I was at a party a week or so ago after the first night of Skepticon. I was talking to Amanda Marcotte I told her that I consider myself a radical feminist. She asked me what I meant by that. It was a great question which I think I answered somewhat to her satisfaction, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since and I don’t think I answered it to my satisfaction.
If I am going to go around calling myself a feminist, especially a radical one, I need to be able to explain exactly what I mean by that. I know what I feel. I have always believed that women are equal to and just as valid as any man. But there is so much more to it than that. And the key, I think, is found in the often homicidal outrage I feel when I read about the innumerable, degrading, heart wrenching stories about women the world over who exist in virtual servitude. Those who have no control over their education, reproduction, their own bodies or even their own thoughts.
But that outrage isn’t reserved just for the obvious, glaring examples found in places like Saudi Arabia, or Eastern Europe, or Africa. The outrage is equally strong when I read about the everyday events that most woman in this world have to deal with. The sexists comments, the leers, the condescending attitudes from men who, for no other reason than that they were born with a penis, feel they have privileges over all the women in their lives.
There are so many examples to draw from and all are equally enraging to me. The parents who kill girl infants because they aren’t boys. The parents who believe that girls are property to be sold into marriage, or worse. The parents who refuse to educate their daughters. The men who believe that the women in their lives are property to be traded or controlled.
Add to this the insult that others, mostly men who are priests, pastors, doctors and lawmakers, vie for control of a woman’s body. The hypocrisy of this has started to become clear in the uproar over TSA body searches of passengers. Only when a man is suddenly forced to surrender control of his privates to other does he suddenly feel the anger and degradation that millions of women feel every day. This point must not be lost in the ongoing debate of the TSA policy as it speaks loud and clear to the indignities that all woman are expected to endure.
Then there are the little things, innumerable, that degrade and belittle women every day. Being expected to cook or do housework or take on the brunt of child care. To be a sexual plaything at the beck and call of her husband or boyfriend. These expectations are prevalent and real in the lives of many upon many woman the world over.
It is the idea of male privilege that has been promulgated for thousands of years to the point that entire religions have been constructed around the idea that women are just one more possession given to men by their god. They hold up their scriptures that they, themselves have written, as proof of their superiority.
The fear of woman runs deep in the privileged male psyche. Fear of impotence; fear of loss of power, fear of death. All this and more does the privileged male fear, and when he sees his obvious equal in woman, he convinces himself that she is the cause of all his misfortune.
I was lucky growing up. My father always treated every women with respect. I never once heard him say anything that could have been taken as derogatory toward women, unlike almost all of my friends’ fathers did. He treated my mother with the utmost respect, even when she didn’t deserve it. I never did ask him about his views about woman’s equality. It just wasn’t something that came up. All I have is his example and that speak volumes.
What can I do about this? There are several this I can and have done. I have raised my daughter, who is 12 now, to be a strong, self-confident young woman. She doesn’t take any shit from anyone and openly mocks anyone who dares to try to tell her she can do something because she is a girl. I take great pride in her strength and confidence, know that I have helped shape that.
I have raised my son, who is 16, to respect women and treat them as his equals. While we haven’t talked about it much, I have yet to see him do or hear him say anything bad about a woman solely because she is female.
In my conversations with others, I never let a sexist word or action go unanswered.
I am a feminist because I believe in the true equality of woman to men, not just in words, but in deeds, and that these rights must be written into our laws and all of our institutions. I am a feminist because I reject the idea of male privilege where ever it may show its self. I am a feminist because I reject every aspect of our society, no matter how minor or mundane, that perpetuates the lie of male privilege. Finally, I am a radical feminist because I refuse to stand still and stay silent while even a single woman in this world is marginalized, insulted, abused or denigrated. I will speak out, loudly and forcefully, against every outrage against women large and small.
None of this is new to me, but my decision to take an active part in fighting against sexism and inequality is. I won’t be silent any longer. From here on out, the focus of the blog is going to shift somewhat. In addition to my railing against the evils of religion and magical thinking, expect to see a much greater focus on feminism. I may get less than 100 hits a day, but if I can get my message out to even one person a week, that will make all my effort worth it.