Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hell yeah, I'm a feminist.

Yesterday I finished reading The Handmaid's Tale for the first time. Set in the not too distant future, it forsees a United States where damage to the environment so greatly reduces the birthrate that women are stripped of their rights and reduced to property- they can no longer have money or jobs, and are instead viewed primarily as birthing vessels.

As clich├ęd as it sounds, I couldn't put this book down. Every page rang true to the direction our society is pointing in, and it terrified me. I cannot recommend it enough.

But we're not here to do a book report.

Despite being passionate about women's rights for years, and marching on Washington, and volunteering at Planned Parenthood, I'd always been hesitant, as a man, to claim myself to be a feminist. Something about my taking on that label always struck me as being patriarchal, although I've never been able to put my finger on why. Over the years though, women I love and respect, women who I definitely do consider to be feminists, have applied the label to me. And that was alright. But in my mind, I still couldn't refer to myself that way.

And then I read this book. Despite having read several "classic" feminist books before, none of them ever clicked with me like this one. It's the complicity that got me. The idea that men who considered themselves "enlightened" would be complicit in the subjugation of a full half of the population absolutely sickened me. And the more I read, the more I realized that this isn't some futuristic, far off thing, it's happening right now.

So many "enlightened" men refuse to take umbrage to the rampant sexism in our society just to get along; just to be one of the guys. And that's how it starts. Every time we gawk at a Hooters waitress, or laugh at a joke about how "ugly" Hillary Clinton is, we lose a little bit more of our outrage. And so, when the governor of Missouri appoints a commission to "study the negative effects of abortion on women", and stocks it full of people from the forced birth crowd, we hardly blink, and we don't consider the ramifications of this on our friends, lovers, sisters, mothers.

So what am I saying? I'm saying that I believe in that "radical notion that women are people too". I'm saying that my mom raised me with the idea that women can indeed to anything that a man can, and deserve equal pay for doing it. And the amazing women I've known in my adult life have taught me that women are not a collection of random, surgically enhanced body parts, they are living breathing people, just as smart (in most cases, smarter) as I am, and just as passionate about the world around them.

In short, if I didn't walk side by side with the women who are every day fighting to be considered equal to men, to be seen as more than incubators and sex objects, I'd be going against everything I've ever learned; I'd be a stone cold hypocrite. Feminism transcends gender- it's about human rights. And I happen to think human rights are worth fighting for.

So hell yeah, I'm a feminist.


Andrea SK said...

Amen! Great post. Still have to read that book.

Anonymous said...


Yes, you are.

Cycho Librarian said...

I am really surprised that you haven't read that book until now! Illegitimati non carborundum.