sistahs are doin' it for themselves

i often enjoy radicalmother’s posts, and this one has me inspired.

in a related vein, i once got into a horrifically-awful shoutfest in grad school. i took a feminist theory class. there were two men in the class, two of the most thoughtful and wonderful people i’ve ever known. two men i knew then to definitely be feminist. the prof asked whether men could truly be feminists. a chunk of the women in the room were screeching that men could not, in fact, ever be feminists because they could never experience oppression like women do.

i am a staunch feminist (though i do not play one on TV), but i had a very difficult time stomaching that idea. a) i found it divisive — a movement needs all the members it can get, imho; and b) men *can* get oppressed. generally, the oppression comes from other men; but due to racism, class-ism, and sexual preference, men can be oppressed. (ask some of the recently-emigrated guys from african or asian nations how they are treated here.) therefore, in my mind, they, too can be feminists.

the womyn in my class went on to tell me that i could not be a true feminist because i’m a heterosexual woman, and i can’t really know what it’s like to be a lesbian. well, that last bit is true — i don’t know what it’s like to be a lesbian. but i do know how it feels to be beaten up over my religion. and like lots of other women, i also have experienced my fair share of oppression. not being allowed to join the little league because girls did not do that back in my day. having the identical qualifications as BS and having to take a typing test when he did not for a job. losing a promotion because i looked so tired when i brought my six-week-old to visit at work so we didn’t think you’d come back from maternity leave. i can keep going, but i don’t want everyone feeling sorry for me. i don’t.

i guess where i’m rambling is this: there are so, so many doofuses (doofi?) out there who will denegrate what they fear. there are men out there who can and want to participate in a real dialogue about sexism. there are women who want to refine the definition of feminism to the enth degree until it’s a very limited club. it’s tough sailing when you’re negotiating these waters with your kids in the boat. so i just try to teach my kids the golden rule: do unto others as you’d have them do to unto you. i hope that somehow translates into just doing what’s right. in the end, that, to me, is what being a feminist is all about: treating women and men, boys and girls, fairly in all arenas of life.

i just wish i could call it humanism.

8 thoughts on “sistahs are doin' it for themselves

  1. I like to go over to I Blame the Patriarchy, and do precisely that. (On Radical Mom’s blogroll.) Blame the P, and not the men beside you who also have problems with it. My feminism has to be big enough to 1) dance at the revolution and 2) welcome allies who get it.

    So it’s dismaying to be told that lesbian feminists are the only true feminists. What up with the femi-fundamentalism, yo?

  2. Yeah that’s what every good anti-discrimination movement needs, a bunch of members who wanna discriminate against other people. Brilliant!

  3. I think that’s fairly typical of kids in their first few women’s studies classes, don’t you? At least those pissed-off young women, when they become mothers and see some serious inequity at play in the work force, won’t just sit back and take it.

  4. very true. but this was graduate school, and this was an advanced feminist theory class. (that wasn’t mean to sound like we’re just superdupersmart. that was meant simply to explain that this was not an intro class 🙂 by that stage in the game, i would have expected critical thinking skills to be on a slighty more honed plane. but these folks — and yes, they were into being called womyn — had some seriously finely-tuned areas of study. like feminist agriculture. i kid you not. i didn’t even know there was such an area of study. maybe there wasn’t and she was pulling my leg. but still.

    but yes. if they ever embrace the concept of motherhood — by any means necessary — they might be more educated consumers, so to speak. and that’s a good thing.

  5. I’ve proudly called myself a feminist since the 70s when I was just a kid. Never ducked from the title like some did and consider all that I do to be a promotion of the gender, but now it seems there is a litmus test for all things feminist. I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could vote for a woman for president since 1972 (even though I couldn’t vote til 1980). And yet, since I don’t like the politics or the views and don’t think the best person for the job at this time is the woman who is running, it appears that my feminism is being called into question. Like those womyn in your class, there are now people saying you can’t be a feminist and vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton. Yeah? Watch me. Being a feminist is about working so all people can choose for themselves. Isn’t it? That’s what they told me when I signed on as a kid; it’s what I tell my three daughters. If the rules have changed, someone let me know. I’ll make up my own title since, as you say, Humanism is currently taken.

    Thanks to you and radicalmama for these most excellent posts.

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