Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Feminism Means to Me

Here's a little insight on my role as a feminist:

When you’re raised in a confederate-flag-waving, tractor-driving-to-school small town, unaware of the world around you, you don’t really understand that racism or sexism should not exist because that's what you're surrounded and raised by: racism and sexism.  I had always been interested in strong women, but I wasn’t aware of women’s place in the world throughout history until my freshman year of college at Ball State, when I had American Literature I: Native America to the Civil War.  When I look back I think that started my course on feminism, where we studied Native American matriarchal myths, the letters of John and Abigail Adams, the role of prostitutes in early America, the poems of Anne Bradstreet, and other early American women.

To me, being a feminist means many things.  One is being aware of the female gender’s past around the world, not just our own society’s.  A perspective is given, then, to where we should be and could be in terms of equality.  Feminism isn’t women being better than men; it’s about gaining equality in rights and accepting each others' biological differences (because men can't have babies, right?  And women and men have different physical strengths, among other things.).  When we finally arrive to that point, then perhaps we’ll be at post-feminism, or an egalitarian society, but at this point, we’re not at post-feminism at all.  Some can pretend they are and perhaps write as if the world is post-feminist, and that in itself is a testament to feminism, acting like there’s no problem at all, that women and men are already equal.  But here we are, where the view of women by women and men and by different races is skewed, belittled, and misunderstood.  Women have a history of ruling ancient societies, leading men in battle, fighting in battle, protecting the family, home, city, or castle.  They also have a history of being a homemaker and dimwitted, solely existing for reproducing.  And that seems to be the one that sticks today due to it being the more recent attitude.

Being a feminist means making aware to women and men that women have the capability to do anything and can do anything.  Being a Language Arts and Literature teacher, I see textbooks and anthologies that are sent to us.  Never have I seen a strong representation of women.  Occasionally there is Mary Chesnut, Anne Bradstreet, and Emily Dickinson, but there are so many female writers in the past that are just as good as the men, like Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, who disguised her bitter and witty tongue in children's rhymes as a genteel poet.  For a long time, she's been overlooked, and she's just gaining respect and notoriety now.  What I do is ignore a textbook’s guidelines and provide female-authored reading selections.  I’ve recently worked with some Social Studies teachers in working in the female role throughout history, especially their presence during Caesarian Rome.  Girls are enthralled, impressed, and inspired by Cleopatra, Bat Zabbai, Boudicca, and Agrippa.  Perhaps teaching the new generation about women’s role in history, we’ll get them written into history textbooks.

Lastly, feminism is about the power of choice.  A woman doesn’t have to be badass or in a political position to be a part of the feminist movement.  She can choose to be single, be a professional, be a politician, or marry for money (even though that's disgusting as a human being), have children and be a housewife, or any other duty, just as long as she knows she has the option and uses it.  Queen Rania is a strong advocate for females’ education throughout to world, so they know what options they have in life.

I am a feminist and a man who wants to bring down the patriarchal society we live in and re-establish an egalitarian society.  It all begins with our children.  Teaching the new generation that there is choice and that women are of worth in the world, equal in every way, is crucial in changing the world.  We all have voices; let’s use them.

What does feminism mean to you?  How do you voice your feminism?  What actions do you take?

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