I Am a Feminist

I am a feminist. Still.

First let me say that I am tired of having to repeat myself year after year after year. I don’t think we should have to, in 2016, still be pointing out that women are treated not just unequally, but actually with contempt in some cases. But then life as usual happens and I am reminded again that we feminists still have to speak out.

A convicted rapist is sentenced to just six months in prison because the judge feels that the young man’s life will be ruined if he faces a longer term. The rapist’s father tells the court his son can’t even enjoy eating a steak anymore. Neither of these men, privileged merely by the facts that they are white and they are men, seems to understand that the young woman was actually the victim of this rape. Rape is not an intimate act, it is a violent crime. SHE WAS THE VICTIM!

A major party candidate for President of the United States is accused of “playing the woman card.” What exactly IS the woman card? I am pretty sure I have been shuffling that deck for decades now. Her opponent can’t possibly begin to understand the intricate issues of governance and politics, so he simply attacks her for being a woman. Some of us yearn to hear a genuine airing of issues and policy statements, and instead we get sexist rants, and his supporters, many of them women, are okay with that.

Don’t even get me started on the equal pay for equal work situation. No matter how you do the math, 79 cents does not equal a dollar. It never will.

Also, don’t get me started on the horrific treatment of women in other countries. No, it doesn’t make it better that our country allows women certain privileges and doesn’t treat them like cattle. It just makes other countries worse.

So what exactly is a feminist, you wonder, and why should a woman who has been happily married for 32 years be a feminist? Because it’s not about holding doors, it’s about equality. It’s not about who is stronger physically, it’s about equality. It’s not about women’s rights, it’s about human rights. It’s not about whether a woman can still feel feminine and enjoy wearing dresses and high heels. I do, and I’m still a feminist. It’s not about which partner changes the babies diapers or mows the lawn (and the answer in our home has always been “both of us.”) It’s about women and men being treated with equal respect under the law and in the workplace. It’s about women and men collectively being welcomed at the boardroom table and the kitchen table.

Once upon a time I was a card-carrying member of NOW, the National Organization for Women. Card carrying, as in: I donated to the organization and they sent me a membership card, which I carried in my wallet. I believed in their cause in the 1970s and I believe in their cause now. I believe in equal pay for equal work. I believe we have not done enough in this country to stop violence against women or against lesbian, gay, and transgender people. We haven’t done enough to promote racial equality or religious tolerance. Oh yes…I also believe that women should have control over their own health and medical care.

And we sure haven’t overcome the stereotypes that women have certain roles in society which do not include leadership. Routinely, women who are strong, assertive, ambitious, and intelligent are still considered bitchy. Men with those same traits are considered leadership material. I know this because I have lived it.

It’s especially vexing to me when young women deny that feminism is even necessary. They treat it like some type of historical novel; something that had to be an issue for women in the old days – way back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Here’s the thing about that: those women who made a big deal about equality back in the day are the reason young women now have opportunities to play sports, legally get credit in their own name including student loans (for better or worse), purchase property, and apply for any job they may choose. Your grandmothers and great grandmothers are the reason you now get to vote. But it’s not just history at stake, it’s the present.

Feminism is not a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. Both women and men need a consciousness-raising every so often, to remind us that we are all in this life together. We all need to treat one another with respect and kindness and with an eye towards justice at every turn. Our gender alone does not define who we are as a person any more than our race or our religion. We are all the sum total of our physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and artistic experiences. My husband and I, together, have tried to instill these values in our daughters.

Yes, I am tired of repeating these arguments. I don’t want to have to raise the continuing issues of misogyny and chauvinism. Yet there they are, still rearing their ugly heads at every turn, even in 2016. We should be above all that by now, but we are not, and the struggle continues.

So I am a feminist. Still.

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