Alright, real talk here. Though I do have a million and one opinions on a million and one things, and though I do let myself get worked up rather easily, there are only a few things that truly boil my blood. These few things just happen to be very prevalent in today’s society. Here, in order, are the things that make me really angry:
1) Stupid people.
2) People doing stupid things.
3) Stupid people.
4) People who have stupid assumptions and the ability to change the world around them because of those stupid assumptions.
Let me elaborate on this last point:
There are a million and one things I could complain about to illustrate this last point: Sam Brownback and his stupid politics, beauty magazines (particularly geared at teenage markets) and their stupid beauty ideals, or even consumerism in general and its stupid ability to brainwash the societal masses. Instead, I would like to complain about people who take up issue with Feminism.
First of all, let me remark that I saw several posts across social media linking to articles about Patricia Arquette’s comments both during her Oscar acceptance speech and afterwards. Most of these articles consisted of negative reactions to her call to action, particularly among the gay and black communities. Let me also take this moment to acknowledge the fact that while yes, I am a woman, and therefore considered a minority in some respects, I also acknowledge that by being white, I have a certain amount of privilege over my fellow minority communities. I cannot speak for every ethnicity, race, gender, and identity. But I can use my privilege to raise my voice and bring light to the inherent issues at hand, just as Patricia Arquette used hers to do the same.
So, here’s my beef with all those articles written out of anger at Patricia Arquette’s call for other oppressed communities to band together and fight for women:
First of all, I am ashamed that there are people out there who think that they are entitled to fight for their own equal rights without fighting for the equal rights of all citizens, no matter race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. People who take issue supporting equal rights for all women–including white women–are people who don’t see that their arguments are inherently flawed. Saying that one community owes another community nothing is like saying, “Well I expect you to give me the respect that I demand, but I won’t give you that same respect in return.” And yes, I am fully aware of the problem of whitewashing feminism. But you know what changes that? All people, of all colors, genders, orientations, and what not, supporting women of color speaking out, and speaking out LOUDLY! Yes, I realize that my privilege, and Patricia’s privilege makes it easier to be seen and heard because other minority voices are often ignored, but if this is your beef, it’s not with me and Patricia. Your beef should be with the jerkwads who choose not to seek out and find those voices, because believe me–those voices are there. And we’re all trying to lift our voices together in a choir of kick-ass rainbow feminism.
A few years ago I read Gail Collins’ When Everything Changed and it changed my entire viewpoint on feminism. Something that struck me deeply, and has stuck with me since then is the subtly with which women face oppression. Did you know that throughout the Civil Rights movement, and particularly during the March on Washington, women and their voices were left largely unheard? The Civil Rights movement was led mainly by men appealing to other men, and to be honest, when I try to think of women associated with the cause, the only name that comes to the top of my head without a Google search is Rosa Parks.
Did you also know that during what was called the Women’s movement–which happened around the same time as the Civil Rights movement–feminism not only advocated for the equal rights of the sexes, but also for gay rights? The ERA that Patricia Arquette mentioned in her comments after the Oscars? It stands for Equal Rights Amendment, and it was a bill that almost passed through congress way back in the 1970’s, after Alice Paul started advocating for its realization back in 1923. If that bill had been passed, America would likely have been looking at the legal acknowledgement of gay marriage three decades ago.
And do you know why the Women’s movement quieted down in the ’70’s, and became almost stagnant during the ’80’s, ’90’s, and early 2000’s? It was because enough voices raised up, nitpicking the women advocating for change, and misunderstanding the foundational aim of feminism. Sound familiar? The media began depicting stereotyped images of ugly, haggard “feminists” who burned their bras and hated the idea of family and men. None of which is true, by the way, and if any bra burning did happen, it was such a small and incidental thing that really, why would anyone care? (Besides, bras are really, really uncomfortable after several hours anyways.)
And what’s scariest of all (and probably most angering) is that there are people in this world who think that there is no need for feminism any longer. I’ve had close friends–and even family–tell me that the wage gap doesn’t exist, that sexism isn’t real, and even that women and men are truly equal now, so what am I huffing and puffing about?
Let me tell you a little story about something that happened just the other day. I was walking down the street in a dress and tights. This dress was a little bit shorter than what I’m used to wearing (we’re talking maybe an inch or two) and so I was wearing biker shorts underneath it, just incase the wind picked up and my hands were full, or my bag worked my skirt up without me realizing it. I was happily walking down the street checking myself every few minutes, when a man pulled to the side of the road and told me to “Pull your skirt down”. Embarrassed that my bag must have worked my skirt up just as I feared, I sheepishly pulled at the hem of my dress, said a quick thank-you, and began continuing on my way. However, the man wasn’t finished yet. Now, I don’t know why he felt he had to continue on after this first remark–maybe he saw the embarrassment on my face and felt compelled to ease my mind–but he proceeded to say to me, “I mean, I don’t mind the view, but…” And he shrugged.
The first part, embarrassing and maybe a little rude, as after I had tugged at the hem on all sides, I was a bit confused because my dress didn’t seem to have ridden up like I thought, but the second part? Completely, and utterly, uncalled for. Why would a person–man or woman–feel that it’s alright to say something like that? If he was hitting on me, it was completely tasteless, and also, he was definitely 20 years my senior, so gross.
This is why feminism is not dead, and sexism does exist. While there are still people on this Earth that believe that comments such as this toward women are acceptable, there is a need for feminism. Comments like this show the inherent lack of respect with which women are often treated. Anyone who respected me just as a human being on a basic level would understand that this comment is degrading. If I was your daughter, your sister, your mother, or even just your friend, would you think it was okay to hear someone speak to me this way? When this man said, “I mean, I don’t mind the view, but…” what I heard was, “You are an object I find attractive, but you’re coming off as scandalous, and I assume that’s not your intention. Though, if it is, I give you permission to be that way.” News flash: I don’t want, or need, your permission.
This is why people of every class, category, identity, race, orientation, gender, and species for that matter, need to stand together and realize that until we are all equal, equal rights does not exist. If you do not fight for women, you do not fight for racial equality, gay rights, or any other kind of rights. So stop nitpicking and start fighting harder for justice and equality for all. We are all in this together, and if you don’t see that, then you’re stupid and you make me very, very angry.
P.S. Here are two articles that shed a little bit of light on the Patricia Arquette issue. I’d like to add that while I agree with the issue of intersectionality, I still think that her comments were nitpicked completely out of proportion, and I don’t think she at all meant what she said the way the media portrayed it. But please read and enlighten yourself, and form your own conclusions.
^While I think this second article is a good example of how Arquette’s words were skewed, (“Patricia Arquette seemed wholly unaware of these histories, elaborating backstage that it was now time for all other groups to fight for white women”) I love the information provided on the history of black feminists and everything they’ve fought for and accomplished in the last century. I definitely learned something!