importance that others don’t even think about them. More times than not, this is said to me by someone who doesn’t experience the kind of inequality that I am telling them about, so I already know that they don’t think about it. That’s why I’m bringing it to their attention. What they do with that information is up to them, I’m just attempting to make them aware of problems that I suspect they “don’t think about.” In addition, obviously the issue is important to some people (like me) so I think some amount of concern or sensitivity for the issue is necessary. Even simply saying, “that’s interesting that you think that way, I personally haven’t considered it much but thank you for sharing your opinion” is better than completely dismissing it as something one doesn’t think about.

2. Saying that I’m too passionate about certain issues. Yes, I’m very passionate about feminism and I understand that not everyone is. But when you’re passionate about something you want to share it with the people closest to you. And when I get shot down or dismissed as too passionate it discourages a close relationship with that person because I no longer feel I can be open with them. And just because I’m passionate about an issue doesn’t mean it’s not an issue or that I’m blowing it out of proportion.  I’m genuinely presenting a very real issue that I have seen or experienced.  My experiences have led me to my passion so it is very real and important to me.

3. Using profanities and insults that specifically target women.  From the basic “you throw like a girl,” “quit being a girl,” or “you’re so girly” to the obscene, this type of language promotes society’s ridiculous notion that it is shameful to be a woman.  This article deals rather well with obscene language targeted at women, but I’d like to focus on some of the “milder” insults.  People generally take these less seriously, when they can in fact be just as damaging.  I’m sure many of you have seen this explained in the #likeagirl ads (if you haven’t, that video is definitely worth a watch). It’s never okay to use who someone is as an insult.  Yet these types of insults have become so ingrained in our society that often people don’t even realize when they use them.  Even if they don’t mean for it to, everyone’s language has an impact on society and by continuing to use femininity as an insult, they are promoting a society that says it is shameful to be a woman.

4. Saying things like “I support feminism, just not the radical, man-hating type.” That “type” is not feminism. When people say this it shows the stereotypes they have towards people who believe like I do, and though it is not directed towards me, I take offense that this is how they perceive the movement that I am so passionately supporting. It also bothers me when people act like insulting men makes them a feminist and perpetuate such stereotypes.  Talking about how stupid men are or how much better women are is not feminism.  Instead of insulting anyone we should be building each other up and working together to solve these problems.  Feminism is not fighting against men.  We don’t hate men, we hate sexism.  If you take anything away from my blog I really hope it’s that.

5. Treating the feminist movement like it’s only for straight white cis-gendered women. Oppression is oppression, and you can’t fight oppression for one group of people while ignoring those who experience the same oppression for different reasons. Feminism deals with issues of gender expression, gender identity, sex, and sexuality. If you haven’t seen the genderbread person I think it is one of the best ways to begin explaining this concept.  I think it’s important to educate people about these differences so they can be more sensitive to those on all areas of these spectrums. Feminism also deals with issues of racism (or at least it should).  Take, for example, all the statistics on the wage gap for women.  Many like to quote the 78 cents to a dollar that white women make, but the wage gaps of women of different races are even larger. I feel that feminism needs to address all these inequalities if it claims to be a movement for everyone – all races, all genders, etc.

6. The idea that feminists don’t support women who lead more “traditional” lives. Feminism supports choice, whatever form that may take. If you want to dye your hair a crazy color, do it! If you like your natural hair color, keep it! If you want to have kids, go for it! If you want to stay home and raise them, that’s awesome! But if you don’t want kids, you don’t have to have them. It’s your choice! Society does not determine what is right for you and neither do I. I just support everyone’s right to choose what is right for themselves without the judgment of others. Historically, women have been denied choices in areas such as work and motherhood, so these are the issues that feminists have largely focused on in order to give women choices.  However, we do not seek to remove one form of restriction only to replace it with another.  If a so-called “traditional” life is what someone wants, they should be just as able to live that life without judgment as one who desires a “non-traditional” life.  It’s all about choice.

7. “Not all men.” This is an excuse so annoying that it deserves its own number. It stems from that awful idea that feminists hate all men.  Therefore, people feel the need to stand up and defend men against claims that angry man-haters are making against their entire sex! I’m sorry, what? No. Say it with me, “Feminists don’t hate men.” When we speak of issues like rape culture and sexual aggression we’re certainly not saying that all men do it. We’re saying that even though only some men do it, it affects all women. And if they’re really so concerned in establishing that men don’t do something, why not tell their buddies not to be “that guy” instead of telling people “not all men.” Just a helpful suggestion.  On the upside, it has made for some wonderful memes.

8. Girl hating.  This refers to women who distance themselves from other women on the basis of sexist stereotypes.  This includes things like bragging that most of one’s friends are male and saying that they don’t really get along with other women based on sexist generalizations (such as women are whiny, shallow, vain, etc.).  This just further contributes to the stereotypes that they oppose and try to distance themselves from.  It reinforces the idea that women aren’t as good as men and I find this especially saddening when it is women who are encouraging these ideas. This is a wonderful article to read about ending girl hate.  Femininity is not anti-feminist – it’s just another part of one’s identity to celebrate.

9. Anything that perpetuates rape culture.  For those of you who don’t know what rape culture is, here’s a good summary of what it looks like.  It includes, but is not limited to, victim blaming, trivializing sexual aggression, making rape jokes, using excuses like “boys will be boys,” and teaching girls not to be raped rather than teaching everyone about consent to prevent rape. I heard this explained very well in this quote:

“If you’re promoting changes to women’s behaviour to ‘prevent’ rape, you’re really saying ‘make sure he rapes the other girl’”

Attempting to modify the behavior of victims does not eliminate the crime. It also leads to victim blaming when someone doesn’t follow the “rules” to not get raped.  California’s new law on consent is a step towards raising awareness about active consent and eliminating rape culture, but we still have a ways to go.

10. Dismissing feminism before really understanding it. When I tell people I’m a feminist I get mixed reactions, but more often than not it is a negative reaction.  It seems ridiculous to me that equality is such a radical notion, and yet there are so many negative stereotypes associated with feminism.  Many times, these stereotypes come from misunderstanding what feminism really is, causing people to judge me before they even know what I really stand for. So I hope my blog will help to better establish my ideas.  Even if you don’t agree with them, at least you took the time to find out what they were first.

I encourage comments on all posts but I know this one deals with some more sensitive issues, so as you’re commenting please keep this in mind and please be respectful. Opinions are welcome as long as they do not attack, invalidate, target, or shame another person. Peace and love, everyone! Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “10 Problems Feminists Understand

  1. Cali,
    Congratulations on undertaking this blog. It takes courage and thoughtfulness to do this. You are a great writer. I really enjoyed your first installment and look forward to future ones.
    This one made me sad. I am not talking about your 10 points of frustration, but rather the quote you used and admired. That quote indicates that one’s “own vision” will often without sadness or a feeling of loss trump a relationship. I profoundly disagree.
    I have and have had many relationships where my friend and I disagree profoundly about key and important beliefs that we each hold. These disagreements are not always polite and gentle. They do encroach on my beliefs. Yet, I cherish these people and these relationships. Although when people have serious disagreements over key beliefs there is at least one barrier between them, the relationship can still be so valuable. I have left conversations with these people hurt and bruised and angry at times, but they still give me so much. Besides companionship and fun, these people keep me open-minded, they keep me from being judgmental, they keep me from painting the “other” as a caricature, they force me to revisit and refine my beliefs and assumptions, they force me to be thoughtful and considerate in expressing my own views, they teach me to be forgiving and tolerant. Rarely have our fundamental conflicting “isms” resolved. Rarely has one friend “converted” the other. Sometimes we avoid the sensitive topic or when touching on it, touch only lightly. Yet, there remains tremendous value in these relationships. (My favorite anecdote from one of these relationships: Friend: “I can’t stand him. He is a knee-jerk, right-wing, Christian kook.” Me: “But I’m a knee-jerk, right-wing, Christian kook.” Friend: “That’s okay. I like you.” I like to think that I was a reminder to him not to caricature the “other”.)
    There have been times when the disagreement has led to a weakening of a relationship and a parting of the ways. But I don’t rejoice in that. I mourn that. I do miss those people even if I don’t miss the conflict.
    Ideas and world views are powerful things and definitely influence us and society. However, people and relationships between them are of far more value than our “own vision”. Perhaps my profound commitment to this concept comes from my primary belief system – Christianity. God loves all of us – even those who reject Him – and He commands us to love each other too. That is why I believe people and relationships should be more valuable than one’s personal “vision”. While maintaining those relationships is difficult, it is well worth the effort.
    Keep blogging.

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  2. Thank you so much for your comment! That is an excellent point and very well said. And this gives me a chance to clarify something – I do not intend this post to be a list of “if you do this, we can’t be friends.” That would be terrible! I hate losing friends, but I can see how the quote seems to condone that. I took it more as something comforting for when I do lose friends (which I try my best to avoid), which says there are people out there who will accept me. I have had friends in the past that I felt unable to be honest around for fear of losing them, which became unhealthy for me because I learned to always be silent. But since I’ve began my journey to speak up, I’ve realized that true friends will stay beside you regardless of these conflicts, and the friends who do leave are the ones I think this quote refers to – you won’t miss them because if they were really ever your friend to begin with, they would stick around even if they disagreed with something you said. But you are totally right in saying there is value in being friends with people you disagree with. I have many friends with different perspectives who are very dear to me and I would never dream of severing our friendship over those differences. It has, at times, made our relationships more difficult on both of our sides, but we each continue to work at it because the friendship is worth the effort. I also do not intend for this blog to change anyone’s beliefs. I just wanted to promote respect and understanding when talking about disagreements (which hopefully can encourage friendships across differences). Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I really appreciate you sharing your perspective.

    Like

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