When a Good Start Just Isn’t Enough – #HeForShe


Author’s Note: I am not an educated feminist, I would not survive the sort of quiz that Mia McKenzie posits in the second-to-last paragraph of her article, cited below. I also know that, in writing this, I run the risk of upsetting people. But this blog is about being bold and honest. That being said, these are my opinions and I own them utterly and completely.

*digs in the closet, pulls out my soapbox, dusts it off, and stands on it* Just for a little while, I promise.

I noticed something that disturbed me last night. Recently, Emma Watson – the portrayer of the beloved character Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movie series and now appointed a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN – presented a speech announcing the formation of HeForShe, a campaign to advocate for the ending of gender inequality. Now, notice what I just said: to end gender inequality. I did not say to promote feminism. Emma Watson calls herself a feminist, says that she has been ever since she was young girl, and now her position as a Goodwill Ambassador has placed her in a unique position to affect growth and change in the journey toward and fight for gender equality. What has disturbed me is that, already, there are those who would say that she isn’t doing enough, that her feminism isn’t rounded out well enough or analyzed deeply enough. I refer particularly to Mia McKenzie’s article “Why I’m Not Really Here For Emma Watson’s Feminism Speech at the U.N.“.

Miss McKenzie, a prolific writer on the subjects of race, gender, queerness, and class, admonishes that Emma Watson is far from being the icon for feminism that society would apparently make her, calling for her analyses of specific issues in feminism and gender politics, some of which, honestly, I have never even heard of. (I’ll definitely have to look up misogynoir.) And my immediate reaction was to think, “Why is it not enough to make a good start?” Why must we tear someone down just as they get out of the gate? Who are you to say just how much of a feminist she is, and how right her stance is just because she is different from you? What makes her experience or her voice and opinion any less valid than yours or mine, just because of who she is? Why should she have “to step aside and make room for women of color to be heard if gender inequality is ever to be eradicated (McKenzie)”. There ARE women of color being heard, every day. You, for example, Miss McKenzie. Emma Watson did not ask to be called a “game-changing feminist”. She merely cited her personal experience as a feminist on the platform that was afforded her. This woman is young, in her first decade of adulthood, and is still researching and redefining her feminism, as is evident in her own speech.

Most of us had nicknames when we were kids, and, 90% of the time, they were not nicknames that we chose for ourselves and, roughly about that same amount of the time, I’m sure we didn’t care for them. How would you feel is someone decided to judge you based on a nickname that someone else gave you but that didn’t truly represent you as a person? Unfair, yes? Then let’s not do it. Let us not judge Miss Watson purely by the title that others have begun to tack onto her, rather than on her own merits and actions.

I, personally, do not call myself a feminist. In fact, I kind of dislike being called a feminist as it often feel exclusionary to me. I don’t read every article, I don’t research every issue. I don’t go blind with rage at the injustices that are readily apparent in the world. I know they are there. I see them. I acknowledge them. They break my heart. As you can see from the dust around my feet, though, this soapbox doesn’t get used all that often. More’s the pity, some would say. I need to step up and make my voice heard, my actions seen, others would say. And while this might be true, I still don’t call myself a feminist. The rights that women fight for are the same rights that should belong to all human beings. They are human rights. I will happily quote Miss Watson’s speech here as she has put it just as I would myself: “For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” Equal rights for both men AND women. Men and women of all ages, races, shapes, and abilities, working together on equal footing – politically, socially, financially, and emotionally.

Because Emma Watson is white and (we assume) straight, it appears, to me, as though Miss McKenzie is discounting her feminism in her article. I hesitate to even qualify my statements here as coming from a black woman because I’m about as vanilla as you can get as far as gender issues and politics go. But, nevertheless, I think that Emma has made a good start in the position to which she has been appointed. Further, deeper changes, insights, and analyses will come with time. This is but a start. It more than bugs me that someone’s good beginning should be discounted because you don’t agree with everything they said and they didn’t vomit forth on every gendered issue out there in a thirteen-minute speech. I will agree with Miss McKenzie, however, in that I hope that Emma Watson does turn out to be a kick-ass game-changer as she continues on in not only her feminist but also humanist work as an adult and a Goodwill Ambassador. Thank you, Emma Watson, for your work and your good beginning thus far.

Just remember, people, this is a start. You don’t cross the finish line when you leave the starting block. You have to run the race first.

*steps down off my soapbox, dusts off my feet, and puts it back in the closet*

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Emotion: Another Four-letter Word


Author’s Note: Sections in italics are quotes directly from the article “Men Can, Too“.

Can I just say that I LOVE The Well Written Woman? They always publish such excellent articles. Heaven only know what they see in mine. ^_^ But today’s really made my day.

We have heard so much lately about gender equality, feminism, etc., and I really tend to stay out of these discussions because people are just so…angry. So I stay out of the discussions and keep my thoughts to myself. But I very much appreciated this article that Tammie Niewedde wrote (“Men Can, Too”). In the article, she quotes her son, after asking him what he thought of an article that showed men screwing up various jobs,

“Being a man who has chosen to be a stay-at-home dad for part of my son’s life, and being that I was ridiculed and criticized by my in-laws, I don’t think these things are funny at all. These supposed jokes are why men try to stay away from being helpful and sensitive. If we are projected as being good at ‘women’s work’, we completely give up our man card. We’re only allowed to be violent and domineering, and that’s what ticks me off.”

And it breaks my heart. Why do we vilify this? Call it ‘unmanly’, ‘unmasculine’? Why do we not celebrate it more? For example, have male friends who put me to shame with the way they care for their homes and the mastery they show at cooking. I admire them beyond words and, actually, strive to emulate them in many ways.

I am not a strong voice in the crowd when it comes to social issues. I usually keep my feelings private or for one-on-one discussions with my spouse and friends. But this…this is near and dear to my heart as I have met far too many men whose hearts and souls are wounded by this. With everything that’s been in the news lately, it can be so easy to make blanket statements from either side.

“All men can be violent assholes/rapists/abusers/etc.”

“All women can be bitches/teases/ballbusters.”

There is nothing built from this! Nothing at all! On either side. I don’t believe in statements like this. I don’t believe in “I know all men aren’t like this but…” I know that the men that I have chosen to cut out of my life are the exception, the aberration in my world. On the whole, the men in my life are wonderful and caring, intelligent and loving. And yet I know that they still struggle with this. I have spoken to them about it, cried with them through it, and loved on them to try to combat it. Destruction of self-esteem and self-image is not a poison regulated to women only. Please don’t forget that. This is a poison that has become so internalized in our adulthood that the damage is often consistent and difficult to repair when it wounds again and again.

My husband is the most masculine man I know, though he might not fall into the damaging cultural stereotype of masculine. He doesn’t like sports, though he played his fair share as a young kid. He gave it up in a preference for poetry, languages, and culture as he became a teenager. He likes music and Swamp Thing, speaking in German, reading poetry to our daughter, playing on his Xbox, singing, and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. He doesn’t run/jog, lift weights, watch football, or things like that. He debates education reform, he’s a conscientious objector, he mows our lawn, teaches Outdoor Pursuits to young people, is an NRA-licensed rifle instructor, and he’s the most masculine man I know.

And that is because he cares for his family, he encourages and supports his wife, he loves on and giggles with his daughter. He calls his mother just about every night and tells her about his day; he seeks out the advice of his parents on his job and important decisions. And yet he struggles with this. I know he does. But he puts one foot in front of the other every day and does his best to be the man I know he is, to be as true to himself as he can. And I love him for it.

I have never been drawn to the posturing, macho, crowing men – the ones who see their ‘man card’ as needing verification. The ones who whistled at me, sidled up to and touched me uninvited in a club, asked me as I passed them if I believed in love at first sight. I am attracted to men with kind hearts, gentle eyes and hands, clever minds, and loving personalities. THAT is my idea of masculinity, THAT is a man to me. THAT is a good person to me.

But in this world, emotion/sensitivity/kindness are seen as weakness. My husband brought up a good point today. What do we do when we see someone crying in public? We try not to pay attention. We may tell ourselves this is so that we do not embarrass the cryer, but the truth is that we are trained to avoid public emotion. It is seen as unseemly or ‘making a scene’ to allow emotion in public. But isn’t that the point of emotion, the reason our bodies have physical responses to it, like crying? Crying is a way our heart cries out for comfort, for the need of someone else – their care, their love, their strength – even when we don’t realize it. Why do we wish to quash this? In men and women? Men who show emotion are considered weak or unmasculine. Women who show emotion are referred to as a ‘bullet’ to be dodged or, more often, we refer to ourselves as a ‘hot mess’, quashing our own freedom to feel. I’ve even noticed this behavior in some of my characters whom I write for, which I think I need to strongly reconsider.

In the Victorian age, displays of emotion were labeled as a medical/psychological illness; we called it hysteria. Hysteria was treated by isolation, which often led to depression (called ‘exhaustion’), when really what that person most likely needed was someone to recognize their need and answer that emotion’s call.

We – men and women – are not weak in our emotion. We are strong in the fact that we are given opportunities to minister to and love on each other. We are given opportunities to strengthen each other in our actions and in our hearts, regardless of what the stereotypical gender roles would have us do. I don’t think I would call myself a feminist (I don’t really like calling myself an anything really, as I’ve discovered lately) but I do believe in the need for equal support from both sides.

As much as there is a war against women with the SCOTUS decision about birth control and such, there is also war against men that orders them to never, ever act like a woman. It’s as if during this war, the male camp calls out its own members as traitors if they can cook or clean or change a diaper. Moreover, if a man shows sadness or weakness, even in losing a child, his admission to the Man Club is revoked, and not only by other men, but sometimes by women as well.

[…]

It’s not about superiority. It’s not about winning. It’s about being human.

Amen.