Thursday, November 11, 2004

Part Two: Feminist 

A couple months ago I promised a two-part series on taking back words. Then the election heated up and all my attention was diverted to that.

However, now that we lost miserably and our values and way of life is under attack, it is high time to take this word back. While the use of taking back "Liberal" can be debated (a co-worker argued no need considering we have the more uplifting word "Progressive" in its place), "feminist" and its extension "feminism" must be taken back now more than ever.

And it's not only the misogynists, Evangelicals or Republicans that have stolen this word from us; it is also my fellow women. I worked at the hub of women power last year where women thrived on putting each other down and rewarded each other for being caddy, petty and depressed. There I fully realized the epidemic of insecurity and a dearth of women role models and mentors. Moreover, we see younger and younger girls objectifying themselves, consumed with physical perfection to the point of bodily harm or death. Becoming sex objects at age 11 with no recourse or positive messages to counter. The nail on the coffin came the other day I heard that a woman I highly respect and who is known for her hardcore ways and assertiveness said she would never consider herself a feminist. I was shocked. I knew there was a problem with the "feminist" movement, but I didn't know people had disavowed it altogether.

Yes, I understand that 1/2 the country just said a big f-you to Roe v. Wade this November. I also understand people associate the word feminist with bra-burning and man-hating. I was brought up in a household where my mom never wore a bra, encouraged me to wear my hair boy short and reject makeup and high heels that she believed were made to keep women subservient. But that was never what feminism was about. I think feminism, given the right explanation and context could be made palatable even to some people who voted for Dubya in November.

My boss Kirstin always said the next wave of feminism had to include men, and I always agreed that women should get men involved, but then I realized what that really means. Feminism is about breaking down the societal constructs that constrain us all. If freedom of choice and opportunity is what this country is about, feminism is getting rid of the unnecessary barriers that burden men to always assume the role of provider and woman to always act as nurturer.

Take my father for example: A successful lawyer, he stayed home with my brother and I for four years while my mom, another successful lawyer, was the breadwinner. This allowed me to develop an intense bond with my father that my other girlfriends typically don't have, while retaining the innate bond almost all children have with their mothers. I always tell people that my mom is my best friend and I am a daddy's girl. And I honestly attribute that to the fact that I was basically raised by my father for the first part of my life. But guess what? When my father tried to re-enter the workforce, after having been a successful lawyer for 10 years previously, he couldn't find a job to save his life. He was branded a freak for having been a "house-husband" in a time where that was socially unacceptable.

And times haven't changed much from then.

The next wave of feminism gives both men and women the ability to make choices and follow their dreams. People can make their own choices about the kind of life they lead and the type of person they want to become.

So let's take back the word feminist and bring back feminism. I, for one, will continue to proudly sport the t-shirt Kirstin recently bought me: This Is What a Feminist Looks Like, along with my short skirt, my lipstick and my push up bra.


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