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Why I’m a Feminist

7 Jul

Feminism gets a lot of crap these days. The word has become less positive and more of an epithet. Feminists are seen as dangerous, irrational extremists who despise men and want to make mountains out of molehills for the sake of being the Better Gender. That or their work is considered useless, as women still get paid less than men, still face harrassment, rape and a bombardment of negative images from media and culture.

What is feminism though? Semantically now, I’m talking about the textbook definition.

fem·i·nism
–noun

1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

so sayeth dictionary.com

I’m not here to give you an history lesson, and it’d take a lot of research to lay out the exact history of feminism. But now that we’ve got a basic definition, I can give you readers a list of reasons why I am a feminist, and what feminism has done for me:

Feminism has given me the right to vote in US elections.

Feminism has allowed me to go to college.

Feminism has made it possible for me to dress how I want to dress, be it in short, pants, a skirt, my sweats, dressed up and pretty or casual.

Feminism has given me the choice to have a career AND/OR be a housewife.

Feminism has given me legal rights in social, economic, and family situations.

Feminism has allowed me to be valued for my brains as well as my domestic abilities.

I am a feminist because feminism lets me go to work for six hours, then come home and bake bread. Feminism doesn’t make me choose my path, it allows me an option c.

Feminism, definitive feminism, the feminism defined above, does not tell us we can’t be traditional women. There’s nothing wrong with a woman who wants to raise her children as a homemaker, work as a cook, sew or teach or be a secretary. Just like there’s nothing wrong with women being doctors or lawyers or CEO’s.

The difference is, little girls would NOT have the ability to become doctors without feminism and the feminist movement of our ancestors. Now we as independent, modern women can be mothers, can be teachers, can be lawyers or cooks or anything else you can think of because we CHOOSE to, not because those are our only options.

Feminism gives me equality. Feminism permits me choice in all my walks of life, the choice to wear what I want, say what I want, BE what I want, and the freedom to express my identity.

Is feminism perfect? Hardly, and I know it. The bad rap comes from stereotyping, a lack of ‘visible’ progress and a misuse of the term.

I’m a feminist, and that doesn’t mean I hate all men. I like men. I also like women, but I’m currently in a relationship with a man and he and I are very happy together. Equally together. There’s no expectation I fill a traditional gender role of being a wife and mother, just the understanding that I can be that if I choose.

I’m a feminist, and that doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong for women to want to be mothers and homemakers. I want women to be happy. I know that my way of being happy (writing books and drawing cartoons and being a cat lady) isn’t going to be the same happy my female friends want.

Fifty years ago, I would not have had the option. I would have tried, but would have to fight tooth and nail for it. Women in the sixties were making progress, but it was still frowned upon for a woman to focus on something other than a husband.

One hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have even been able to try.

I think definitive feminism is taken for granted. Many of us take for granted our rights to vote and go to college and wear trousers and marry who we want or not marry at all.

Sometimes I do too. I forget that this is something new for the world, and in many areas of the world isn’t even common practice yet. Women don’t have rights everywhere. American women are lucky. We can choose.

A recommended movie for y’all: Mona Lisa Smile. It’s kinda girly, and Julia Roberts is in it, but it says a lot about the roles of women in America, today and fiftyish years ago.

I end with a favourite quote:

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.  ~Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler
Y’all can agree, disagree, point out flaws in my argument and reasons why I’m wrong and this post is silly and rambly, but I’m a proud feminist, and firm believer that women deserve rights EQUAL to those of men.

Seasonal Musings

25 Dec

So the Christmas season is great for at least one thing: making me suck at posting anything on my blog. I’ve been so run around with my hair on fire shopping, cooking and gift-wrapping that the internet has been sorely neglected. Hello internet. I’m sorry that I’ve been ignoring you in favour of knitting, shopping and Bioshock 2 (which I beat last night at about one AM. It was awesome). I missed you.

Christmas is always an odd time for me and my family. My parents, who are rather rabid about family time during the holidays, tend to pull out as many stops as they can get away with without being tacky (which means a well-decorated, real fir tree, multiple nativity sets and enough cookies to feed a really hyper army). My sister and I return from wherever we’ve been for the last few weeks (England in her case, my apartment in mine) and assist in the gift-giving and cooking frenzy.

You think I’m kidding? As I type my mother is covering a 12 pound turkey in butter and is about to wrap it in bacon. Yes world, sometimes I regret vegetarianism. Sometimes.

The gifts have all been unwrapped at this point. Most of my gifts these days are clothes, since I’m a 23-year-old and my mother knows I hate like hell to shop for clothes. Or anything else for that matter (except books. I can shop for books like it’s going out of style). However, my parents are also contributing a kind sum of money to help my purchase a brand spanking new laptop, which I will track down on the internet like an overexcited five year old and then bounce up and down in front of the mailbox for.

Of course, the best gift I’ve gotten this year was from my ever-awesome boyfriend (who I gave Fable III for Christmas; he hasn’t stopped playing it since), who gave me this:

Does he know me or what? Finally, a companion cube I don’t have to incinerate. Talk about holiday cheer.

The most challenging part of holiday seasons for me is that Church Thing. My family is Catholic, and I, for lack of a better descriptor, am rather not. I’ve considered myself a comfortable Agnostic-Pastafarian-Skeptic for the last few years now, and this makes attending church on the high side of unpleasant. I never go of my own accord; I spend my Sundays sleeping in in favor of being told by a man in a dress that his big Sky Daddy in the clouds has deemed that I will go to hell unless I vote Republican (yes, this happened. Welcome to the Midwest).

Not all Catholics are bad. Not all Christians are bad, in face many of them are kind, reasonable and pleasant human beings I don’t want to stab in the face with a salad fork. It just depends on where you are, and around here, there’s a pretty heavy amount of extremism. Example? The Catholic student group on campus likes to picket outside the local Planned Parenthood. Just saying.

Being Catholic is a lot like being Jewish to me; you just celebrate different holidays with different food and you intersperse your conversation with Latin instead of Yiddish. That and we don’t get cool hats. So part of me still accepts catholicism as a part of the way I was raised. I went to Catholic School for ten years as a kid, though that did little more than turn me into a near-atheist and have a healthy dislike of school uniforms.

That said, my least favorite part of the holidays, and by extension the catholicism, is the Guilt Trip. Catholic Guilt is unprecedented in religious belief systems – ask any Catlicker you know and they can tell you about it, even if they aren’t part of the church any more. Catholic Guilt is used by parents and grandparents alike to crush the younger generations of their family to convince them to do everything from go to church at Christmas to take out the trash to get married to someone you hate.

It’s a time-honored tradition, and one that my family holds up with no regret. Every Christmas I find myself attending a Christmas church service with my father, mother and sister, where I sit and try not to burst into flames or kick the fussy small children in front of me (and there are ALWAYS small children in a Catholic church). A small price to pay for avoiding a scene I guess (my mother, when I bring up my non-theism, always insists that it’s a ‘phase’ I’m going through and that when I’m older and ready to start a family and get married i’ll come back to the church. This is something we disagree on at a deep, fundamental level, and will not be resolved any time soon, and I want to put off the inevitable explosion for as many years as I possibly can), and I did get a lot of knitting done this year during the service, and now I don’t have to set foot in a religious building until next Easter.

Regardless, it’s a difficult way of life. Not to pity-party it, there are far worse things to be in America than Agnostic. The way some people feel about Muslims in this country, I’m hardly in a dangerous minority. But it’s still rough, especially since for a country that claims a freedom of religion, the government can be rather hard on people who aren’t at all spiritual (link via Blag Hag). Apparently freedom of religion doesn’t include freedom of NO religion. Who knew?

I’m not saying other people can’t enjoy this day as the birth of their Lord Jesus (even though it’s historically factual that Jesus was born in March and they shifted his birthday to accommodate the pagan conversion back in the day. So sayeth my Classics Professor, who is also an Episcopal minister and a total badass). That’s their prerogative, and I invite them to do so. Go ahead. I’ll never stop you. Just let me enjoy my cozy skeptic corner over here?

I may be a godless heathen, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. Actually, I’m really quite a nice person. I buy people gifts at Christmas. I’m no Scrooge – no humbugs here, just cheesy grins and piles of cookies. I give to charity. I love others. I’m not a dick to random strangers, not even if they’re a dick to me first. I live a morally upright existence without the doctrines of a religion or faith poking me in my head with the threat of eternal damnation. That doesn’t make me better, it just makes me different. Different and deserving of respect just like the rest of you.

So that’s my Christmas Spiel. Christmas started out as a Christian conversion mechanism, and now it’s a corporate playground that encourages greed and malice along with love and joy. Everyone loves or hates it for a different reason, but the important thing is the love thing. Call me a dirty hippie, but that’s what it’s all about. Not presents. Not commercialism. Not santa. Not even Jesus. It’s about family. Friends. Giving people shit they don’t need but they appreciate anyway because effort was made. Having a day off from work. Enjoying yourself. Eating yourself into a coma. Maybe it’s a different spin on things, but welcome to being a non-believer during the holidays. Still festive, just not for the same reasons.

So merry holidaymas, blogosphere. I hope you enjoyed my seasonal ramble, and if you didn’t I still hope your Christmas is festive and full of people you enjoy being around. Also food. Food is the best part of Christmas, and you all know I’m right.

Now if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to go knit a scarf and watch Scrooged until my Mum summons me into the kitchen to peel fifty pounds of apples.

Dear Saint Augustine,

11 Dec

A letter to Saint Augustine, esteemed bishop of Hippo Regius who lived from 354 to 430 CE and wrote prolifically on the subjects of religion, philosophy, sin and salvation:

Your esteemed saintness,

I can’t say I knew much about you before my Junior year of college. I was raised Catholic, but much like yourself according to your book Confessions, I was really bad at it. Not that I forsee myself having the epic revelation and conversion you went through in Milan, but you at least know where I’m coming from, Problem of Evil and all that.

I am working on my final paper for my Religion and Late Antiquity class, which is 70% of my final grade. I know you’re a little far along on the Late Antiquity scale, so far that some folk refer to you as the last Great Thinker of Late Antiquity and the dude whose works and thoughts mark the beginning of the period of Medieval thought (which is impressive by the way. Props to you for that). My point being, I decided to write my paper about you.

This, in retrospect, may have been a mistake.

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m holed up inside away from the snow, and this is the current state of my workspace:

That’s a lot of books. And highlighted sticky notes. And other crap. I’m sifting through at least two of your works to hunt down material to ramble about in my paper for at least ten pages. That’s not the problem.

No, the problem is this book:

That there? That huge monstrosity of a text that weighs about as much as a small child and could easily be used to club one to death? That’s your work, City of God against the Pagans. It’s a key part of my paper, along with your reasons for writing it (sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 and all that. Bummer about that by the way. I bet that was a huge downer). It is nearly impossible to read. This has been my second attempt, and both times I have given up in frustration and only read the parts absolutely necessary to succeed in my academics.

My problem, Saint Augustine, is that you have simply written TOO MUCH for me to adequately summarize you in a research paper with a maximum pagecount of 20. I will of course make a valiant attempt – I have an outline, an intro paragraph, I even have a bunch of sticky notes and references to some of your influences, like the Manichees and Plotinus and even the Bible.

Do you know how rare it is for ME to pick up a Bible? I had to borrow one from my boyfriend, and he only had it on hand because he’s a philosophy major and was assigned it for a class.

Yes, we’re heathens. Don’t hold it against us, we’re still good people, we promise.

So that’s that. Your body of work is too dense and your life far too interesting for me to do it justice in this paltry research paper of mine. That’s the sad, honest-to-god truth right there. I did well on my presentation, but that seemed to be a lot of my professor being shocked that it was possible to summarize your life and works AT ALL, let alone squeezing it into a fifteen minute presentation that I gave while talking very quickly. There were handouts. And a powerpoint.

My point is, I’m sorry I’m in the process of butchering your philosophical career in the interest of my education. I will leave a ton of stuff out, like your consort and son (another bummer there dude. Your son died young, and your mom kinda sucks for forcing you to break up with her, even thought she’s a saint and stuff) and your marriage to a girl half your age (EW. Sorry, but EW. I don’t care if girls got married at 14 a lot when you were alive, that’s just nasty). I’m really only going to talk about two of your major works, and three of your key concepts that revolutionized Christianity.

But give me some credit here. I’m just trying to graduate with more than a C in this class.

I’m not the praying kind, that much I’m sure you’ve figured out. However, in this case I’m making a semi-serious exception to directly appeal to you as a former Catholic historian semi-godless heathen hedonist who’s just trying to get this done with as little pain as possible. If you would, Saint Augustine of Hippo, give me the sanity to complete this paper, and this research, without setting anyone on fire, by 10 AM on Monday the 13th of December.

It would be very much appreciated. Also, I’d like to get more than a B on it, if that’s something I can swing.

I promise I’ll make you sound like a philosophical badass. For reals.

Sincerely, and with much kowtowing and thanks,

Lora, flailing history/religion student