Wednesday, June 13, 2007

big bad feminist

Feminism isn't the easiest thing to define. Well, it is. It's belief in the equality of men and women. But feminism means different things to different people - ultimately, feminism is what you make it and what it means to you.

I suppose I'm writing this for two of my friends - well, not specifically for them, but they inspired it. They don't - won't - define themselves as feminists, and so I asked Ellie why. Her answer was simple - because she would happily stay at home and be a housewife. Now, I define myself as a feminist, and I think that's fair enough. If she's happy to do that, then she can, with my blessing. What I don't believe is that women should be housewives first and foremost - I believe that women should have the choice to become housewives or executives or air hostesses or authors or doctors. Whatever they want to do. Some women wouldn't be happy staying at home - I know my mother wasn't, and I don't think I would be. I'd always seek something else to do. But if you are, and that is what you want to do - then that's cool.

For me, feminism is about choice, and the right to make those choices yourself from the same options as everyone else, regardless of the labels that society has otherwise given you. Women should be able to walk down the street without getting whistled, hooted or shouted at. Women should be listened to, their opinions given equal weight. We are not decorative objects for other people's amusement, but intelligent self-determining individuals. Women should be paid the same as men, considered on merit rather than looks or the likelihood of them having kids in the next five years.

Feminists aren't hairy-legged man-hating bra-burning militant pagan emasculating lesbians. Ok, some feminists are gay, or non-religious. Some feminists probably do hate men. I mean, just because I haven't met any genuine man-hating feminists, doesn't mean they don't exist? When I began to identify myself as a feminist, I didn't turn my boyfriend and my razor in at the door. I kept my bras, my tottering spike heels, my make-up, even my sense of humor. Militant feminists are a minority - the most militant most feminists get is going on a Take Back The Night march or taking a self-defence course. And, if you look at the definition of militant, engaging in a peaceful protest rally is hardly posing a threat to others.

Feminists don't hate children. We don't kill babies for sexual gratification (no matter what this guy might say). Feminists aren't pro-abortion, they're pro-choice. As a feminist, as an individual, I believe every woman should have access to safe, legal abortions, whether for medical or social reasons. But more than that - I believe abortion should be rare. Everyone should have proper sex education - and starting young. It shouldn't be taboo to talk about preventing unwanted pregnancy or STDs or the right to say no or what constitutes rape. But it's no use just talking about it - everyone should have access to contraception, whether that's the pill, condoms, or a coil; it's your body, you have the right to say what is done with it.

Feminists come in all different shapes and sizes, and they believe a wide range of things. But what it boils down to: women and men are the same, and they should have the same choices and opportunities. That's it. Really.

linky: "Yes, you are"

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