Living feminism

19 02 2009

So over on Feministing, Courtney has a post called “Our Feminist Ideals vs. Our Feminist Lives” which I loved because it hits on some of the conversations I have been having with my friends lately about living feminism and bridging your feminist ideas (and ideals) with practice and real life. She lists five ways that she struggles on a day to day basis when it comes to practicing and living feminism:

1. I apologize and say excuse me far too often in public situations when I am just taking up a normal amount of space.

2. I get intimidated when math comes up in daily life situations–whether it’s splitting a bill among friends or trying to focus on the specific allocations in the stimulus package when I’m reading an article.

3. I feel like I have to wear makeup in certain situations even when I don’t want to. At first I chalked this up to an age thing…I’m young so I have to wear make up in certain circles to be taken seriously. I’m starting to feel like it’s just an excuse. (Unless I feel like wearing it, which happens sometimes, and that’s cool.)

4. I still say no to friends or loved ones with a lot of trepidation, even if I know that they are asking me to do something I’m not interested in or don’t have the energy for etc. You might argue this isn’t gendered, but in my family, it certainly was.

5. I sometimes listen to my guy friends objectify women and say nothing. It feels exhausting and killjoy-ish. Part of me feels like I should give myself permission to not be the feminist police all the time. Another part wonders if I just have a hard time doing the hard confrontation shit with my own buddies.

I could not help reading this and nodding my head, agreeing with her. I’ll share one of my own recent experiences that made me feel like a “bad” feminist:

Over the weekend, I was spending time with a high school friend. During one of our conversations she said to me, “I’m not homophobic and I have gay friends who I love, but being gay is an illness.” I sat there and bit my tongue as she went on talking about how being gay was a disease and completely not natural. I was so antsy and in my head I kept going “oh my god…I can’t believe I am actually listening to this. You are SO wrong!” but I just sat there silently listening to her. I wish I had said something but even now I don’t even know what I would’ve said at the moment.

How do you go about educating people, especially when they are people you are friends with, without sounding condescending? How can you have constructive conversations to enlighten people if they are stubborn and don’t want to hear your side?



One response

20 02 2009

My roommate and I were talking about gender/socialization last night, and I definitely mentioned #1. I do it ALL THE TIME and I’ve only recently become aware of how frequently I do it and how totally unnecessary and disempowering it is. I think part of it is that I HATE when people are walking opposite of you in or out of a building or on the street and don’t make room for you in the doorway/sidewalk and don’t even apologize for it, so I try to make sure that I am not one of those people…but I really do think it is a gender socialized thing – that women have to be “nice,” “considerate,” etc. Furthermore, when I think of the people I’ve apologized over nothing to over the past week, I would estimate that 80% of them have been men…I wonder if at its root, it’s an intimidation/submission thing. That scares me! Am I really subordinating? Definitely something I’ll be thinking about more.

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