Feminism is a dirty word.
Well, it's not, but I really only came to experience the true ugliness of it's misconception more recently. I was doin my thing on fb, perusing the news feed, and I came upon a video about feminism and the "disposable male," posted by a dude friend. It peaked my interest, so I decided to see what it was all about. I hit play, and on the screen am greeted with the most scornful, sour looking woman. She began talking, and in between scoffs, she expressed her contempt for feminists and their horrible male-hating selfish ways and all about how men don't have choices in their behaviour, so why should women demand them? Reluctantly, and actually quite angrily, I made myself sit through the whole thing and try to understand what she was saying. The negative energy was so great, and the scoffing so copious, that it was a very, very difficult 16 minutes. Especially a 16 minutes speckled with bitterness from someone who a) is a woman, b) is bitter about the very movement that has fought to give her rights, c) seems to think she really does know all there is to know, d) gives of the air of an unwillingness to listen to another viewpoint besides her own. Naturally taken back by her woman-hating bitterness, I responded. And oh, did I respond. And ohhhhhh did I get a response in return. It seems that while I have been preoccupied with exploring the nature of my gender and the psychological make-up of our patterns of behaviour, there has also been another camp.... who really think that feminism is a dirty word, and that feminists are horrible people.
So let's back up. I had mentioned in a previous post that I have been wondering about being a girl since I have been very young. I had a close friend in 4th grade, and she was what my mom would call a wild child. She began smoking in 5th grade, and was sexually active by the 8th grade. In high school, my closest friends developed eating disorders. Others dated burn-outs, or guys who were clearly not good for them, or were just wildly unstable and highly emotional, even as friends. Others used their sexuality like dog treats to reward boys for good behavior. Basically, when I was growing up, I noticed that all the girls I knew were about 68 kinds of crazy, and those were only the ones I knew. The dudes I made friends with (many of whom remain some of my best friends, I love you guys. :) meanwhile developed into stable young adults, and rarely seemed to become even half as lost as my girlfriends. I realize that teens in both genders span the spectrum of totally lost and out of control to stable and put-together... but there were an awful lot of girls with some pretty insane issues.... everywhere. So I began reading all about women and girls, and haven't stopped. I'm not even sure I've really made a dent.
But the bottom line is: we are about a million kinds of effed up.
So my question, of course, is why. And there is no good answer. I could say it's the media's portrayal of women for my friends with eating disorders, and I could also say it's daddy issues for the girls who used sexuality to get attention, and I could say that gender roles kept some girls from coming back to the wrong guys and putting up with their crap, but what I think all of these girls hae in common is the issue of self-esteem. The me who existed before this past year is rolling her eyes right now.
"That's so selfish. All they want is attention, and it's ridiculous. They just want a dude to tell them how wonderful and beautiful they are and grow up! It's out there, ladies! All the good dudes, all the happy feelings of self fulfillment! Figure it out!" is probably what I would have said...
But! Current me has realized that these girls really are suffering. They're suffering from whatever deep, dark thing is eating at them and pulling them in to make them believe that they're not worth it. I'm not saying that they are completely helpless, because I am not a fan of "life victims" who choose not to help themselves, but I am saying that the pain they're feeling is real. It's not all an act. Then I began thinking about all of the lives of my friends, what their childhoods were like. A good deal were sexually assaulted, some were victims of divorce, estranged fathers, unstable family lives. And all this we know, it's not news. And that's what we're left with. And I don't know that anyone really knows where to go from there.
Since we got engaged, feminism in wife form has been at the front of my mind... all the time. As soon as planning started, little references to my new "role," have been tossed around. One example was a reference about how I have to "take care of" future hubs as his new wifey. This is all fine and good, but he also takes care of me, which in this scenario, seemed to be particularly underplayed. Please don't roll your eyes at this point and say "uh, I think you're taking it a bit too far..." because I know it was there. Do you ever walk into a room and you know people are talking about you? It's like that feeling. You can't explain the exact body language and tone of voice or the silence, but you know it's there. I just feel like I've entered this world where two people dating is modern enough and works, but the word wife still carries gender stereotypes hidden in it's cupboards. Part of my research has been through APW, which I brought up in my first post and has been totally awesome. There is a whole section called reclaiming wife, which addresses this very issue, and they are amazing.
All that being said, feminism never ceases to perplex me. I think I have been really wrapped up in finding a common ground with EVERY woman, which is probably never going to happen. I think secretly I've been pining for a universal group therapy session in which we ALL (women) sit down and say to ourselves, "Okay, so let's figure this thing out. How are we going to represent ourselves in a way that makes sense? We have been at this whole equality thing for a little while now, and I think it's high time we decide who does what so that no one is unintentionally being degraded or not demanding their rights while remaining respectful and loving to the other half... No nonsense." And then we would all sort it out and really understand each other. Once I discovered this secret wish to understand everyone in my gender, I did understand that this would never happen. Not every man understands every other man, so why should that be any different for women? Such is life. I suppose the only thing really left to do is to continue having this conversation about what is expected, what is realistic, and what needs to change. And also, to keep reading.