Saturday, December 3, 2011

History of The "F" Word

A brief history lesson (from my limited point-of-view):

A hundred years ago, women began questioning this assumption that they should take up less space more in the public forum than ever before. They wondered why they didn't have the right to vote or own property. They wondered why their voice wouldn't stand up in court compared with a man's. They wondered, then they got angry, then they took action.

Feminism grew from the radical notion that women are people too. If you believe that (man or woman) then I'm sorry, you're a feminist.

I say, "I'm sorry" not because I think it's a problem. But because of all the negative associations that have come with "the F-word." As there are many kinds of Republican or many kinds of Christian, there are many kinds of feminist. I don't have to hate men and burn my bra to be a feminist. I just believe in people. I believe that women and men are people. Equal. Good. Worthy. Period.

Women fighting to "take up more space," to have a voice, to have a place in society, threatened some people. In the film Tough Guise, Jackson Katz outlines how the twentieth century has been really tough on the white, middle-class, heterosexual male. The power they had pretty much dominated up until that point (um...for thousands of years) was being compromised and many men did not approve. Because first women wanted to voice, and then black people wanted a voice, and then heterosexuals wanted a voice. Now the white, heterosexual man had two choices: hand over some of the power or fight to keep it. There was backlash. There was blaming and name-calling ("feminatzi" anyone?). There were lies spread that feminism was to blame for the downfall of the country and that we should just keep things the way they've always been (notice it was the oppressor doing all of the talking).

So, the men who felt that their space was being invaded (by women, blacks, and homosexuals) wanted to compensate, and they sought to take up even more space. Jackson Katz lays this out particularly well in his critique of the media's portrayal of men. The size of the biceps and guns of actors in action movies and action figures have grown exponentially (much the opposite of Barbie's ever dwindling waist-size. Coincidence? I think not.). Pro-wrestling took off in bigger and badder displays of masculinity. Rap and rock lyrics have taken on a harsher, more misogynistic tone than ever before.

There's much to fight for and never enough fighters ("the work is plentiful, but the workers are few"?). I so appreciate brave men and women who refuse to make sexist comments, perpetuate discrimination, and to believe that sexism is any different than racism. If anyone is being discriminated against, we are all losing.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." -Martin Luther King Jr.

I might as well just go ahead and get this as a tatoo because I have a feeling I'll be referring to it for the rest of my life:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I am a feminist because it would be impossible for me to be anything else.

I firmly believe that when most people actually learn what "the F-word" means, they can't deny that their daughters, their sister, and their mothers deserve nothing less.

And they are feminists too.


kessia reyne said...

Yes! Feminism is person-ism :)