Feminism is a confusing movement. While I think its underlying message is equality for all, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, class, abilities etc., and that’s certainly the attitude I try to adopt, there’s so much in-fighting, distancing of clearly feminist celebrities from identifying as one (“I’m not a feminist, but…”), and misinformation in the mainstream media that it’s easy to be confused by it.
I, myself, am still coming to terms with different aspects of feminism and what “my feminism” is.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was a feminist, because I think it’s always been lurking there beneath the surface. As a teen, I’d argue with my mother about sexual representations of women. She is a traditional and somewhat stereotypical “bra-burning” hippie and feminist, and turns her nose up at any remotely sexual portrayal of a woman, be it on magazine covers, in music videos, film or television. She has sometimes been known to privately denigrate women on the street! I, on the other hand, think that just because a woman dresses/talks/acts a certain way, we can’t jump to conclusions about who she is because of this. Sure, sometimes I’m guilty of hurdling over said conclusions right into judgement town, but I think being aware of this and acknowledging that it’s wrong is a step in the right direction for feminism. I’ll start judging you once I’ve gotten to know you!
But I do remember the first time I publicly acknowledged that I’m a feminist. A group of my co-workers and I were in our workplace’s library, in the gender section. Someone commented that we should pick up some books for a fellow out-and-proud feminist, and also noted that I was a “closet feminist”. I proudly and promptly told them otherwise.
I studied professional writing and media at uni, and there was a component or two about gender studies in there, but I really started getting into feminism about two years ago, around the time I started my blog, The Early Bird Catches the Worm.
What began as book and magazine reviews and pop culture as burgeoned into my take on pop culture from a feminist and gender studies point of view.
My “pet feminist interests”, if you like, are abortion, slut-shaming/victim-blaming and gender stereotyping.
Abortion is something I’ve always felt very strongly about since my early teens and even more so as I get older and understand the politics and legalities surrounding the procedure. My person view is that if in doubt, abort. Now, that is a viewpoint that’s gotten me into trouble a few times, and I’m certainly the exception not the rule when it comes to being pro-choice. To me, a feotus is not a baby, it’s just a mass of “unwanted tissue” as I read on a Sociological Images post. I think we need to start making the ideological shift that will remove the taboo from abortion. But if what’s going on in the U.S. at the moment with the mass-defunding of Planned Parenthood is any indication, it doesn’t look so good…
I attended SlutWalk Melbourne earlier in the year which really opened me up to the slut-shaming and victim-blaming culture we live in. I get so incensed when people insinuate that women—or certain types of women—somehow “asked for” their sexual assault. I engaged in a blogging battle on the topic last year on The Early Bird, which you can read here.
Finally, gender stereotyping really irks me. Whether it’s Barbie’s for girls and trucks for boys, or women having to act a certain way in order to attract a mate (I must be acting the wrong way then, as I’ve been single pretty much my whole adult life!), and men being urged to “man up” (whatever that means!), it all shits me no end!
When I asked a friend if she thought of herself as a feminist, she scoffed, “No way, ’cause I want to cook for my boyfriend.” If that’s what feminism is all about, then I might have to renege on my membership!
As far as the women’s movement has come, we’ve still got a long way to go, baby. In fact, in recent years, it feels like we’re moving backwards. With the aforementioned abortion debate that’s raging in the U.S. and whose effects are being felt here, too, the wage gap, and the outright misogynist views I hear espoused on a daily basis, being a feminist can be disheartening at times. But if I can influence just one person’s thought patterns to make them more sympathetic and understanding of the plight of women—not just the white and middle class like myself, but women from all walks of life—then that makes me proud to be a feminaust.
Scarlett Harris blogs about pop culture, gender and feminism daily at The Early Bird Catches the Worm. When she’s not “jogging, blogging and watching True Blood”, as her friends jokingly sum her interests up as, she enjoys having a boogie to some craptastic pop music and lives for costume parties. But, at the end of the day, she just loves to curl up in bed with some good reading material.