As I trudged to work Monday morning through four inches of newly fallen, hard packed snow I yearned (once again) for someone to take care of me, to say “no dear, you stay in that warm bed, I’ll trudge out to earn a living and keep you in books and raspberries.”
Today, Friday March 8th, is International Women’s Day.
I’ve always called myself a feminist? Even though it sometimes seems that Feminism is a bad word, whether we like it or not. Feminists are constantly portrayed as being hysterical, trivial, man-hating, and just generally insane. I regularly get accused of being a radical feminist (me, me radical – you’d have to know me to know how absolutely insane that statement is. I don’t march. I don’t elucidate excessively. I spend 90% of my time reading, working in a library, and/or hiding my opinions. And then I write. I write it all down. I bear witness. I read. I force books (by women, about women) on my friends and relatives. Maybe, I am radical after all. I am a quiet determined radical feminist!).
What is feminism?
A feminist is an equal, strong, independent woman who doesn’t need anybody to validate herself.
Feminism is Wonder Woman posing heroically on the very first issue and the current 40th anniversary issue of Ms magazine. Even though I’m conflicted over calling Wonder Woman a feminist. She seems too often to be working more for the benefit of a man-made military system. I want her to have more agency; I want her to observe and defeat crime all by herself.
There is all the ruckus in the media of late about what a feminist actually is, whether we’re allowed to wear heels and stockings, whether we’re allowed to be funny, whether we should do nothing but march and protest, our armpit hair blowing in the breeze. Am I a feminist or a real women? Can I not be both feminist and sexy, feminist and nurturing, or feminist and business orientated?
What if I’m not a real feminist? What if I’m not a real woman? (OMG, I am a fake woman).
As a feminist elder, a de facto member of the Grand High Feminist Council do I turn around and sneer at other women’s bald legs and made up faces? Thank the stars that feminism has solved all the big issues like sexual harassment, victim blaming and the glass ceiling. Now we’re free to alienate one another by proclaiming ourselves to be feminist-ier than thou.
There’s no such thing as a “real” feminist. Even us older (ancient) feminists may not have a vast working knowledge of classical feminist theory; some of us have taken classes and attended lectures while many others have gained their knowledge through life experiences. My sisters (all five of them) have more life experience than me while I’ve concentrated on the book learning. My eldest sister wants to read the literature but has had little time to do so while raising her children and grand-children. My youngest sister knows more about life then I ever will. My mother, grandmothers, great-grandmothers were feminists because of their life experiences.
I am a spinster. I have too much time to think and ruminate.
He travels fastest who travels alone, and that goes double for she. Real feminism is spinsterhood.
Florence King, “Spinsterhood Is Powerful,” Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye
None of my ancestors marched. None were suffragettes. They named themselves women not feminists. But the word meant the same. It meant I have a voice. It meant I count. It meant I have a role. It meant I am equal.
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
To Be Of Use by Marge Piercy
How many waves of feminism have there been? What right do I have to call myself an elder? The theories keep flowing, like waves upon the beach. 1st wave…2nd wave…3rd wave. The women keep marching.
I march beside Susan B. still declaring:
“We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.”
—Susan B. Anthony, Declaration of Rights for Women, July 1876
I agree with Betty that men should not be the enemy (the system should be). It worries me that (maybe) we can’t be strong together. It seems that as women get stronger/more independent, men get less capable.
Men weren’t really the enemy – they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill. ~Betty Friedan
I stand in solidarity with Rebecca.
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute.
Rebecca West, “Mr Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice,” The Clarion, 14 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca, 1982
I stand with these five women from Alberta declaring we are persons also! They are why Canada celebrates Women’s History Month in October rather than March.
I march beside and stand with the women of the future and the past. (1902 Postcard link).
Yes, I am a feminist.