Trigger Warning: Rape Culture, Nazism, Homophobia
I came out as a feminist a year ago. Or to myself, at least. I spent a large quantity of time last summer reading feminist queer blogs on tumblr. I somewhat already aligned myself with these politics but didn’t call myself a feminist (or a queer for that matter).
I was ashamed. Shaming feminist (& shaming women) is pretty common. On one occasion in 2008 I was talking about vaginas, because I’m somewhat of a ridiculous person, to my roommate after they asked why I included one in a drawing I was coloring. I was trying to explain how interesting vaginas are from my quirky aesthetic and then spiritual perspective, by the time I started to get really excited about the biology the conversation stopped going smoothly.
The roommate was somewhat offended by my vagina-rambling, partially for the absurdity factor but also partially because of feminist stereotypes, as shown when he gaped out, “fuck, you aren’t a feminist are you?”
My first reactions was blubbering “no, god no, I hate feminists, I think they are ridiculous about most things, except rape”
Okay, so there are a couple of layers of things going on with that reaction.
First, I admitted the existence of stereotypes of feminist. I admitted them, and did not reject them, if anything I further confirmed them with my reaction. The stereotypes that came to my mind were:
a) American feminist are extremist; they hate men, they aren’t fighting for equality but for overpowering the men in society with women.
b) American feminist are angry hateful bitter people
c) American feminist are under appreciative of how far they have come in this society, and how better off they are when compared to women in other nations
Okay. Be angry at me, you should be.
The thing is these are not my innovative hateful and hurtful ideas. These concepts are not something that I created in some sort of misogynistic self-loathing. These are the ideas that have been fed to me and I did not question it.
There is a feminazi paradigm that is deeply hurting the feminist movement. The most obvious part of this is the absurd comparison between someone wanting their gender to be appreciated as an equal human being as being the same concept as killing six million people. Okay, the obvious point but I still needed to mention it.
And by equating the feminist with Nazi Germany — a time period that we as a society have deemed to be the most horrendous, horrific, horrible time period– we are saying that feminist are the second-coming of evil.
Okay, this is really absurd. And makes one wonder what’s so scary about feminist– but that is a tangent that goes beyond me coming out, however, what I do want to note here is that these stereotypes are part of pop culture, and makes women want to distant themselves from feminism– this paradigm is strong and powerful because it makes being a feminist a shameful act, which is why some of us have to ‘come out’ in the first place.
I also want to mention the butch-dyke stereotype of feminist. This is a problem on two levels.
One: In order to support women rights you have to lose your femininity.In order to be a confident, bold, strong, women with opinions and enough strength to make these opinions a reality you must be butch, which on a social level we deem to be ‘not real women’ (note: I disagree with this).
Two: This stereotype encourages homophobia. The use of this stereotype is maintaining the ideas that women have to be feminine otherwise they aren’t heterosexual, which is baaad. Apparently. Being a lesbian is a sociologically-negative thing and by shaming women into certain behaviors that are ‘straight’ we are declaring that being told you look like a lesbian is worst then being told you look like a womens activist.
However, even though I revoked being called a feminist for the above reasons, but especially because I felt as an American women I have enough privilege to deal with life unlike women in other nations and cultures (this better-then-thou attitude is also problematic, but also for another blog post) I still acknowledged that things aren’t perfect by saying ‘except rape’.
What I was not informed of in 2008 is the idea of rape culture and how rape is a byproduct of an issue that is much larger and much more convoluted then just the incidents in and of themselves. What I did not know of is the sociological perspective on why rape exists. I did not realize that women are demeaned and rape is idolized. I did not realize that this is what increases my risk of being raped and how that effects my daily behavior.
I realize this now. I may expand on this on a later date, however, it is this realization of rape culture that made me realize that I am a feminist.
It takes a surprisingly large quantity of introspection before one realizes they are a feminist, a large distraction to the feminist community are the negative caricatures of feminist that are aligned with contemporary pop culture. I was a victim of this skewed depiction of what a feminist was and what a feminist wanted, and why they wanted such. And thus I was unable to say ‘I am a feminist’. On the contrary I would fight anyone who called me out as one. But now I’m PROUD to be a feminist. I realize that things are somewhat fucked for American women and women on an international level. I have been trying to be informed in this last year and haven’t started much activism yet, however, I hope to become more of an activist. And shall try to chronicle some of my efforts here.