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Archive for January, 2016|Monthly archive page

Five Reasons I’m a Feminist

In PeaceAble on January 28, 2016 at 3:15 pm
  1. Because claiming I’m a humanist isn’t enough.

Feminism is not a subset of humanism. And humanism is not an umbrella term that excuses me from taking a specific position of advocacy with regard to the particular needs and concerns of women. I can, and feel that I need to be both a humanist and a feminist. The former says that I value and honor the human experience in its many and varied manifestations. The  latter says that I recognize that there is, nonetheless, within that human experience a significant degree of inequality, inequity, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and abuse directed at more than half of humankind as a direct consequence of their sex and their gender; and if I genuinely value and honor the particular experience of women, I need to work to change those things.

 

  1. Because claiming that I am an ally isn’t enough.

When you are someone’s ally, you stand beside them, you fight with them against a common enemy. There is nothing wrong with that; though, as a male I might be more properly called a collaborator than an ally. But one is an ally for the “other.” Being an ally suggests that I will fight alongside you, but I am not like you. And that can only take you just so far. I will certainly be an ally for women. I will do what I can to further the causes of women in this culture and in the world; but feminism requires that I not only support those things that will benefit women. It also requires me to understand that I am not really separate from them or those causes. As an ally I can empathize. As a feminist I must identify. I must see that there is no “other.” We are all the “other.”

I cannot escape the fact that I am a man. I don’t want to escape it. My life’s experience is shaped by the perspectives and influenced by the privileges and responsibilities that that fact embodies. It is likely that, in trying to explain my feminism or practice it, I have gotten some of it wrong. I know that I have certainly at times gotten things wrong with respect to the women in my life and my relationships with them. Part of the task of being a feminist is to make the effort to become more aware of those things and sensitive to them; to work to change in myself what I would change in the culture.

 

  3. Because I know the difference between “feminine” and “female.”

Slightly more than half of us are females by biological birth. I have no idea what percentage are female by personal identification. I do know that no one is fully feminine or fully masculine. The qualities we associate with the feminine are not the same as being a male or a female. This matters because when we discriminate against women it is at least partly because we associate the female with the qualities we have chosen to identify culturally as feminine and we are devaluing those qualities.

When I identify as a feminist, I am saying that what we do to women, what harms or benefits them, what diminishes them or elevates them has the same impact on us all. To discriminate against women is to discriminate against that which is feminine in me. To devalue women is to devalue the feminine in me. To honor and celebrate and work for equality for women is to do the same for the feminine in me.

Ours is a male dominant, male normative culture. The male/masculine voice is the dominant voice of the culture. As a male, I benefit from the privilege that dominant voice gives me. It is my responsibility, therefore, to use that voice to change the culture where I see that it does not function for the best interests of all; and to encourage the elevation of the feminine voice to its rightful, equal, place.

 

  1. Because there is power in the words we use.

Language is important. When we talk, for instance, about the Academy Awards and there is a best actor and a best actress, we know which is the more important award, because the words themselves tell us that “actress” is the diminutive form of “actor.” But if we were to call them the “best female actor” and “best male actor” there is at least the opportunity to see them as equally valuable. An actor is simply one who acts, regardless of sex or gender; and designating separate awards for a female and a male simply recognizes that each brings something slightly different to the endeavor. When we allow the term “feminism” to be marginalized, to be made to seem as though it only represents a small, radical group, then we can also marginalize the very real problems faced uniquely by women. Claiming the title for oneself, therefore, constitutes a small, but important act of affirmation that those problems are real and in need of resolution.

I am a humanist. I am an ally. I am a feminist. Each describes some different aspect of who I am in the world. Being one does not preclude my being another. I am a feminist because the culture is masculinist. I will be a feminist until it is possible to be both in equal measure.

5. Because it’s personal.

I have had a mother and grandmothers. I have had wives and daughters and sisters and nieces. I love some amazing women. And I know that statistically far more of them than I am aware have been raped, abused, and harassed. All of them have suffered some kind of discrimination because they are women. I have seen the impact of these things in the women whose stories I know. I know that the pain this causes me is not even close to what it has caused them. I also have a brand new granddaughter and I want to see the systemic sexism and misogyny of our culture end, so that being a woman is no longer a disability or a danger.

A Very Short Love Story

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2016 at 12:54 pm

“I’m afraid,” she said.

 

“What are you afraid of?” he asked.

 

“Does it matter?” she asked.

 

“Yes,” he answered.

 

“I’m afraid of loving you,” she replied.

 

And he looked at her across his coffee. And she looked out the window at a leaf still clinging to a branch long after it should have fallen.

 

After a while, he got up and took his cup to the sink.

 

“I am also afraid,” he said, with his back to her, “of loving you.”

 

And she looked at him now. She looked at the way his hair stood up in an unruly hedge in the morning; and she thought of the way his eyes seemed always to stay so shyly behind his lids. Then he turned around and he looked at how the one wrinkle had deepened on the side of her mouth where her smile mostly went, at how she slipped one finger through the handle of her cup as she encircled it and lifted it to drink.

 

“But,” he said, “I am not at all afraid of being loved by you.”

 

And she smiled. And he smiled.

 

“No,” she said. I am not afraid of that, either.”

 

And they agreed to live in what they were not afraid of. And after a time, they came to realize that they were no longer afraid at all.

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