Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This is not a funny post.

No, seriously. This is not my average, vaguely humorous, cat-referencing entry. This is a tirade made of outrage, riveted together with a deep emotional and intellectual exhaustion. 

This is a post about feminism. There will be profanity. There will be uncomfortable, unpopular opinions, and I guarantee I will lose a few followers over this one. 

And it's worth it, because I am fucking over sexism. 

My name is Avalon, and I need feminism. 

I need feminism because sexism is very much alive and well in our world. 

I need feminism because when I biked to my night job last week, a drunk man stopped my progress and talked about how my hips were "some next level shit," and when I told him twice to back off, he didn't. I need feminism because when I rode around him and finally made it to work, I recounted the episode to a coworker, who answered, "You live in New Orleans," like the fact that we live in a big city was an acceptable excuse for unwanted, unsolicited, and unwelcome sexual harassment. 

I need feminism because, despite their definitive and unquestionable lack of uteruses, there are collections of white men attempting to regulate my reproductive health and choices. You can bet every last shred of American tender you have that if men could get pregnant, birth control would be utterly uncontested, plan B medication would be an over-the-counter procurable in packs of 30, and you could get abortions at every corner drugstore. I need feminism because some people think that their campaigns to impose their moral or religious tenants on others are more important than my right to make my own choices about my body and my future. 

I need feminism because we excuse the impulsive or aggressive behavior of our young sons by saying, "Boys will be boys," and then act surprised when our grown boys enact and incite violence against others.

I need feminism because we teach our daughters that when a boy rough-houses with you on the playground, it means he likes you, and then we shake our heads in confusion when they come to us with black eyes and shattered bones claiming that, "He really loves me," or, "It wasn't his fault."

I need feminism because pop culture has taught girls for decades that they are prizes to be won, trophies to be awarded to the male heroes for their ability to be better at being male than other males. I need feminism because the most cherished movies of our youths taught us that women are at our best when we are voiceless, when we are seen and not heard, and that our value exists only in our relationships to men, that we are only waiting to be saved by someone else's story. (This is the story of Snow White, of Sleeping Beauty, of Cinderella, of The Little Mermaid, of countless others.) I need feminism because I am the protagonist of my own goddam story and if anyone lives in an illusion regarding this, then they are, at best, an antagonist. 

I need feminism because women are treated in the media and in advertising as objects. I need feminism because marketers seem to think that it is okay to portray women as at their best when they are acting as much like pretty, inanimate decorations as possible. 

I need feminism because some men, and some movements, dare to tell women how to be beautiful. 

I need feminism because eating disorders and their effects are lauded in our culture. 

I need feminism because some men don't understand why catcalling is offensive, threatening, and intolerable

I need feminism because 3 in 5 college-aged males say that they would commit rape if we referred to it as "forced sex" rather than "rape." I need feminism because 35 percent of men say they would commit rape if there was little to no likelihood that they would be caught or punished. 

I need feminism because 1 in every 4 college-aged women reports being the victim of a sexual assault. I need feminism because 62 percent of them knew their attackers. I need feminism because almost half of rape victims admit to not reporting the assault. 

I need feminism because women make approximately .88 cents for every dollar made by a male in a similar job with similar qualifications and experience. I need feminism because last week, every Republican in Senate voted against the Equal Pay Act. Every. Single. One. 

I need feminism because I was taught as a teenager that when you walk alone at night, you use the shop windows around you to make sure no one is following you too closely. I was taught to walk towards the edge of the sidewalk so that I'd be as far from alleys and doors as possible. I was taught to not be raped. I need feminism because we teach our daughters how to avoid being raped rather than teaching our sons not to rape

I need feminism because there is widespread debate about what "consent" means. I need feminism because I thought that was a pretty cut-and-dried idea, but legislators seem to think it's a subjective issue. 

I need feminism because when a woman is raped, prosecutors still ask what she was wearing, like it matters. I need feminism because we're still blaming the victims. I need feminism because our culture still works so hard to make victims feel guilty or ashamed for the violence perpetrated against them. 

I need feminism because when a coworker told a rape joke the other night, everyone laughed. I need feminism because when I told him it wasn't funny, everyone looked at me like I was a killjoy. 

I need feminism because violence against transwomen in the US is statistically the highest rate of violence against a subgroup in today's society. 

I need feminism because some men think we wear makeup or certain outfits for them rather than for us. 

I need feminism because when I bought a chest binder, I did it for all the comfort of a sports bra without the sports bra, but I realized that when I dressed androgynously, strangers gave me more room on the sidewalk. 

I need feminism because young women are taught, overtly or not, to take up less space. I need feminism because we're trained to cross our legs and keep our arms in so that the men around us can occupy more physical space. I need feminism because no one should learn that they deserve to take up less space than their physical existence warrants

I need feminism because at the school where I teach, the boys are let outside to play at lunch almost twice as often as the girls are. I need feminism because they notice this, and are never provided a rationale. I need feminism because we are teaching my female students that they have less right to the world than men do. 

I need feminism because my students call one another "bitches" or "hoes" and come away believing that the use of these terms can ever be anything less than deeply and subversively derogatory.

I need feminism because when one of my male students tells another one to "stop being such a little girl," I have to slam the brakes on what I'm teaching in order to help my students learn that my gender is not an insult

I need feminism because some people are tired of hearing about feminism. 

I need feminism because the visibility and daily reality of sexism and female oppression is enormous, but we are told again and again to shut up about it. I need feminism because the word "feminazi" exists. 

I need feminism because the "strong female protagonist" trope is a thing in modern literature and film. I need feminism because people are still thinking about heroes as being qualified by gender, rather than the characteristics of heroism. 

I need feminism because the Bechdel Test continues to be relevant. 

I need feminism because in some places in the world, girls are made to undergo torturously painful and dangerous procedures, like genital mutilation, in order to ensure that the man they eventually marry will perceive them as valuable. 

I need feminism because more than 18,000 people are trafficked in the US every year, many of whom are children, most of whom are forced into sex slavery. I need feminism because every year, every single US state acts as a setting for human trafficking and slavery. 

I need feminism because these thoughts physically keep me up at night. I need feminism because watching a stranger gaze at my chest fills my blood with violence and my throat with bile. I need feminism because I would rather wear hoodies in 90 degree heat than dare to let another person believe that my body exists for their idle pleasure. 

I need feminism because I teach. I need feminism because I watch my students, male and female, become indoctrinated in a system which believes that men can do anything, and so can women, as long as they're quiet about it and don't pursue a life of singlehood or childlessness, because those choices automatically render them as anomalous and amiss. 

I need feminism because only about 30 percent of doctorates awarded in the US every year are awarded to women. I need feminism because the STEM fields are dominated by males in the US – by more than two thirds. I need feminism because only about 5 percent of math doctorates in the US go to women each year. 

I need feminism because people still ask me why I'm not married yet, like I am some wild animal who needs a man to tame her. I need feminism because I might be full of lions, but that doesn't mean I need to be domesticated. 

I need feminism because about 70 percent of mothers in the US work full- or part-time while serving as the primary caregiver for their children, but only about 30 percent of fathers in the country do the same. 

I need feminism because some men believe that their kindness or generosity or active listening or sharing of meals entitles them to sex. I need feminism because they don't know how wrong they are. 

I need feminism because we are taught that our voices are simply the windows into our emotional instability. I need feminism because when a man screams, you wonder what's wrong, or what he's going to do – but when a woman screams, you wonder what's wrong with her. 

I need feminism because pads and tampons are expensive as hell, are not covered by health care plans, and not a single woman has ever asked to need them every month. 

I need feminism because we have never had a female president. I need feminism because women in positions of power are called "bossy" rather than "assertive." I need feminism because most of what I have learned about professional mentoring, I have learned from men. I need feminism because when a woman addresses an assembly of people, be it online or on the news or in person, people who disagree with her attack her looks rather than her ideals. I need feminism because many people seem more concerned with how a female Supreme Court Justice appears than how she thinks and acts

I need feminism because mens' rights groups are a thing that exists. 

I need feminism because people think our softness and our curves and our openness are signs of weakness. I need feminism because when women aren't soft or open, they are condemned for attempting to be masculine. 

I need feminism because I do not fit into any of the boxes our society has built for women, and I refuse to try. I need feminism because my parents taught me to be the very best possible version of myself, and they taught me that I was good, and that I was powerful, but so many girls don't get taught those things. 

I need feminism because some people reading this think I'm overreacting. I need feminism because you might think these aren't your problems. I need feminism because you may be attempting to write me off as an extremist, as a feminazi, as a bra-burner, as a PMSer on a soapbox. I need feminism because you can dare to believe at any moment that feminism is not important, relevant, or crucial

I need feminism because I am a white, cisgender female who has led a privileged life, and I, with all the social, economic, and personal advantages my life has afforded, still experience sexism every day. I need feminism because I cannot imagine how hard every day can become for my sisters who are of color, or who are trans, or who are lesbian or bi or pan or a, or who identify otherwise, or who come from different or less fortunate backgrounds. 

I need feminism because this war is real, and you are on its front line. I need feminism because this is a fight that I wake up to every day. I need feminism because every woman I know who leaves her home every morning subjects herself to incredible unfairness, oppression, inequity, and prejudice – things she endures so frequently that she often fails to recognize them. I need feminism because women are strong enough to do that, and because they shouldn't have to be. 

I need feminism because, to quote Joss Whedon, we will never not be fighting this fight.

And you need feminism because there is no middle ground for you, here. You either believe that women are people, or you don't. 





14 comments:

  1. Ugh. Yes. All of this. (And for the record, I have also been told that living in New Orleans is reason enough to not question men making unwanted passes at me and blatantly fetishizing the color of my hair. It has happened not once, not twice, but three completely separate occasions while committing the very promiscuous act of doing my laundry at a laundromat.)

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  2. You voice many good observations about our people. It is unfair the way that many men treat women.

    There is a lack of good education in our country. Our country lacks a lot of things. It's not going to be an overnight change, and it may very well never change. All any of us can do is be passionate about what we believe, but also be kind about it. I'm learning to let go of anger and anxiety myself, and learning to choose my attitude and emotion daily.

    This is hard to do, more so with other people doing and saying things I don't like or agree with. But it is working for me, and though I may be privileged to an extent, I've learned that inner peace comes from my contentment within myself.

    That doesn't mean ignoring the seeming inanity of other's opinions and decisions. Far from it. I hope to voice my thoughts to everyone who will listen. However, changing others is fairly impossible. The closest you can get to that is by listening to them and repeating what their concerns and wants are. Once they feel they've been heard, it becomes much easier for them to hear what your wants and concerns are.

    Active listening in debates and arguments is also something I'm bad at (e.g. the abortion debate on FB), but conscious incompetence is some progress.

    The stress from not being able to change all this now, or on your own, will eat you alive if you let it. You are certainly justified in your frustration, and some kind of outlet for it helps. And those feelings may keep coming back, if the source of them is not cleansed (I'm trying to think of a better word for that).

    What I'm saying is that the anxiety of it will age and drain anyone, and it could put a negative haze over your vision of the world (it certainly did me for years). It was hard for me to see others in an encouraged and uplifting way, but in eventually doing so I've been more and more able to have arguments and debates without being on edge, and more and more able to silence or still my internal dialogue about myself and everyone else.

    It's been amazing. Still takes work and I still relapse, but it's been amazing overall.

    Cheers to finding that inner peace amidst the chaos and and general fuckery of the world. And I loled at and agreed with "some next level shit."

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  3. While driving home from Neil deGrasse Tyson's talk last night, my friend and I got to talking about politics, religious freedom, legislating morality, etc. We got to talking about birth control and whether employers should be allowed to omit it from coverage for reason of their religious conviction. My friend's argument was that "it's okay because birth control isn't a medical necessity." My immediate response was "I disagree. Birth control is a medical and economic necessity," to which he had no reply. Anything without which a person cannot steer their own destiny is a necessity. Period.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this. It's fucking awesome.

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  5. I need feminism because I have the same feelings/beliefs/experiences as you expressed, but not enough people in my life who support my feminism. I need feminism because people look at me weirdly for calling myself a feminist (it's not a taboo word, people!). Thanks for sharing and re-affirming my feelings/beliefs/experiences.

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  6. I love the way you describe specific instances of sexism - from the broad, institutionalized level to mundane, daily interactions - and their implications. Only a few people in my life understand why I am so offended when men whistle at me when I'm running.

    I need feminism because I'm tired of random men condescendingly explaining things to me (that I already know), blatantly assuming they know more about my life, my experience, and my career than I do.

    I need feminism because my college roommate once mentioned casually to me that she hates when guys offer to pay for their date, because she knows that likely means he'll expect sex, and may force it, even if it was a $7 lunch.

    I need feminism because, all over the world, simply being female means you are open to all manner of trauma and brutality. Vulnerability should not be intrinsic to the female experience, but vulnerability is not weakness.

    The world needs more of your thoughts. Thanks for sharing your insights and courage.

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  7. I'll take two helpings of feminism, please. Also, I'll admit that I had to look up, "cisgender"!

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  8. http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_me6t0rlLit1qey9tv.jpg

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  9. Lions inside, indeed. I, too, have lions inside.
    And ditched a sexist, misogynistic rat bastard, happily.
    Priory

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  10. http://samuel-warde.com/2014/04/open-letter-phyllis-schlafly-12-year-old-madison-kimrey-guest-post/

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  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8YSwB8AvWs&feature=share

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  12. While I agree with most of what you've said. I don't know that we'll ever truly eliminate either crime or jerks from our society. We can, I think though, work to be better, one step at a time. I do have to disagree though, on the one line "That men's rights groups exist" EVERY group, no matter how much we like or dislike them should have a seat at the table and be able to speak, even if they're wrong.

    Also, when it comes to rape, please be conscious that there ARE male victims of rape. In fact nearly half of all rape victims in the US are male. However, the vast majority of male rape victims are incarcerated, most of those are inflicted by staff. Even Rainn has sections on male rape victims. It is a tragedy.

    I also agree with the above poster. We cannot fix all of these things overnight. We must allow women to speak their minds. Yes, that even means republican women....much as you may see them undermining your cause, they are women too, and deserve respect for their views. I might remind when it comes to birth control and abortion, you that nearly all of the National Right to Life Committee leadership are women. Please do not make feminism partisan...it is about respecting the views of ALL women, not just those you agree with.

    Please keep fighting the good fight, but be very careful not to become the very thing you seek to conquer....

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