My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

The F Word: Who Wants to be a Feminist? – 2011

I do!  But it took me a while to get here.  I think we all know women who embrace ideas about equality and women’s rights in particular, but avoid using the word ‘feminist.’  It’s a little sad I think.  Part of what this documentary talked about was whether or not that label is important.  If you are embracing the message, do you really need the label?  I don’t know.  The point was made though, that a bunch of individuals will not have the power of a unified group who all identify themselves as part of the movement.

Who gets to call themselves a feminist?  One woman in this film identifies herself as a ‘conservative feminist.’  Is that a thing?  Is Sarah Palin really a feminist?  Can I believe in strict gender roles and conservative values and still call myself a feminist?  Who owns the word ‘feminist?’ 

Well, no one.  It’s interesting though, as this film pointed out, that young women who embrace feminist values reject the label, but Sarah Palin and Christina Hoff Sommers (the conservative feminist) reject the traditional values of feminism, but embrace the label.   Apparently, there are political and financial incentives for conservative women to publicly call themselves feminists while simultaneously saying that women have it all and there is no need for feminism anymore.  But that’s a scary, depressing thought that makes me kinda angry, so I’ll try to avoid thinking too much about it. 

One thing I am just starting to understand and appreciate about feminism is that you can do it your own way.  You can wear a mini dress or a burqa, lots of makeup or no makeup, shave your legs or not, be a politician or a housewife, date men or women, be a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter. You make your own meaning of these things.  If you feel empowered by what you’re doing, like you’re in control of yourself, your life, and your choices, then really, that’s all that matters.  (Well, if you wanted to support other women, and men, and women’s rights in general that wouldn’t hurt either…)

I was a little worried for a while that I’d hafta stop wearing makeup, liking pink, wearing heels and shaving my legs in order to be a feminist.  But feminism is not sposta suck…  So I decided that as long as I’m not judgmental of non-conforming women, realize that not all girls like pink, and am not disgusted by my own leg hair, then it’s all good.  Maybe if we allowed a more free definition of feminism, more people would want to be a feminist. 

The F Word: Who Wants to be a Feminist?

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Teen Mom 2: Finale Special – 2012

I just finished watching the first half of the Teen Mom 2 Finale Special, and was super impressed with Kailyn, Jo, and Jordan for talking about something that no one else has on 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom as far as I know – STDs.  This is something that we all (at least in Canada) learn about in sex ed classes, but never think will actually happen to us.  When my doctor told me I had herpes, I didn’t think about the health effects, I thought about what people would think about me, what I thought about me, and what it meant about me as a person.   The doctor might as well have told me I had cancer, it felt that surreal and that horrible.  But, unlike with cancer, there was stigma and moral judgements.  I was finally the ‘dirty slut’ people had often implied I was.  (I know cancer is much more serious than herpes, but at the time, herpes felt like the worst thing in the world.)  Now I know that it’s not really a big deal, except for the shame that creeps up now and then.

I think it is so important to have people in media speak out about the reality of STDs because they do happen.  They also happen to decent people, and having one does not make you a bad person.  But this is not what we see in the media.  Too many people make awful, offensive jokes about STDs, and those of us with STDs are too ashamed to speak up. I’m so impressed and inspired that Kailyn was strong enough to talk about this issue on TV.  If she can talk about it, then so can I. 

Please use condoms, even if you’re on birth control.  STDs are not fun.  Also, please stop making ignorant jokes and talking about STDs as if they’re a moral issue.  Nice people have STDs too.  Be careful and be respectful. 

Teen Mom 2: Finale Special

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My Bloody Valentine – 2009

*Spoiler Alert!*

Unfortunately, I kinda love horror movies.  Hard to do as a feminist, but I can’t help it.  In terms of the awful sexism and objectification of women’s bodies that horror movies are usually full of, My Bloody Valentine isn’t too bad.  There was one scene where a naked woman was killed after having sex, but a LOT of people were killed in that movie, so as a percentage, it wasn’t bad.  One point (that I forgot to write about) that Tough Guise makes is that men are conditioned to associate hot naked women with violence.  We see it over and over in horror movies – hot woman, sexual situation, horrible bloody murder.  It’s a little terrifying when you think about it.

What I liked about this movie in terms of gender was that Tom was clearly extremely fucked up by his experience with Harry Warden.  He didn’t just get up after he was almost killed and walk away unaffected.  He left for 10 years, and was very clearly affected by what happened for that whole time.  It also recognizes that men can have a mental illness (although it is not very sympathetic of it… but it’s just a horror movie after all), which is something that we do not like to talk about in our society.  We like to pretend that men are unaffected by trauma, which obviously causes problems for men who experience it.

This movie wasn’t perfect, but horror movies are usually so horrifyingly sexist, racist, misogynistic, exploitative, etc. that in comparison, this was actually pretty good.  Also, Tom is super dreamy.  🙂

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Tough Guise: Men, Violence and the Crisis in Masculinity – Jackson Katz, 1999

I think it’s really important to look at masculinity as well as femininity when examining gender roles in the media.  This documentary is a little dated, and a little on the boring side, but it definitely brought up some really important points.  Unfortunately, although the movies and video games he used as examples are clearly outdated, the problems he was talking about are still everywhere.  

As a straight, single 21-year-old woman, these issues affect me constantly.  Dealing with men who seem to have no emotions can be extremely frustrating, and I can only imagine how hard it must be for them.  Emotions are a huge part of what it means to be human, and denying those emotions is obviously not exactly healthy. 

As I watched, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be a man.  I have thought a lot about the social construction of masculinity, but I have mostly focused on how it affects me, other women, and society in general.  Maybe I’m completely self-centered and selfish, but I really never considered the actual experience of being a man in this society.  I can’t imagine how hard it must be to constantly be policing your own emotions for fear of ridicule, bullying, name-calling and rejection.   This society has stripped away a huge part of men’s humanity and has allowed men to be only a fraction of what they could be.

It’s obvious that defining masculinity in terms of power, control, and violence creates problems for women, who, as a result, suffer physical and emotional harm.  But what I never stopped to consider is that the vast majority of victims of men’s physical violence are other men.  It sounds obvious, but somehow it’s not.  Women would not be the only ones benefiting from a new definition of masculinity.  Men need this change as much as, if not more than, women do. 

This is definitely something that I wish everyone would watch.  It is just as relevant today as it was 13 years ago when it was made.  Clearly, something needs to change.  Men need to stop attacking each other and being afraid of showing a little emotion and vulnerability.   Those of us who date men need to make it clear that men with emotions are desirable.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you need your boyfriend to be crying all the time – but he shouldn’t be ‘tough’ all the time either.  In general, we need to stop using words like ‘fag,’ ‘pussy,’ etc. to maintain this narrow, exclusive definition of masculinity (and for many other reasons of course) that is so harmful to all of us. 

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