Yes; We Still Need Feminism

Just off the top of my head {I am sure there are more} these scenarios have happened in the past year or so:

  • Leaving Starbucks and I held the door open for the man behind me. He asked me if I also wanted to accompany him to his car and help him with anything else.
  • Visiting Hollywood and trying to take a picture of one of the stars on the walk of fame. I asked a man to move and he refused and called me a bitch.
  • Walking back to our hotel {just me and my oldest daughter} on one of our many Disneyland visits. Random man at a bus stop cat-called some things I won’t repeat here.
  • Told a photographer {at Walt Disney World, no less} we weren’t interested in a particular pose he suggested. He said we were difficult and “accidentally” misplaced several of our already paid for photos.
  • Someone going door-to-door trying to get us to switch to their cable/Internet package. I told him we weren’t interested in hearing his spiel; we were quite happy with our current choices. He yelled at me that I “owed” him to listen to what he had to say, then swore at me under his breath as he walked away.
  • Being on vacation and consciously choosing not leave the hotel room in the morning to pick up coffee {even though I am an early bird and craving some alone time}. Why? Because I would have to walk outside through a secluded walkway and across a parking lot in the pre-dawn darkness alone.
  • Being told I should smile more, ad infinitum. Because apparently that is what good girls do.

And people wonder why we lose our shit when it happens again and again—and yet again. 

Pink flowers against a pink background.

What exactly is feminism anyway?

When my now eleven-year-old daughter first asked me what feminism meant, I found that as with most things in life, the simplest explanation was the best. I told her that feminism is the belief that women deserve to be viewed as fully human and not treated as inferior to men in any capacity {socially, politically, economically, or personally}.

She was confused. Not that she did not understand the words I said, but legit perplexed that people don’t already accept this as fact and there needs to be a word for it.

Of course, she understands history. We’ve talked about what things were {are} like in this country and around the world, specifically regarding the rights of women and girls, both in the past and present. She’s mature enough that we can have a serious conversation about inequities. It’s not that she truly doesn’t get that the world treats some people better than others for reasons that are not reasons; she does.

But still, her gut reaction was how is this not just recognized as normal?

This is what I would like to tell her {and you}

Her humanity—her life—is just as important and valued as any other person on this earth. That all people deserve equal rights. That everyone—regardless of what gender they identify as—is worthy of dignity and respect. And we need to continue to strive to treat all humans decently and fairly because it’s the right thing to do.

You should never be made to feel bad by responding negatively to any query. If no is not an option, it was a demand not a question.

You are not responsible for another person’s feelings or reaction. You do not need to appease someone else at your own expense because it is “nicer” to do so. 

No is a perfectly acceptable answer to any question. Say yes if you want, no if not, and don’t feel bad about it.

Just because someone is trying to engage you does not mean you need to respond.

If you thought feminism was about burning bras and working versus staying at home, I would like to welcome you to reality.

Here’s the problem, though

Women and girls are culturally conditioned to be nice, to not ruffle feathers, to make things comfortable for those around them. It can be nearly impossible to rid yourself of this ingrained feeling. It becomes an automatic reply.

When we do speak up, often the reaction can be less than positive, or in some cases downright dangerous. 

What if the person cat-calling you is not just an asshat, but an asshat with a gun? What if the guy on the elevator gets grabby when you don’t politely laugh at his pathetic attempts at humor? Maybe the man walking quickly behind you is just trying to get to his car; maybe he’s trying to catch up to you.

So I remain torn between wanting to stand up for myself {and my girls} and give the person in question a big old STFU—and worrying that they are going to wind up being some freaking nut job that follows us or threatens violence. 

It is not a victim mentality or simply a matter of not having courage or being paranoid. We are not asking to have some special bubble of protection. We still need feminism so we can simply live out our lives without a constant internal debate of potential consequences.

Because those consequences are what women and girls in our society have to balance every. single. fucking. day. 

If you have never had to consider any of these options, you are probably a man. {And probably a straight, cisgender, white man at that, but that is a whole other post.}

So how do we fix this?

We hope like hell that we can raise our children differently. Talk to your daughters and your sons about it. Do not let another generation come to pass that thinks this it normal to treat people this way. It. is. not. normal.

Take the women and girls in your life seriously when they say no. Don’t second-guess their choices or view their rejection of your ideas as some sort of character flaw.

Stop misogynistic behavior  in its tracks when you are able and it is safe to do so. Defend other women and girls when you see it happening. Even if you don’t confront the perpetrator. Even if “all” you do is express a small sign of recognition and solidarity. It means something.

Most importantly, recognize that we still need feminism. It is not a thing of the past or an idea to be mocked. It is still an every day battle we need to wage. 

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Oh my gosh, girl, you took all the thoughts from my head and typed them into a post! You have no idea how much I get of this with working with my husband in OUR construction company! Just because I’m female everyone thinks that my husband must do all the heavy lifting and anything that requires power tools. It makes me blow a gasket! I’m more than capable to make projects and do jobs that people feel only a man can handle. I try my very best to handle it professionally and shrug it off. There is that ingrained bull shit you were just mentioning hahaha. Thanks so much for this post!

    1. Valerie

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Jenn. Having folks make assumptions about your abilities like that must be so frustrating. I am trying to help my daughters with the whole “ingrained nice-ness” thing, but it is so difficult when you’ve spent a lifetime having people take you less seriously because you are female. I have a lot of “reactions” to unlearn as well, things that I have just been conditioned to accept as normal over so many years. It’s a process.

  2. Avatar

    I often talk to my son about how to treat all people, regardless of sex, race and gender.

    I totally support feminism wholeheartedly but I do see men treated appalling too, sadly sometimes for the sake of feminism.

    Maybe it’s a UK thing but I haven’t ever experienced the things that you have described and I hate that youve had to experience them, it sucks!

    I do tend to live in a bubble though and I also have quite a cutting sense of humour so I’d probably let my mouth get me out of most questionable situations.

    The only situation I can think of was were a man in his 70’s in a wheelchair said ‘phwoar what I wouldn’t do to have those thighs wrapped round me’ my response was ‘oh mate you wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway!’ His response was, ‘sorry, I was out of line’

    And on I went with my day, maybe I gave him something to think about next time he opened his mouth to a woman.

    I am all for women supporting women though and I do hope one day that women are not subjected to this kind of nonsense x

    1. Valerie

      I never considered this might be more of a uniquely American phenomenon, but maybe it is? I think it would be difficult to find a woman currently living in the United States who has NOT experienced something similar. Now that I think about it, I lived overseas for a few years and do not recall having this occur with such frequency.

  3. Avatar

    This is such a fantastic post. I had a very similar talk with my daughter who also thought it strange that women didn’t already have equal rights.
    So important to talk to our children about equal rights and the importance of feminism.

    1. Valerie

      Agree; it is so important to have these conversations with our children.

  4. Avatar

    This is such a great and inspiring read!! Love it.

    1. Valerie

      Glad you enjoyed it, Sara. Thank you so much for stopping by.

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