Like all blog posts I write, this once has a meandering and seemingly irrelevant introductory paragraph.
After mastering Facebook and losing interest in some of the online discussion boards I’d been frequenting (SOME, friends–just SOME), I decided to give Twitter a try. It hasn’t really been a success, or else maybe I’m impatient, or I don’t know what, but those nebulous dreams I had for it are not being realized. Nonetheless, I’ve had some fine fun and learned things I’ve never expected to learn from people I don’t even know.
One of those things is Feminist Friday at the Transatlantic Blonde blog. I know a person from a website who retweeted an announcement, and it came at this time in my life when I’ve hit my lifetime maximum of frequenting online spaces in which people 1) aren’t aware of how insidious and pervasive sexism is in the culture AND 2) get angry when you explain how it can manifest in things they do and say. (The first group don’t bother me; it’s the second group that wear me out.) No solitary interest of mine that can only be enjoyed within an Internet community–no matter how important the community claims to be–is worth spending time with people who only respect me so long as I maintain their status quo. To paraphrase Grouch Marx, I don’t want to belong to any club that will shit on people like me. Life’s too short, you know?
But I was still just disassociating myself FROM ideas and not speaking up FOR anything else, until news of this Feminist Friday tradition hit my computer. I was just about to link to it via Facebook and had gotten as far as the window that opens up right before you post to your Wall, when I had to go back to the stove to pull dinner out of the oven. The window was still on the screen when Husband came home. Let’s pause for a screen shot, shall we?
After all the Welcome Homes, How Are Yas, he asked me, probably not entirely seriously, “So, are you a feminist?”
For the first time, without preamble and without clarification and without any modifying clauses, I answered yes. I really don’t think I’d said it out loud to answer a direct question before, at least not as an adult. (I said I was all kinds of things in college.) I think he was mostly being polite when he asked, and he didn’t really react to my answer. But it got interesting when I said I was pretty sure he was, too.
Now THAT got a response. He didn’t love hearing that. There was a lot of hemming and hawing, and Government Shouldn’ts and Right to Treat People However and I’m A Personist (he falls somewhere between Libertarian and Anarchist on the political spectrum) and, well, Blah Blah Blah before I could point out that I wasn’t talking about governments and politics–I was talking about feminism. He launched into some protests about the Feminist Manifesto, until I told him that there was no Feminist Manifesto. He named NOW, but that’s a feminist activism group–not feminism. And I asked him what he would say to a friend who was hiring young women fresh out of college at salaries less than young men fresh out of college, with the excuse that they might become pregnant someday. He said that pregnancy does impair a woman’s ability to do some jobs, and that employees who take time off of work to raise children are less productive over the lifetime of their careers and that’s why salaries are lower for women (which is highly debatable but I don’t feel like digging up data for right now). When I pointed out that these young women fresh out of college have not yet taken ANY time off of work and that young men can also develop medical conditions that impair their abilities to do the same job, he said that was true. But he went back to His Right to Run His Business and Legislating Attitudes, so I had to ask him again what he would say to a friend who was planning on hiring young women for less money because of something that might happen to them for no reason other than that they were women.
He said, “That’s discrimination.”
I asked him if he would want to be friends with someone who blatantly discriminates against other people.
He said, “You mean like should I shun them?”
If the two ways to effect social change are government policy or influence individual attitudes, I guess shunning people is one way to do it (because anarchists can’t endorse civil rights legislation in theory). You could also talk to your friends if you liked them enough to try to change their minds, but government was complicating this line of conversation, so I changed topics. I asked him if he’d let a friend take home a woman so drunk she couldn’t say no.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “That’s a violation of her bodily autonomy. You can’t take advantage of people like that.”
Which of course proved to me that he was a feminist, even if he didn’t know it. I pointed that out.
“That’s not feminism,” he said. “That’s just Libertarianism.”
I assured him that it was possible to be two things at the same time. (And it would have sounded awfully condescending to compliment him on his use of the phrase “bodily autonomy,” so I didn’t, but I was impressed. That’s Feminism 102 lingo right there.)
“That’s it? That’s all feminism is? It seems too simple,” he said.
I shrugged my shoulders. It is simple. And I won’t say that I ever curse the sound of my darling children’s voices exactly, but one of them did interrupt the conversation before I could get him to commit to the label. Oh well. I made my point. I committed myself to the label. And it’s not like we’ll never talk at dinner again. I’ve got time.