My friend Bjoern left a comment on the Siren blog from a while back called “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…” He was interested in knowing how those Rutgers researchers defined feminism. He said:
“They probably use it as a synomyn for people who approve of gender equality. Though that’s what I do as well, I would never label myself a feminist!!”
“I am curious to hear what problems women have (in the workplace). Perhaps they should tell us about them?!”
Bjoern went on to say that maybe he’s too idealistic to acknowledge that women face more difficulties than men in the workplace because it should be as simple as everyone being professional and everyone being judged by their work and not their gender.
Well, practically any lady around could tell Bjoern that it simply isn’t as simple as that.
Before Bjoern hopped onto the site and left this lovely comment, he had emailed me saying he was a little intimidated to go to the blog because it was of a feminist nature.
I guess I assumed that since he KNOWS me, he’d know it was a rad blog and that I wasn’t asking him to read scary lesbo man-hating ramblings.
I guess I assumed wrong. Even though he knows me and normally respects my suggestions on readings and music and such, Bjoern was STILL afraid to read a feminist blog. Weird.
It got me thinking about guys and how many of them are afraid of the ‘F’ word, and maybe even of women altogether. And it got me thinking of a possible solution to this.
Point is, we feminist ladies sometimes forget that there are a lot of men (and women, though my focus here is the dudes) out there who’ve never taken a Women’s Studies course. They’ve never spoken with a real, live feminist – to their knowledge. They, as my friend Bjoern so eloquently put it, believe in women’s equality and all that, but don’t call themselves feminists.
Because that would be ‘going too far.’
Going too far where exactly? Well, OUT THERE, of course! We fems are still considered out there! Crazy, extremist, man-hating, take the world out of the male grasp FEMINISTS!
I would like to get more guys to call themselves feminists, and to understand what that means. Because, based on what Bjoern told me before he told me he wasn’t a feminist, I’d say he was a feminist.
So here’s what. The best I can figure is that all we have to do to remedy this to our well-meaning male coworkers, neighbors and lovers is simply to come clean. Communicate. Share our stories.
Call yourself a feminist, when the opportunity arises. I’m sure in this election year feminism or women’s rights or gender politics or SOMETHING will come up in a conversation you will have with a guy who does not yet call himself a feminist in which you can call yourself a feminist and get him thinking. Chances are, if you’re having a conversation with this person, he already knows you and likes you. So when you – this person that he likes – calls yourself a ‘feminist,’ you’ll probably shake up his Feminist Belief System a bit.
Here’s another example: A while back I introduced a normal (read: pre-feminist) dude to my group of friends. He didn’t know what feminism meant really and was frankly a little terrified of the conversations he found himself in with my group of friends.
“Your friends talk about feminism a lot,” he said.
“No, they don’t,” I said. “They talk about it a pretty regular amount.” (Which, I maintain, they do.)
“Talking about feminism at all is more than my friends talk about feminism,” he said.
At the time, he had about a 1:1 male-to-female ratio in his group of friends, so he’s not one of those male-insulated, poolhall lurking, baseball-cap wearing dudes. He’s just a guy. A regular guy.
So here’s what I propose. Let’s all start talking about our periods. Our birth control. Our sexual harassment experiences. The times we know and/or fear that we’ve been discriminated against. The near date-rape experiences. The times we’ve claimed to be lesbian when guys wouldn’t stop hitting on us. The times we’ve claimed to be straight, to get a better deal on mechanic work or to get a job or into a club or whatever.
The only way we can make feminism real, tangible and human to regular dudes who still don’t know squat about it is to talk about our experiences as feminists and as women, and how we have encountered the world as such.
Things like PMS get hated on and made fun of and stereotyped because at least half the world doesn’t know what it’s like, how frustrating it can be to have a mood swing or cramps.
But we have the art of communication. We have the beauty of description. Let’s pester men with it. 😉
Have conversations. Discuss why you think a woman would make a good president, despite the fear of raging PMS causing WWIII (and remind them that we’re kinda already in WWIII, thanks to someone with testicles). Give a play-by-play account of your childbirth. Tell about the time you were passed up for a promotion and describe how that made you *gasp!* FEEL.
At least one pre-feminist guy asked for this: “I am curious to hear what problems women have. Perhaps they should tell us about them?!”
There are a lot of things men will never experience. Let’s at least enlighten them a bit. Let’s be our own advocates and spokespersons. Represent.
Also, ask questions. Ask why they don’t want to be called a feminist, and what they’re afraid might happen if a woman is president (seriously, I’ve had this conversation recently). Ask if they’ve ever felt discriminated against for one reason or another, so that they might relate in some way.
Oh, and expect to be annoyed during some of these conversations. Have patience.