Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why I'm a Feminist and Why You Should Be One Too

One of the things that freaks me out is that, in this day and age, some people are still shocked and disapproving when I say that I’m a feminist: “Seriously, do you hate men that much that you feel the need to be a feminist?” they ask. No, actually I don’t hate men at all. In fact, I know some very nice men and we’re good friends, lovers, and colleagues, thank you very much. The idea that to be a feminist you must therefore hate men is not the only stereotype about feminists that exists; unfortunately, we are often seen as bored housewives with nothing better to do, or angry, lazy women who couldn’t “hack it” in the world, and of course, the bitter, frigid CEO and ice queen.

I’m not a housewife (and I’m certainly not bored with my life—I moved to South Korea for kicks and giggles, people), I know I can hack it in the world because I have two degrees and a good job, oh and while I may not be a CEO, I’m most assuredly NOT frigid (and there are several people who can confirm that story).

But just as worrisome as the people who want to know why I’m a feminist, are the people who proclaim, “I’m not a feminist!” I know this sounds crazy hypocritical and judgmental, because here I am crying out, “I’m a feminist” and shouldn’t people be allowed to not be feminists? Well, yes they should because that’s called freedom, but how could anyone not be a feminist?

Stay with me, because we’ll come back to the question in a minute.

I recently read this blog post by famed lifestyle blogger, C.Jane. While I personally don’t really care for the blog, I also don’t think about it that much because it doesn’t really seem worth it and I’ve only read a few posts, however this particular post stood out when a friend showed it to me. So go on, read it. I’ll wait.

You back? Ok, for those of you that didn’t feel like skipping over to her blog, here is a one-sentence summary. C. Jane is not a feminist because she feels that true equality won’t really do anything for her, and she feels like she already has everything she needs.

Ok, while I personally think people should ALWAYS desire equality, I’m not going to lay into her for that viewpoint (as ridiculous as I think it is) she’s entitled to it. No, my bigger issue with that post is how incredibly selfish it is. That’s nice that she feels her life is so great that equality isn’t going to do much for HER, but what about all the other people in the world (and I do mean people—feminism believes in securing emancipation and equality for all) for whom equality would benefit?

So again, it’s nice that C. Jane’s happy little life is so great that she doesn’t need equality, but it’s not nice for all the people that her statement ignores who don’t have equality.

To whit, one in four women (specifically college-aged) are sexually assaulted in the United States. Similarly, and probably under-reported, is the statistic that one in seven men are sexually assaulted in the United States.

I’d like to live in a world where sexual assault wasn’t so prevalent, and I’d like for it to be ok for victims to report that they were attacked without being branded by a stigma (“slut” for girls, “wimp” for boys). Yeah, I think I’d like for my kids too.

But let us cast our net even further, let us consider the dire (and I do mean dire) circumstances of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, over 12% of women have been raped; statistics have reported that in the DR Congo, 48 women are raped every hour. Thousands suffer from HIV/AIDS, thousands have lost children and family, and few will ever be able to exercise their right to education.

Bet the people the DR Congo would like some equality.

Let’s head north now to Saudi Arabia, where, if you are a woman you may not drive; a man MUST have guardianship over you for your entire life. Now, whether that man is your father, husband, uncle, or even your son is unimportant.

Also, in Saudi Arabia as a woman, should you disagree with any of the policies relating to your life, you will then be publicly flawed or imprisoned. If you are raped, you, the victim, could be imprisoned, or again flogged. Hell, you might even be forced to marry your attacker.

If you live in Saudi Arabia (and are a woman) you might even have to walk around with your “tempting eyes” covered so as not to sexually arouse some poor, innocent man in the street, and thereby force him to rape you (an argument, which shamefully, mirrors our own western logic of, “she was dressed inappropriately, so therefore she was asking for it” and which can even be seen in this ridiculous video about Christian women in bikinis).

I bet some of those women in Saudi Arabia would like equality, and personally, I think it would be pretty cool if those women could be raised in an environment where they would learn that rape isn’t their fault (The Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?).

Let’s continue on though, maybe there are other countries where women would like some equality?

How about India where, although illegal, child brides are still forced to marry men ten times their age (no, my math is not wrong: five times 10 equals 50, which is an actual age difference between spouses that does happen in India).

Should we continue? I mean, we could all over the world and find sex trafficking, child prostitution, torture, and pretty much every other evil thing that you can do to another person.

This is why I’m a feminist, because I don’t just want equality for me, I want other women and men to be able to live according to the dictates of their conscious and without fear of violence and repression. I want women to be able to enjoy and own their own sexuality. I want women to be able to own their bodies. I want children to be able to enjoy their childhood without being forced into marriage. I want women to enjoy the rights of education, property and independence.

This is why you should be a feminist too, not just for yourself, but also for your children, for your sisters across the world who are disregarded, abused, maimed, killed, and reduced to second-class citizens because of a difference in their anatomy.

This is why I’m a feminist and this is why you should be one too.

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