I can't believe...

“Done, done, on to the next one

Done I’m done and I’m on to the next one”

-Foo Fighers, All My Life

Oh, Time Mag. You’re like, literally, so smart. I read your annual word banishment poll yesterday and I can’t even…

I love your witty and oh so patronizing list you publish every year. You’re so hip and cutting edge. I wait with bated breath every year to hear what the bastion of cool-ness has to say about words that no respectable Chick Fil A manager would ever utter again. Like, ever.

‘Cept this year you kinda ‘effed up. This year you (spoiler alert) added FEMINIST to the list.

And every intelligent equality-loving non-hater was like “Whaaat???”

I mean, for seriously, WTF Time Magazine.

Lemme clue you in. Equality. Bam. ‘Nuff said.

Imma quote you here “Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.” Aw, you’re using snarkiness. I do love me some snark. Except when it’s used as a tool for ignorant speak.

Quick history lesson: Susan B. Anthony was one bossy bitch. She was bad-ass. She didn’t shrink away from thoughts and ideas and labels that may have been considered unsavory by those who willingly trudged through the murk of ignorance and hate. She and countless other women fought for basic equal rights for women. Rights that we all apparently take for granted every time we eschew the Feminism label. Kind of important rights. Like the right to vote. The right for women to own land. The right to not be raped by their husbands. We’re talking 94 years ago this went down. Except for marital rape laws. Marital rape wasn’t considered a crime in all 50 states until 1993.

In the history of our country, we’re still in the adolescent years of women’s rights. Feminism isn’t fully grown yet. Feminism still has a lot of maturing to do. We still need equal pay. We still need to do something about the fact that women are objects for some men to use and abuse and objectify and discard and demean.

When will feminism be fully grown and not a “thing” anymore? When one in four college women aren’t raped or sexually assaulted. When 3 women don’t die each day at the vicious hands of domestic violence. When girls aren’t shamed for wearing leggings to school. When women in the gaming world don’t have to endure death threats and threats of rape. When women can go online without fear of being stalked and harassed to the point of having to flee their homes and the on-line world for safety. When nude photos of women aren’t gleefully shared and spread around like a copulating circle jerk.

When? When women around the world are no longer subjected to genital mutilation. When women aren’t victims of “honor killings.” When women don’t have to brandish baseball bats to go after abusers because police shrug off their reports of attacks. When girls aren’t punished or killed for trying to get an education.

When… when… when I can look at my daughters and know that they will have the same opportunities and rights and safe passage that my son will have. When I can tell my children that women and children around the world are treated as humans. When boys and men don’t have to subscribe to some ridiculous and oppressive notion of being “tough” and non-emotive and hyper-masculine.

So you see, Time Mag. We’ve got a long way to go. You may be annoyed that the Beyonce’s of the world are declaring their Feminist position. Maybe you don’t like all the Feminist women out there doing all the talking and tweeting and writing and stuff. I get it. Skeptical Baby memes are a lot more fun. They make you LOL. They don’t make you really think. ‘Cause, you know, all this Feminism stuff just makes you think about icky stuff instead of totes adorbs cat videos on YouTube.

But when you throw Feminist in this list along with trendy slang like bae and basic and obvi and YOLO you’re really showing your ass. Whether it’s a shameless attempt to garner page views or an authentic exasperation with all of the people out there who are claiming to support equality, it’s kinda pathetic.

Deep down, I think you know this. Deep down, you know that there’s still lots of work to do. Having fun with the “label” just isn’t cool, m’kay? That label has been Limbaughed and spun into a twisted meaning that was constructed to perpetuate over hyped and trumped up stereotypes.

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So hear this, and pay close attention. Every time you want to demean the word. Every time you suggest it’s non-relevance. Every time you play into this mindset you are reading from a script you didn’t even write. You are joining a chorus of ignorance and misogynistic oppression. Your inclusion of this word tells me that you have willfully and blindly gone the way of the sheep and bought into the misinformation and propaganda that has been slowly oozing it’s way through our culture over the last few decades. Like a bad smell, this has been wafting around enough that you don’t even notice it anymore or realize it’s noxious nature.

Feminism isn’t some foul thing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

That would be the bitter taste of lies and obfuscation.

Feminism is the basic fight for equal rights for women.

Equal pay for equal work.

The right to vote.

The right to join the military and not be raped.

The right to not have your body exposed and recorded by some creep with a cell phone.

The right to go to college and not be sexually assaulted.

Basic human rights of decency.

Sorry, Time Mag. But you’ve just jumped the shark. You’ve taken a cheap shot. You’ve played a bad hand. You’ve just shown your ass.

#sorrynotsorry

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Feminism… sigh….  Why has such an important word that signifies so many good and important things become so vilified? You would think that at this point in our country, in our culture, in society as a whole- that this discussion wouldn’t be necessary. But alas, it   is.

It seems like you can’t read the news, surf the net or get on Twitter without someone declaring their opposition to Feminism. I recently read a female blogger’s comments on a post where she stated that she could not sign on to be a “man-hating” feminist. That she would declare herself a “humanist” instead. I figuratively scratched my head and wondered, can’t you be both? Is there an either or? I am a feminist. I love men. Always have. Growing up I had a lot of guy friends. One of my best friends was a guy. I have been lucky enough to date really great guys. I married a man, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. I had a sensitive, caring, compassionate brother. I have a loving Stepfather. A beautiful son. I think most men are pretty great humans. I would not want to live in a world where men were demonized or demeaned or forsaken. And I am a Feminist. Yes, you can love men, appreciate men and be a feminist.

Guess what? You can also dress however you want. You can own your sexuality and celebrate it, flaunt it, embrace it. You can put on makeup and heels. You can enjoy being feminine. Or not. Either way, none of this precludes you from being a feminist.

You don’t have to spend every waking moment devoting yourself to feminist causes. You don’t have to tattoo it on your forehead. It can be a part of who you are and one facet of your world, it doesn’t have to dominate your life. And you can still be a feminist.

The cause of Feminism has changed and evolved over the decades. It was once a fight for the rights to own property and vote became the fight for fair wages (still an ongoing battle) and the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace. Thanks to the men and women who fought for these causes, we can rest easy on some of these issues. But that doesn’t mean that there is no need for feminism in 2014.

The fight now is about many things. It is easier to promote a cause when it is about a specific, tangible thing. When there is a victory on the far off horizon to be claimed. The goals today may be less quantifiable. My reasons for caring about it and talking about and trying to do something about it are varied.

The commonality of sexual assault and rape in our country and all around the world is appalling. The statistics are staggering. 17.7 million women in the United States have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. (Nat’l. Inst. of Justice and Ctr for Disease Control and Prevention).  One in four women attending college will be the victim of sexual assault or an attempt. This is not the behavior of a civilized world. What are the reasons behind this? What can we do to stop this epidemic? These are the things that I find to be critical issues in the feminist cause.

The fight for women’s rights around the world are important for feminists everywhere. We can’t insulate ourselves and only concern ourselves with what happens in our country. Our world is more intertwined and connected than ever before. I have received comments from women in Pakistan and India on my blog, comments about the limited rights and violence against women in their countries. We can no longer afford to be egocentric and stick our head in the sand when it comes to these issues affecting women and girls all over the world. Child brides are being married off to old men. Young girls are undergoing genital mutilation. Women are being raped as retaliation. There is a long sordid list of injustices happening around the world to women. Our world and these other countries will never be healthy until women are treated as equal.

There’s a thing called Feminist Friday in the blogging world. I first learned about it from a fellow blogger (thank you Gene’O) and since then have connected with other bloggers who care about these issues. Smart people. People with a social conscious and a desire to discuss these things. People who truly want to make things better. They have written some important pieces on this issue. You can read Alva’s Almanac about why Feminist Friday is important to her. Take a look at an important post by Diana at Part Time Monster about teaching our children to have empathy and see the struggles others go through. And check out Gene’O at The Sourcerer. I think it’s vital that men be a part of feminism. I think that men have a place in the discussion and the cause. I absolutely believe that you can be a man and be a feminist.

We will be having a Twitter conversation today about Feminism. About the meaning of the word and the perception of the word. If you would like to join us on Twitter or by commenting on this or any of the above linked posts, please do! On Twitter you can find us by #FeministFriday, or you can find me at @gkelly73.  Happy Feminist Friday everyone!

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This morning I logged on to FaceBook to do some mindless meandering before reading some real stuff. I was numbly perusing postings about the weather (rain, again?) and someone’s cute kid doing something amazingly cute, when I saw an article from NME magazine that made me almost spit my coffee all over my computer. It was an interview with Lily Allen (British pop singer) titled “Lily Allen: Feminism shouldn’t even be a thing anymore”.  What the….??? Now, Allen likes to fan the flames, push the buttons and stir the pot. She’s into the shameless hype schtick and that’s all fine and well, but I think that Allen needs a crash course in pulling one’s head out of one’s arse and maybe a little Feminism 101.

Lily Allen
Lily Allen

In the interview she states that everyone is “equal” in the modern world. Whew. That’s really good news. I am actually relieved to hear that. I mean, I actually agree. We are all equal. Problem is, people- sometimes the government, sometimes the military, sometimes the judicial system- don’t always adhere to that simple premise.

A few cases in point. This week a Massachusetts judge ruled that “Upskirting” was not illegal. So, if you would like to take a picture or videotape a woman’s nether regions without her consent or knowledge, go right ahead. Heck, it’s a fair assumption that if you can figure out a way to get a camera down her shirt that would be ok too!

Also this week, our Senate in the U.S. blocked a vote that would overhaul the procedures for prosecuting sexual assaults in the military. Right now the system isn’t working. According to the Pentagon, last year soldiers were 15 times more likely to be raped by a comrade than killed by the enemy.

The current system forces the victims to report assaults to their commanders.  The problem is that the commanders often know both the victim and the accused. In some cases, the commander is the accused. Add to that the Department of Labor’s statistics that 62% of victims who reported a sexual assault were retaliated against.

An Army General just this week pled guilty to sexual assault.

A Brig. General pled guilty to inappropriate relationships with two female Army officers and is being investigated for forcing another to have oral sex and threatening her family.

And the Army’s top sex crimes prosecutor is being investigated for allegedly groping a female lawyer at a sexual assault conference.

So you can see the problem with victims reporting these assaults when the very people at the highest ranks are sometimes guilty of the thing they are supposed to be investigating.

But our Senate chose to block a vote.

Not vote it down.

There was majority support for this bill. But they blocked the vote from even happening.

One has to wonder if it was primarily men being raped by other men, would this vote have been blocked? One has to wonder if there would be a bigger sense of urgency on the issue? Meanwhile women in the military are left to fend for themselves in an incestuous system that is clearly not serving their needs well.

Allen offers the theory that women are the problem because we are inherently envious and judgmental of each other. Yes, that is a problem. We need to build each other up, not knock each other down. But it is not The problem.

The problem is that women are still viewed as commodities. As less than. Even in the Western world. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years.

The problem is a society, of which we all are a part, that doesn’t tackle misogyny. That objectifies women. A problem this big doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The men that perpetrate these crimes seem to have the view that women are there for their use and disposal. And too many times our judicial system doesn’t see fit to investigate or prosecute these crimes.

Then there’s this piece of sage wisdom from Ms. Allen:

Feminism. I hate that word because it shouldn’t even be a thing anymore,” she said. “We’re all equal, everyone is equal. Why is there even a conversation about feminism? What’s the man version of feminism? There isn’t even a word for it. Menanism. Male-ism. It doesn’t exist.

You hate that word, Ms. Allen, because you don’t understand it’s meaning.

You have willfully and blindly gone the way of the sheep and bought into the misinformation and propaganda that has been slowly oozing it’s way through our culture over the last few decades. Like a bad smell, this has been wafting around enough that you don’t even notice it anymore or realize it’s noxious nature.

Feminism isn’t some foul thing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

That would be the bitter taste of lies and obfuscation.

Feminism is the basic fight for equal rights for women.

Equal pay for equal work.

The right to vote.

The right to join the military and not be raped.

The right to not have your body exposed and recorded by some creep with a cell phone.

The right to go to college and not be sexually assaulted.

Basic human rights of decency.

And here’s another thought, Ms. Allen.

While you’re sitting in your comfy home enjoying the life of a woman of privilege, please remember that feminism is not only a Western construct. To assume that Feminism is no longer a “thing” because we have the right to vote, we hold political office, etc….  well, that’s just ignoring about half of the world isn’t it?

There are women around the world who are fighting to not be stoned to death for having sex out of wedlock.

There are women fighting for the right to drive.

There are women fighting to stop the heinous act of female circumcision.

There are women fighting for their lives, to not be a piece of property under the law.

The fight for basic human rights is still going on in too many parts of the world.

And any time you or any other woman who is riding high because of the very cause that you demean, you are diminishing the battles these women are still fighting.

We’ve come quite far in the west, but don’t be fooled into thinking that we’re done fighting here. I know what world I want my daughters to grow up in. And it’s not a world that gives them a 20% chance of being raped in college. It’s not a world in which a woman who’s been raped is shamed and told that she’d be better off just letting it go.

And it’s certainly not a world in which we turn a blind eye to the injustices happening to our sisters around the world.

If you don’t want to listen to me, then please hear this from a truly wise and brilliant woman. Amy Poehler was asked in an interview with Elle magazine, about being a feminist and about feminist deniers. She said this:

But I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, “I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.

In her succinct and magnificent way, she’s telling you, Ms. Allen, that you are driving the very car that you love, that gets you where you need to go. But at the same time you don’t believe in it. And in your case, maybe you’re confused about what it is. But trust me, you’re driving a car that wasn’t built by Detroit, you’re rolling through life on wheels that are powered by an engine that wouldn’t be possible without feminists.

So, please reconsider Ms. Allen.

Consider the victims fighting for justice in an ambiguous system.

Consider that feminism is not an issue just for the modern world.

Consider why there is no male version of feminism.

Take a minute and ponder that.

You may, without even realizing it, see that you made your own case for feminism.

“You gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice…”

-U2, Running To Stand Still

Be firm, but be polite.  Be funny, but tactful.  Be hard, yet soft.  Be strong, yet understatedly so.  Be direct, but soften it with a smile.  Be smart, but don’t be too obvious about it.  Run the board room, but do it with humility.  Isn’t this what we’re taught?  Those of us of the “fairer sex”?  Not necessarily by our parents, although sometimes that is the case.  But by society.  We have surely come a long way in the last century.  While there are still these unwritten rules by which polite society would like for us to abide, we are far better off than we used to be.  Women are CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies.  Women hold key positions in national government.  We have opportunities and options and choices that women of the early 20th century couldn’t have dreamed of.  They couldn’t have imagined these things because many of them were fighting simply to be considered a relevant member of society.  To have the right to vote.  To be land owners.

You may wonder why, in the waning days of  2013, I feel compelled to write about this.  It all started with a blog post I read a few weeks ago.  The writer was a mom of young children.  She was lamenting the loss of control of her life and her body to her children. She was speaking to the lack of sleep, the forgone plans, the neglect of one’s self to care for young children.  I read this with a little smile on my face as I drank my morning cup of coffee.  I am for the most part past this stage of motherhood, but I remember it all too well and the moment one of my children is sick I’m right back there in the trenches with stained clothes and un-brushed hair, forgoing all hygiene and sleep, not fit for public consumption.

I was then taken aback when she equated her devotion to her children as anti-feminist.  That is goes against feminist teachings.  She ends with,”Maybe that’s why by far the majority of women today reject the label feminist.  We kind of like being happy.”  I actually had to re-read the entire post to see what I missed.  I am no morning person and it can take me a while to be fully functioning in the morning.   I assumed that I had misunderstood something. But no. The fact that it took me a second reading to realize that she was implying that feminists can’t or don’t believe in being devoted to their kids, that perhaps they can’t choose to be stay at home moms…. this doesn’t speak to my ignorance or even my groggy morning fog. It illustrates her warped view of the definition of feminism.

I’m not sure when feminism became a four letter word.  And I don’t know why so many people have collectively bought in to it.

fem·i·nism noun 1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

This is what feminism means.  That women are equal to men.  I naively thought that this was a non-issue, that this is one that had been resolved.  That we’d all collectively agreed on this:  women… men… equal.  I thought this was filed away in the annals of history as one of those things that no longer warrants discussion or debate.  Then I read this.  Then I started seeing other writings, articles and videos on the subject of feminism. I don’t know if  it was a weird coincidence or if my antennae was raised, but either way I realized that some how this was still a thing.

Can a word have a public persona?  If so, then I think this is one word that has become so twisted in the public consciousness.  How else do you explain celebrities who shy away from it? Katy Perry: “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women”. Taylor Swift, when asked if she was a feminist: “I don’t really think of things as boys vs girls”.  Marissa Mayer (CEO, Yahoo):  “I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist.”  Lady Gaga: “I’m not a feminist, I love men.”  Let’s just consider for a minute that none of these women would be who they are and even quoted in a blog post if it weren’t for feminism.

I would like to clear up some misconceptions about feminists.  This is an attempt to dispel the myths that seem to abound.  To quiet the fear that if we all declare ourselves feminists that we will all grow out our armpit hair and shave our heads and start kicking all the men in the balls.

  • Feminists aren’t man haters. Men are awesome. The world would be boring without men. I know a lot of great guys.  In fact, I’m married to one.
  • Feminists aren’t butch. There’s nothing wrong with being butch, if that’s your thing. But this former tomboy has embraced her “girly” side.   I enjoy being feminine.
  • Feminists aren’t anti-marriage.  I like being married.  I got married because I fell in love and wanted to.  I didn’t hand over my feminist card on my wedding day.
  • Feminists are allowed to be stay at home moms.  We are allowed to be anything we want.  That’s kind of the whole point of feminism.  If you’re a stay at home mom, a working mom, or not a mom at all, embrace your choices.  Be proud of your choices.  And never, under any circumstances judge another woman for her choices .

So, for all of you feminism apologizers or deniers- you don’t have to tattoo it on your forehead.  But for the sake of your daughters, your Mothers, the women who went to jail or were beaten so that you could have the options you have today, please don’t be ashamed of it.  Please don’t quantify it with a “but”.  Please don’t let someone else’s misguided notion diminish your staking of your claim of what’s yours in this world.  I am a feminist.  It’s part of me.  I believe in the equal rights of women.  And I’m in good company.  There are feminists all over the world, fighting right now for  the most basic of rights:

  • On October 26th dozens of Saudi Arabian women protested the ban on women driving in their country by getting behind the wheel of a car and risking arrest.
  • There are women fighting right now against female circumsision, a barbaric and mutilating act designed to inhibit a woman’s sexual feelings.  This horrific mutilation is common throughout parts of Africa and usually performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 8.  It is still, in this day and age, performed on about 3 million girls a year.  Brave women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Waris Dirie are fighting this, often under constant threat of death.
  • Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese writer, was arrested and beaten for wearing pants. She asked to go to trial, refusing immunity offered her as a U.N. press officer.  She risked 40 lashes and imprisonment.  Despite death threats, she continues to speak out on women’s rights in her country.
  • Malalai Joya, of Afghanistan, helped to set up secret schools for girls in her country. She now lives in a series of safe houses and travels with armed body guards for her protection.  She rarely sees her husband for fear of him being killed by his association with her.
  • Rana Husseini, a Jordanian journalist, is fighting the act of “honor killings” by reporting on every case she came across, even though these killings were largely ignored by the media.  She has won numerous awards for bravery in journalism for her work.
  • Malala Yousafzai.  She spoke out about the rights of girls in Afghanistan to an education and the Taliban saw her as a threat and shot her in the head.  Her story is one of undeniable courage, strength and grace.  She addressed the U.N. in July, “Here I stand not as one voice but speaking for those who have fought for the right to be treated with dignity, their right for equality of opportunity, and their right to be educated,” she said.
  • Sampat Pel Devi, and her Gulabi Gang.  They are a vigilante force of women who are fighting injustices against women in India.  They have stormed police stations when officers refused to register complaints of violence against women. They have attacked men who have abused their wives. They have stopped child marriages. Devi travels around Northern India on an old bicycle holding meetings and recruiting members. The Gulabi Gang now has over 20,000 members.

So, the next time you feel the need to demure about your feminist leanings or hear someone diminishing this word- perverting it’s meaning by whittling it down to a caricature- think about these women. Think about the women who fought to give us the rights we enjoy today.  We no longer have to have our ass groped in the work place. We no longer have to defer to our husband’s opinions on matters of politics.  We no longer have to shelve our dreams because society doesn’t allow it.  None of this just happened by chance.  There were women, and sometimes men, who fought for every little bit of it.  There are women right now,  who are fighting for the most basic rights.  To be treated as a human.  To not be abused, forgotten, traded, mutilated, attacked, killed.  Feminism is alive and well. It’s heavy weight is being carried on the backs of these brave women around the world.  We have come so far, here in the U.S.  We have come so far that so many of us have forgotten what this word really meant.  Maybe some of us  never really knew.  What a luxury to not have this as part of our everyday lives. What a luxury to enjoy the options available to us and not consider the pain and sacrifice that made it possible.  What a luxury to be a CEO of one of the largest companies in the world and reject the word and the women on who’s shoulders you’re standing.  What a luxury to be able to write a blog about being a mom and the sacrifices it entails and not have to parse your words or fear for your life based on the things your write.  We have many luxuries for sure, here in the west.  The very least we could do is not forsake the very thing that is giving strength and power and possibly inspiration to those who are still in the midst of the fight.  We can at least honor the people who came before us by not withering under some false notions.  The least we could do is to own this word, to take back the meaning.  Equality.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

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