Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word

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Sometimes when I hear the word feminist I think of all the bad connotations associated with it. Such as the burning of the bra or Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch where she suggests that the reader take a moment to taste their own menstrual blood. ‘If you haven’t tasted it yet, you’ve got a long way to go, baby,’ she says. How about no? I’ll pass. Out. To be perfectly honest I’ve become disillusioned Germaine especially after her antics on ABC’s Q&A program a few weeks ago. I feel she’s controversial just for the sake of a headline and it made me question what it means to be a woman in 2012. Feminism isn’t for me. Or so I thought.

Caitlin Moran has restored my faith in what it means to be a woman. I stopped believing it was important for women to stick up for their rights. I felt out of touch with what it meant to be a feminist. Feminism to me always seemed so serious or more suited to grownups and surely that wasn’t me. I follow proud feminist blogs and writers who are in the public eye such as Rachel Hills and Clementine Ford to name a few but no one has ever asked me personally “Rose, I am a feminist. Are you?” It just never seemed that important.

Being born in 1985 I never really understood why unmarried women were never given access to the Pill. All of these luxuries that I benefit from as a modern woman I haven’t had to fight for. That’s probably why I don’t getfeminism. Or more so I don’t understand how to apply it to my own life as a 20-something single woman. I’m not an angry woman. People have it in their heads that all feminists are angry. I’m not angry I just want equality. Is that so bad?

Those who know me well know I’m not comfortable with the idea of gender roles. The traditional “husband” and “wife” roles just don’t sit well with me. Hear me out. In this day and age women shouldn’t be expected to stay at home and raise the babies while the husband goes out the door everyday as the breadwinner. Yet in many marriages and relationships men are still seen as ‘the boss’ or the decision-makers especially when it comes to matters with money.And it’s no secret that men still outnumber women in the boardrooms, is this because sexism is still rife in corporate environments or because women are still off having ‘the babies’? To be perfectly honest I can’t think of anything worse than being somebody’s ‘Missus’. I don’t even think I believe marriage is for me. Oh dear, I can already see my future partner running for the hills. I’m a catch! I swear!

2DayFM morning co-host, Jackie O gave an interview to Sunday Life (Sun Herald) recently on Kyle, her critics, and why she’s not a feminist. Say what? I’m sorry what part of the women’s liberation isn’t for you? She explains:

“I know. I do feel like I have achieved so much, in radio especially. But I’ve never considered myself a feminist. I’m just, you know, I’m doing what I love. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. But… you know.” 

No Jackie O, I don’t know because you’re not explaining yourself. You’ve basically influenced thousands (possibly millions) of women to feel guilty for being a feminist.

Jackie O sounds like me two years ago. I thought I couldn’t enjoy sex and be a feminist. I thought I couldn’t have more guy friends than girl friends and call myself a feminist. I thought I had to be a man-hater, basically. The label didn’t apply to me, it felt old-fashioned and dreary. But what I needed to do was reevaluate what feminism meant for me and how it fit into my life as a modern woman.

I remember the first time I felt like a woman. It was Halloween 1997 and I got my first period. Too much? Well it hurt like a mofo. At that moment I thought “why am I a woman? Why does this hurt so much?” Then I thought I knew the secret when I lost my virginity and suddenly I found out what all the fuss was about. Or not about to be perfectly honest. Yet as I approach the later part of my twenties I’m finally understanding what it means to be a woman.

To be a woman we need to ask ourselves are the men doing it or more accurately why are the men not doing it? Why are women submitting themselves to Brazilians and Botox when countless men are not? What is our obsession with the youthful look of women yet a man gets a few grey hairs and suddenly he’s a silver fox.

Being a woman is so much more than boobs and beauty yet I refuse to get a Brazilian because I believe it isn’t positive for women’s body image. That’s my call; it’s my body. I believe that women shouldn’t be measured by their maternal instincts and if a woman chooses to not have children this does not make her any less of a woman than it would a man. We need to stop judging women for not being traditional. Tell me when a man gets asked “so when are you going to have a baby?”

As Caitlin Moran so eloquently puts ‘it’s not as if strident feminists want to take over from men. We’re not arguing for the whole world. Just our share. As far as I’m concerned, men can just carry on doing pretty much whatever they like. I don’t want men to go away. I don’t want men to stop what they’re doing.’What we want is the choice. There are times when I still walk around and feel like a piece of meat and I no longer want to feel this way. I’m not a sex object and I’m not “asking for it” I’m a human being with thoughts and feelings and sometimes I just want to be able to walk down the street and not be wolf whistled, or hit on or intimidated.

What does feminism mean to you? Have you ever been disillusioned with it?

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  • http://music.johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    To me feminism has always been about freedom, not just for women, but also men. Feminism is about both genders.

    Before feminism, both women and men were stuck in artificial gender roles – post feminism, men and women are free to be whoever and whatever they want to be – at least, that’s the theory…when people hit walls that prevent this personal freedom, that’s when feminism remains politically valid.

    Feminism means that I can wear jeans to work, grow a male-tail and not feel like I need children to be “a real man”. Without feminism, I would not have those freedoms. Feminism is not simply about female equality…that’s selling feminism short…it’s about breaking down all gender-stereotypes and supporting personal freedoms.

  • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

    With the Jackie O thing, I think she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. If she had said she WAS a feminist there would have been an uproar from people “How could you call yourself a feminist when you work with someone like Kyle” rah rah. And fair enough, but there was no way she could win in that situation.

    As for feminism. I have always associated it with equality, both in choices and in the eyes of the law. My mother is strongly feminist, so I guess I will also always think of her when I hear the word.

  • Valentina B

    Feminism to me is about equality and about choices. It’s about me having the right to do what I please without having to worry about what people think of me. It’s about being able to portray myself however I want, and work in any environment that I want. It’s about choosing to not want kids and not to get married but respecting others around me who do choose those things for themselves.

    I think feminism gets a bad rap and I completely understand it. My one subject on Feminist Theory at uni was my most hated unit because to me, alot of it comes off as blaming everything else even though it’s not. I think when you don’t know alot about the subject, it does come across as man-bashing, blame everyone else around you but when you get into it, you realise what it’s really about. The only issue is that alot of people get put off by that initial bombardment and won’t bother anymore.

  • Melissa Savage

    Just incidentally, no feminist protesters actually ever burnt a bra http://www.snopes.com/history/american/burnbra.asp

    I’ve always been a feminist. I had a really strong sense of fairness as a child and my mother, who was a bit older and came of age in the 60s would tell me about all the little things in her life she wasn’t allowed to do because she was a woman: be a lifesaver, get a home loan on her own etc that made my little girl heart scream at the unfairness and arbitrariness of it all, and in that way made sure I grew up feminist. I then went away to an all girls school where we were exposed to a lot of feminist and progressive ideas folded into the curriculum (bless the hearts of all the pinkos that become teachers…).

  • http://coconutvoodoo.tumblr.com Eva

    What are those comments about Brazilian waxes? I do my own Brazilian and I find it empowering and nice to touch. I bet you shave your armpits, so seriously… enough of this, I have pubic hair therefore I am a feminist.

    • Rose Russo

      I definitely didn’t imply that because I have pubic hair, I am a feminist. I think being able to have the choice to have or not have a brazilian is a powerful thing for women. I don’t have a brazilian because I’m not comfortable with it. That’s my call; it’s my body.

      But for you – you do feel comfortable and empowered by it and props to you!

      I think you misinterpreted the meaning of the post.