“Feminism.” It was the dreaded f-word, a word I’d never consider applying to myself. It made me smirk or give an embarassed smile. You see, I thought that feminist goals had already been won – we’re equal with men, there’s no point whinging on and pretending we aren’t. The confusion of lesbianism and feminism didn’t help get straight girls interested in feminism. Nor did our understanding of feminism: we saw it as radical feminism, Dworkin-esque feminism. Socialist feminism, liberal feminism and Marxist feminism, as well as the study of feminist criminology, were alien terms to me and other teens.
How could I identify with a man-hating, man-blaming activism when I desired boys, saw them as hot, chased them, was friends with them, trusted them with secrets, saw them as my friends, my friends’ brothers, potential boyfriends? How could I join with the bitchy, catty other girls who were constantly engaged in a multi-layered neverending war, a free-for-all of bullying, physical fighting, swearing and taunting? How could I join these “sisters” against the calmer, more trustworthy, less volatile boys? And furthermore I felt there was nothing to complain about – women did have equal rights anyway. And I didn’t feel that boys were violent – female violence was more prevalent, whether it was over boys or over nothing. All of my life it has been women who have tried to harm me, who have started trouble with me, who have hated me for no reason. Men do not bother me.
Then, when I was at university, one of the lecturers gave a lecture on feminism. This was an optional lecture and feminism was not assessed. Even so, a lot of students attended. I learned about the 4 main types of feminism and how it changed from when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her book t the Suffragettes and Suffragists (which were only part of a bigger movement) to the 1970’s feminism. And I learned that radical feminism was only one type of feminism of the 1970s. I learned that you can be attracted to guys and still be a feminist; you can love them and be a feminist. You can have friends who are male. You can respect your son as much as your daughter. You don’t have to believe that all men are waiting for the slightest opportunity to rape you. You don’t have to hate sex. You don’t have to hate porn or see it as degrading to women. Or hate marriage and children. You can respect men, look at porn, and want to have kids someday. And you can be heterosexual.
I’ll never forget what Dr Sharon Cowan said; she said that if you want women to be equal to men then that makes you a feminist, and probably most men and actually nearly everyone in the room is a feminist. That’s when I realised I was a feminist. Gender equality was a priority for me so I must have been a feminist since I was around 12 and have had feminist tendencies even as a child. Just because I shave my legs and dream of opening them wide for a big fat cock doesn’t make me any less of a feminist.
After that, I got Wollstonecraft’s book from the uni library and in time I read most of Pat(rick) Califia’s work (on gender, feminism, sadomasochism – he writes about loads of stuff in his essays; he has a site called Technodyke I think) as well as resesarching the historical roots of stigma against lone mothers and reading some of Rush Limbaugh’s work (to study the enemy, as a friend put it). Also, you have to know both sides of a debate otherwise the side you pick doesn’t mean much.
There has been so much stereotyping of feminists as ugly man -haters, a view which goes back to the 1800s when newspapers described feminists as ugly, manly or hysterical. Even the medical profession were convinced these women suffered from hysteria. But the truth is, most of us, including men, are feminists.Hopefully now that feminism is experiencing a revival of sorts, we will all see that.