Monday, April 30, 2007

Feminism: Burning Bras or Burning Bridges

I liked Helen Reddy, or rather her song, "I am Woman." I liked her haircut too. I belted out her song in the shower. I've roared in my husband's dumbfounded face. But I really always thought I was doing it for my personhood more than my womanhood.

I've never called myself a feminist per se, although I've espoused feminist viewpoints. But, for me, the term conjures an image of the "radical" feminists of the 60's. About the only thing I did in that decade that put me in step with the feminist movement was to go braless-- though I never burned mine-- but I always sort of thought braless-ness pleased men; I never quite understood the reason feminists chose that particular action. Wasn't feminism supposed to be about doing what you wanted regardless of men?

"Jessica Valenti, author of the new book "Full Frontal Feminism," discusses sex positivity, activism and boob flashing as a feminist statement," says Rebecca Traister on

Traister goes on to say Valenti "is trying to win over a population of women she believes might think to themselves, "I'm not a feminist, but it is total bullshit that Wal-Mart won't fill my birth control prescription."

Well, that's me. Or that would be me if I still needed birth control. Logical woman see the discrepancies between what's fair and what's life, and they work toward change. It helps to work in tandem, but at what point does the group "feminist" hue and cry backfire?

While I might have agreed with the viewpoint of the "bra-burners" of my day, I couldn't see beyond the media portrayals of screaming woman, marching and flailing, "demanding equality." It looked like an ugly tantrum, and I was turned off. And women were mocked.

If feminism means respecting women, then call me a feminist, as long as it also means respecting men. If feminism means displaying your strengths with no apology, then I'm all for it, as long as it respects others. If feminism means respecting our gender, count me in, but let's respect men as well.

In my classroom, I refuse to even out groups along gender lines. I refuse to pick first a girl, then a boy, then a girl. I don't believe in, "It a girl's turn now."

My students have challenged me on this. "Hey, Mrs. D. You picked a boy last time, " a girl will protest. Or, "You picked three girls in a row," a disgruntled boy will say.

"I'm picking people," I say. "It doesn't matter if they're a girl or a boy. I'm picking people."

They've stopped whining. I think they're starting to get it. We're all in this together. We all matter. We need to look out for each other, male or female.
From Here is Valenti's quiz about feminism:

V~"Do you think it's fair that a guy will make more money doing the same job as you?

Me~It's not fair if it is the exact same job in everyway.

V~Does it piss you off and scare you when you find out about your friends getting raped?

Me~I am fortunate in that none of my friends have been raped. Would it "piss me off?" That would not be the emotion I'd have. Would I be scared? No. Pinning rape on the male gender is not fair, any more than saying women ask for it is fair. Would I be "pissed off" if the men were not given an appropriate sentence for rape? Yes. Would I be pissed of if men were blamed for rape they didn't commit ( Duke Lacrosse team)? Yes.

V~Do you ever feel like shit about your body?

Me~Not like"shit" but, yeah, I don't measure up to the "ideal," but I can't blame that on men. It's womens' magazines that are the worst offenders in defining beauty unrealistically to give women unattainable ideas of perfection. It's women who spend big bucks on cosmetics. Don't blame that on men. Blame it on marketing.

V~Do you ever feel like something is wrong with you because you don't fit into this bizarre ideal of what girls are supposed to be like?

Me~No, never. I've never fit the "bizarre ideal" and never wanted to. I like who I am. Mostly.

V~Well, my friend, I hate to break it to you, but you're a hardcore feminist. I swear."

Me~If that's a hardcore feminist . . . how shallow. I still want no part of it.

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