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Say what, now? And who?

I added a couple of new blogs to my sidebar o' linky goodness, and I especially recommend Tiger Beatdown if you're interested in seeing someone else who feels about feminism and humanism the same way I do - and that I'm not alone in finding a large part of society's attitudes towards women (especially at the conservative baseline) unacceptable while still being highly appreciative of the peen.

I am a feminist; never doubt that.  I cannot unsee what I have seen in terms of ugliness towards women (though I sometimes desperately wish that I could go back to collusion, even though it's damaging long-term, as it's so much easier and fun in the short run), but I also realize that the male-centric status quo does not mean that all men are reactionary MRAs (Men's Rights Activists - and if you think I'm linking to any of their sites, you're mad; that kind of ugly I do not need connected to my happy little blog.  Google it).

(On second thought, don't.  If you must, read about it on Wikipedia). 

The patriarchal leanings of those with the mistaken idea that the 1950s were halcyon days for men and women still taint a lot of politics and the media, as evidenced by dreck like He's Just Not That Into You, and anything starring Seth Rogen or directed by Judd Apatow (think they're progressive?  Who gets to be "mommy" in those movies?  They're all set up with men as the center of the Universe, and any woman without a man is either an evil sexless bitch, or a helpless mewling child who needs a man so bad she can't see straight).  It's actually a wonder that any men and women escape this programming, it starts so young.  And I appreciate both the women and the men that do see an alternative way to get along with each other, even if I don't always agree with them.

And that's maybe one of the things that your average "oh, God, I'm not a feminist - those chicks are crazy!" person doesn't see or really understand - "Feminism" isn't group-think, nor should it be.  We don't have an overarching agenda that demands absolute loyalty to certain ideas, and we argue/discuss/argue some more about interpretation, action, goals, even.  Some feminists want women in charge.  Some feminists want an equal balance.  Some want to concentrate on reducing rape culture, some want to concentrate on work parity.  I don't think there's anything all feminists agree on, but that's part of its strength, not a weakness.  There's room for all kinds of ideas; find your niche and fill it. 

Those who would prefer that women all become submissive helpmeets to the natural center of all order and enlightenment in the Universe, men, don't like all the ideas being bandied about, and they try pretty hard to shut down all signs of assertiveness on the part of women  - look at the opprobrium over Sen. Boxer's polite, firm, request that she be addressed as "Senator" in the popular press (stay away from the foaming rabidity of the extreme right-wing opinionistas, though - it's not really healthy for sane people to read).  The reaction seems massively out of proportion to the remark - unless you see it as a sign that women are getting too uppity and need to be put in their place posthaste.  If that's the tack you're taking, then yes, the level of media and blog hysteria over a seriously small part in a congressional hearing is absolutely justified.  Give a woman a title, and she'll take a mile.  God knows we don't want women to be getting any ideas about being allowed to choose what they're called!

But I may be asking for too much when I ask for womens' opinions to be heard.  I want equality, but sometimes it seems very far away.  It hurts worst when other women want to deny me that equality, but I can't blame other women for buying into the dominant paradigm - after all, Stockholm Syndrome is a survival tactic.  In fact, more radical feminists than me (I'm very, very middle of the road as far as feminism is concerned) would argue that I'm labouring under the same delusion, seeing as I actually like most men, and laugh at The Soup, like South Park, and don't immediately switch off Family Guy (though I don't watch it much, because it pisses me off more often than it makes me laugh), but I can't really get away from the fact that I do like men, and want them to be part of my life.

I'm not prepared to say most of them are superior to me, as I've met very few that are intellectually my equal, but I like them well enough.  I even adore (one of) them, and would go so far as to say he's the most important person in my life. 

(Who am I kidding?  You're the tops, baby.  *smooch*)

I don't consider trying to make my husband happy to be a demeaning act, even though more radical feminism would question my motives (since he also pays the majority of the bills).  He's not taking advantage of me in any way; our relationship seems to me to be mutually supportive (as I've said many times before, he's actually better at doing housework than me, even though he works full-time and I work part-time).  But in having a heterosexual, marriage-centered relationship with a man, I am aligning myself with the mainstream of society, and not working to change it from that perspective.  Heck, I even didn't work for a while, even though we don't have kids together.  I am traditional in many ways.  How can I call myself a feminist?

Because I am.  I just am.  Women are equal to men; it just hasn't been openly acknowledged yet.  That's what I care about.

I love my husband; he's one of the biggest feminist allies I've ever known (and has put his money where his mouth is on more than one occasion), but I can't expect him to viscerally understand what it's like to be marginalized, just as I can't understand what it's like to be marginalized as a man of colour, a woman of colour, a person with severe disabilities, or a person of any colour/disability with little to no income.  All I can ask of him is that he accept that some things make me angry without trying to dismiss my reactions.  Which he does, even if the strength of my reactions worries him sometimes.  In the same way, as a feminist, I shut up and listen when someone else is trying to tell me about their experiences, even if those experiences don't jibe with mine.  One of the most oppressive acts a human can perpetrate on another human is to tell them that their experience doesn't count.  As a feminist, I try very hard not to commit that oppression myself.

No, I don't really have a massive point with this post; I'm explaining in part why I link to some of the blogs in my sidebar, I'm explaining why I write about the things I do, and I'm explaining that I believe I'm equal to any man out there, even if I never learned algebra properly (because I can do fifty million other things, all of them as valuable as a talent for equations).  So sometimes, something about sexism is going to piss me off, and sometimes I'm going to write about it.  But I still love the menz.

They're cute.  And often fluffy.  And the one I'm married to has got us Paul McCartney tickets.  I'm feeling good.


Jun. 24th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
This is one I've thought about, too.

For me it comes down to misconceptions about women in the Middle Ages (the period I do) and the assumptions that the progress of women's rights is a straight, unbroken, upward slope. Therefore, women in the Middle Ages were by definition "more oppressed" than in, say, the 19th century.

Well, most people were "more oppressed" in the Middle Ages than in the 19th century in terms of their legal status as free people; I'd argue that poor people in the 19th century and poor people in the Middle Ages didn't have it all that different.

Instead, I'm interested in knowing about real people from the period--not stereotypes. Reenacting for me isn't about "glorifying" at all. Yeah, some of the clothes are cool, and some of the artwork, etc. But people are people, and understanding them--how they viewed the world, how they made things, what their daily lives were like, and so forth--is what makes me tick as a recreator. I don't find that incompatible with being a feminist at all, because we feminists can misunderstand women in history just as easily as misogynists if we don't work hard at it. Knowledge is power.
Jun. 24th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
I think part of my stumbling block is that I do 16th century (for some definitions of "do", I guess), and you start seeing increasing restrictions for women following the Renaissance. Probably reactionary from the relative liberties of the medieval period, no doubt.

Instead, I'm interested in knowing about real people from the period--not stereotypes. Reenacting for me isn't about "glorifying" at all.

*nods* I don't really see it as glorifying either, but I think my issue with the idea that it might be glorifying is that most people in the SCA aim for nobility/reallyreally rich people, so it's all very much about the shiny. "This doesn't look quite right. Let's throw more pearls at it." I mean, even female Civil War reenactors will probably have a silk ballgown regardless of whether the character they're creating would own one. Do you know what I mean? Like the intent is there, but the execution is off.

Huh. Maybe my problem is less with feminism and more with material culture as presented by reenactors.
Jun. 25th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)
What you're seeing is probably re-enacting as seen from a 21st century hobby perspective, with all the trappings and baggage that come with.

I can't do American Civil War because honestly, the roles for women are boring to me - it's much more repressive than England at the end of the 16th century, even though the period I portray is brutally unkind to women. Even so, learning about what women did not have is important to me as a feminist, because it teaches me what I do have now. As such, I don't have a problem either playing a gentlewoman obsessed with shopping, or an alewife with distinctly bawdy tendencies (as alewives were seen at that time), because both personas are legitimate states for women at that time, and even though current thinking emphasizes the oppression, there is also a lot of wiggle room. It's the wiggle room I'm interested in learning about.

I also think playing a woman from an era when women were not considered important enough to even write about helps me (and others) see the agency and presence of women back then.

But you're right - this is not the level at which most people in any re-enactment group play - they want the pretty costumes and the feeling of playing "olden days". In that sense, they're 21st century women no matter what era they're portraying.

For me, it's a need to learn about what life was like for women back then, so I can be alert for attempts to persuade me that women were actually happier when they were exclusively domestic (the "biology is destiny" types meet with the reactionists at this point, attempting to tell me that since I'm designed for making babies, I can't be really happy doing anything else, so get in the kitchen and make some pie).

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