I’m sitting here eating a handful of mini-oreos because last week my best friend and I had a sleepover and made sundaes. Leftovers are the best.
Clearly, I am not concerned about the potential poundage that could be added on from the mini-oreos, even if I did check the calorie count and how many I could eat per serving to meet the endless food intake quota that women everywhere are trying to live up to.
Is this a quality of my feminism? No.
Is this a quality of societies expectations for women? Maybe.
Does it matter if these Oreo pieces are damn good? No.
Rosie the Riveter @ Wikipedia Commons
Feminism is a touchy word these days. Well, let’s be honest, since we got the vote, feminism has been all the rage on both sides. I think part of the problem with the entire feminist movement is the word that we came up with to introduce ourselves. The very root “fem” became a slang word for women in 1936. Just by opening the word with that root we’ve already eliminated the likelihood that men will feel comfortable in calling themselves by this name (That’s not the point though is it, however, men can be feminists. I’m here to break your stereotypes). The rest of it “femini” is basically the word “feminine,” just two letters short.
Computer Engineer Barbie @ Eric Steuer (Flickr)
This brings us to a whole new argument about societal expectations of gender. Why is the girl aisle covered in pink and the boy aisle covered in blue? Why is Barbie so skinny (which is just a sad argument for women all together because do you know that Barbie is one of the few female toys that has offered careers for girls in male dominated areas. Barbie went to space, people, Barbie worked for NASA. Think about it). With all of these already bias, already argued about, already heated ideas attached to the beginning of the word, how will it ever reign tall?
While my definition of feminism is just a person who believes in equal rights for all genders (I’m looking at you, LGBTQ), I think other people look to stereotypes for their definition. So let’s knock a few of those out before I give this review, shall we?
Have I ever burned a bra? Nah, brah, those things are expensive.
Do I hate men? No, I have a lovely boyfriend and have had many lovely and not so lovely boyfriends. I try not to hate anyone, but sometimes the fact that getting higher up in a company means fighting your way through an “old boys club” is not very likable. And the people that continue to follow that system of hiring, firing, giving raises and promotions, might be on a list of people that I don’t particularly want to work for or be friends with.
What I might hate is people like this:
Yahoo screen grab
I would like to think that in four years, he’s had some new experiences and learned not to write the word “b*tch,” even with a star, in a feminist conversation. However, he did make up the word “vaginamony” so I should give him credit for enhancing the English language, right? Just for your information, and his, I suppose, I believe that the best thing a woman can have is her “shit together” and I will raise my daughter with this in mind. She can get hers, before she relies on any man to get it for her. However, if once she’s followed her dreams and she’s found a man that respects both her and her dreams, she can by all means trust and rely on him.
Hair @ Wikipedia Commons
Do I whine more than the average man? Actually, I’m on a no complaining campaign so I’m trying to rule out all forms of whining in my life.
I do shave my legs. That’s not even a question. Sometimes I miss a spot, go ahead and judge me. And I swam in high school, so I might grow longer than the average woman, but I still shave those suckers.
Do I respect stay-at-home moms? Being a Mom or Dad is a full time job. If either parent wants to stay home and raise-up babies to be wonderful, open-minded, movers and shakers in society, go on with your bad self. One of my best friends hasn’t had more than four hours of sleep since her child was born (13 months ago), please believe if I lived in that state of exhaustion, everyone would see my diva side.
“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
These issues were all brought to you by We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Readers may be familiar with her book Americanah. She gave a TEDxEuston talk called “We Should All Be Feminists” on her brother’s insistence. She says in the introduction that she “hoped to start a necessary conversation.”
Vintage Short turned this talk into a short essay and here we are. It also happens to be featured on Beyonce’s self-titled album, which Adichie told Vogue that she’s sick of hearing about.
She begins the book talking about her best friend, the first person to call her a feminist which she knew immediately wasn’t a compliment. From then on, she began attaching other things to feminism to make herself seem less radical, because with the word feminism, comes the extremism. She attached things like “Happy Feminist,” then “African Feminist,” and finally, “Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men.”
This begs the question: why can’t a girl just wear high heels? I feel that Carrie Bradshaw would have something to say about this.
In the talk’s essay, she tells stories from throughout her life when she was considered less than to her male counterparts. There was the classroom monitor choosing, which led her to this amazing statement:
“If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal. If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point we will all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy. If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem ‘natural’ that only men should be heads of corporations”
Beast & Princesses @ Wikipedia Commons
This is also where I really started to believe in Adichie’s argument. Her argument wasn’t about women getting paid less than men for the same job, or women hitting a glass ceiling in major corporations, but more about the subtle inequalities. In Nigeria, even though she paid a valet, the man she was with received the “thank you” (as she says, because of course, if she has money, it must come from the man). When at a restaurant, the “tab” is always given to the man at the table, and usually the oldest man. This is a huge societal factor in the ways that we see men and women. TLC makes so much money catering to a population of women who grow up in the hopes that they will one day marry a Prince Charming. Disney teaches girls to be damsels in distress (until recently), and the aisles in Target teach girls to like dolls so they can grow up and be mommies. I’m not saying any of this is a problem, but these things in our society are also the things that can be used against feminism, turned against women, turned into something that they might not be.
Adichie discusses history in the best sense. She says that when men ruled the world before, it was a world based on physical strength. Now, the world is “vastly different.” It is based on “more intelligent, more knowledgable, more creative, more innovative” capabilities and not just physical strength. She says, and I love this, “We have evolved.”
Math Club Image @ PBS Math Club (Creative Commons)
This is the strongest point in her argument. I think we’ve evolved when it comes to feminism as well, but have we evolved as much as the world has evolved, I don’t know. I’ll give a personal example. In high school, I was incredible at math. I placed into the second calculus in college and I hadn’t even taken pre-cal or calculus in high school. I just generally didn’t like math. Did I not like math because no women in my family, and no women in my school, and no women in my community had ever been representations of what a women can do in science? I’m not sure. I didn’t major in STEM, I majored in English, but I probably could have majored in something heavy in math because I was good at it. I’m not saying that my school, or community did anything wrong, but I never saw a woman engineer until I was in college. I never really had the knowledge that a world like that existed for me.
Suffrage Parade, NYC. 1912. @ Wikipedia Commons
I’m not angry about it. I do get angry when I feel that women are being treated unfairly because their women. Or women are not being valued because their women. I won’t harp on this one, but guys, Ray Rice got a two game penalty for beating and then dragging his wife out of a hotel room, and a man that says racial slurs is expelled from the NBA and any ownership of teams (not that I disagree with that at all, because I don’t, I think he got what he deserved). The worst part, Rice’s wife…she apologized. Why do we live in a world where this is acceptable?
Why is “blaming the victim” of a rape even a concept?
I believe in raising girls that know what’s appropriate, but since when is it okay to “feel a girl up” because her skirt is short or her belly is showing. Why is it the girl’s fault that we haven’t raised men with morals and deep respect for women?
These are things that I’m still working through. These are the things that make me angry. And Adichie told me that’s okay.
The first SlutWalk in Toronto, Ontario, April 3, 2011 @ Wikipedia Commons
“Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not have made it so angry. But I was unapologetic. Of course it was angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about social change. In addition to anger, I am also hopeful, because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better.”
Like her, I am both hopeful and angry. I am hopeful that I can live in a world where it’s okay to be feminine and a feminist. I can live in a world where yoga pants do mean cat calls. I can live in a world where the glass ceiling is broken and we are “movin’ on up,” like George Jefferson. And I am hopeful that the world will not make this about another issue that isn’t relevant to equality. And I’m really hopeful that I won’t feel the need to censor myself on my own personal blog to cater to the beliefs of other people.
On a final note: I feel less compelled to fight for feminism in my own country when teenage girls are being shot, tortured and killed just because they want to attend school or get an education for themselves. By fighting for feminism in our country, we can hope that our voices ring true and pure to other countries, other populations, and other outlooks, where women may have so few rights that they are categorized as “property.”
Links on feminism education:
Here are some tweets from the #WomenAgainstFeminism hashtag. Tweets are both for and against feminism as the feminists went viral using the same hashtag.