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 ;)