Questioning My Identity as a Feminist

I’m not sure a person must feel offended or discriminated against to join a movement. This seems obvious in that I support LGBT equality. Yet, I’ve been reflecting lately on my identification as a feminist. Maybe it’s that I have seen enough people complain that feminist are little more than scared, bitter, angry women, but I have found myself wondering in what ways I have been targeted or discriminated against for my gender. Where has the world not only wronged my gender, but myself? Do I need to be wronged in order to identify as feminist?

Chapter TK - how is a feminist defined? Must a woman be wronged in order to identify as feminist?

As I was reflecting on this, the first incident that comes to mind is a series of conversations I had with my parents in middle school about escalating bullying. It got bad enough, that they wondered if they should talk to the principal about sexual harassment.

What is sexual harassment for a 12-year-old? Following the advice adults gave me, I ignored my bullies as much as possible. They did not, as the adults said they would, get bored and leave me alone. Instead, they escalated their assaults until they found something I couldn’t help but react to. They found their perfect poison when they started egging one of the jocks to kiss me. it sounds so trivial now, but I could not keep the fear and discomfort from my face. Sitting in a room full of people chanting “kiss her” or backed up against a  locker, surrounded by the same people chanting the same chant, I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do and more than once walked out of the room without a care of any teacher being present.

Now much older, I wonder if there was more subtext to the whole situation. Was this child’s play a way of making fun of me for my relationship choices or lack there of? Since I ran, I was a prude but if I stuck around a got kissed (even non-consensually) would I have been branded a slut?

I don’t believe children put that much thought into their actions. They’re just reflecting the world they grew up in and their world said it was funny that I didn’t want to be kissed and funny if I was kissed. That seems to have a sexual component to it, but I’m not 100% sure it was specifically aimed at my gender.

In high school, I remember girls making fun of me for my eyebrows. One girl asked me if I shaved my hands. I didn’t wear makeup and I didn’t wear heels. Here again, was I being targeted because I was a nerdy kid outside the norm for my area or were the comments about my dress and hair based on gender? Certainly they were based on gender norms society put in place. My peers made fun of me because I didn’t fit some girl mold. That mold wasn’t created by them, though. it was something created by a society that says women can be judged based on their looks and dress.

As a person once bullied, I can say that the few times someone stood up for me shine bright in my memory. Once, a boy who I barely knew noticed when a group of boys purposefully ran into me in the hall way, scattering my belongings across the ground. I crouch down as students walked over my head, trying to grab everything before it was kicked away. He told the boys off, saying their actions were not cool and helped me gather my stuff. The boys scoffed, asking if he had the hots for me, before laughing and walking away.

There’s a lot of pettiness in this moment. I felt bad that he was made fun of for helping me. I felt it was proof no one should help me because they would then face my same fate. I often thought my friends endured the same things I did not because they actually deserved (like I still assumed I did) but because they dared to be kind to me.  Again, as an adult looking back, I wonder about that moment. What was it about helping me that was so funny? Why would being in a relationship with me be an insult? Was it that I was thought to be ugly. Was there something there?

There are a few other events I could share, but they all follow the same thread. Maybe they had something to do with my gender and maybe they were just stupid people doing stupid things?

The truth is, I could have lived a perfect life up to this moment and still be just as strong as a feminist. Nothing bad needs to happen to me for me to see I deserve equality. When my father tells me men are animals and that women who dress certain ways should “know the risks,” I know there is a problem. When I see people question whether Hilary Clinton can be president and a good grandmother, I know there is a problem. When society blames women who dress to impress for being sluts and those who dress conservatively for being prudes, I know there is a problem.

I support feminism. I am a feminist because I believe women and men deserve equality. I believe that masculinity and femininity are equal qualities, both worthy and necessary in our society (and that everyone, regardless of gender, is free to express both their masculinity and femininity).

When people who try to claim feminists are nothing more than bitter women or ugly women or women who have poor relationships with men, all I hear are my old bullies. Why should a woman be defined by how men regard her? Why must a woman be sad, bitter and alone to believe she is equal? I am none of those and I proudly call myself feminist.

Do you think a person must be personally effected by discrimination in order to desire a group be treated equally? Have you ever been discriminated against for your gender or for acting outside of your gender norm?

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68 thoughts on “Questioning My Identity as a Feminist”

  1. Brilliant point! I am obviously not a woman but have been bullied in life a great deal for not fitting into my gender norm. Always gotten the “fag” or “queer” hurled at me just because I wasn’t some jockhead douche or was into hunting and such. I am straight but have always been very much not the typical dude. I was raised by women which helped that of course but even without such influence I still think I’d be pretty close to who I am now either way. I dig fashion and art and things that most straight guys aren’t into. Anyway, I can relate and am very much a feminist myself, well, as much as a guy can be I suppose. Kudos to you for being who you are in spite of the barrage of ignorance and abuse! Great writing and great point of view!

    1. Any movement, no matter how good and necessary, can still be criticized. If I were to say there was something not quite right with feminism, I’d say it’s that what I’m going to call “pop-culture feminism” ignores how gender norms and biases effect men. That’s why I see such a connection to the movement for LGBT rights. A man should not be looked down upon for having feminine qualities and neither should a woman. We are all a mix of these qualities and they are all necessary. The sooner society realizes this, the better.

  2. Great post, TK.

    So sorry for the horrible treatment your suffered at the middle and high schools you went to, but BECAUSE of sexism, homophobia (which is a weapon of sexism, and an author in the 1970s pointed out), classism, looksism, and many other culturally- instituted and -perpetuated oppressions that your schools did NOTHING to dispel, you and many others suffered precisely because of those oppressions and the ways your peers acted within them, attempting to garner power and to conform.

    You said it perfectly here. I wish that one of these statements had been the title of your post: “Nothing bad needs to happen to me for me to see I deserve equality.” And, here: “Why should a woman be defined by how men regard her? Why must a woman be sad, bitter and alone to believe she is equal? I am none of those and I proudly call myself feminist.”

    Thanks for carrying the torch forward for your generation. We all desperately need it more than ever right now, for young people to recognize sexism and other oppressions and work to dismantle them within ourselves and all around us.

    best to you,

    A life-long feminist (now aged 60),

    Sally Ember, Ed.D.

    1. Thanks! I think a lot of people look at sexism like racism. They look at our laws and claim we are all equal now so people can stop fighting for equality. Well, even if laws are equal (hah), society has not reached that point yet. Society keeps trying to put laws in place to push these movements back. I read an article recently saying politicians tried to pass laws regulating women’s bodies more than 400 times in 2014 alone. I turned on the news this morning and heard some blood bank is changing the rules on banning gay people from donating blood. Apparently, they want to change it so they can donate if they have abstained from sex for at least a month.

      If you ask me, there will never be such perfect equality that we won’t have to fight. In a perfect world, someone would still have to be there to remind people we can’t regress into what we used to be.

      1. The news about “some blood bank” is probably the news about the FDA that I saw in Sunday’s paper:
        The existing policy is that a man who has had sex with a man even once since 1980 is not allowed to donate blood anywhere in the U.S. This despite the fact that every blood donation is tested for HIV.
        The suggested update to the policy is to say that gay men may donate if they have abstained from sex with men for one year.
        It can take up to 6 months after HIV infection for the virus to reach detectable levels in your blood, and you can still transmit it during that time.
        But straight people can get HIV too, and they are not prevented from donating blood.
        Discrimination? Yes. Justifiable? Somewhat but not enough, in my opinion.

        1. I personally don’t think it’s justifiable at all, unless they make every sexuality do that. It’s crazy that such a lifesaving action should be prevented because of stereotypes of HIV in the LGBT community.

          1. Well, 57% of HIV+ Americans are gay and bisexual men and gay/bi men are only 2% of the total population, so it’s not just a stereotype: They are statistically more likely to be infected than other groups, and their rate of infection is rising. But that doesn’t mean this is necessarily the right policy for dealing with the risk. It’s clumsy, excluding a lot of people who could be helpful while allowing some people to donate who shouldn’t.

              1. Because the donor could have become infected with HIV less than 6 months ago, so that it would not be detectable by the test but the blood would still be infected and could give HIV to the recipient.

                1. again, since anyone can have HIV, wouldn’t it make more sense for that rule to cover everyone? It’s like many other issues. Take domestic violence – the man is the more likely culprit, but by assuming men are always at fault we prevent male victims from coming forward and too often judge when they do. Likewise, by assuming only gay pepole can pass on HIV because they are more likely to have it, we risk HIV coming in via a straight person.

                  Though, last I checked, cases of HIV have been dropping dramatically in all American populations except one – those 55 years and older. It’s theorized that, since there’s no risk of pregnancy, they are less inclined to use protection.

                  1. If nobody who has had sex with anybody since 1980 were allowed to donate blood, there wouldn’t be enough blood! But yes, you have a good point, and I think a less stringent rule makes sense. I was just explaining that there are statistics behind their reasoning. Actually, according to the CDC page I found, the rate of HIV infection is increasing among young gay men, especially African-Americans.

  3. An angry ranting woman is what society naysayers would have everyone believe is a feminist. I am a proud feminist and i believe that it is more through my actions than my words. Actions like quietly persauding the all-boy flag football summer league to accept my daughter as their first girl player (she kicked ass), working in a profession that is 85% men and i keep it fair and real as much as possible with humor and smarts. We dont have to shrilly rant for equality. We need to simply expect it, deal with the assholes either with humor or firmness depending on the situation. Feminism is about women valuing ourselves and loving ourselves first. Then learning to stand up for ourselves because it is fair and we deserve it. GIRL POWER!!

    1. I agree, especially in this world. There are still some things that need changing, but women have won a lot. We can vote, work and play alongside men. We can control out bodies (mostly) and our relationships, we can open up doors for people and ask people out. Now, we just have to take advantage of all that.

      Now… there are still plenty of people who work against some or all of those things. That’s where it becomes hard. Women should value themselves and stand up for themselves. They should take advantage of the equality they have. But that can be hard if their parents and/or peers still tell them they shouldn’t.

  4. I am a Feminist and have no difficulty wearing that label. The anti-feninist movement seems stuck on the sterotype of radical feminism from a bygone era. That is not the feminist movement I identify with. For me, feminism is about the continued struggle for gender equality – here in the developed world but particularly on a global scale – advocating for the rights of women and about women having the freedom to make choices about their lives. All the men in my life also support these things and are thereby feminists. My feminist politics are not filtered through a “them and us” dichotomy.

    Yes, I have directly experienced behaviours and attitudes that qualify as gender prejudice or sexual discrimination. However, I am also passionate about LGBT rights despite the fact I am not gay; I am against religious intolerance despite (or maybe because of?) the fact I am an atheist; I am completely white European in my genetic make-up and cultural inheritance but I still rail against racism. Therefore, I think that one does not have to have direct experience of a particular form of oppression to know it to be wrong and fight for what is right. To me, it is all social justice.

    1. I’m right there with you. I think I asked this question because, more than any other movement I support, people have the biggest problem with feminism. I have had people agree with me that the fight for gender equality is necessary, but that feminism either does not fight for that or that I damage the movement by throwing my hat in with them because of what people assume they stand for (which makes no sense).

      There are feminist I disagree with. I have heard multiple times that men cannot be feminist because they are not women. If you ask me, that’s stupid. If you believe in gender equality, if you believe men and women are equal and if you believe a person shouldn’t be judged because they don’t fit perfectly into a gender-norm, then you are a feminist. Who cares what your gender is.

  5. I absolutely love your posts, they are always so profoundly thoughtful and thought provoking. To that end, I’m certainly no expert, and I would be labeled a “old white guy” if it were not for my sexuality that I keep so profoundly secret, but I do have an opinion.

    I do think there are some groups that take “protection” too far. For example, here in Colorado, about a year ago there was a 6 year old boy that had been suspended from school for kissing a female classmate. His school record says he was suspended for “sexual harassment”. To me, this is a prime example of taking something way too effing far. He’s a kid! If he becomes a teenager and grabs a girl’s rear-end, by all means punish him, but to punish him for something that was nothing more than affection seems extreme to me.

    On the other hand, however, I do think there is a need for parents to be involved with their children at a level that promotes behavior that is decent towards all people. I know I am one of those people that believes you can not legislate thought or opinions, but you certainly can regulate behavior and denigrate social wrongs. It’s imperative, we have a system in society that encourages equality, encourages the ability to be who we want to be or who we naturally are.

    But at the same time, I also believe to my core that we have a right to be offended, we have a right to have people disagree with us, we have a right to have people think that our beliefs are wrong, we have a right to have others not live the same way we do. The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment is not about protecting what I like, but about protecting what I do not like.

    Okay…I’m going back to being humble now 😛

    1. I completely agree. I think it’s inevitable that things go too far sometimes. It’s why it’s important to always be open to criticism. As we try to create equality, the pendulum will sometimes swing too far one way or another. That doesn’t mean a movement should be scrapped, though.

      I think punishments should be age appropriate. That 6 year old boy deserves to know why what he did was wrong and why it hurt the girl. Now, such a thing would not be explained in as much detail as you might give a 12-year-old, but something should be said. Being suspended is nothing if he doesn’t understand. One trip to the principal or even a counselor to explain thina should be efficient enough. And not a “your in big trouble” visit. Just a talk.

  6. When I was in school, much the same kinds of things happened to people of both genders. Girls got bullied for not looking like other girls, and so did boys. Boys got a ton of flak from other boys if they didn’t do well in sports, or were bookish–in much the same way girls seemed to for similar reasons (replacing sports with fashion). There’s definitely something gender-related about the nature of the bullying, but I think that the kids didn’t care about gender issues, and didn’t really think about it in terms of bullying.

    I was on both sides of the bullying, looking back. I was pushed, hit, made fun of, etc. by boys who were, inexplicably, “cooler” than I was. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight, I did the same thing to those who were, inexplicably “less cool” than I was. To me, it was just an attempt at amusement–like a long-standing prank–and I didn’t realize that the other people were actually being hurt. Perhaps this disjunct has something to do with kids and adolescents not having fully-developed abstract processing centers in the brain, yet. I don’t know.

    On the topic of gender, two things stood out substantially.

    When I was in 1st grade, I figured out that the girls would run and scream if I pretended to want to kiss them. I didn’t actually want to (girls were “gross!”), but playing tag was fun. I’m sure I wouldn’t have known what to do if ever one of them just said, “OK.” At the time, I was just a little kid getting an amusing response out of other little kids.

    The other thing was when, in 6th grade, some of the boys started saying that if you called a certain girl, “squat,” she would get really mad–and that was funny. I didn’t have any concept of why she would get mad at that, and I don’t think most of the other boys did, either. Looking back, though, it sounds quite horrible.

    So, I conclude this, regarding kids and gender-related bullying:
    1) They don’t know it’s bullying.
    2) They don’t realize, and/or don’t care about the gender connection.

    As a side-note, I was usually more on the “being bullied” side of things, and I found early on (roughly my 3rd day of grade school) that if I punched my bullies really hard in the nose (or similar), they would almost always either leave me alone or become my friends. Not sure how or why that worked, or why some bullies only got meaner as a result. In any case, it seems like a compelling argument for teaching kids to stand up for themselves, despite social assumptions about nonviolence being the answer to all our problems.

    Good blog post, TK.

    1. I agree that kids usually don’t know what they are doing is bullying (unless they’re told it is) and are unaware of gender connections. Those young actions have more to do with their parents and society. From day one, they been fed the differences between one gender and the other. For anything to stand outside that is different and funny.

      In the end, the kids are not really to blame evendors if there is an element of gender inequality to their actions. It’s the world that taught them certain qualities were shameful that is the real problem.

  7. I’ve thought about this as well. As a privileged straight white male, do i deserve to be called a feminist? I don’t think you need to be directly affected by something to have empathy, though, and that’s not something you can just turn off.

    1. I agree. I hate when I see people saying men can’t be feminist. As far as I’m concerned, if you believe I gender equality, you’re feminist.

      In fact, I think the genders work best when we work together. Women may have it a lot worse around the world due to gender inequality, but men are not unaffected. I feel like the voicessential of men who desire gender equality are important to the overall feminist movement.

  8. Excellent post TK. I’ve spent this lunch break reading, and rereading, thinking, and rethinking, feeling and refelling. Just what a good post should do. I’m not sure yet where this is going to lead, but my initial reaction goes something like this:

    I’m Andy. Taxinomically, I am a Homo Sapien. That is all I will own to because any other identity I choose to label myself with becomes a shorthand for others to misunderstand who I am.
    If I say “I’m a liberal.”, people will assume they know what that means and what I believe. They don’t. All they know is what they think a liberal is and believes. If I say I’m a gun owner, same thing. If I say I’m a white guy who grew up in the deep south, same thing. If I say I’m from Massachusettes, same thing. If I say I’m a Social Worker, same thing. If I say English is my second language, same thing. If I say I’m a white guy who would rather watch any romantic comedy than any sporting event, same thing. If I say that I am father of children and have been married to my only intimate partner for 27 years, same thing.

    None of these labels really tell anyone anything about my identity.

    TK, Homo Sapien, I’m Andy, Homo Sapien. I’m glad to meet you. We share much more in common than there is difference between us!

    1. I think we are all free to adopt or reject any lable. I don’t mind the short hand because they say enough to those who don’t know me. I am a gamer. If you get to know me, you’ll discover what games I do and don’t like and how often I play. The lable of gamer won’t tell you those things. It only tells you I play games. Same as feminism. To me, saying I’m a feminist is short hand for ” I believe in gender equality. ” It doesn’t tell you what my definition of gender equality is. It’s just a lable.

      But, as I said, none of us should feel bound to our labels or feel any necessity to adopt them. To each their own .

  9. When I was a young man I grew my hair long, and it changed my world dramatically. (I don’t think that’s the big deal now that it was then. I hope not.)

    Suddenly my name came up “randomly” more often in the company drug tests. (They’re not “random” anywhere, I can promise you that.)

    I began to be followed around by the “undercover” security guards in department stores.

    When I got a simple speeding ticket the policeman frisked me and searched my car. That had never happened before.

    Total strangers felt like they had the right to comment on my appearance. I was 6 foot tall, weighed 220 pounds, and had a beard, and I can’t tell you how many times I was told I “looked like a girl” by people I didn’t even know. Mostly this was whispered just loud enough so they could be certain I heard while still giving them deniability if I confronted them with it.

    My employment choices dwindled. A sterling work record was no match for my “unprofessional” appearance.

    As all this was happening I was acutely aware that all I had to do to make it go away was cut my hair. A few quick snips, and everything would go back to the way it had been. That made me more conscious of all the ingrained prejudices others face. I can change my hairstyle, but people can’t change their race, their gender, their disabilities, or their appearance.

    So anytime anyone anywhere is getting a raw deal, they’ve got my support. I may not know exactly what they’re going through, I may never know all the specifics, but I know kind-of, and that’s enough.

    It’s still frightening to me how even a small step out of the mainstream can have severe, life-altering implications. But I never did cut my hair. My freak-flag still flies. 😀

    1. That’s crazy and to be honest, I think the same would happen today (at least for my job). It’s such a minor thing, especially if you’re not customer facing. You can make an argument for wanting your customer facing employees to fit a certain reputation you want your company to have, but that’s it.

      As you can tell, I faced my share of bullies growing up. I am very aware many have it worse than I did, though. That why I support all these issues of equality. No one deserves to be treated the way I was and certainly not any worse. It’s not enough for me to relate to every person fighting for equality, but it’s enough for them to have my support.

    2. Aaand you are now my personal hero. I would’ve just liked your comment if I could have, but instead you’ll just have to settle for this overly-adoring comment like a piece of pie so sickeningly-sweet, it’s almost unpalatable! 😉

        1. Ooo I feel awkward. I was actually talking to fellow long-haired Druggie McUntrustworthy over there, but I think you’re pretty kickass too!

  10. Great post as usual. I’ll share my young kissing attack experience with you. I was 6 and I had a guy friend who lived across the street. One day, we were playing with one of our other guy friends under the back porch. There was a door that was locked that lead to our location and below us was a staircase leading out to the back yard and the basement door.
    Well, the boy who lived at the house decided that I should kiss him. Obviously, I was not interested. However, at that moment my 6 year old mind became frighteningly aware of the set up of my situation. 2 boys? No way I could fight off 2. So I assessed my situation. It was a lot for me being my first entrapment but as I’m an inventor by nature, I devised an escape plan pronto.
    So, there was this lottery machine toy. I picked it up and said, “I’ll use this toy. When it lands on 3 in a row, I’ll kiss you.” I pulled the arm once, and it didn’t hit 3 in a row. They were hunched in around me. Back then, I was afraid of heights and pain, but not as afraid as I was to have to lose my first kiss to some jerk I thought was my friend. I pulled the arm a second time, no 3 in a row. I pulled it a 3rd time and I jumped. They weren’t prepared, we were young, and I was faster. I hit the concrete, bolted up the staircase, rounded the back of his house, opened the gate and latched it behind me, I could hear them as they got the locked door open. I raced across the street to my house and slammed the door shut behind me. I Told my mom the whole story.
    About 20 minutes later the boy’s mom came to talk to my mom. They told her I tried to Kiss HIM! My mom turned and asked me, “Did you try to kiss him?” I was taken aback! I was just trapped and accosted. I was 6! I told his mom and mine, “No, why would I try to kiss him? Why would I try so hard to escape? (his mom wasn’t told about the locked porch part so she didn’t understand that bit.) Why would I run as fast as I could to get away if it was ME trying to kiss HIM?!” She just stared at me and said I couldn’t come over anymore, which was just fine with me.
    As for bullies, I didn’t have one till HS. In STL the schools are full of mostly black kids, I was 1 of 11 white, 1 or 3 not Bosnian. We were all poor kids and as such we saw each other as equals. We all understood the suffering poverty had caused our families and it brought us together.

    1. I wonder if we will ever reach a point where being different isn’t a reason to be bullied. I feel like different people are bullied for different reasons. The one commonality is that they weren’t the same as those around them, whether in skin color, religion, interests or something else.

      And that kissing thing sounds terrifying for a 6 year old. That’s how I felt during my ordeals. I never was actually kissed, but just being surrounded by more than a dozen peers who I knew would not help me and may even help the kisser do the deed was terrifying. I ran out of rooms, hid in bathrooms…. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt even though the whole situation seems so juvenile.

  11. I have never been a lover of any label of any kind….I just don’t think that they can define a person as a whole. I have been a traditionally labeled “homosesexual” for years. However, I never have resonated with that. Thankfully, after hearing your own stories, I feel blessed that I never have had to suffer through the bullying that you describe. Despite that, I do feel as though I have done everything possible to dodge the label itself….perhaps to prevent the stigma you speak of.
    After recently going through a breakup after 10 years, I have been faced with the realism that I have avoided for so long. A new girlfriend, who wants to hold my hand in public. Previously, I have always claimed to dislike public display of affection, when in reality, if I’m honest with myself, I fear the rejection, the shame, the staring. I am only now, starting to branch out into that uncomfortable zone that others are bravely conquering daily..

    Im a feminists to a degree…yet I don’t match it entirely. I am a homosexual by definition…yet I don’t entirely fit the stereotypical mold. I’m liberal at times..but not on every issue…what does that make me?…

    Tia… A mother of 4… A woman in the workforce… A woman with high highs, and low lows. A woman who struggles day to day, the same as others, but so differently than the next….A woman who stands up firmly for her believes, but yet still finds moments to cower and hide!

    Labels are useless… I think you are blessed to be who you are.:)

    1. Like anything else, labels help as categorize the world, whether we are categorizing people or things. In that sense, I think they have a use, but they are not the same as a definition of an individual. They are generalities. If you are a feminist, you support gender equality. No other assumptions should be made about a single feminist aside from that until you get to know them.

      But then, I’ve never been too afraid of stigmas. I am who I am and I am proud of the labels I claim. They mark me as part of a larger group of people. It ads my voice to theirs and their voices to mine.

      That said, no one should feel forced to adopt any labels if they don’t want to. I think it’s all up to the person.

  12. Kids are crazy. They’re struggling to navigate the transition to adulthood in a society whose ideas about what it means to be “adult” are mostly backwards. In 1st grade I was literally chased across a large blacktop by a group of substantial size consisting of boys & girls, cornered and made to kiss a girl whom I admittedly had somewhat of a crush on. I wasn’t ready for what I got, though. Kids are kinda creepy actually. They want to see the ways sexuality affects people, so groups of kids, being able to act as a group so as to essentially disregard the emotional reality of the object of the experiment, all the while engaging with it’s experience on one level, often bring about those situations they want to see in a vicarious matter, and some of us are easy targets.

    1. I think kids are creepy because they are a reflection of ourselves. They just do things without thinking about why they’re doing it. They’re just copying what they’ve experienced so far in life.

      1. Hahaha that reminds me of such an uncomfortable experience I once had. I was probably 13 or 14, it was Thanksgiving, and I was sitting on a step next to my younger cousin who is probably about eight years younger than me. She must have had a bit of a crush on me, as I remember having on a much older cousin when I was really young. She had this shy “I like you”-smile on, and she took my arm (not knowing what she was doing, I let her), and she placed my hand on her thigh. I quickly retracted it.

        My neice now gets the same look on her face when she sees me. Kids are little weirdos, but you gotta love ’em. It’s funny though, how despite knowing better and basically understanding what they’re going through, it can still make you feel pretty awkward! I guess it’s hard to know how to respond to that kind of stuff, but you know it’ll pass quickly enough as they grow so it doesn’t matter. What groups of kids think it’s acceptable to do to each other bothers me though. I think it’s perfectly possible to have a culture that teaches people not to be ashamed of their sexuality while understanding that it’s a deeply personal thing and others’ boundaries should always be respected. Unfortunately, in a variety of contexts, the way one initially learns of the existence of a boundary is by crossing it, and kids know so very little so they can hardly be expected to always treat each other “right”. Life isn’t easy. We’re always going to have to learn what ‘hot’ is by first getting burned.

  13. As is often the situation with labels, they tend to be a problem. Girls can’t self-identify as feminists without being seen as the extreme man-hating version that somehow exists in our minds. Guys can’t self-identify as feminists without being thought of as soft or worse. It’s stupid.

    Yes, there are differences — on the societal level, and the personal — between the sexes. Women get treated differently than men, for better or for worse. Acknowledging that, and acknowledging that it’s idiotic in most cases, basically makes you a feminist, to my mind. Because feminism isn’t about tearing men down. It’s about lifting women up.

    Why should lifting somebody up ever be a problem?

    1. Exactly! And just like any other form of equality, it’s not about making it so everything is 50% men and 50% women. It’s about men and women having an equal opportunity to become whoever they want to be. It goes both ways. A woman should have every opportunity to become an engineer if that’s what she wants. Should she get a pass for being a woman? No. Should she have access to the same tests and education? Yes. On the flip side, should a man be able to choose to be a stay at home parent without feeling like he is somehow less of a man? Yes.

      At the end of the day, that’s all we’re trying to do. Why should that be a bad thing?

  14. In 1967 I got paid $650 / month for working as a CPA for one of the Big 8 firms in Houston. Through happenstance I found my male friend was making $900 / month doing the same job with the same experience at the same firm. Confident that an oversight had been made, I approached the partner in charge of personnel – a man with snowy white hair that matched his skin – who informed he I made less because I was a woman. No mistake. No apologies. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. I have spent the past fifty years as a feminist and social justice activist and am thrilled to see your pride in carrying the torch. Bravo!

    1. Thank God that dosen’t happen so openly anymore. I mean, it still happens, but people have to come up with a reason outside of gender to justify that difference. It’s an odd thing, really, because it makes it harder to prove sexism has occurred.

  15. It makes me angry that feminists are labeled as bitter. Bitter about what? Not being treated equally or with respect? Alright, then, maybe we are a little bitter, and we should be.

    Also, I think it’s so important for equality movements to have support from not only those personally affected, but those unaffected as well. Solidarity in this respect is crucial.

  16. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and love the posts, even the ones I don’t agree with, because of the level of thought you put into them. Me being a small church pastor, I’m wonder if you have any stories of being treated differently in this area by ‘religious’ people?

    1. The biggest difference I see is that people in religious communities I encounter are hesitant to see feminism as something positive. They view it as man hating or assume I must have loose morals. Many try to show how women are equal to them. I see this from catholics because my family is strongly catholic. They are quick to claim women play an equal role in the church even though they are in separate roles. I don’t think “separate but equal” ever really works, though.

      And I don’t aim to hate or disrespect religions with views different from my own. All I expect us to also be respected and not hated. We’re all trying to find our own way. Each person’s spiritual journey is their own, unique path.

      I’ll be interested in your opinion of many of my January posts. They are based on a Catholic service I attended yesterday. Usually they don’t bother ne, but this particular priest was different than any I have previously encountered.

      1. Can’t wait to see them. Would you consider writing a guest post at some point elaborating on what you just said for my church’s blog? We’re pretty non-traditional and I love presenting new ideas to my folks.

  17. I think that what needs to be addressed is that is it fair for women in this world. It does not have to be equal. Men and women are different. We both have our own strengths and weeknesses. That is how I see it but I am not a woman. I believe in equity not equality for everyone. There is a big difference.

    1. To be equal does not mean to be the same. It means to have the same opportunities and choices. Men and women all have their strengths and weaknesses, yes, but it makes them no less equal.

      But then, I would say I do believe in equality for everyone. Thank you for your opinion.

  18. Great post TK! Sorry to read about all the horrible experience you’ve been through at high school 😦 I can kind of relate to it too 😦 good points/questions on ‘feminism’. Loved reading your post. Thanks for liking my post. reading more of your posts now 🙂

  19. Never feel delegitimized for being any kind of advocate or activist. I may not live in a place where garbage & pollution tends to collect, but that’s no reason for me not to recycle, or be an environmentalist as I essentially am. It really comes down to understanding that some of us are upstream & trying to remain aware of those downstream who may not actually be within sight, while others around us don’t want to put forth that effort so they, often inadvertently, make us feel delegitimized. People will always take the path of least resistance, and if a person can find a way to rationalize withholding consideration for people with radically different life experiences than them, they will, especially when their own lifestyle contributes indirectly to those sufferings. Some of us, due to our experiences, simply have a more difficult time ignoring the elephant in room. (It’s worth remembering that most people don’t ignore it so much as go through the mental gymnastics necessary to convince themselves that the elephant truly isn’t there.) This doesn’t make us any innately better than them, but it does confer on us greater responsibility. It kinda sucks though because we have to figure out how not to resent the ignorant & counterproductive while also trying not to be too full of ourselves for being more “enlightened” than them. Oh well, I guess that’s just part of the responsibility…

    1. Thanks for the support. I think I have a lot of practice avoiding resentment towards the ignorant and counterproductive. Growing up in Iowa, I saw a lot of people who were honestly ignorant about sexism, racism or sexualities. I don’t mean that Iowa breeds people like that, but that in small towns people are used to the same. It’s hard to lose those ignorances when you never encounter the people you’re ignorant of.

      1. That reminds me of how one of the members of Slipknot described living in Iowa. I’m in somewhat rural, conservative, white-as-hell Northern California (State of Jefferson represent hella hella bro bro) and there are a lot great big dumbs here, but I find that more and more young people give me hope. The internet will drag us all into the into the egalitarian future, kicking and screaming of need be.

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