When I tell men how I participate in women’s events and rallies, sometimes I get double-takes and certain looks that seem to question how radical I am — if I’m “too liberal” and a rabble-rouser. I get asked if I shave my legs, if I’m “one of those bra-burners,” or if I’ve ever been a lesbian. But when it comes down to it, why should promoting women’s rights be a negative thing in men’s eyes (and some women)? Why should female empowerment and feminism be viewed as some sort of dangerous ideology?
For anyone who knows me, I tend to be a more practical thinker. I try to weigh things out and see them through a political-philosophical way, without jumping to conclusions and giving everyone benefit of the doubt — at least in the beginning. In my heart, every person — no matter of their gender, sex, sexual orientation, color, ethnicity, nationality, religion — should have their basic human, God-given rights — as long as they do not infringe the rights of others. What is it about being a woman that triggers some people to think those rights should not be available to us?
With Women’s History Month upon us and soon coming to a close, there have been a number of events worldwide to celebrate the liberation of women. In my experience, there are not always raging groups of men (who are not gay) fighting alongside women. But shouldn’t every person be a feminist if they truly care about women, if they really care about the equality of their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, girlfriends, aunts, cousins, friends or simply fellow human beings? Being pro-woman does not mean anti-man. Being pro-woman simply means that you value her life just as much as your own. Or maybe, subconsciously, you do see her as less of a human?
I define feminism as the freedom of women, women having the choice to do as we please. Whether we want to pursue a medical profession, a career as an adult entertainer, or staying at home tending to the kids; it’s our decision. As long as we’re not demeaning the image of any other woman or if there is not someone there forcing or manipulating us with our lively choices, we have made active decisions with what we want. At least for that period of time. And that, to me, defines a conscious and independently thinking woman. It doesn’t matter what she is doing, as long as SHE’S the one who chose to do it.
During my years of constantly learning and trying to be more of a responsible adult each day, I’ve realized that some men tend to judge women based off of how we view ourselves. If we’re too sure of ourselves and comfortable in our independence, then each move is critiqued.
“Why are you doing that with your career? You should look into doing this. Or working there.”
“You don’t really dress up. You should dress up more. And wear makeup.”
“She’s too bossy and stuck up her own ass. That’s why no man wants her.”
“Oh, you have a cat? Then, you must be lonely.”
“There’s no such thing as independent women. Women need men too. Every woman wants a man.”
And when it boils down to it, we can never be recognized as the individual women we are. Our jobs don’t matter, our passions don’t mean anything, our backgrounds, our voices, the unique je ne sais quoi that makes us US. Everything always circles back to men: our relationships with men, or lack-thereof. Even in today’s society, men still seem to think that we must abide by their ideals of beauty, by their standards of what “femininity” truly means, by their understanding of what life means and how we can *maybe* have a part of their game. We’re constantly judged by how we look, which determines whether or not they will give us the time of day. We’re criticized by our performance at work because maybe we’re actually able to compete with men due to our deal of professionalism. They tell us how we shouldn’t wear our hair, what colors we shouldn’t wear, why do we “talk like that,” how we should decorate our homes, what we should do about our living arrangements — even if we don’t ask, what we should do with our car, how we should drive, if we can cook and what we like to cook and if we read cookbooks and post our meals on Pinterest and bullshit, bullshit, bullshit because they still see us as some fake ass Betty Crocker, who doesn’t exist by the way.
It’s annoying and frustrating because so many times, there is no happy medium. I’m not accusing every man, but it’s upsetting for men to think that there are no real women-inequality issues anymore — maybe except for the debate on abortion — when they still limit their views of us. Telling us who we should be, especially when we don’t ask.
Naturally, some believe in a spiritual-religious argument. Women are meant to serve men; there are certain gender roles that each party plays. That’s all well and good, but I’m not buying all of it in this 21st century era. As a Christian woman, I do believe that both partners are supposed to support each other, not some subservient system where I have to listen to everything a man says just because he has certain sexual organs. When in reality, there’s a good chance that my voice is bigger than his. Believe me, I’m a loud talker when it comes to my opinion. How elitist can someone be if they sincerely feel as if their thoughts matter more simply because they were born male? Men get upset when this is applied to race, ethnicity, or social class, so why can’t they see it on the other foot?
This, in turn can cause an opposition reaction from some women. Plenty of times, we end up competing with one another. Men manage to concoct a hierarchal system where women participate in a “survival of the dependent,” if you will. The women who fit their mold of sexiness, looks, and the right attitude are the ones who get rewarded with some form of a relationship. (Not all, but occasionally.) And what about the others? They’re bitches, mad because they don’t have a relationship, and it ends up being women fighting against women merely over the attention of men who shouldn’t have it in the first place.
Another possibility? Women are against gender equality. Yeah, they’re out there. Remember Stacy Dash? Yeah, I don’t either. Nonetheless, there are also women out there who refuse to fight for their rights because somewhere — SOMEHOW — they don’t believe that any problem exists. They don’t recognize that women get paid less because she’s not viewed as the head of the household, they don’t recognize how women may not get chosen for the job because they have kids, they don’t recognize that women get assaulted because of the disturbing behavior of men rather than what the women were wearing or if they were intoxicated. They don’t recognize the demeaning behavior they deliver to us for fighting for their rights too, even though they turn us away. Instead, they worry that we disrupt traditional families, that we cause too much noise, that we’re simply complaining because we’re all menstruating at the same time. Obviously.
But don’t these women realize that by voicing their opinions on the matter, they too are feminists? That they are stepping outside of the conventional box and offering their views and making some sort of a fight? Or maybe women do not realize how much power we have when we compete with one another to dictate a man’s worth. We can literally emasculate him if we simply disregard each ounce of his perverted chauvinism. The world sits in our palms. We are the majority and we have the power to demand that respect from men. If we settle, how can we ever lead our daughters in positive directions? Or do we choose to be a walking contradiction and merely wait for our freedom when our husbands die?
When I think of men I respect, I think of the men who also respect me. Those who see me as being worthy of MY ambitions, of MY dreams. Not theirs. Men who realize that there are handicaps when it comes to me walking out the door each day and being judged based upon my bra size. Men who understand that being chivalrous does not eliminate gender equality. As long as white women get paid $0.80 to every man’s dollar (women of color is less), then yes, I do expect for a man to pay for my meal on most dates. When I need help moving furniture, yes, I do expect for a man to help me. I cannot deny my biology and how it affects my life. That we cannot change. However, we can change our ideologies that emotions and shit that just isn’t tangible can dictate whether or not I’m less worthy as a human being.
Female empowerment holds so much weight. And the day that we are truly comfortable with its majesty, women can fall in love with our inner being. Each day would be a test of discovery for ourselves, without always thinking of men’s perceptions. Deep down, whether or not some want to admit it, it’s something that we all want. Men just need to learn to want it too.