I recently read an inspiring post over on girl in the hat that prompted the question, Why Am I a Feminist? She wrote a truly emotive piece, in a stark frank way, (a style I love to read), and invited participation at the end. I am going to take her up on the invite because it is a fantastic question, and because it’s one that should be obvious – but for some reason isn’t. I haven’t actually thought about why before. Only how and what and where. Not why.
Well. The most obvious reason that springs to mind is my family, with whom I am very close. My family is mostly made up of women. Strong independent women. But, not non-feminine women, or the stereotypical ‘feminist’ who doesn’t shave and hates men. They are just “normal” women with incredibly strong characters who have all, for whatever reason or period of time, had to manage at some point without a man – for two of my aunts this was as single parents, albeit temporarily for one. The other had to bring up two children entirely by herself, even as she worked full time as a primary school teacher. And they of course managed perfectly fine.
It was maybe a struggle for them sure, but it was a scene I was used to growing up; I had a family of amazing women. What’s more, there was my Grandad – a hard working man who spent time in the army, and worked as a first class carpenter for most of his life. He was masculine, he had a job that required strength and muscle and skill, and he completed his national service in the conceived-to-be-manly profession that is the army. He was in all respects what you would consider a strong male figure. Yet his strong male presence as the backbone at the heart of the family didn’t dilute the strength of the women – it encouraged it, complimented it, and supported it. He didn’t attempt to suppress the strength, as some men do. He wasn’t intimidated by having a family of women (he had five daughters and later three grandaughters and one grandson). This gave me an unchangeable view of the equality and respect that women and men should share as an unspeakable given – yet as I grew up I realisied it was not to be seen in the world at large. This made me angry.
The women I saw in the media that were strong and powerful were often wrongly portrayed as having manly characteristics or ambitions, not as women with feminine characteristics, or with children, who were as powerful as men. What’s more, if the women did actually have ‘manly’ characteristics – strength of opinion or academic intelligence – they were often ostracised or bullied for their looks or painted as not being womanly enough. Or, such characteristics were ignored, and the media would concentrate on their beauty alone. (As girl in the hat says about her ‘mother’s mother’.)
The problem I find with this treatment of women is inherent in my soul and it’s a flame that I cannot extinguish. It makes me mad, and I will continue to be be mad about it until it is righted. Basically, what I am saying, is that the main reason I am a feminist is because I am stubborn. Ridiculously stubborn.
And why shouldn’t I be stubborn?
Many women will not be angered about what happens to their fellow females – and if they are it will be a fleeting emotion. For the most part they move on. They think – well why be mad? I can’t change it, it’s how it is. Not everyone is respectful, you just have to deal with it and accept it.
Well I won’t accept it.
I have a moral compass that twitches incessantly. It may not be one that I would advise the world to set its morality by, but it’s my own and I live my life by it. I get very annoyed if it senses injustice. I am normally an extremely polite person but if someone is rude to me (as I perceive it – I’m not always in the right obviously) I can easily become angered and aggressive in my tone of voice, though never in action. I know full well that this is not the most attractive quality a woman can possess but at this point in my life I really don’t give a sh**. Most women when confronted with such a situation will pass it by and say – well there is no point getting mad about it is there? You can’t change the situation, they will say. They will remain agreeable and dim the flames with niceties.
People take the path of least resistance.
Because it is easier. Why go the hard way? Why get mad when someone isn’t polite, or when you are lied to, or cheated, or done a disservice? I used to envy the women that had this ability to wave their hand and move on with a smile. I am stubborn, and I can’t help but retain a sense of injustice when these things occur – I rarely just let them drop.
A definition of stubborn is:
Someone who doesn’t listen to other people’s opinions. A stubborn person always thinks he’s right. Often assosiated with arrogant and acting all knowing.
I guess this is me in a nutshell. And these are all considered manly characteristics. A man wouldn’t be admonished for such personality traits. I used to be ashamed of this side of me, but do you know what – why the hell should I let things drop? Don’t get me wrong it’s a great thing to be temperate and agreeable, but a man often won’t be – and he will rarely be diminished with looks of shock at his harsh tones (something that happens to me frequently). This is because men have a societal right to behave as such. Women, on the other hand, are expected to take the path of least resistance, and be ever-polite, demure, and smiling.
The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.
(Henry David Thoreau)
However, as Thoreau says, and as with the plight of women everywhere, taking this path leads to inequality. I am not saying it is wrong for women to have amenable qualities, as I said – they’re enviable. In fact, my mom has all these qualities and I think it makes her stronger – in her own way. But, when it comes to sexism I see inequality saturating our daily existence, and it angers me beyond belief. I see the lack of power women have and the daily struggles they have to contend with that men do not. It angers me, and this feeling will not be patted down with smiles and niceties. It will not simply go away. Yes I am stubborn, and can be brash and out spoken. Maybe even arrogant.
But everyday sexism is plain wrong, and it needs fixing. If that means taking the path of most resistance then so be it, I’m used to it.
That is why I am a feminist.
My other posts about various aspects of feminism may be worth looking at if you enjoyed this, they involve: