Filed under: rant | Tags: | October 24th, 2012
So I should be studying for an exam and preparing for a lab, but first I had to wring this thought out of my head so I can concentrate better.
I just posted a link on Facebook about feminism (http://wnfmcgill.tumblr.com/). I think this project is a great idea and I am happy to see it.
“Feminism” is one of those words that seems to make people’s blood pressure rise, so let me explain what I mean lest you think I’m going around spray-painting ovaries on bus stops (which I wouldn’t do anyway as I don’t approve of vandalism). To me, feminism means to identify and uphold a woman’s intrinsic worth as a human being and not to stereotype her. It’s about her self-worth, how other people treat her, and her rights in society. It’s not necessarily about having children (or not), working (or not) or any of the other things that people fixate on when the “issue” of women comes up. It’s about treating each woman like a valuable person and not pigeonholing her into some stereotyped role or persona.
And just to remind you of the context: I am a scientist, soon to be a pharmacist, a mother, a wife, a student, and someone who isn’t afraid to speak her mind nor fail to fit into a mold.
As part of this, our society should support women and men who choose to work, who choose to remain single, who choose to marry, who choose to stay home and care for children, who choose to do things like art rather than work in a call centre … it sickens me that we can’t seem to wrap our heads around the fact that some women want to stay home and are happy with that choice while other women hold positions of importance and power and go back to work after having children too. Let’s not for a second devalue the importance and work involved in providing full-time care to children – if someone were paid for all the activities stay at home parents do, it would cost about $90 000 annually. And please consider how challenging it is for mothers who work, trying to find childcare, arrange for work replacements or emergency care when her children are sick, and spend time with their children at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what we do, anything with children is a lot of work and should be commended and supported.
It is surprising that in 2012 we seem to have regressed a bit when it comes to how we treat women in society. Examples include whore-themed hall’oween costumes (now in kid sizes too!), the prevalence of “rape” jokes, and offhand (and likely intended to be benign) comments like the one I recently encountered that involved the word “hottie” and “blonde”. I am ascribing these kinds of events to a phenomenon that I’ve only recently come to understand and define.
In the 90′s we had an era of “anti-stereotyping”. It was all about not stereotyping people on the basis of their gender, race, income level, origins, sexual orientation, or whatever. I think it was a concept that we really wrestled with in North America and Europe during that time. While I don’t think that concept has disappeared, what I see today is the use of a lot of stereotypes in jokes (aka ‘memes’). Part of the reason that this is done is simply for comic effect (and some of it is brilliant) and to some extent to challenge and break those memes. And part of it is still highly stereotypical.
I also hear words like “Asian” and “brownie” being used a lot more than when I was in school. These are generally not used by people from other cultures in a derogatory way, but more as an identification with a cultural group or statement of one’s place. It’s interesting though, as we’d be terrified to breathe such a word in, say, 1994. Perhaps we’ve developed a more subtle and mature view of who each individual in society is, and perhaps it re-enforces our need to have community and support.
What concerns me, though, is the continued trend to regress women to the need to be “sexy” (more like whorish) and aforementioned the rape jokes. Rape isn’t joke material. Rape is abuse, rape is violent - rape is not cause for humor. The statistics regarding women who are raped and sexually abused is absurd, and thus it is mostly, but not exclusively, a statement that continues to degrade women.
So, because this is my blog and I get to make the rules, here’s some advice.
1) Do not judge yourself by comparing your choices to others, and do not measure yourself by whatever yardstick others are using to objectify women at the moment. Make your choices based on what you value and believe, be willing to change your views if necessary.
2) If your husband, boyfriend or partner isn’t a feminist, at least the way I described above, the question is – why not? Assess your situation and make sure you are comfortable with it.
3) Don’t let any kind of abuse or coercion happen without reporting it. Even if the system, the police, the company, whatever, turns a blind eye. Make some noise. Stir up trouble, until you find someone that listens.
1) No more rape jokes. Just none, ok?
2) When you want to use words like “sexy” and “bitch” and “hottie” or whatever variant comes to your mind … keep it there. That’s your “inside voice” and those words can’t be verbalized without causing harm. It’s perfectly normal to appreciate beauty and to be attracted to people, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to verbally stalk them.
3) If you see, observe or experience any kind of objectifying and degrading talk, don’t just stand by and allow it to happen. Do something to stop or mitigate it, or at least ask the offended party if there is anything you can do to help. Changes won’t happen without you.
I know some exemplary men who treat all people, including women, with respect and by doing so they’ve certainly earned mine.
A final thought: treating women with dignity isn’t just an “issue” in our schools and workplaces – it also is about the value we place on our friends and family members who happen to be female … grandmothers, cousins, mothers, aunts, daughters, nieces…if we respect the women in our families, then we should respect women everywhere.