Like a lot of young women my age, I always felt a little embarrassed about identifying myself as a feminist.
The cultural image of the feminist is so strongly reminiscent of the 1960s with the long hair, the bra-less t-shirt, the rallies and the loud activism, not to mention this idea of the lesbian with unshaven armpits that it seems a bit ludicrous to try and find something in common with these women. It was all very well for the suffragette mother in Mary Poppins to go about singing, “Our daughters’ daughters will thank us” but its a very different thing to make it actually happen.
Somewhere in the back of mind, I found this reluctance on my part a little puzzling – both my parents were part of the 60s generation and while they weren’t anything near radicals or hippies, it has left an indelible impression on them. I used to joke (still do) that my father is the most strident feminist I know. Perhaps it was because both my parents came from families where strong, assertive women are the norm rather than the exception.
Still, it wasn’t until I moved to New York, walked into my first writing workshop and met Jane Lazarre (who became a sort of mother figure to me) that I really accepted that my standpoint arose out of ignorance than a truthful place. “Do you support equal rights for women no matter who they are?” she asked me. And of course, I did.
For the past several weeks I’ve come into contact with a bunch of people on Desicritics who believe Feminism lies at the root of all evil from terrorism to financial crises. I firmly believe theirs is not a rational argument and it arises from their personal tragedies for which they find feminism a convenient scapegoat.
But meeting these people has made me all the more aware of how far the right of women have to go. I live in a bubble wherein I am an equal of everybody I meet; never have I felt discriminated against because I’m financially secure, well-educated and have the full support of my family. How many people can say the same? How many women can say the same?
Today I came across these two instances:
Dee posted a link about the death threats that were made against a fellow blogger, Kathy Sierra, for no real reason other than the fact that she was a woman. As a woman who spends massive amounts of time on the internet, I would like to add my voice to hers: a threat of violence is not free speech. It is not harmless fun. It is not a form of expression. It is criminal. I do not say this because I am a woman; I have never asked for special consideration based on my gender. I say this as a human being. I do not know if I would have made the same choices as Sierra, but I do know that there is a very real line between acceptable and vile, and this sort of behavior crosses it.
Anamika further posted a link to the coverage Salon.com gave the issue: it helps put the whole issue in focus. Quote:
Death threats! If you’ve never heard of Sierra, perhaps you assume that she writes about religion, the mob or the Satanic Verses. But actually, Sierra writes about cognition and computers. […] “It’s this culture of attacking women that has especially got to stop,” writes fellow blogger Robert Scoble, who, in response to the threats against Sierra, no longer allows anonymous posting on his blog. “I really don’t care if you attack me. I take those attacks in stride. But, whenever I post a video of a female technologist there invariably are snide remarks about body parts and other things that simply wouldn’t happen if the interviewee were a man.”
All of which just serves to remind me that the time has not yet come to box up feminism and put it away for our granddaughters to examine at a later date.
I’m a feminist. Why aren’t you?