If I directly state "I'm a feminist" in a situation, it's usually followed by the other person saying "oh you hate men." Well, no. Not exactly. There are a few different definitions of the word out there but the best explanation of 'feminism' is the idea that people should not be treated differently because of their sex or gender. We'll get more into gender and orientation as Pride month rolls around, but for now, I will use the word "womxn" to refer to all of the people that identify as and celebrate Womxn's history month. This is a celebration of all womxn, let's lift them all up.
In the women's suffrage movement of the 1820s and 30s, the emphasis was on (specifically) white middle-class women to gain the right to vote. While this was absolutely the start of a great movement, it was extremely exclusive to womxn of color and people who identified but were not necessarily cisgender. The 1960s second-wave feminist movement really got the ball moving on a more inclusive reform. Gayle S. Rubin, a psychoanalytical anthropologist, started looking at gender as a spectrum instead of a set biological arrangement. With the idea that biological sex is fixed, gender became a manmade social construction that separated the sexes and gives more privilege to cisgender men. Sound familiar? This systematic oppression is what we grow up with and teach our children. Explain to your child why womxn are not paid for the hard work they do both domestically and in the workplace. Women spend on average 4 hours and 47 minutes a day on household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping while men spend on average 1 hour and 30 mins a day. Mxn and womxn all have their own domestic duties, why must they be separated into specific roles? These things still have to get done, it isn't the sole responsibility of the womxn to make sure that everything is done. Everyone just wants to live comfortably, everyone must get that same opportunity.
What else do I stand for as a feminist? Accurate representation in media!!! It's a known fact that womxn in today's mainstream media are photoshopped, changed, edited, taken out of context, given no context, and are constantly forced to sell the idea of sex before and regardless of their product. With the amount of content being pushed onto consumers every day, this idea of what each gender is 'supposed to be' digs into our minds at every click. This is very intentional, the photographers make sure that (specifically) womxn models are either positioned for sex or as someone non-threatening and easy to overpower. By seeing all of these beautiful models in these positions, they are pushing the idea that womxn only exist, to overpower and for sex. That is not how I am to be looked at. I am much more than a small underpowered girl for your taking. Once you see an advertisement with a womxn, ask yourself; who did the artist give the power to? The womxn herself or the viewer? As feminists, it's our duty to reclaim that power that is taken. The Try Guys actually got their photos taken and photoshopped to look like specific photos and they talk about personal challenges while doing this shoot. The video can be found on Youtube here
Media is so limiting to our accomplishments, there are women who have literally built history, charged empires, and they aren't household names. They have rewritten womxn out of stories, ripped down womxn with quick sexist nicknames, focus only on what they look like. Then, capitalized on these 'radical feminist' ideas by selling hand sanitizer that says "GRL PWR" and called it good. So many men have taken work and groundbreaking ideas from womxn that have worked their asses off to just get into the conversation for their field. This just pushes people down before they are even able to get started. Being a womxn means you must fight for respect in any space. Society teaches these incredibly early. 1) As a womxn, You are only valued for what you look like. 2) As a womxn, you are expected to learn 'your' duties and rules and abide by them at all times. 3) Being a womxn, means that people will treat you differently. It is more important that we aid in the progression of other people's characters rather than our own. These young girls will start changing everything about themselves to fit in just to be bashed for something completely different. People cannot thrive in a system that was not created for them.
This problem isn't just specific to females. Because of these images of idealized womxn and lack of representation in color, body type, or gender identity, mxn are more likely to judge womxn more harshly. It's feeding them this idea that the idea of masculinity is to have power and if not given that power, then to take it. It forces these boys into these positions where if they aren't being a dick, they feel like they aren't respected. It makes them ashamed to be emotional, kind, and soft. Leadership, politics, and positions of power become masculine traits instead of just human traits. Feminity becomes something to be made fun of, it's a plotline instead of a superpower.
Under the layer of women being the hero in Hollywood stories, there's still a very prominent male gaze in costume design, sexist dialogue, and relationships surrounding the idea of how mxn and womxn are supposed to behave. Male costumes are made to usually fit functionality, while females could be half-dressed in a context that does not make sense and no one would bat an eye. The first Wonder Woman costume was basically a strapless leotard. If you've ever tried to wear one of those, you'll know that there is only one way you can keep it from falling down: costume glue. Imagine being in high-intensity fights and ALL of your limbs are exposed. Who's going to be able to walk away from that kind of fight? Meanwhile, Superman is in a neck-to-toe onesie made of space dust. I have recently just watched WandaVision and it blew my mind. Such a good show, I highly recommend it. They centered Wanda as a human being with complex emotions and her own storyline throughout the pieces they show in the previous Marvel movies. All of this plays into the plot of WandaVision. (SPOILERS) She is an extremely powerful being and they don't hold back in showing her strength. Her number one motive in this miniseries is to have this perfect house with a perfect family. It's every woman's dream, right? Wrong! It's another stereotype! But, I am very very excited to see what they do with her character now that she has let in her true powers and found herself. Oh, the power of personal identity.
Understanding your biases will change how they manifest themselves in your own speech and actions. It may be hard to come to terms with some of the things we have grown up with, but change begins with us. By actively listening to womxn's stories, to mxn's stories, to any story that hasn't been heard yet, you are giving that power back to the individual that was wronged. This is just the beginning of a series in which I'll go over specific pieces of feminism that I feel would benefit people to take a second look at. My goal is not to convince you that one specific gender is good or bad. I want to simply encourage you to speak up for the people that are normally not heard. Fight for the people that don't get to experience the privileges that you benefit from on a daily basis. But most of all, do no harm but take no shit.