Evidently I’m fascinated by Sarah Palin. I just realized my most recent post was about her, and I’m about to use her as a jumping off point again. I just read this article about Sarah Palin mentioning in her newest book that she thinks feminists have made everyone hate women and talking about abortion not being a real choice, whatever that means. I just wanted to clarify my own thoughts about what “feminism” and being feminist mean to me.
First of all, Palin claims her argument against feminism is in part because feminists discount the fulfillment motherhood can bring, and paints women as victims. I would argue that some women are actually taking a stand against patriarchy and rape culture, and empowering themselves quite effectively. Both of these examples are people who are feminist, truly standing up to the realities of patriarchy that remain in our society.
Here are some things I think it’s important to note up front. Feminists do NOT hate men. In fact, I don’t really think the term “feminist” does the movement justice because really, it’s about being for people, human beings. Feminism is not about controlling other people–quite the opposite. It’s about recognizing the piece of truth in everyone’s view of things, and it’s about respect for everyone’s choices, opinions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs. The problem with this way of thinking occurs with people who are NOT willing to acknowledge the truth in others’ view points and who furthermore try to push their beliefs on others. The main tenet of feminism is respect, whereas people like Sarah Palin mostly want to change everyone to be like them. And if you can’t change (because you’re poor, or not white, or gay), well, then eff you! You don’t deserve happiness or satisfaction in life. Feminists believe everyone deserves a fair shake. At least the type of feminist I am.
What I’m describing could easily also be called progressivism. But the feminist aspect also recognizes that part of that world view must examine structural unfairness, whether that be through gender roles, heteronormative assumptions, the remainder of the subconscious patriarchy we all have mapped out in our brains, or racist and classist thinking. I lump all of those together into my identity as a feminist. I believe that the way our society is set up still has barriers for people who are not in the dominant group (white, straight, Christian men), and constrains those in the dominant group. This is probably the most misunderstood component of feminism. Feminism does not claim that patriarchy and inequity or inequality are perpetuated by men on women, but rather perpetuated by us all on everyone, including ourselves, and that therefore we are all capable of lessening or eliminating these barriers and inequities by things we do, say and think every day. This is hardly making ourselves victims, is it?
Sarah Palin and other conservatives see the world as black and white, but more than that, they are incredibly narcissistic in its true meaning–self-focused. They believe their experience is the only valid one. Personally, I think this is ridiculous. We all have different experiences, and though I think everyone is entitled to their opinion, I believe enforcing their opinion on me (removing my choice about what to do with my body, including who I can have sex with when and whether I can end a pregnancy based upon the knowledge I have about my life and ability not only to raise a child but to carry a fetus to term in my own body).
I am actually I think personally in some aspects pretty “conservative” or traditional. I like to follow rules. I think structure promotes order and progress. But I also believe that I can be wrong, and I can especially be wrong in making decisions for other people about their lives.
To me, this is ultimately what I mean when I identify myself as feminist. I think sex is not scary, and actually the more I learn about STDs, the less scary sex becomes. Not that condoms are great (yay! Condoms!!), and it would behoove of in our society to encourage fewer sexual partners, which I think Europe proves is possible through actually encouraging intimacy in teenage relationships and accepting teen sexuality as a truth instead of teaching kids to wait until they’re marries or date multiple people because it’s just puppy love. Sexuality in America is about men and domination. One description I heard of homophobic heterosexual sex explained that these men compete about their sexual prowess with other men (I gave her so much pleasure, more than you), and this, while giving lip service to women’s pleasure, actually is extremely male-focused–it gives men credit for women’s pleasure. I’ve always been uncomfortable with men talking about how much pleasure they’re able to give, and this gave shape to my discomfort, because it doesn’t matter who the woman is, just that the man has the ability to pleasure x-woman, who is entirely interchangeable.
So there you have it. Feminism. Real, true, sex-positive feminism. Please disseminate this information. 😀