Sunday, 9 October 2011

Am I A Feminist?

I often hear women asked, "So are you a feminist?"

Personally I wouldn't know how to answer that question, mainly because I don't know what the genuine meaning is anymore. It has been blurred to extremes, from the "I will never cook for a man", to "Beyonce can crotch-dance in her hot pants because girls run the world". Say what? I can't make much sense of it anymore. To me, feminism means standing up for our right to be on an equal playing field with, and treated with the same respect as men. Ensuring women have the same opportunities as men, and the same freedom of choice.


So am I a feminist? I'm not sure. I know many strong, intelligent women doing good things for our gender who say they would not call themselves feminists. While on the other hand, many of those who consider themselves one often fall into one of two categories:
1) Feminists who hate men; and
2) Feminists who attack women.

I get why men are seen as the enemy. Misogynist language and sexist behaviour is a huge part of the problem, and it needs to be tackled. But don't forget, this doesn't just come from men. We do it to ourselves and we do it to one another. But the man-hating kind of feminists seem hell bent on creating lines to read between, convinced that everything has sexist undertones and I don't see the good this does. We need to tackle the behaviour, not the gender. After all, women are not the lesser sex, but neither are men. If we want men to respect us we need to respect men. Equal playing field, remember? At the end of the day, misandry is just another form of sexism, and how can feminists be taken seriously if they themselves are the very thing they're fighting against?

Then - and this baffles me - there's the type of feminist who attacks women. In particular women who bake cakes or wear dresses or like to leave the house in a full face of make up to go get a pint of milk. So? We should be celebrating the fact that a woman can do whatever the hell she wants with her life. Marry, not marry, procreate, not procreate, start a business, not start a business, bake a cake, or go down the shop and buy one. The woman-bashing feminist wants no bar of domesticity, and seems to believe a woman who gives up her career to play housewife, or spends her days making muffins might as well get down on her knees and let a man walk all over her. Get out of the kitchen, you're holding back our gender! But why should anyone conform one way or the other? This is about freedom of choice, and telling a woman to wear trousers, choose career over children and order a takeaway is not the answer. Let them bake cake.

It's these two angry definitions of feminism which make it hard to decide whether I am a feminist by name. But I do believe in women's rights. I am proud to be from New Zealand, the first country where women were given the right to vote. I believe both men and women have a part to play in holding us back (and it's nothing to do with kitchens). I also don't think enough young women are aware how much choice they now have. I want more female role models who are celebrated for their actions and their words and their talents - not for their appearance. And I don't believe the overtly-sexual nature of women in entertainment makes any sort of statement about girl power, because all it is doing is fueling the concept that women need to be sexually aggressive in order to be considered strong or powerful. That's what I believe.

(And I like to bake, but I don't because I'm terrible at it.)

So don't bother asking me if I'm a feminist, because to answer that I'd have to know your own personal definition of the word. I can tell you that I think women can do more to make themselves heard, and that one doesn't have to act like a man - nor a nubile temptress - to do so. Just use your voice. Your voice.

If that's still not clear, then this video (while centered on America) expresses everything I believe in.

Miss Representation 8 min. Trailer 8/23/11 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.