Debate Magazine

Dear Feminism

Posted on the 26 April 2011 by Juliez

Dear Feminism

Dear Feminism,

In case no one has told you recently, you are a loaded gun. Some see you as a helpless victim, pulling your woman card and begging for your right to abortion, always complaining about your time spent in front of a hot stove. Others see you as a butch, bullying your way into careers rightfully belonging to men. Seems like you’re always burning bras, abusing your right to free speech, and holding offensive picket signs. Many consider you a flaming lesbian, or at least Hilary Clinton’s part time lover. You whine, you refuse to let him open your door, and you can pay for your own damn dinner. In fact, you’re a full blown man eater.

I have heard these rumors. I see the news; I hear the jokes over the radio. I hear men and women gripe about the state you’re in, but I believe there is more to you than this. I have come to know you in a way I wish everyone could see. It’s complicated and a bit messy, and I think this is why you’re portrayed in such negativity.

You understand that our society, economic state, culture, language, and traditions are based around a system. This system has shaped our thoughts and attitudes, which then dictate our beliefs and actions. This system is involved in the delicate and intimate details of our lives, as well as the political and social. We are all participants who play the part in the bigger picture that created us.

It isn’t enough for you to merely understand this system; you question and then challenge it. You challenge a system that demands boys and girls to develop differently, that allows us to turn women and sex into profit, and that supports degradation and violence and fear. All of the small details, that many believe are insignificant, like the differences in boys and girls’ play, schooling, adolescent expectations, advertising, body image and the media, gender roles, etc.- you challenge these things and are scorned for it.

I haven’t always known you so well. If only I could have understood you better when I was younger, and allowed a boy to make me believe my looks were my most important asset. If only I could have known you as I first became a teenager and allowed boys to make comments about my growing body. The neighbor boys I spent time with had a rating scale for girls. Three numbers: her face, her midsection, and her legs and backside. After hearing the ratings for the prettiest girls in my grade, they turned to me, noticed I, too, was a girl, and gave me three numbers: 4-6-8. The most interesting part of this is that I hoped they would rate me and give me high numbers. I willingly participated in a system that valued me only for what my body had to offer.

Perhaps if I had known you better, I would have known what to do when the neighbor boy sexually assaulted me, instead of feeling like a helpless victim, not speaking up as it happened again and again. It took hearing the rape talk in health class for me to understand exactly what had happened to me that spring.

If I had understood you better, I’m sure I wouldn’t have kept dating boys who were emotionally and physically abusive, and who talked down to me to keep me weak. I know I would have been safer, made better choices about who to get in the car with, and stood up for myself. I would have understood I had a right to be treated with respect. Maybe if those boys had known you, the real you, they wouldn’t have treated me that way in the first place.

Now that I understand you, life is different. Though I have felt opposition, I’m still in school instead of getting pregnant right away. I know I can do whatever I choose, whether it’s a career or a homemaker’s life, and I know you support me in either choice. When a group of men tell me a woman can’t say no after a certain point, I raise my voice and disagree. When a family member makes a joke about degrading sex or women, I talk to him about why it’s not funny. I may not be on the front lines holding an offensive picket sign, but I am trying to make small changes and to communicate with those around me. I believe that by making these small changes, we can all better the system we are part of. Nothing will change overnight, but education will make the small changes that can spread.

Sincerely yours,

Collette


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