Friday, October 19, 2012

The "F" Word


I have wrestled with a lot of terms in my life... "Nosey," "talkative," "fat," "slut," "abrasive," you get the picture.  "Are you a punk?" "What's your religion?"  "Are you Republican?" "Democrat?"  "Oh MY GOD, you're a socialist?"  Every time I've allowed myself to accept a label that someone else felt the need to slap on me - or that I slapped on myself because I felt it was the right thing to do - I realized that I was only putting myself in a box.  I was packaging myself up for society and giving myself to them with a manual that said, "This is everything I am, and this is how to use me."  

Words are powerful symbols and in the English language there are so many meanings to be gathered from one little word.  In being labeled I felt that I was merely the sum of other people's perspectives.  

I have always had a strong will.  I have never 'known my place,' nor would I have wanted to keep it if someone made me really understand.  My stepfather tried to teach me, but that only ever resulted in a black eye or a few bleeding welts.  Older people tried to teach me, by telling me that children should be seen and not heard… especially little girls. 

It was damn hard growing up.  I’m sure it was for most of you.  Sometimes I think that it was because of all the expectations and pre-conceived notions, and in moments of weakness I think it’s because I was too stubborn to conform.  But I couldn’t.  They didn’t understand, it was (and will always be) impossible.  I was who I was and there was absolutely no breaking my mold.

Or so I thought…

Being a victim of gang violence can be a major spirit breaker.  So can being held up at gunpoint.  And rape.  My whole life something has been trying to kill or control me, it seems. 

For years I lived my life in fear.  Fear of being noticed.  Fear of being liked.  Fear of being heard (see fear of being noticed).  I went from bad relationships to worse… with guys who I truly hope came away better people than they were when they were with me.  I felt worthless and out of control.  I knew in my heart I didn’t deserve anything great. 

I went through a string of relationships in which I completely gave freely of myself and asked nothing in return.  I did this for years.  I allowed men to walk all over me and I was always afraid to walk away for one reason or another.  

If you wanted you could say that I was everything a feminist was not.  I put on a fake smile and pretended to ignore it when my boyfriends would make comments about other women, or whistle at a lady on the street, or say fucked up things about their bodies.  I never complained about being expected to do all the cooking and cleaning.  I never complained when they wanted to spend all their time with their friends and I never complained when those friends indicated that whomever I was with was “pussy-whipped” because he “let me tag along.”  I objectified myself, and I watched while women I knew and cared about objectified themselves. 

The worst part about it was that I was afraid of other women.  Women always seemed so confrontational, so manipulative, petty and shallow.  So I became a loner.

I was so unhappy.  I had completely lost myself.  I had no idea who I was.  I knew something was wrong.  I knew that I couldn’t go on like that.  I was nothing like the girl in high school who knocked her boyfriend out when he tried to twist her arm behind her back.  Yep.  I did that.  I wondered where that girl was.  I wanted to get her back.

In April of 2009 I ended my final abusive relationship. 
See ya!

I packed my shit and I got the hell out and I never looked back.  I got a better paying job, I got a place with a female roommate, and I made plans to go back to school.  I realized that nobody should have to live like I had lived.  That wasn’t living.  It was existing.  Barely.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit this much weakness in one blog entry, but I’m not ashamed.  Anything worth believing in is a concept that one should come to out of necessity and critical thinking.

I became impassioned about the female plight.  I wanted to inspire other women to take control of their lives.  I found myself being drawn to strong women, rather than being afraid of them.  I was attracted to movies that had strong female leads, I listened to a lot of Riot Grrl music, and I started to act out against sexism. 

About a year-and-a-half later I met a man who implied that I had feminist tendencies.  When he referred to me he always used words like, “progressive,” and “strong.”  I always said, “I’m not a feminist, I just hate sexism.”  I didn’t want to jump into what I perceived as a cult of man hating radicals who felt that women should rule the world. 

Then people started saying things like, “Hey, I should introduce you to so-and-so, she’s a feminist, too,” and emailing me articles about feminism.  I started writing a screenplay about two women vigilante time-travelers and caught myself calling them feminists. 

I think what really set me on the path to becoming more aware and concerned for women’s rights was working at an all girls’ college.  Mount St. Mary’s is crazy in love with raising women up.   I became a student there and studied under such amazing women as Joan Johnson, Dr. Jane Crawford, Dr. Millie Kidd, Dr. Bianca Ryan-Lopez, and many more.  I also worked with an extraordinary lady who has become one of my best friends.  I met women who worked full time, had families and were going back to school.  I met young girls who had just graduated high school and had a vision for their future that I never had at that age.  Being a writer and wanting to break into the film industry, I was very turned on by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. 

I found myself starting to defend feminists and that led me to defending the term, ‘feminism.’ Webster’s dictionary defines feminism as being “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”  It doesn’t mean you hate men, it doesn’t mean you think women are the better sex, it doesn’t mean you think women should rule the world.  It’s simply the idea that women and men should be considered and treated as equal--this idea just happens to come from a female perspective.

The past year or so I’ve been turned on to a lot of feminist Internet writers - like Soraya Chemaly - who have educated and inspired me.  In fact, it was Soraya Chemaly's article, "Why I'm a Feminist With a Big, Fat, Loud EFF" that inspired me to write this post.  

It got me to thinking that it was because of the negative connotations involved with calling oneself a feminist that I have evaded the label for years.  I have stopped denying it when someone refers to me as such, and I now refer to some of my writing as being feminist – why am I still shying away from the term?  This symbol that dictates who I am…

Tonight, I am coming out.  Even though it’s a no brainer, and most of you are going to say, “well, duh,” I’m admitting that I am a feminist.  Because even though it isn’t all I am, by definition it is true.  I am a feminist and I promote feminist ideas.  Being ashamed of being called a feminist would be like being ashamed of being woman.  It’s part of who I have become, who I am, and who I always will be.  

5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm still awaiting your post with baited breath...

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  2. a bumper sticker i've seen a lot in northern california & portland:
    Feminism: the radical idea that women are people

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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I will not censor anyone, but please, in the spirit of open communication and respect for others - don't be a douche bag, or else I will rip you a new one.