Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"I don't usually agree with feminism, but..."

So, a lot of people have been writing about Emma Watson's (awesome) speech about HeForShe, and starting with the preface “I don't usually agree with feminism, but...”

Why don't you agree with feminism? As Emma pointed out, the definition (says Merriam-Webster) of feminism is “The theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” It's hard for me to understand why anyone would be against the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.

Some people distance themselves from the word “feminism” because they mistakenly believe it originated with the radicals we often associate with second-wave feminism. I reject the idea that feminism derives from and is inherently tied to its radicals.

The words “feminism” and “feminist” first appeared in Europe in the late 1800s, and in the United States in 1910. First-wave feminism was mainly about official discrimination, and the largest achievement of first-wave feminism was women's suffrage.

During World War II, women took over many roles that had traditionally been filled by men. As the war ended, there was a huge push for women to return to the home and to traditional feminine roles, in order to make room in the job market for men. Second-wave feminism emerged as a delayed reaction to this renewed push toward the traditional roles breadwinning head of home vs. subservient and domestic little wife. Second-wave feminism became more about unofficial discrimination. Yes, feminism has had its radicals. Like any group, the radical minority is always the loudest. That doesn't mean that the word “feminism” should be associated with its loudest members. Second-wave feminism accomplished many goals for which I as a woman am very grateful, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, more widely available and accepted birth control, “no fault” divorce laws, and Title IX.

I am a feminist. I am not a Bible-thumper, I am a Feminine Mystique-thumper. I believe women should have control over their own bodies and I support women's access to affordable birth control. I am against indoctrinating children to believe they should conform to traditional gender roles and stereotypes (or nontraditional gender roles and stereotypes. Anti-indoctrination is the key here). I chose to marry a man who doesn't fit traditionally masculine stereotypes, because I knew I wouldn't be happy with a man who was stereotypically masculine and expected me to conform to stereotypically feminine roles. I don't believe that all women should be stay-at-home moms just by virtue of their possessing a uterus, and I don't believe that all men should be the breadwinners. It was important to me, in choosing a husband, to marry a man who would be open to a nontraditional division of family roles if that's what we felt was best for us and our family. I personally do not feel that in my own life I could be fulfilled and satisfied by being a stay-at-home mom; I want a career. I am open to having children but do not intend to have them before I am ready. If and when my husband and I decide to have children, I intend to keep working and I don't believe that would make me a bad mother. I dye my hair and I wear makeup. I sometimes go for weeks (or even months) without shaving my legs. I love to cook and bake and do crafts. I hate housekeeping. I don't like kids indiscriminately. I have a large collection of high heels, even though I know they do terrible things to my ankles. I am outspoken and opinionated. None of those things makes me a bad feminist or a bad woman.

This is how I choose to live my life. Just because I feel strongly that this is the right choice for me, it doesn't mean this is the right choice for you. If you are a woman and, being aware of your options, of your own free will, feel that you will be happiest and most fulfilled by being a stay-at-home mom, that's great! If you feel you will be happiest by being a working mom, that's great! And if you are a man and, being aware of your options, by your own free will, feel you will be happiest and most fulfilled by being the breadwinner, that's great! If you feel you will be happiest by being a stay-at-home dad, that's great!

If I have children, I want them to know that they can be whatever they want to be and are willing to work to be. I want them to know that they can be as strong and as sensitive as they want. I want them to know that their value is not based on how they are perceived by the opposite sex. I both my sons and my daughters to have the same opportunities and the same freedoms. I want them to treat all others, male and female, with respect, compassion, and dignity.

Live and let live. It's really none of your business what other people choose to do with their lives. Our place is not to judge or make assumptions. Our job is not to lump people into categories and roles based on the contents of their pants. Our place is not to try to force everyone to make the same life choices we have made. Our place is to respect and help each other as we all work toward a common goal: happiness. That's what feminism, to me, is all about.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An open letter to the random guy at HEB yesterday who encouraged me to make lifestyle changes, for my health

Dear Sir,

I am so sorry for having the gall to flaunt my fat body in public. Granted, I was wearing a floor-length skirt and fairly modest shirt so I'm not sure whether “flaunt” is the right word, but given your tone the sight of me in a burka would still have probably been an assault on your eyes. I'm sorry the neckline of my shirt was betraying a hint of cleavage. Rest assured, sir, that I was not “trying to be sexy” nor do I think that that “makes up for my fat ass.” To be perfectly honest with you, it is sometimes difficult to make sure that 100% of my chest is 100% covered all the time. Rather a lot of surface area, you see, but I do make an effort.

I'm sorry I disgust you. I appreciate your concern over my romantic life, but allow me to reassure you that I'm doing okay in that regard. Even though in general, as you so eloquently put it, “no man wants to get up on a whale like you,” my husband appears to be the exception to that rule.

Yes, I was buying a Hershey Symphony bar. Terribly unhealthy, I know. Usually I wouldn't share such details with you, but I am on my period and, as a caricature of a woman, I was craving chocolate. I certainly won't try to justify it or in any way claim it to be a healthy choice. It isn't. My reasons for buying it were purely emotional and a matter of habit; I buy myself a bar (or two) of chocolate once a month around this time.

I certainly agree with you that eating McDonalds all the time is unhealthy, but to be frank I'm not sure where you get off assuming that I eat McDonalds. I haven't set foot in a McDonalds in a year and a half. In fact, the only times I have eaten fast food in the past year and a half have been the occasional baked potato from Wendy's, when on road trips and such. You see, I have celiac disease and couldn't “stuff my face with hamburgers” even if I wanted to. You also said that I should stop being lazy and learn to cook a home-cooked meal. Well, you will be pleased to learn that in fact I do know how to cook a home-cooked meal! I would be happy to challenge you to a cook-off anytime. I am not confident in certain of my abilities, but as far as my cooking goes I am fairly sure of myself. I cook dinner for myself and my husband 29 days out of 30. I will admit, however, that we do make room in our budget to go out to eat once a month at one of three local restaurants with options that are safe for me to eat. You know, with the celiac disease and all. Now, my home-cooked meals aren't always as full of lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables as I wish they were. Regrettably, such ingredients are quite expensive and we do try to be frugal. I do, however, do my best to make sure that the meals I prepare are nutritious and balanced, even if I do have to use canned and frozen vegetables from time to time.

You also suggested that I should “put down the potato chips, get off the couch, and exercise.” Well again, sir, allow me to assure you that I rarely if ever buy potato chips and I do make an effort to exercise regularly. I don't manage it every day, but I do exercise for an hour three or four times a week. Now, I don't do this exercising at the gym. I exercise behind closed doors, with my hand weights and Jillian Michaels videos, or I go for long walks. When I go for walks, though, I have to be careful to make sure that I don't look like I'm doing it for exercise. Slightly ridiculous, I know, but in my experience when I exercise in public I am bombarded by insults from people like you. It's a shame, because I really would like to get into heavier strength training than what I do now and wish I could join a gym so as to have access to the necessary equipment. However, I am given to understand that unless I am already in good shape when I join a gym, the experience will not be a good one. I went to a local gym a few months ago, because I was considering risking it and joining one anyway. Regrettably, I was promptly accosted by a personal trainer who asked whether I was looking for a personal trainer and, when I answered that for financial reasons I was not at that time, said I was just a lazy cow who just wanted a gym membership to feel good about herself but would never do anything to lose weight. Needless to say, I did not return.

Here's the thing, random guy at HEB. I know I'm fat. I certainly don't need you to tell me that. I am not making excuses or blaming genetics. I am actively making an effort to become healthier—not to become thin and not to make myself more attractive to men (and believe me, I use the word lightly in your case), but to improve my quality of life and strengthen my body. You do not know me, and you do not know my background. It is not your place to go up to random strangers at the supermarket, fat-shame them, and claim it's out of genuine concern for their health, much like it is not my place to comment on the fact that you reek of tobacco, your cart is full of beer, and you have a belly to match (even though you are increasing your risk for liver disease and lung cancer, and are also a disgusting hypocrite). You are fatter than me, yet because I am a woman you think it is okay to hold me to a different standard than the one to which you apparently hold yourself. This is not okay, and this will never be okay.

So I propose the following: You will mind your own damn business, and I will mind mine.

Have a nice day, asshole.


The fat chick in the candy aisle