The dreaded eight-letter F-word.
I feel as though I need to clarify how feminism fits into my life. It’s become an incredibly broad term encompassing an enormous range of ideologies, so it’s often tricky to identify as a feminist without qualifying that statement. And while I could go off on a veritable diatribe against having to qualify feminism, I think it does more good to define what it means to me than to rail against others for not magically intuiting my stance.
Although this Onion article is clearly a joke, I’ve met plenty of people who think feminism operates somewhere along these lines. Honestly, if all I heard was the vocal minority of radical feminists, I could see myself arriving at this conclusion as well.
Feminism isn’t here to say I can’t cook dinner in a dress. Feminism is here to say I can do whatever the hell I want (within reason, of course – I think murder’s still out). Whether or not what I do conforms to gender stereotypes—however you define them—is irrelevant. The point of feminism to take away those suffocating limits, not replace them with new ones.
I adhere to a brand of feminism with a single, finite end: equality. Make no mistake—this equality goes both ways. I am not a misandrist, nor do I believe that women cannot be sexist. Now, the “women cannot be sexist” argument tends to go something like this: sexism is about oppression, and our society does not place women in a position where they can oppress men, so women cannot be sexist even if they are prejudiced against men. I know I’ll be stepping on some toes here, but this argument strikes me as more semantic than functional. If it’s equality we’re after, any prejudice is our enemy—no matter if we call it sexism, prejudice, or comeuppance.
Here’s what it boils down to, quoting Tina Fey of course (which is kind of inevitable given the topic). This is an excerpt from her fantastic book Bossypants:
“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and ‘unladylike.’
Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said: ‘Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.’
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. ‘I don’t f*cking care if you like it.’ Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit …
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not f*cking care if you like it.”
Yes, there are tricky topics. Yes, there are nuances. Yes, there are aspects of the argument that all sides need to address. But we can sum it up with a pretty simple rule of thumb: do what you want to do, and don’t care if they like it. If you’re not hurting anyone, then more power to you—whoever you are, and whatever you’re choosing to do. I’ll be wearing lipstick and watching football, and neither of those makes me a bad feminist.