On Why We Need Feminism

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I woke up this morning to a Facebook post detailing how CNN had twisted Trump’s words to make it sound like he was encouraging voter fraud. You can read the article here. The poster of the article pointed out that news stories can be skewed and inaccurate. So far so good. Then lower down in the comments section he also noted other “hired hatchet jobs” such as Gloria Allred’s “1/2 million bribe to get the girl to cry rape.”

Okay, now I’m in.

“. . . get the girl to cry rape.”

This is the kind of language, the kind of mentality that sets us back a 100 years.

The words “crying rape” denies the horrible violations that many women (one in five, by latest count) face, it suggests that women who report rape (a fraction of the women who actually experience rape) are “faking it.”

Enough.

Today, I break my silence and declare, publicly, that I will be casting my vote on Tuesday as a feminist. Not as a republican or a democrat, not as a pro-lifer or a pro-choicer, not as an Obamacarer or an Obamadon’tcarer, but as a woman, a feminist.

***

I didn’t always identify as a feminist.

The word didn’t enter my lexicon until my twenties or (if I’m really honest) thirties. There’s a reason for this. I grew up in India at a time in history when feminism, organized institutional feminism, had not quite penetrated the culture. I knew I was different–bold, opinionated, strident, bitchy, difficult, unhappy, weird. Yeah, let’s go with weird. I knew I was weird, a misfit, but I didn’t know that weirdness had a name.

Feminism.

I knew that every time some bloated house guest held forth on some (no, every) topic, when he mansplained something to my highly educated doctor mother, when he asserted, argued, professed, pronounced, pontificated on a subject he knew nothing about, I had to (I couldn’t help it!) call bullshit!

This started when I was twelve.

Not a good move. A twelve-year-old-girl is at that perfect nexus of disenfranchisement where “child” (no agency) meets “female” (even less agency).

I was screwed.

Not to mention that it put my mother in an awkward spot. Look, I may have been “born this way,” but that shit would have been beaten out of me if it hadn’t been for my parents who (secretly? unwittingly?) fostered my curiosity, my independence, and yes, my penchant for yelling “Bullshit!” every chance I got. Okay, so maybe that last trait was inherited, but really, they could have groomed me a bit better, pulled the leash a bit tighter. But no. They just let me be. And they let me read whatever I wanted to read. And they let me say whatever I wanted to say. They blushed (or at least my mother did–my dad just guffawed). They sighed. Quietly. They let me study physics. Then switch majors to chemistry (a terrible decision). They watched me leave the house in jeans and a t-shirt only to return (much later) in a miniskirt and heels.

But they forgot to tell me I was a feminist.

It’s one of those words that, back in the day, was spoken in hushed tones–disabled, nymphomaniac, cancer, feminist.

Yet here I am (and there I was) a card-carrying member of this much-vilified group.

It was a cautious coming out. Weird I could handle, but there was something about being feminist that felt dangerous. It had a bite to it. The sibilant ‘s’ and aspirated ‘t’ blended into an unspoken threat. Feminisssst!

It took about 15 years to slip into the shoes and then another 15 to break them in.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says,
“The word feminist is so heavy with baggage, negative baggage:
You hate men, you hate bras, you hate African culture, you think women should always be in charge, you don’t wear makeup, you don’t shave, you’re always angry, you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t use deodorant.”

It’s impossible to get very far with all that “stuff” weighing you down–especially when half those “things” (characterizations) don’t belong to you. So, it took a while. A while to toss out all the redundant stuff–the flag waving, the bras, the wanting to be in charge–it took a while to drill down to the essence, the good stuff–basic human decency

I want to be treated with basic human decency–just like you. Which is not to say that basic human decency is not also a gendered experience.

Adichie writes,
“Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of  course, part of human rights in general–but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.”

Yes.

So we need feminism. I need feminism to speak out about those wrongs, those slights, the violence, the locker room talk that makes it okay to take from women, without their permission, their livelihood, their safety, their dignity, their humanity.

We need  feminism.

Because frankly, “basic human decency” just ain’t cutting it.

 

Folks, if you enjoyed reading this post, if you think someone else might enjoy it, too, please feel free to share it.

Target Audience: Feminists, voters, Adichie fans.

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Categories: Reflections

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4 replies

  1. Bravo, Tina! So many, many women have been triggered by Trump’s “locker room talk.” Women who were assaulted are re-victimized when words like ‘crying rape’ are used or whenTwitter trolls threaten women who have spoken out against Trump.
    Feminism isn’t a dirty word but made to appear something contrary (and thus not worthy) when others heap “negative baggage” to its meaning.

    Like

  2. This election has laid bare my feminism. I already voted and I voted for women. This election has broken open the ugly truths about gender inequality and sexual assault in America for everyone to see. I only hope we can hold our gaze long enough, refuse to rationalize it away, and do the right thing.

    Like

  3. Thanks, Roomie! Time to reclaim”feminism!”

    Like

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