Monday, November 29, 2010

A 1st Anniversary IS Fabulous!

If the world were to ask me "Julia, how am I supposed to be?", I would have no answers.  I simply don't know what the world is supposed to look like or what would make it better.
I’m in the midst of a semi life crisis based on my current realization that “feminist” is a dirty word.  I have honestly never personally associated any negative connotation with the term and therefore blindly went forth proclaiming myself as such, ignorant that there could be people who are offended or disagree with me.  I hate when people disagree with me, mainly because I always think I’m right :) .  This of course is a character flaw, however, recognizing that doesn’t take the sting away when I feel unfairly challenged.  And I do understand that this is a bit of an exaggeration.  I’m not a complete idealist; meaning I have always been aware that feminism has its fair share of haters and I know whenever you take a position you are placing a target on yourself, inviting assumptions about your beliefs.  I just didn’t realize how surprised I would be by certain people who disagree with me and the degree to which they find my feelings about life and the world offensive. 

Any woman that declares herself a feminist will be told that she is not in fact, a feminist.  If she is too stereotypically feminist, she will be called a man hater or a lesbian.  If she is too stereotypically feminine she will be accused of having an empty platform.  All bark, no bite. 

This is because the powers that be do not recognize the feminist movement and try to undermine or belittle it by any means necessary. Just like they tried to ignore the civil rights movement and any push towards equality for homosexuals. When you are not a minority or have never experienced systematic oppression, you are unable or potentially unwilling to understand.  The dominant party must be willing to part with their majority piece of the power pie.  Since women have made monumental gains in equal rights during the 20th and 21st centuries, it is clear that men have helped the cause.  Thus, in regards to feminism, this is not a woman vs. man struggle.  In fact, gender has little to do with it.  It is a mass societal tumor that has yet to be eradicated.

How can a gender based struggle have little to do with gender?  Good question.  Women can be just as anti-woman as the most misogynistic man.  Plenty of men are incredible feminists.  This means that this societal issue simply has to do with the idea one has in regards to power and who should hold authority.  If you are a woman and you believe that all women should “honor thy husband” because that is what you have chosen, you are just as destructive to other women as any man who tells you that you have to “honor” him.  This all seems pretty basic though.  Said a million times before.  But it does seem hard to follow or highly combative.  Most women don’t like being told that they are not feminists even if they hate the basic principles that would award them the label.  The movement has become something that is very confusing and no longer black and white.  

The most common example of this is Sarah Palin and her “true” feminism, as she calls it.  When Tina Fey won the Mark Twain prize, the ceremony was broadcast on PBS and highly censored for content.  Fey’s critique of Palin’s brand of feminism was edited out of the televised event.  When men are on two opposite sides of a debate it seems that the world doesn’t try to pretend that they actually get along or can play nice.  When Will Ferrell profited off of his GWB impression, no one required him to apologize after the sketch.  Bush wasn't required to be OK with being mocked and teased.  I am so happy that I was able to watch Fey’s unedited critique because for the past two years I have been so irritated by her for trying to make nice with Palin.  Now I know that is not the full story because I'm sure her true opinions have been edited before as well.  Watch the video here to see what I am talking about.

Fey highlights quite eloquently exactly what it is about Palin that makes her anti-feminist.  I would definitely put paying for my own rape kit into the column of misogynist laws keeping women down.  Is that combative?  If so, why?  What if murder victims were expected to pay for the crime scene investigation surrounding their case?  Silly right? 

I have been asked quite frequently to define feminism.  Unfortunately, I have decided that I no longer know.  I don’t know what it is because I don’t know if a definition for it matters.   My original answer was that I believe feminism to be the belief that equal rights should exist between the genders and that sex is no indication to what an individual can achieve or accomplish.  The dictionary states that feminism is the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men;  an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women; and feminine character.  OK.  There we go.  There is your answer.  But, of course it isn’t so simple.   Because, as with every label, the perceived notion of what society thinks defines feminism has to count.  And that notion can be quite damaging to the movement.  So I don’t know what feminism is.  It appears to have become a "who you ask" type of issue.

I guess some people say it’s about who does the dishes vs. who makes the money.  But I do the dishes and make my own money.  This is not an either/or issue.  It has to be inclusive.

So then some say it’s about who speaks for women and who doesn’t speak for women.  But I am just a woman who speaks and have never claimed to speak for all women.  

Palin has and she believes women can “do it all!”  This brand of “feminism” is so exclusionary because to be a “Mama Grizzly” you have to be a mama among holding warped beliefs about what is "normal" and "good" for women.  

I’m not a mama.  I don’t know if I will be one.  That’s not something that is guaranteed to all women.  And I don’t want to do it all.  That sounds terrible.  I just want the option to pick and choose what I want to do without the pressure that I may be picking and choosing the wrong way.  I think we all want that, certainly not just women.  I’m getting tired from the need to come up with some type of acceptable defense for something I think exists as a natural part of the fabric of my being.  

CalistaJones just had its one year anniversary!  I’m pretty excited that I’ve kept it up this long.  This project has helped me to better understand who I am as a person.  While right now I feel like I am empty and without answers, I know that my writing has encouraged me to keep finding and asking new questions.   Going forward, I think I am going to assert myself as a person who doesn’t care about having the answers.  What are answers after all?  The end to a problem I suppose.  But I don’t like looking at the challenges I see in the world as problems because that seems whiny and under-appreciative of the relative luxury I am accustomed to in my everyday life.  It’s OK to challenge me and to keep questioning me because that’s just going to strengthen my stance and make me a better feminist. 

I was listening to NPR while cleaning my apt (my favorite way of ingesting public radio) and they were doing a story on Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. who advocated for the legal end to gender discrimination.   Listen to the story here.  

What is interesting about him is that even though he did all this work for women’s rights, it took him a long time to hire women to work for him.  He was finally called out by an employee about his apparent hypocrisy and admitted that this was wrong of him. He then went on to hire females.  This illustrates that coming to conclusions about the ways that the world needs to work in order to be better is only the first part of the solution.  The second, and ultimately most difficult, is to implement these changes in our day to day lives.  This takes longer and often requires one to gobble up a large amount of humble pie.  So while maybe I’m not the best feminist/person possible, I’m working to make myself better. 

In the second year of CalistaJones, I hope to provide more about why I think feminism matters.  I plan on keeping the same format, however I feel a need to assert myself and my intentions because it seems that according to whoever you ask, I am either too feminine or too feminist.  So should I deduce then that I am a man loving man hater?  What? Who knows. 

This all seems to be a little bit distracting to the fact that my blog was intended to bring to light great women whose accomplishments have been overshadowed or ignored and how/why I am inspired by them.  But it seems that anything with the feminist label can only be taken as feminist propaganda.  Sure, I'd love it if my writing had a persuasive, come to my side, affect on people.  I just don't want that to be the only goal because it keeps people away from learning about women they may not come into contact with in another way.  Propaganda of any kind tends to be heavy sounding and ominous and I believe CalistaJones to have some light and airy, entertaining spots.  So just like every other person/blogger/advocate, I want to be seen as original and inspiring.  Certainly not rigid and without "one size fits most so deal with it" vibes.  

All this is to say that while I don't like being told that feminism is too extreme or unappealing, in the end I don't care.  I am a feminist.  I love learning about great inspiring women.  And while I'm going admit that I don't have all the answers I refuse to back away from learning more.