The Feminist Blackout
A recent headline caught my attention recently. Apparently, an 8th-grade girl in Ohio wore a black shirt with bold white letters spelling out “FEMINIST” in a class photo for school. The school had the word blacked out because it “was not flattering” and “others might find it offensive.”
Are you kidding me?
First of all, it would be a dream come true to somehow connect with this girl, and tell her how much of a badass I think she is. In 8th grade, I was killin’ it on my flute, had all the Hedrick Wrangler cheers down, and was listening to KCi & JoJo’s “Crazy” on repeat when my first boyfriend dumped me. I was totally ambivalent on gender equality. I naively assumed we were equal if I gave it any thought at all.
Now, at 27, I proudly claim the “feminist” title and forget that some people even consider “feminist” the “f-word.” A feminist is a supporter of gender equality. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, but with increasing awareness, we will get there, and our world will be better for our daughters AND sons.
Sister Joan Chittister said it best:
“I’m fundamental about this: I really believe that nothing is going to change in the world until the situation of women changes. You cannot simply dismiss over half of the human race; which means dismiss their agendas, dismiss their needs, dismiss their gifts, dismiss their intelligence. We are now at the place where men are running everything which means that humanity is seeing with one eye, hearing with one ear, and thinking with one-half of a human brain. No wonder we are doing the things we’re doing! We’re bringing to the table only half the needs of the human race. I don’t mean that men are doing this purposely; it’s just that they only have half the experience, they have half the wisdom, they have half the intelligence…so they are making FULL decisions out of HALF of the resources…”
I don’t try to rival my husband with body mass or body hair, nor do I insist on doing the repairs around the home. I thank him for working so hard and brag on him and his career tirelessly. I enjoy cooking dinner for our family and do most of the housework. We have fallen into gender norms in our home. To me, being a feminist isn’t insisting that we split everything up 50/50. It is acknowledging our different gifts. At one time, I may have thought a well-kept house with food prepared on the table when my husband comes home from work would be regressing back to 1950…but now I consider it a manifestation of one of our family values: respect for our home. The value I bring to our home (both in domestic work on my days “off” and in monetary values on my days working as an RN) is absolutely equal to that of my bread-winning husband. Feminism isn’t about trying to one-up my man, it’s about standing beside him and knowing we are each better because of the other.
I also consider the value I’m able to provide to our home a privilege. We were born into privilege purely by being born to our (loving, educated, white, middle-class) families in the USA. Granted, we’ve struggled with finances and job security, even not having a home for a while, so yes, I feel some personal pride in getting to where we are now. But the privilege can’t be denied. I feel lucky to be in our situation.
Perhaps more so now than ever, raising a daughter keeps feminist musings bouncing around in my head. I felt a visceral sensation when I heard this 8th-grade girl’s story, and wondered how I would have responded as a mother. I think this was absolutely a teaching moment. There is no shame in being a feminist. The fact that it was blacked out for fear of being “unflattering and offensive” just lights the fire, and reiterates the need for gender equality.
Though I admittedly haven’t read it yet, “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay has some pretty point on quotes that resonate with me:
“I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.”
“What goes unsaid is that women might be more ambitious and focused because we’ve never had a choice. We’ve had to fight to vote, to work outside the home, to work in environments free of sexual harassment, to attend the universities of our choice, and we’ve also had to prove ourselves over and over to receive any modicum of consideration.”
“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
If even one person reading this now claims the title “feminist,” I will feel ridiculously happy.
PIN IT FOR LATER:
This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.