Thursday, August 12, 2010
Fine, I'll Admit It...Not All Men Are Evil.
Since we're trying to break away from stereotypes, here's one for you: not all feminists hate men and not all men are evil. Hard to believe, I know, but there you have it.
In one of my previous posts, Caught Between an Angel and a Prostitute, I talk about the binary opposition women are caught between: prude and slut. In August's posts, we have explored the ones men feel the need to operate within, here's a few: manly/gay, tough/weak, sex driven/pathetic virgin. Although it seems like a lot of male culture focuses on getting laid (how many coming of age movies make this the defining goal?), there are men out there who, like women, are evolving and can't be defined so easily.
In our (or maybe just my own) quest to become independent women, we tell ourselves we don't need men to be happy or live fulfilled lives. While I still argue that to a certain extent this is true, I must add one amendment: men can shape us feminists into better people just like we can shape them.
Much of who I am I owe to the men in my life, whether they were a negative or positive influence. I think because we women get hurt by men and the damaging aspects of our patriarchal inheritance, we tend to define ourselves more by the bad than the good. Sometimes that makes it infinitely harder to accept the good when you find it.
My dad always taught me to chase after my dreams of being an astronaut, paleontologist, tomato-cooker,biologist, zoologist, rock-star, actor, and, now, writer. He always treated me as an intellectual equal. Some of my favorite memories of him are when he read me and my brother The Hobbit, acting out each character's voice to make the pages come alive. Perhaps the greatest thing he taught me has been to question, to use reason and divine inspiration to seek truth and then to fight for that truth, whether it's an easy battle or not. He has taught me integrity, to stand by my principles and what is right even if it doesn't make sense to others.
My two younger brothers, who are 20 and 7, have both taught me not to take everything in life so seriously. They've taught me how to play, have sharpened my reflexes from rough-housing, and expose me to elements of culture (like comic books and video-games) that balance out my intellectualism. My 20-year-old brother is my best friend. I know there are people out there deluded with the notion that nurturing is exclusive to women. Growing up, this brother was always better at sharing than me, teaching me to be less selfish and more giving. And my little brother blows me away with tender moments on a regular basis.
There is a problem that can arise with feminism. By becoming so focused on redeeming the value of womanhood, we can lose the ability to trust men. We are in danger of confining men to binaries and belittling them to worthless. I owe feminism a lot. It's what made me realize that being a woman is worth celebrating, that women have power too, and penis envy is for wussies. However, at the end of the day, has it become a label whose expectations can be just as restricting as they are liberating? After yet another conversation with my father, I've come to realize that feminism can be more than a label: it provides tools to pick and choose from that can enable me to more fully be myself.