F is for Feminism

Let’s get a a couple of facts out of the way:

1). I’m a feminist.

2). If you respect any of the women in your life, you should be one too.

Feminism, as defined by Merriam Webster is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” or “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” For the sake of this conversation, let’s use both variations as working content, rather than the ludicrous urban dictionary definition. I’m currently reading Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and one of the core takeaways is that as long as you adhere to the basics of equality, feminism is flexible. No matter how you react a word however, the truth is there’s a lot less respect for women around the world than there should be in 2017, and a lot of this inequality flies right under our noses.

In a previous post, I mentioned that pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition in the recent Congressionally-approved repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). However after she read my post, my mother pointed out I was playing softball. Her point: under some pre-Obamacare insurance plans, not just pregnancy, but RAPE could be classified as a pre-existing condition in some states.  If ACA is fully repealed, non-consensual sex could still be categorized as such, depending on providers and channels of coverage.

This health care onslaught against women comes at a time when we have definitions like Urban Dictionary’s crawling around the Internet (even as a “joke,” it’s highly offensive and disturbing). And there are many who treat the label “feminist” like a curse word, avoiding it altogether. What’s wrong with being an acknowledged pursuer of equal rights?

Answer: Nothing.

The “problem” is that asserting modern equality of any kind (see: Black Lives Matter) upsets the status quo and is viewed as a threat by the reproducers of ideology. Humans are capable of great change, but are too often resistant and intellectually lazy about the associated effort. But here’s the reality: women are treated unfairly. In the workplace, in interpersonal interactions, and by too many governments.

Most of you reading this are probably well aware of the gender climate. Apologies – the last thing anyone wants is another lecture from a white man. I know I’m writing from a position of privilege on complex set of issues that don’t subjugate me.  All the more reason to speak,  to push for an end to these injustices. My life has been enriched by strong women who overcame obstacles they shouldn’t have had to. As a society, we’re standing on yet another precipice of choice between advancement and regression. If I’m in a position to support and advocate, I will and I must.

The examples of regression are numerous.  Headlines display a barrage of egregious physical and political violations. Last week a ten year-old who was raped in India was granted (oh thank you justice system) permission to abort her abusive rapist’s child. This same district horrified the world in the case of a brutal gang rape, where the driver blamed the victim for “being out too late” and not what he considered a “decent girl.”

We don’t have to leave American shores to find other disgraceful examples of sexual violence that debase a women’s person-hood. Baylor University football players are accused of drugging and raping female students as a demented bonding ritual. This kind of depravity treats half a population like a commodity; a viewpoint enforced by governing bodies who attack women’s access to healthcare. Iowa just swapped out Medicaid money for state funds, which limits those funds’ usage at centers that provide essential care if they also offer abortions. Life and death decisions for women are founded on the opinions of those who can’t possibly empathize – mainly rich, white men. 

It’s almost a mistake to label the aforementioned examples “regressions.” The word ignores the history and constancy of gender inequality. Nothing here is new, but somehow it feels freshly discouraging.

Until a few months ago, a path to gender progress in American was visible. Hillary Clinton was primed to be the first female President of the United States of America. Despite constant hectoring (see this satiric compendium of everything she’s been called) voters seemed to be With Her. Instead, “Grab’em by the pussy” Donald Trump won the election, leading to the Women’s Marches as a direct response. For many the civil unrest offered hope that we haven’t lost our sanity altogether, that as a democratic nation we’ll resist all forms of tyranny. 

Maybe I’m guilty of romanticizing that moment, believing the day’s momentum would propel women forward. Easy access to healthcare, freedom from toxic slut-shaming, working side-by-side with men without the spectre of sexual harassment. But progress doesn’t move in bursts. Unfortunately it comes in fits and starts. Knowing this, let’s keep standing and protesting.

About Women (February 6, 2014)

“She’s got daddy issues.”

As defined by Urban Dictionary: “Whenever a female has a fucked up relationship with her father, or absence of a father figure during her childhood, it tends to spill into any adult relationship they embark on, usually to the chagrin of any poor male in their life.”

There’s a brief summation of my “damage,” as put forth by a number of former lovers. The easy resolution offered by the branding is understandably appealing to some men. Rather than wrestle with the notion that I find him an objectionable partner for whatever reason(s), it’s far simpler to head off introspection at the pass. So it follows that it’s not personal. I just have a problem with mankind, and it started with my father.

As the offspring of two profoundly disturbed parents, it’s without question that I have my daddy issues. My father was a volatile manic depressive and during the course of riding his mood swings for 18 years, I became fearful, paranoid and untrusting. A hard won peace certainly but over the ensuing decades, with the assist of lots of therapy sessions, I learned to use those defaults to occasional advantage. My gut and I have a pretty trusting relationship. She senses danger at a dog whistle frequency. I’ve learned to control the panic that used to ensue at the first sign of a threat, and now make what I like to think are more deliberate decisions. Because I’m not doing myself much good if I fall and break a leg while fleeing a burning building, right?

So sure, I’ve got dad hangover. But I had two messed up adults in my young world. And for many years, I most assuredly, definitively and absolutely had mommy issues. And for too long, this meant I had significant challenges bonding with women at all. I never felt I understood them and what they wanted from me. It was somehow infinitely more complicated than relating to the superficial banter of men. Part of the isolation I felt for most of my life came from feeling something like a third gender. I was alien to trust and peace with anybody of either sex, but somehow felt more threatened by the female. Is this because my mother was a pathological liar who always made it known that somehow she felt threatened by me as well? Definitely.

But this post isn’t about Freudian angst over parental relationships that ceased to be a part of my day to day life years ago. That story has been told in fits and starts. It has been explored in group and individual therapy, in long cathartic discussions with my younger sister, and on the web pages of this blog. This vignette is about the joy that comes after all that introspective torture and pain, the lightness and air that is mine in greater abundance everyday because of the good women in my life. The ones I finally let in because I felt more secure with myself and my femininity. The ones who have become a second network of sisters, mother figures, professional colleagues and judgment-free confidantes. The ladies who have encouraged my voice, who’ve beckoned me out from the shadows of shame and isolation. The ones who have no agenda except to celebrate who I am – and who I am with them.