“I Don’t Consider Myself a Feminist”

I always cringe when a female says that. A friend of mine said it recently, and it nearly broke my heart. She referred me to Judge Judy, who, according to this article, says, “I never felt I didn’t have equal opportunity as a woman.” But in that same article Judge Judy admits that there were only 6 women in her law school, and the professors didn’t treat them well. She also concedes that she did all the housework and child rearing even though she and her husband both worked. I’m not sure how she characterizes opportunities for women, but this seems kind of contradictory to me. Yes, she may have overcome those hurdles, but the point is, an attitude of “suck it up and deal with it” does nothing to remove those hurdles.

Here’s why I think everyone should be a feminist: It means you believe that women should be treated equally. It means equal pay for equal work. It means not being harassed. It means an equal level of human rights. It doesn’t mean we’re out to get all men or expect special treatment as is often claimed by those who speak out against feminism. If your primary focus are those who occupy the radical fringes of this movement, then at least acknowledge that every movement will have its fringe elements.

When I have this debate with friends, they often state that they are not feminists because that equality of which I speak should be the way it is anyway. As if the unfortunate need to ask for equality or demand it somehow delegitimizes the right to have it. You may not want to be identified as part of this group, but like it or not, by virtue of being a woman you are being treated like it by outside forces.

Should equal rights be a given? Abso-freakin’-lutely. But here’s the thing: It isn’t the case. Judge Judy is the exception, not the rule. It’s awfully easy to not support the minority that you’re a part of when you’re at the top of the heap, but there are a heck of a lot of us below you, your honor.

And Judge Judy couldn’t have reached her successful pinnacle were it not for the work of feminists. For example, according to this article, here are things American women could not do less than 100 years ago:

  • Have their own name printed on a passport.

  • Wear whatever they wanted.

  • Work in “dangerous” jobs, such as in bowling alleys.

  • Maintain US citizenship if married to a non-citizen.

  • Work the night shift.

  • Hold a job while pregnant.

  • Enlist in the military.

  • Serve on a Jury.

In theory, we finally got the right to vote in 1919, but it actually took decades for that to be universally practiced in this country. Some Trump supporters, even in 2018, want to repeal the 19th amendment. Women fought and were tortured and jailed and force fed and died for that privilege, and yet only 63 percent of eligible female voters turned out for the 2016 election, and 42 percent of them voted for a man who admits to grabbing women’s private parts. I’ll never understand that as long as I live. Do we hate ourselves?

And if the Me Too movement isn’t giving you a sense of how shabbily women are treated in the workplace, your head is buried in the sand. I’ve written a couple posts about my personal experiences with harassment, and I’m pretty typical. Eighty-three percent of American women believe they have experienced discrimination in the workplace. That’s a statistic that ought to be hard to ignore.

According to this article:

  • The more education a woman gets, the higher the wage disparity becomes. The average woman will earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

  • Only 30-40 percent of all small businesses are owned by women, and they generate 61% less revenue.

In my workplace alone (the Seattle Department of Transportation), in one of the most liberal enclaves in the United States, of the 99 field positions, only a handful are held by women. And when I suggested that they make more connections with Woman in Trades organizations, to attract more female electricians, mechanics, welders and engineers, it went in one ear and out the other. That’s probably because the administration of SDOT is overwhelmingly white and male. I still work with people who use the term “cat fight” and don’t believe women should be bridgetenders.

Women’s rights are under threat all the time. We have to constantly fight to have birth control covered by insurance. No one has to fight to get Viagra covered. And there’s little or no support for affordable child care in this country. There’s constant political pushback against us making our own decisions about our health. Keep us barefoot and pregnant and out of every man’s way. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

And if we are in such an enlightened country, how is it possible that sex trafficking, child marriage, and domestic slavery still exists here?

So when a woman says, “I don’t consider myself a feminist,” what I hear is that they are comfortable enough in their situations to not have to stick their necks out. They have no desire to address the many outrages that they’re in denial about. They have theirs, and to hell with everybody else.

It would be nice if feminism were not necessary. If only wishing could make it so. But now, more than ever, we need to show a united front. Even if you don’t feel like it. If we don’t step up, why should we expect anyone else to?

feminism

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A Few Thoughts on International Women’s Day

First of all, happy International Women’s Day! It’s nice to be recognized and celebrated. I’m glad that organizations throughout the world will be using this as an opportunity to speak out about equal rights. I’m thrilled that this will open up dialogues that many people wouldn’t otherwise have thought to have.

But at the same time, it frustrates me that we still need a day like this. Aren’t we women every day of the year? Don’t we deserve basic human rights all year round?

Recently I was sitting at a table with 15 other women, so I took an informal survey.

  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been touched inappropriately without your permission.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been cat called.
  • Raise your hand if anyone has ever discussed your breasts, behind, or legs without your initiating that conversation.
  • Raise your hand if your opinion has been dismissed as trivial.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve heard a man singing the words “bitch” “slut” or “ho” along with the radio.
  • Raise your hand if you yourself have been called a bitch, slut, or ho.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve seen nude women calendars in public places.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been interrupted by a man who insists on explaining something to you that you already know.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been treated like an idiot by a mechanic.
  • Raise your hand if men have assumed that you’re not intelligent.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been rejected based on your weight, age, or shape.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized because of something you were wearing.
  • Raise your hand if people have assumed you need to ask a man’s permission to do something or go somewhere.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of not being feminine enough.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being too girly.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told you do something good, “for a girl.”
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to drive behind a truck with naked women mud flaps.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been paid less than a male counterpart.
  • Raise your hand if men that you’ve trained have been promoted above you.
  • Raise your hand if a man assumed you needed his protection when you didn’t.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told something was women’s work.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being emotional or hysterical.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.

Try giving this survey the next time you’re with female friends. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that in the vast majority of cases, every woman at the table raised her hand. And that’s probably the most outrageous part of all – that it comes as no surprise.

The only reason that this happens is that we are not in the exclusive group of humans who sports a penis. That simple fact makes “us” not “them”. As far as I can tell, that appendage does not endow people with superior abilities of any kind. It just means we get to be easily identified as being on the other team. And society has arbitrarily decided that our team gets to be the losing team. It’s not rational. It’s not just. And it’s not acceptable.

I for one am sick and tired of being treated to micro-aggressions every single day. Case in point, I looked at my supply of Graphicstock pictures to see which one to use for this blog entry. This, below, is their idea of a good image for Women’s Day. Because we all should be depicted as naked, sexy, thin, with long flowing hair and luscious lips, arching our backs while floating with our heads in a flowery cloud.

Happy Women’s Day, indeed.

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Outing Your Abuser

What I’m about to say is probably going to make a lot of people angry or upset, but as a sexual abuse survivor myself, I think I’ve earned the right to form strong opinions on this subject. Believe me, having this particular opinion makes even me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, here it is.

I have known many people in my life who have been abused in one way or another. The first thing I try to tell these people is that the abuse was not their fault. I point that out because no one bothered to tell me that. I had to figure it out on my own, and it was a good decade before I reached that point. A decade of thinking I had done something wrong, something to deserve such horrible treatment. That’s way too long. Even one day is way too long to have that kind of thought in your head. No one deserves that.

If you have been, or are being abused, you don’t deserve it. You didn’t ask for it, you don’t want it, and you shouldn’t have to experience it. But here’s where it gets controversial. Here’s my upsetting opinion. Even though you never wanted this role, even though it was thrust upon you completely against your will, you now, unfortunately, have a huge responsibility. You have to speak up. You have to out your abuser.

The reason I say this is that I know several people who experienced abuse and kept relatively quiet about it. It’s painful. It’s humiliating. It’s awkward. Speaking up can break apart families or even cause jail time. Speaking up means being publicly outed yourself, for something you didn’t do. You will be judged harshly by many.

But here’s the thing. Abusers aren’t going to stop abusing just because you’ve “aged out” of their emotional prison. They’ll most likely move on to someone else. And whether you like it or not, your silence enables them to do just that.

From an adult perspective, putting several puzzle pieces together, I am fairly certain that my stepfather must have abused his own daughter before he abused me. If she had spoken up, my life would be much different. I wouldn’t bear the scars that I bear.

Fortunately, that man has long since slithered off to hell where he can no longer hurt anyone, but when he was alive, I spoke up. I spoke loud and I spoke clear. Because one day I saw my two year old niece toddling over to his outstretched arms, and I wanted to make sure he would never, ever touch her. Ever. Unfortunately the adults in my life never stepped up once I spoke out, so he never got all the justice he deserved, but he also never got the anonymity on which he thrived.

So if you have survived that sort of evil, whether it was sexual, physical or emotional, I’m profoundly and truly sorry. But you have to speak up. For all the victims that are in line behind you. You are a survivor. Now it’s time to also be a savior.

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Why Are We Shocked?

As more and more women come forward with rape allegations, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to maintain any warm and fuzzy feelings for Bill Cosby, America’s favorite dad. There’s nothing worse than having an icon fall from grace, but there you have it. It happens all the time. Not only are none of us perfect, but quite a few of us are, frankly, despicable.

And Mr. Cosby certainly isn’t helping his case by showing not only an utter lack of remorse, but a litigious response to the scandal. But that shouldn’t shock us, either. This is a pattern that most scumbags follow until the pressure becomes too great. That’s why I never take remorse seriously. It’s rarely a natural and sincere reaction.

And then you have the Honey Boo Boo scandal. There is a reason I never watched that slow motion train wreck of a show. But to hear the allegations that her mother is dating the man who sexually abused this child’s older sister makes me sick. But again, why are we shocked? A certain percentage of mothers are horrible. They put their own misplaced desire for love ahead of the welfare of their children every single time. It has been forever thus.

We’d like to think that the human race is civilized. No one wants to believe that the veil between us and violence is wispy thin. We want to maintain that illusion of morality and decency. But rape and abuse happen. As a matter of fact, I haven’t known a single female who hasn’t been abused, either physically, sexually or emotionally, at least once. The actual chaos in which we live is obvious if we only care to acknowledge it.

On some level, we all know that. And yet no matter how often we see human beings behave deplorably, we can’t quite seem to get used to it. I kind of wish we would, though. As sad as it would be if the entire world became more cynical, I think we would be more apt to take appropriate action if our utter shock did not dull the edge of our outrage.

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[Image credit: jakkijelene.com]