shun, oh shun that wretched state

by stiefels

The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. — Pat Robertson (x)

The people I surround myself with, both online and in my everyday life, are people I have chosen myself. They’re people I can relate to, people with the same views as me, with the very rare exception of an old friend who may not be as passionate as me about certain causes but doesn’t think they shouldn’t exist either. All in all, the little bubble in which I live is mostly a safe space. My online friends are mostly female feminists who listen to the same music as me, watch the same shows as me and notice how problematic they are in the same sense that I do. If a person I meet online says something that offends me, I either decide to explain why what he/she said was offensive to me or stop interacting with him/her, depending on the situation and person. At school, I hang out with guys who are interested in the social problems of today and who feel the same way I do about this country. They all understand why feminism is a much-needed social movement still to this day, and almost all of them participate in conversations and debates many times per day, about a variety of subjects such as capitalism, which seems to be their favorite, psychology, which I particularly enjoy, or sexism in the western world. I love to hear them argue and each provide examples and counterexamples, or support the other’s thesis. Their conversations don’t end quickly but can often span over entire breaks (as much as forty minutes), and sometimes I participate in them. One of them (he wants to study philosophy which I find super cool) once told me that he had thought feminism was useless nowadays but that he has now realized that it is still needed. Even my family is feminist at a certain degree; however, they’re not as informed and passionate about feminism as I am. All in all, the people I surround myself with have accepted my feminist identity and do not see me as angry or bitter or any of those silly things people often associate female feminists with. They do not think I hate men just because I call them out on their privilege and how they use or abuse it, or how they do not realize others do not have such privilege and aren’t as safe as they are.

So when I step out of my bubble and interact with people who aren’t constant in my life, well, I’m really surprised. Surprised at the idiocy and ignorance of people. Surprised at how my own generation’s mindset can be so backwards.

Today at school I hung out with one of my friends I don’t usually hang out with in her classroom where she was studying for a class she had in the evening. Classes at school during breaks are usually empty with the exception of a couple of them who seem to attract idle students who hang out in there, playing music, chatting, studying. Her class is that class this year. So as I’m in there people come in, sit around us, and we all talk to each other. Two of my friends start talking about some new club one of our classmates was creating and how she’s trying to recruit people. I ask my friend what the club is about because I’m curious. The girl is applying early at Harvard so in a way it makes sense that she would create an entirely new school club, it shows she’s a leader who can take initiative and motivate people to join. Admissions officers love that shit.

“It has to do with feminism” comes her reply and I fucking light up! A feminist club! In my school! I must join at once! I leave immediately and go to find her. When I do I tell her I’ve heard she’s starting a club and that I want to know more about it.

“What? No, of course not, I’m not a feminist! I love guys, my relationship with guys is great. Who’s starting such a rumor?” is what she replies with when I tell her I’ve heard it’s a feminist club.

And in that moment I remember that the world isn’t just my silly little bubble of people I have hand-picked who know to talk about certain things only in certain ways because they can make me uncomfortable and agree with me on almost all my opinions. No, there are young women my age who are offended when you call them feminists.

Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state,
And all the fawning flatt’rers hate:
Value your selves, and men despise,
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise.
— Mary Chudleigh (x)

At that point I got really angry. I am offended that she would think that, would be saying that to my face. I tell her that it’s not a fucking disease to carry around, it’s absolutely reasonable she’d be a feminist, it makes sense and all young women should be feminists. It’s not a “rumor” to spread. She tells me she doesn’t want people to think she’s a feminist because she’s not. She says that since this is our senior year she doesn’t want people to shape a false image about her because she won’t be able to change it in the future.

Sure, there’s a stigma. Feminists hate men. Feminists want to eradicate men so that they can rule the earth. Feminists are lesbians. But that’s not what feminism is and people like her, smart and educated, should be able to tell the difference between the two,

Feminism never made me hate men. The reaction to feminism did that. (x)

There’s a guy with her, an old classmate of mine, who, when I mention that I am a feminist, asks me why I hate men. When I tell him that feminism isn’t about hating men but about loving women and wanting to stop their oppression and make sure that they aren’t being mistreated but treated as equals to men, he tells me that feminist organizations attack men because they hate them; therefore, feminists hate men. I elaborated, telling him that society fits women into certain roles and stereotypes that oppress them and hold them back. He has the audacity to tell me that most of them are valid, since we are crazy.

I bring facts in the conversation, statistics, tell him about how women and men in the US get different sentences for the same crimes just like whites get off the hook more easily than people of other ethnic backgrounds. I talk about rape and wanting to make women feel safe, about how a teacher rapes his student and he gets 30 days of jail time, the blame falling on the girl’s shoulder who couldn’t bear it anymore and killed herself. I contrast that to what happens when a woman shoots in the air when she feels threatened and gets a 10 year prison sentence. And what he says is one of the worst things one can say to me. I don’t know if this is a Greek thing. I’ve only heard Greeks do it, so I can’t know for sure.

“Why do you care so much, were you raped?”

I’m fucking reeling. I’m talking a lot faster and louder than I usually do, and I hope I’m not yelling. All I need right now is to add to his ignorance by being an Angry Feminist. Which, I have absolutely every right to be because he’s an idiot and he should actually not be allowed to speak. At least not in my vicinity.

“I support gay rights, does that make me gay?”

“I’m confused.”

What a concept, that one would care about the rights of groups one’s not part of! This logic that seems to be very dominant in Greece, and I hope it isn’t in other parts of the world, confuses me so much. A society consists of different groups depending on different parts of a person (his cultural background, his socioeconomic status, his gender identity, etc). I’ve had enough of rich white cis men only caring about fellow rich white cis men, and that’s coming from someone with a great amount of privilege. I’m white, I come from an upper-middle class family, I’m (probably) heterosexual and my assigned gender matches the one I identify with, I’m European, I’m about to graduate high school and go to college, and I have traveled abroad. I’m privileged, and I’m trying to use that so that I can voice the concerns of people who can’t do that on their own because of their lack of privilege.

I tried to explain to him that any intelligent human being should know better than that, should realize that human rights refer to all humans and not just the privileged ones. When he tells me that women have the same rights as men when it comes to the constitution, I ask him if he truly believes that is happening in real life. Just like racism, sexism is a very prominent social issue, yet people think it’s not a problem. But, unlike racism, people take sexism very lightly. They don’t think it’s real. Even the smart and educated ones, like the Philosopher once told me. Society hides its oppression of women very well if you’re not looking for it. When people are willfully ignorant, they do not notice the little things that the oppressed do. Last year there was this girl in my class who would connect almost any piece of literature we studied to the oppression of women and feminism. The groans my male classmates would emit as soon as she made such a connection usually made it difficult to even hear her. They weren’t able to realize that these connections – even if far-fetched at some cases – were there, could easily be made if you were a woman. You could understand what the poet wanted to say because of how life and society had treated you just because you were born with a vagina. They wouldn’t even try to see how her connection could be valid or not. They wouldn’t evaluate it scientifically, just automatically declare it as invalid and say she was exaggerating.

I really do forget the people who are prominently constant in my life aren’t the only people I’ll ever make contact with, and it makes me sad. I do not realize the problem hits so close to home when I do not speak to them regularly. But then someone will make a sexist joke in class and I will not laugh, or will talk about a woman in a degrading way because of how she expresses her sexuality. A guy will make a joke that doesn’t sit right with me and I’ll scold him and in the end he’ll just walk away thinking I’m crazy. A guy will make a sexist comment in the middle of class when I will mutter to myself about how disgusting that was, my female classmates that sit close enough to hear me will look at me funnily and not comment.

I do come off as angry. Then people realize I’m a feminist. They fit me into a stereotype that only harms myself and my cause. Their doing that only adds up to my rage and the circle is never-ending. I cannot escape this prejudice. It’s really frustrating that people do not view the world and their fellow persons as I do.

I like my little bubble. I really do. Because when I get frustrated with the world I can go back to it until I’m calm. I can talk to my friends and together we can express our rage in a healthy way. I love that I can just vent to my best friend about incidents at school and she can tell me her own experiences, and in the end we can decide that people suck. There’s something comforting in the fact that there are people around you that think the same way you do. But I do wish my bubble was bigger. I wish it included dozens of people, people I may only speak to once per week. I wish more people realized we still need feminism.