The “F” Word…. (Feminism)

As a person or an activist womyn or whatever daunting label I shall place on myself, I realized that I needed to learn more about feminism and what it means to be a feminist. How can I call “socially male identified feminists” out if I don’t really know what it means to be a feminist? I’m not going to lie this entry is partially about the hypocrisy within the radical activist community pertaining to the behavior that socially male identified feminists/activists perpetuate. They’re some of the smartest people I know in terms of politics; I looked up to many of them. However, what they preach and how they treat womyn are two completely different things, but this post isn’t just about them, more importantly- it is also about me. How can I grow as an activist, a womyn, a daughter, a sister, and a friend? How can I challenge society, yet continue to feel beautiful? Therefore, I decided to talk to some of the people I really look up to, because I wanted to understand how to be a feminist. I’ve realized in the past I have sometimes shaved my legs or my armpits in hopes of trying to impress someone or gain approval by society. But when I’m single and sluggin’ around, I challenge those gender norms by not giving a fuck about my hairy legs or appearance. I know feminism is beyond the physical appearance and I don’t want it to just be reduced to that, that is why I am eager to try to learn more about feminism through my friends who can teach me through their personal experience and through the authors they’ve read. I want to challenge myself, and explore the realms of feminism a bit more and figure out what it means to be a “feminist,” but not just from western points of views. For example, am I being hypocritical when I conform by dressing up and doing what society has taught us females to do? I often hear different perspectives on that point; I know many mujeres who feel alienated from certain activist cliques, because they feel criticized when they wear make up, straighten/curl their hair, and embrace their femininity.

As an activist womyn, am I being too harsh on activist men who claim to be feminists, but really just want to mess around with multiple partners? They stare you in the face and reassure that they like you, but when in actuality they are seeing other people… Should they be called out? When is calling someone out inappropriate, because after all no one is perfect including myself.  I clearly have to work on myself in so many ways! But despite our imperfections should we still continue to keep each other in check? Part of having a “consciousness,” whatever the fuck that means…(it sounded nice), but as I was saying part of being an activist is growing and challenging yourself and others. But it can be tough trying to carry this hat and role full time especially considering other exteriors conditions and forces that are working against us. Furthermore, it’s sometimes inevitable to partake in mainstream, capitalistic behavior. Therefore, can we excuse our manarchists’ friends’ behaviors or should we hold them up to higher expectations? And if we are trying to deconstruct labels, then why should we hold people accountable for being a hypocritical male feminist? Lastly, does the calling out vary on the severity of the person’s action or their race? Not that race should be a factor in this, but culturally machismo and patriarchy has historically played different roles that can be attributed to colonialism and oppression. As Gloria Anzaldúa eloquently explained in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, “His ‘machismo’ is an adaptation to oppression and poverty and low self-esteem. It is the result of hierarchical male dominance…In the Gringo world, the Chicano suffers from excessive humility and self-effacement, shame of self and self-deprecation. Around Latinos he suffers from a sense of language inadequacy and its accompanying discomfort; with Native Americans he suffers from a racial amnesia which ignores our common blood, and from guilt because the Spanish part of him took their land and oppressed them…”    

–Feminism is such an interesting topic; yet it’s surprising how little I know about it. People have many misconceptions about feminism and feminists, so here are some excerpts on how some friends described it to me:

  • “Honestly, I don’t know much about feminism…I can’t learn about my femininity through other women…I have to learn for myself…” -ED
  •  “Do you remember X & Y? The most intelligent guys, and it frustrated women so much that they couldn’t deal with them at all. Why? Because they always had an answer for one’s complaints or claims. Generally, the most intelligent and revered of the theoretical activist men are the most heartless womanizers you will ever meet. They are very comfortable talking to you about politics but try to talk to them about things beyond it… it gets awkward and then when you speak out or associate yourself with outspoken women you get shunned. X now doesn’t even look at me
    .…within the activist circle, they’re a whole new breed of men…or maybe they aren’t… maybe they’re just a more intelligent version of the typical douche bag.”- AS
  • “Feminism to me should require the end goal of liberation for all those who are oppressed, male or female. As a woman who is a daughter of moderately wealthy/middle class immigrants/intellectuals, I have suffered less than a male brought up in dire poverty in terms of material conditions, so I think it would be foolish of me to say that those men are subjugating me just because they happen to have a penis. That is not to say that men of all socioeconomic backgrounds can’t and don’t have sexist ideas, but the culture of sexism is itself a product of the capitalist system that we live in, and those who ultimately “benefit” from sexism aren’t everyday guys with machista ideas, but rather the capitalists who benefit from being able under the current system to pay women less than they do men and not have to suffer any consequences. Challenging sexism, thus, involves challenging capitalism, and the fight for women’s rights will have to arise from a fight against the system as a whole. There’s an IWW quote about an “injury to one is an injury to all.” I can’t be satisfied until ALL forms of oppression–homophobia, sexism, poverty, racism, etc–are eradicated. And I think that saying that men can’t be feminists or whatever is itself extremely problematic and confining oneself to gender norms; after all, what IS a man and what is a woman? What about intersex people or those who have a penises but consider themselves to be women? It would be very discriminatory to exclude them from the struggle from women’s emancipation. [Also, shaving your legs or wearing perfume isn’t anti-feminist in my view; many men shave their faces and wear cologne. Also, I imagine that some lesbian women shave their legs, too, and straight and bisexual women who shave don’t necessarily do so to be more sexually attractive to men.]” -NB

Furthermore, this is how some scholars have described feminism:

Suzanne MacNevin: “Materialist Feminism views gender as a social construct. Women are historically viewed as mere objects for reproduction of the species and their gender role in society has that role. That role in society, depending on the circumstance, really is that of an economically impoverished slave. That state of bondage is more metaphorical because women are not always bound by shackles but simply by societal restrictions. Women are not REQUIRED to be childbearers and fulfill childbearing duties. Society forces that upon women.” (Source 1)

Patricia Hill Collins: “Black feminist thought sees these distinctive systems of oppression as being part of one overarching structure of domination. Viewing relations of domination for Black women for any given sociohistorical context as being structured via a system of interlocking race, class, and gender oppression expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect.” (Source 2)

Bell Hooks: As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.”

“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism,” to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.” (Source 3)

Jessica Yee: “However we’re not really equal when we’re STILL supposed to uncritically and obediently cheer when white women are praised for winning “women’s rights,” and to painfully forget the Indigenous women and women of colour who were hurt in that same process. We are not equal when in the name of “feminism”, so-called “women’s only” spaces are created and get to police and regulate who is and isn’t a “woman” based on their interpretation of your body parts and gender presentation, not your own. We are not equal when initiatives to achieve gender equity have reverted yet again to “saving” people and making decisions for them, rather than supporting their right to self-determination, whether it’s engaging in sex work, or wearing a niqab. So when feminism itself has become its own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it? (Source 4)

The following is a piece that I really love that was recently written by a comrade:

This is our coming insurrection.

People claim to be many things,
yet they fail to define who they are.
Let me clarify a few things for you.
See it as a little touch of empathy.
The only emotion I will ever invest in thee.

Activists worship no one but themselves.

Radicals make a stage upon which to perform,
and sit in the audience to watch their own show.

And the self-proclaimed anti-partriarchical, and
anti-fancy shmancy politically enticing MEN
are nothing but the words that they speak,
and the speeches that they give.
They are full of the most intellectual garbage known to wo-man.
They can spit out a rhyme that would make Karl Marx drown
in his own tears of joy.
Yet they simply cannot respect a woman.

As you men deconstruct patriarchy….for us women,
we reconstruct our faces and bodies…. for you men.
Because you see, we are genetically and socially constructed
to be flexible.
We can twist and turn upon your very whim, to entice you
and have you finally lift your eyes off of “The Coming Insurrection.”
All in the name of Feminism… right girls?

We can stop shaving, stop taming, and stop flaming
just to pretend to believe
that we are feminists.

That’s where we come to a new set of individuals.
Women… or rather womyn.
The many times where us, feminists, have fought with the
auto-correct of the monopolized and capitalistic evil called Microsoft Word,
just so we can re-teach this very pixelated world that us vagina bearing
things, are not meant to be within any distance of those grimy little men.
Unless of course they are ‘allies’.
Another word for : He can confuse me with political theory… so he must be sensitive and smart.”
They both start with s… and so does stupid.
Of course, the majority of us approach feminism from a completely western
viewpoint.
Heaven forbid we jump into that “race” and “cultures” pool.
Eeck!

I find it immensely hilarious that the most womanizing men I have ever met
are the ones who claim to be a pure form of a radical and progressive
ideological sect.

You play us and deconstruct our very bodies and souls, all in the name of
deconstructing what??
Patriarchy??

So go on and feminize your closet full of women.
Sort through the various colors and depths of the women who are hanging in there,
but remember this:

No matter how many times you have read every feminist book out there,
you will forever be a dummy to relationships and women.

We will start the coming insurrection.
And it will be coming right at you.

-AS

I hope you all learned something, I know I did. I may not understand the complexness and depth of feminism yet, but I am growing to understand myself. I am constantly changing, but I am at a point where I am learning to love myself so I can love others. I want to change myself, so I can grow to change the world. All I know is that I want to be a happy young mujer. Independence is what I want, equality among many other things. Freedom from oppression for all peoples and things. I’m not sure if what I just described would be considered feminism, but shit who cares? To me: its happiness, its growth!I may be naive and oblivious to many things, but I can’t imagine living without writing, learning, growing, and changing.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
-Maya Angelou

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About UCSC Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES)

This blog is maintained by students throughout UCSC. We recognize that students have been working around Ethnic Studies for multiple decades and at many levels of the university. We claim no ownership over any movement or material that is produced. We ask that any materiel used from the blog is cited and used for only educational purposes. Most importantly that it is done with honor and respect for the many people who worked in the struggle for Ethnic Studies. We would also like to point out that the name Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) was created to acknowledge the intellectual development of Ethnic Studies since the beginning of this struggle. The name came from countless meetings and hours with many different undergrads, graduate students, and faculty.
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