well…this is embarrassing. i haven’t blogged in over six months. but i miss writing for fun (as opposed to the writing i do for school, which is less “fun” and more “chinese water torture”), and i’m getting too wordy for facebook–i’m at the point that i have to revise my status updates for length, which is a sign i should be blogging more often. it might also be a sign that i need to get a life, but whatever. so i’m back to my old internet home, and hopefully you’ll pardon the virtual dust; i’m in the process of changing things around a little bit, but it’s happening slowly because 1) i don’t have much time, and 2) technology hates me. this is all assuming anyone will even read this blog anymore, which is a pretty bold assumption, considering six months of silence in internet time might as well be a million years. it’s fine, i like to live on the edge, so i’ll just keep typing and pretend i’m not talking to myself.
there’s a lot that’s changed in my life since i last blogged regularly, but i’ll try to spread the updates out over a few posts. for the purposes of what i’m about to say, all you need to know is that i just finished up my first year of graduate school in byu’s english literature program, where i am emphasizing in rhetoric. in addition to going to school full-time, i also work as a graduate instructor, teaching freshman writing and rhetoric at byu. up until i started school in august of 2011, i’d been a stay-at-home mom for over four years; i have two boys, ages five and three. i also have a husband, but his age is irrelevant.
life as a working/student mother is complicated. the emotional stress that accompanies managing a family is compounded by the pressures of academia and professional life, and my attempts to balance everything i want to do often leads to nightmarishly long days, followed by hellish nights spent in a haze of literary and rhetorical theory reading assignments and my somewhat-coherent ramblings rendered as literary or rhetorical criticism, which my professors are nice enough to read and give me feedback on. however, this process is made bearable, and even rewarding, for me by my family and friends, who are all incredibly supportive of my goals. i am thankful for the opportunities provided to me by the love and generosity of the people in my life.
one of the opportunities i am afforded by the time i spend at school is conversation with adults, which was an uncommon occurrence when i stayed home with my children. i was talking to a male friend a few weeks ago about some issue involving women in the workplace, and after i made a point favoring equal pay for women he rebutted with, “ugh, you’re such a feminist.” my response? “NO I’M NOT!” i was offended at his implication that i was somehow unfeminine because i wanted my work to be valued as equal to that of a man, and i didn’t want to be identified with the stereotypical ranting, bitchy feminist we see typified in hollywood and other mainstream media. i was relating this experience to my classmate and close friend the other day, and she said something to me that i don’t think i’ll ever forget. completely without judgment in her tone, she asked me, “do you believe in equality for women?” i nodded. “then you’re a feminist, alexis, and we need to stop fearing the term. we need to use it. we need to take it back.”
if i’d heard someone say this before last august, i might have dismissed it as the oversensitivity of a militant feminist ballbuster manhater. after all, what is “feminism”? it’s just a word, right? what can one little word really mean? now, though, after having spent countless hours in the study of the way words work and how entire cultures are formed around their connotations, i realize that words have nearly boundless power, both for good and evil. and feminism has been a power for good the world over when it has been used as tool to incite conversations about the ways in which women are treated differently than men, for no other reason that history demands it be so.
as i’ve thought over all this, i’ve come to a few realizations. first, that i am a feminist, and i always have been one, regardless of the fact that i refused to identify myself as such, for whatever reasons. second, that being a feminist doesn’t make me anything different than what i’d thought myself to be before i started using the “f” word. i still love to play sports, spend too much money on lipgloss, worry about my weight, offend people with my big mouth, watch byu football (and any other byu team), hang out with family and friends, travel, read, write, and a million other things, some of which might be called characteristically feminine, some masculine. none of these qualities are what makes me a feminist.
i am a feminist because i want to live in a world where i am afforded the same choices and opportunities as my male counterparts, assuming all variables are equal. does this mean i would choose to do something perceived as being “a man’s job”? not necessarily, but i’d like to have the choice to do so, and be compensated equally as well as any man would be for the same job. i am a feminist because in my home, i try not to constrain myself, my husband, or my children by enforcing what i see as arbitrary gender roles that are harmful, not helpful, to the construction of our identities. i am a feminist because i want to be able to express my opinion honestly without being told “you’ve got balls, for a girl,” and because i want to not be flattered when someone tells me that. i still have a lot of work to do in that area; it’s difficult to undo the effects of an entire lifetime of hearing praise constructed in masculine terms.
none of this is to say that i hate men, or that in order for me to be happy men must be miserable. this is a common misconception of feminism’s aims, and it has become a stereotype for a reason–there are plenty of feminists who are also manhaters, but i feel this has less to do with feminist ideology and more to do with personal experiences these women may have had with men. i have been lucky, especially as an adult, to have had many males in my life who’ve allowed and encouraged me to pursue the things that would fulfill me, regardless of what the world might tell me is suitable for a “woman in my position” to do. it has been the influence of these men, my husband in particular, that has shown me what wonderful rewards can be reaped where feminism is sown. sei, my husband, might not consider himself to be a feminist, but he most definitely is, for he sees in me the potential to be anything i want to be, to have anything i choose to work for, regardless of my gender.
this post is getting obscenely long, but i wanted to be sure to mention one final thing. i am a feminist, yes, but i don’t mean to imply that i think men and women are the same. i understand there are inherent anatomical, biological, and even emotional and intellectual differences between men and women that are, in many ways, non-negotiable. i do not lament these differences, but celebrate them for their contribution to the richness of male-female interaction, which would be dull indeed if we were all the same. however, difference does not require inequality, which is what women must compensate for every day, whether or not they realize this counterbalancing is taking place.
i want to live in a society where i don’t need to waste my time and resources making up for ground lost simply because i wasn’t born with a penis. and that’s why i’m a feminist.