Monday, October 7, 2013

GLOBAL CHICK VERSUS FEMINISM



Once again, I’m at the point in my life when I don’t consider myself a feminist.

My close friends probably know that I have had this love-hate relationship with feminism my whole life. I would identify myself as a feminist, but only until other feminists piss me off, at which point I declare that I don’t want to have anything to do with the whole business – until I find out about some blatant example of oppression against women and decide that feminism is not and cannot be dead, and that I have to stick around for the higher good. Speak about a roller-coaster! I attempted to describe what feminism means to me in an article I wrote for www.mookychick.co.uk a couple of years ago; you are welcome to read it here. But you know, a lot has changed ever since.

The main reason why I currently don’t feel like a feminist is that I’m enrolled in a counseling program that focuses on social justice and multicultural competence, and as such has been trying to convince me for a past year or so that as a woman in the United States, I am very, very oppressed. I found this rather surprising, because the fact that I feel much more validated and empowered as a woman here than anywhere else (yeah, take that, Czech Republic!!!) is one of the main reasons why I decided to stay here in the first place. But there are some things you simply cannot reason with counselors about: Women in the United States are (terribly) oppressed, period, and if I don’t FEEL oppressed, it probably means that there is something wrong on my side!

Now, it’s true that my operational definition of the word “oppressed” does seem to be different from the rest of my classmates. When you say the word, I picture things like women not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia (by the way, check out my girl Rajaa Alsanea’s novel Girls from Riyadh, it’s really interesting!), a young girl gang-raped in India, or, for that matter, battered women’s shelters here in the United States. These, together with many others, are worthy causes I feel passionate about. But I can’t quite force myself to get all worked up because of some things which are apparently a big no-no in the multiculturally sensitive counseling world: For example when a guy in a dance club stares at two of my classmates who are dancing back-to-back, all sexy and shit, they bring it up in class all outraged about how that fucker was objectifying them; without providing an explanation why, if they don’t want people looking at them, would they go shaking their bums in cute little dresses in public.

See!? A completely different thinking!

So as a result, I told last week during dinner to one of my favorite classmates, let’s nickname her Little Firecracker, that I was NOT a feminist.

She refused to believe me.

I tried to give her some examples of how some behaviors that are perceived as oppressive, insulting, and chauvinistic by the rest of the counseling program don’t bother me at all and how I generally feel that the United States are not a bad place for a chick to be living in, but she didn’t buy it.

“Do you consider men and women to be equal?” she asked sternly.

I admitted that I did indeed consider men and women equal, at least in that sense that both sexes are (or should be) equally entitled to make their own choices and have the same rights in the society.

“Then you are a feminist,” Little Firecracker said.

This time I didn’t buy it. Because I also happen to believe that people of different colors are born equal, and that homosexuals should have the same right like heterosexuals, and that all religions can be either great and uplifting, or bad and oppressive – depending on what mood I am in when someone asks. So when I say that I’m a feminist, I argued, it reduces my life philosophy to the gap between men and women, and doesn’t at all reflect how I feel about equality of all people in the world.

This argument worked.

“I see,” Little Fireckacker responded. “You don’t want to identify yourself as a feminist anymore because it’s too EXCLUSIVE!”

While I was a little disappointed that my argument about how I liked me a nice little catcall every now and then neither convinced, nor shocked Little Firecracker, I had to admit that she was right. Based on my own conclusion I reached in the aforementioned article on Mookychick, no one should have the right to tell me that I can’t be a feminist just because I have a different opinion about things than the feminist majority (or counselors). However, I don’t feel comfortable with wearing this label anymore simply because I am concerned with the rights of EVERYONE on this planet, animals and plants included, and gender issue is an important, but still only ONE piece of the big puzzle.

So, the matter’s been officially resolved and I’m now allowed to call myself whatever. And as for you, young male hotties out there, please, feel free to whistle at me on street any time you feel like it – I promise that you will NOT get sued ;)

5 comments:

Sarah Potter said...

I love this conversation Margaret! I think it comes from a very "global" perspective rather than my limited American views. I agree completely that compared to many other parts of the world American women are much less oppressed. However, I do disagree with you about a couple of things. Although I completely respect your right to "call yourself" whatever you want, or not label yourself at all... I don't think being a feminist excludes other marginalized groups. The whole feminist ideology works toward equality in general. It recognizes the effect of society on males, and really every group of people. Also, again from my limited American perspective, it seems like the more I learn about feminism, the more I recognize and feel the oppression that comes with being female (yes, even in America).

Global Chick said...

Thanks, Sarah, and it's completely okay to disagree ;) What fun would it be if everyone agreed with me all the time!? Anyway, I respect your stance, especially considered that until recently I had pretty much the same opinion. Now I'm at the point when I feel like the whole feminist ideology SHOULD work toward equality in general, but often doesn't. I find way too many feminists too hardcore and unreasonable, acting like men are the ultimate enemy. I think that calling myself "humanist" describes me much more, that's all :)

Happy Girl said...

I LOVED this essay! Thank you for being brave and saying things I have been thinking for a long time, too!! In my past, I have had "feminist" instructors condescend me for being "too traditional"...even roll an eye or two at the way I interpreted a book...it made me sad and ashamed...I was left feeling like "Maybe I am not smart enough, strong enough, cool enough, etc...to be a feminist".... It was sad b/c I could have benefitted from being uplifted during that challenging time in my life. Instead I was mocked for being "too traditional"...Fast forward 20 some years and I am finally realizing the hypocrisy in the way I was being treated...that I was being oppressed by those that were supposed to be supporting me...Now, I recognize that true feminism is open mindedness in allowing ALL human beings to be who THEY want to be instead of needing to subscribe to one set definition...Your essay speaks to this and I truly appreciate how you push the envelope and get all of us to think from a variety of angles....LOVE IT!!

RoyO said...

I like to begin every political/social discussion by recognizing that 2 billion people live on less than $2 a day and 15,000 children die every day from diseases which are wholly preventable. So, when I hear people outraged about oppression in America I tend to agree with many people around the world who view us as whining, spoiled, and self-centered. Yes, we have things which should be improved in America, but over-dramatizing our problems distracts us from how much we should be doing to reduce the suffering for the millions of truly impoverished.

Global Chick said...

Happy Girl: I had the same experience and I know that it has influenced my attitude against feminism for worse - in fact, I found most feminists, whose works I read or whom I talked to personally, more judgmental than the patriarchal society they were supposed to fight against!

RoyO: I couldn't agree more :)