I’m a Feminist.
I don’t shave my armpits. Or my legs. I don’t have sex with men and I don’t wear a bra. I’m an atheist, am not planning on being a mother, and I never really liked Barbies.
And yes, I am a man.
I started calling myself a feminist during my first year at college. In part, this was in response to meeting so many wonderful well-educated, independent women who seemed afraid to assume the title. Too many times I heard, “Well obviously I think that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men, but I’m not, like, a feminist or anything.”
I started replying, “Well, I’m a feminist.”
I’m not going to rehash all the reasons why people shy away from this label. The Regressive party (Get it? Cause it’s the opposite of progressive!) has managed to infuse the word feminist with an image bra-burning, man-hating and ugly-lesboathiest whiners that somehow has stuck. It’s a myth. Get over it.
This is what feminism means to me:
- Women and men must be valued equally in law, society, and economy.
- Women must have equal, unalienable rights to their own bodies.
- This currently is not the case.
- Therefore it is our responsibility to make changes that will bring about this equality, both in official (legislation, policies, etc.) and cultural (ending abuse of women, rape culture, etc) paths.
- Women must stand together to support each other and this cause.
- Men must stand with them.
I was raised believing in feminist ideas, but in college I started labeling myself, replying, “Well, I’m a feminist” in the hope that in some small way this might start changing the perception of the word from an insult to an honor.
Today, I feel that we have reached a political and cultural climate where being a feminist requires more. Women’s rights are being infringed upon at an ever greater rate and scale. Dozens of states are passing bills that five years ago, my freshman self wouldn’t have believed possible. I thought we had got over this whole abortion thing, like 49 years ago. Maybe it was just political naiveté, but I sincerely thought that these kinds of bills were the struggle of the previous generation and that, like women’s suffrage and interracial marriage, women had won the Right to Chose forever and ever, Roe vs Wade, Amen.
But I was wrong. There are bills being proposed and passing that Require mandatory vaginal probing before abortions (aka state-sanctioned rape). A bill was passed in NH that required doctors to tell women (inaccurately) that abortions cause a higher risk of cancer. (This bill is now under review after being passed.) Bills that require women to view ultrasounds before abortion, yet allow doctors to withhold information about complications with the pregnancy if it might cause the women to decide to get an abortion. And this makes me so angry.
It also makes me want to do something about it. There was a big scandal a while back (centuries ago in the US news cycle) about the hearing before Congress on birth control that featured an all-male panel of experts.
This picture was passed around the internet with various captions, all asking “Where are the women!?” A good question. The one great thing about this assault on women’s rights is that women have mobilized in a bigger way than I can remember. The response to proposed de-funding of Planned Parenthood, the response to vaginal ultrasound bills around the country. Over and over in the past few months we have seen women rallying together and fighting to keep their basic rights and dignity.
But in the middle of all of this we should ask, “Where are the men?”
I don’t know about other men out there, but I’m actually really glad that my sexual partners have access to birth control and the right to chose to have an abortion. Kids are cool. I don’t really want them at the moment. While I belive that more men should be involved in standing up for women’s rights in general, isn’t abortion and birth control something that we should really be getting behind? I see it as a very personal issue for men as well as women. I don’t think there are that many men out there who are going halfsies on their girlfriend/wife/hook up buddy/other’s prescription for hormonal birth control. But I do know that both the man and the women are benefiting from it (leaving aside all the non-contraceptive uses for the pill that are also not covered by insurance)!
If women are “having too much sex” that is causing pregnancies, then men must be (wait, let me do the math for a second…oh yeah!) HAVING THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT of sex. And if men’s insurance premiums are slightly higher to cover this, that’s a good thing. It’s a lot cheaper than a kid.
Women’s rights are not just a women’s issue. As men, we benefit when women are given the same rights, opportunities and respect that we receive. Stand up to sexism. Fight it your government, in your workplace, on the street or in your friend’s rape “joke.” It IS a big deal. And ending repression, discrimination, and violence against women is our responsibility too.
So here is my request to men (and women):
Be a feminist. Say, “I’m a feminist.” Take pride in the label and encourage others to as well.
Until men take an equal stand for gender equality, it just isn’t going to happen.
So we need to get working.
[Edit: Yes, it's fine with me if you share this post. Please do. My hope is to help spread these ideas and make them more mainstream. If you are inspired to pass it on, go for it! ]
[Edit 3/28/12: So the response to this article has been way bigger than I ever thought. This article has gotten more views than the past six months of writing which is either very exciting or a bit depressing :-) If I may, I would like to ask you to pass this on. If you know men or women who would like to read this, please share, stumble or email it! Many thanks to everyone who has commented or sent me an email, it has been so interesting to hear what you all have to say!]
So this entry was a little bit different than my usual topics of sword dancing and adventure. I hope that you enjoyed it anyway. I really hope that you will let me know your thoughts on this one. If you enjoyed this, I would appreciate you passing it along! I think it’s important. I will be posting a sword dance update soon. Until then, let’s ensure that women’s basic rights aren’t taken away. Actually, let’s do that after I post too. -Jeremy