Occupation: Healthcare admin / general bad ass
Location: Central Virginia
How do you define feminism?
The concept that sex, and gender constructs should not define what people are allowed to do in their lives. FULL STOP. That’s the easy answer. I think it’s essential that everyone understand the ways that feminism has sought to elevate the status of women in the world, and challenge that ways that the status quo, and kyriarchy (nee patriarchy) effectively hold all persons in a society in their ‘place’ through tradition, barred access, propaganda, and the push for conformity. I need the world to understand that women do an enormous amount of unpaid, but valuable work, and a capitalist society intentionally devalues unpaid contributions. (A bit of gender essentialism here – men do unpaid, undervalued work too.)
When did you 1st identify as a feminist?
I don’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t identify as feminist. My parents are both feminists and encouraged my sister and I to view our world through a feminist lens.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
Yes. It’s become more inclusive. My mom was a big second-wave feminist, and a lot of her feminism was male-focused; that men were oppressors. Even my dad’s feminism reflected a lot of anti-male sentiment. His feminism was influenced greatly by his anti-establishment feelings, so he offered a social justice lens to view the world through. As I got older that social justice lens allowed me to see larger systems in place that are oppressive for everyone, men included. I think that often times men are oppressors, but I also think that men happen to control a great deal of power in this world, and those in power will usually attempt to retain and grow their power. And that men (anyone in a position of privilege, really) are often unaware of the ways in which their privilege allows them to succeed, and be valued. I like to think that feminism seeks to raise consciousness about privilege and the way it contributes to the prevailing cultural hierarchy.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
I’ve experienced general cultural pushback. The constant media focus on whether feminism is dead, and what the movement still have to contribute to the world since we, apparently, live in a post-feminist world. I’ve been called a feminazi once or twice, and felt belittled in discussions when “rabid feminists” are discounted. I’m a rabid feminist. Always have been. It sucks to hear stuff like that out of the mouths of people you thought were your friends.
Depending on the circumstance (sometimes it’s just not worth it to engage) I’ve asked people what their problem with feminism is, or have said, with a smile on my face, “I’m pretty sure I’m that rabid feminist you’re upset about.” I think people can unintentionally tow the line by parroting the latest soundbite, without putting it through a process of critical examination first. I’m the annoying person asking these people to justify their laziness by pointing out the lack of critical thought that went into whatever latest popular anti-feminist trope exists.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
I feel, right now, in December 2011, we’re in the midst of the largest feminist backlash of my adult life. The coordinated assault on women’s reproductive access, and social support access that has raced through the country makes me ill. There’s no shortage of work to be done. I’d like the future of feminism to entail a resurgence of anger to fuel change, focused on securing access to reproductive services, access to maternity and birth services, and access to social services. I’d also like to see the prevailing cultural boundaries that exist based in racist, ableist, and gender-normative history dismantled and replaced with an inclusive understanding that not everyone needs to perform to the current able-bodied, educated, cisgender, white model to be valuable. In fact, that model should be shattered and replaced with a model that values all contributions. Ahhh…Utopia.
TMae is a cisgender, hetero-partnered mother to a toddler boy. She can be found occasionally blogging at Life V 2.0, and on Twitter @Maehemsez. When she’s not railing against the kyriarchy she can be found procrastinating, and then wondering where all the time went.
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