The Epic

Over dinner Saturday night (last week), I was talking to the spook about something or another I happened to have read in one of my feminist mags (Bust, Bitch and Ms.). He asked me why I read the magazines, because I didn't seem like much of a feminist.

I was surprised, but asked him what he meant, and he said that I don't hate men (I'm paraphrasing here, I'm sure).

So I said a little bit about how there are different extremes of feminism, and that no, I'm not at the end that hates men. We moved on to another subject shortly thereafter, but the question kinda stuck with me.

I've read and collected (with the intention of reading) a lot of feminist literature. Without doing a comparative review of the various philosophies, I can only presume that, based upon my own interests and subsequently, the books to which I would be drawn, that they are similar in nature as far as degrees of extremism goes -- but as I said, many are, as of yet, unread.

However, it's important to realize that, as with many different theories, there are many different "scales" of feminism, and many concerns for feminism to address. We are all products of our societies and upbringings, and as a result, we each have our own priorities.

Regardless of the number of times I may have said it on this site, I don't hate men. Most of my friends -- and likely all of my best friends -- are men. I am primarily straight, which means I am attracted to men, and much of what goes along with that -- their smells, their muscles, their body hair, their thoughts, their actions, their feelings, their penises.

Yes, I put that last one in the list. While I do believe there exists a very phallocentric bias in our society (which I could detail at a later date, if there is interest), I'm also hard-wired to enjoy the phallus on its own merits. Sorry, but there's something hot about the feel of a hardon pressed against you -- under the right circumstances (more here, at "Caught Next to a Hard Place").

And that's just it. My feminism includes heterosexuality -- as well as homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality/transgenderism. My feminism allows for the removal of bodily hair, the wearing of makeup and skirts, heels, low-cut tops, push-up bras, thongs, g-strings, granny panties, whatever you'd like. But, I feel that if you want to wear any of those things, you should do it for yourself. I shave my legs semi-regularly during the winter because I prefer the feel and it helps alleviate problems with dry skin -- not because I'm worried it might gross out my boy. If that's all it takes to turn him off (or out of my bed), well, he won't be able to handle a lot of other stuff that comes with me being me (a rant about women, men and bodily functions would go well here, if I hadn't lost the post).

I don't wear makeup because I'm too lazy to wash my face before bed most nights, and I think I look pretty okay without it.

My feminism includes looking as feminine or as butch as you'd like -- wear jeans and t-shirts, wear blouses and skirts, whatever.

My feminism speaks to equal rights. That's something we finally saw when women's right to wander topless was brought into effect -- something I'd been talking about for years (either give us all the right, or ban the men from doing it, too). Equal rights includes a woman's right to work in an environment where they are paid the same as their male counterparts, and they can work free from harrassing language and images.

But not just the same rights as the men in my life and the lives of others. There are some rights that are more directed to women, that affect us more. Reproductive rights, for one. There are regions of the US where pharmacists are refusing to to fill women's birth control prescriptions because it goes against their beliefs (1). Some of these same pharmacists are refusing to tell women other places they can go to get their prescriptions filled, or even holding onto their prescriptions and refusing to release them (2). Some of these pharmacists will fill prescriptions for married women, but some of these require proof of the woman's marital status, first.

Needless to say, these are likely the same people who are against abortion rights. I am pro-choice, and have been as long as I've known what the term meant -- as near as I can recall, that's been since I was 13 or 14, if not younger. I have always known that if I were to wind up pregnant at a time when I could not support myself and a baby for whatever reasons, I would not have weeks or months of agony or torment over making the decision to have an abortion.

I support all choices -- having the baby, giving it up for adoption, or abortion. I do not support abortion used as a form of birth control, or for choosing the gender of the baby. I'm undecided when it comes to babies born with genetic defects; I think that's between the parents and the doctor. I don't believe it's up to me to decide whether or not a mother, father, or family -- be it a heterosexual couple, two moms or two dads -- should be required to raise a child they are not prepared to raise, and that includes trying to tell someone they can support a child, regardless of health and financial status, etc. It is absolutely an issue that is dependant on the situation at hand.

At the same time, I will on occasion express an opinion *against* some people having babies -- when they don't have the money, the emotional readiness, and so on. Maybe I don't have all the details and I'm being judgemental, but we're all entitled to our own opinions, yes? I don't tell the people themselves those things, just others. And there are certainly those who are having babies that I think are totally ready and will make fantastic parents.

I've gone on a tangent, though. My feminism supports mothers and fathers, and includes daycare so that mothers and fathers can work and raise children. I believe there should be support for parenthood, instead of guilt trips and difficulties.

I saw the movie "Stepford Wives" in theatres with D last year, and we discussed afterwards how it frightened me (I thought I wrote about it here, but can't seem to find a post on it). It frightened me because there do exist men who only want wives who cook, clean, and put out as the man desires. They do not want women who express opinions, have feelings or thoughts or aspirations of their own -- or personalities of their own, for that matter. Women in those relationships are mere accessories, or trophies to be displayed before the other men as examples of what the husbands can achieve -- for men in those situations, regardless of their physical appearance, intellectual state or emotional makeup, always seem to feel entitled to the young, beautiful women.

Of course, there is something disturbing to be said about the women who allow themselves to be in those situations. I don't kid myself that anyone is dating me first and foremost for my face or body -- to date me, you have to have a pretty high tolerance and appreciation for my (difficult) personality and sense of humour. I subscribe to the Miranda Hobbes, of Sex and the City fame's theory: "Sexy is the thing I try to get them to see me as after I win them over with my personality." I take pride in being attractive based on my intelligence and personality.

Though I will admit to being flattered when someone finds me physically attractive. I don't have the bar star physique -- tall, slim, long blonde hair, busty, tanned -- so finding someone who's drawn to me (someone with the body type I describe as capable of throwing a cow over my shoulder and taking it off to the barn -- hooray for Ukraine and Irish peasant stock genetics!) over what society dictates as "ideal" is a flattering occurance. I'll admit it -- but then again, how many among us don't like to be made to feel attractive?

A lot of us have a difficult time giving or receiving compliments. I try to make sure I do give them now and again -- though people seem to react oddly to being told they're wearing a nice cologne (something I'd say now and again to the appropriate people when I was working at the book store). Go figure.

Actually, whenever I'm riding the bus, if I find myself staring at someone for whatever reason, I always try to come up with something I like about what they're wearing in case they get upset and challenge me. I've always been a paranoid monkey, it would seem.

I've also always had a difficult time staying on-topic. I wanted to discuss the virgin/whore complex, and the role people like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and so on play as "role models," but couldn't come up with a good segue, so this is it. My segue, that is.

I strongly believe that these women represent terrible role models for women of all ages. We have Britney, who is on record as saying that now she is married, she doesn't want or need to dress up all sexy, and her public had better get used to it.

We have Paris Hilton, recently quoted as saying that she plans to settle down and be a good wife. Apparently she has only been playing at being a dumb blonde, that she considers herself a businesswomen and a brand.

I'lls tick with these two for now, since they've been in the news most recently.

First of all, I fully support anyone's right to wear the sluggiest clothes around. Goodness knows I have no fashion sense, and I do it, too. I also fully support anyone's right to mock and/or trash anyone's outfits -- also something I do on occasion.

However -- honey, darling, baby -- you are completely undermining feminism when you say it's now because you're married that you don't have to dress nicely. You are exacerbating so many stereotypes by perpetuating the myth that women only dress nicely to snag ourselves a husband, then it's curlers, cold creams, sweat pants and bonbons until we die! Dress nicely for yourselves, not for a guy (or girl). But also, don't just totally let yourself go -- people don't like feeling like they've been taken for granted, and that often happens when you completely let go of all your grooming habits, just because you've nabbed a partner. And yes, this applies to boys as well as girls -- maybe you don't have to style your hair as regularly, or wear as much makeup or your outfits quite so tight, but a little effort is appreciated and can go a long way.

(And when you're dealing with a guy who already left the mother of two of his children, when she was 8 months pregnant with the second, you might want to examine why he left her for you -- not that I'm trying to imply she let herself go or anything like that, relationships are about two people, but it's possible he was attracted in some way to your high-maintenance lifestyle. He obviously didn't feel obligated to stay around for the children -- and reports state that he's missed out on the birth of the second for a reason I can't recall, and the birthday of the first because of filming a video with you... what a catch!)

Secondly, I won't get into what I think of people sa brands. I find it very sad that there might in some way exist a Paris Hilton brand. Not to mention the fact that this woman's self as brand revolves around their main items/issues, as I see it: her identity as a blonde ditz (a la Simple Life or the "loss" of her chihuahua, who she "forgot" was being dogsat); her identity as sex object (a la sex tapes -- which are mysteriously released anytime her name falls out of the news for any length of time -- or her ad for that American burger chain); and finally, her identity as petulant heiress, famous mainly for being famous -- a la "divorcing" her best friend, a la "shock and dismay" of the "hacking" of her cell phone, a la complaining of how it is no longer fun to go out and have "losers" want to have their picture taken with her.

Umm, boo hoo? You made your bed -- then "accidentally" lost the sheets, pillows and video of you sleeping in it. All I can say to the heading, "Hilton Plans to Quit Public Life in Two Years" (3)is -- can we get that promise in writing? Please?

I get so angry with the vapid women who fill our airwaves with their cute, giggly soundbites. Jessica Simpson, another prime candidate for a brain transplant (or simply a refill from an air-pump station), is playing this role up as Daisy Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard movie. Now, maybe she's only playing the role from the original tv series (and sure, I haven't seen it, so I can only go by what I've seen so far), but honey -- why don't you play against type for a change?

When a woman only sells herself as T&A, she tells society that it's acceptable to look at all women that way, that we actively enjoy, encourage and solicit that sort of attention. Now, of course everyone enjoys being made to feel attractive (see earlier), but that sort of attention isn't the same. That attentino is debasing and devaluing, and is all about the sum of your parts, instead of the sum that is you.

Being regarded for just our parts is a major element of the virgin/whore complex (as is attitude/behaviour, but I'll get there). When we are seen only for our tits, ass, legse or what-have-you, it becomes that much easier to disassociate personality and person from the parts, and whatever characteristcs one wants to said person. Frequently, our society determines that a woman with a voluptuous body -- for example, Angelina Jolie -- is someone who is willing to pursue a married man, or do any other host of untenable things. The fact that she is on record as being sexually experimental simply feeds into that mythos.

Men are, of course, not immune from this stereotyping, but it doesn't seem to be near as popular. I'll readily admit, a large part of James Marsters appeal stems from the fact that, to me, he looks like someone who knows hot o have dirty sex -- and would cuddle you afterwards -- but how many other public male figures are on record with so-called "questionable" sexual proclivities (and to my knowledge, he isn't; I just choose to assign them to him).

A woman with large breasts, large lips, long legs, a tight ass -- choose whatever is the ideal of the day -- is open to anything with anyone, or so goes the stereotype. We want to touch beautiful people, and we assume they want to be touched in return. No one ever imagines themselves as unappealing to others (even if they complain of low self-esteem, I still hold this to be at least somewhat true), so we find it difficult to grasp that other person might find it objectionable to receive physical contact from us -- be it a touch on the arm or leg, a backrub, a hug, or even in some cases, something more.

When our focus becomes concentrated on body parts as objects to be touched, patted, tasted, kissed, licked, attained -- then we do not see the tension of one who does not wish to be touched. We do not see the (hidden?) look of disgust, discomfort, or other "non-interest." We lose sight of the forest in pursuit of the tree.

This is where communication and respect are hugely important. If we respect one another, we do not go grabbing the body parts unless we are positive the attention is welcomed. When it comes to touching or touching near society-delineated and personally-delineated private parts, it's best to adopt a "hands-off without express invitation" policy. These lines may be blurred somewhat in coupled situations, but just because we have a more-or-less open-door policy on the parts doesn't mean respect should be forgotten. Needless to sya, if either of you has someone whose parts you're allowed to touch, you shouldn't be touching those of others (except in agreed-upon circumstances, etc.). It doesn't matter how pretty they may be, or how different from your partners' -- unless the owner of the parts invites you, and your partner says it's okay, don't touch. We're not in kindergarten playing Doctor anymore.

Attitude, as I earlier stated, also appears to play a major part in how we are societally-perceived, and, consequently, perceived by our friends. It has been my personal experience that the ability to discuss sex openly and honestly, in a shame-free and educated, mature manner, makes one a slut who is sleeping with every guy to whom she speaks, and is obviously guilty of every sexual 'transgression' of which she is accused. And all because... bah. That's a separate, private rant -- but I know that I'm not the only one hwo is subjected to it. As a society, we love to tear down our heroes, especially those who are strong people -- and no, I'm not considering myself a hero by any stretch, but I do firmly and proudly consider myself to be a strong, independent person.

Weak personalities, particularly in women, upset me greatly. I know it can be disenheartening or lonely at times to look after yourself or be on your own, but it's a fun challenge. I adore having a huge apartment to myself, one that I can decorate and clean -- or not clean -- as I wish. If I want to wander in the buff and leave clothes lying around and stay up late watching girly movies or playing video games -- that's my prerogative, and I'm not convinced I would have that same freedom if I wasn't the one paying all the bills. Ideally I would, but any guy in here would likely get tired of all the naked.

If you rely on smoeone else to be your keeper, chauffeur, cook, sugar daddy, etc. -- then that comfort, once you've grown used to it, is much more difficult to give up. Suddenly you may be required to pay more, cook for yourself, drive yourself around, get a credit card, pay your own bills, set up the bills and assorted utilities on your own, figure out your own taxes, masturbate/go without sex... it's daunting, but if you're independent of character and/or have done it before, it's not scary or insurmountable -- it's just a pain in the ass.

Despite all of these assertions of independance and so on, there are times that I encounter a situation to which I know not the best response. Whether it's simply not wishing to hurt someone's feelings, disrupt group harmony, risk angering or upsetting a friendship, or any number of other reasons, sometimes otherwise strong or dominant personalities leave issues alone -- on the surface.

I find that's the mark of a good friend; someone to whom you can vent about a situation, without fear of your venting getting out and disturbing the current state of affairs -- and where, ideally, they can relate to your frustrations. Friends -- especially sympathetic ones -- are great.

So, all of this came about as a result of being told I don't seem like a feminist. Maybe it is time to invest in a "this is what a feminist looks like" shirt from Bust.

Of course, when I told someone of my other friends about that question, several of them asked if the spook was still alive. Who knew I was so volatile?

I think it's very sad that many women do not associate themselves with the term feminist -- especially since more often than not, the woman distancing herself from the question is someone in the public eye, or in a position of prominance who, years before, would have not made it to where she is now -- feministm is, I choose to believe, directly responsible for the number of successful women in the world. Whether sucecss to you is a clean and safe home, reponsible, clothed, sheltered and educated children, a large number of possessions or being at the top of your career ladder -- or even just being satisifed in your position, pink-collar or not, I think feminism has a lot to do with that success -- or at least reducing or eliminating those barriers to your success.

Unfortunately, feminism still has its detractors. The main one to come to mind is that of Kansas State Senator Kay O'Connor -- a woman -- who says that "she doesn't support the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote, and that if it were being considered today she would vote against it" (4).

She believes "that the amendment was the first step in a decades-long erosion of traditional family values" and that "if men had been protecting the best interests of women, then women would not be forced to cast ballots and serve in the state legislature. Instead, they could stay home, raise families and tend to domestic duties."

She says that "rules created by men did not allow her the opportunity to stay home and care for her [sick] child." She got into politics by accident after her retirement, and she believes that "as a state leader... it is more important to stay true to her convictions than simply mirror the views of her constituents." Finally, if her husband asked her to quit (if the trips to Topeka got to be too much), she would.

Let's examine the inconsistencies in this, shall we?

1. She does vote (see source).
2. She obviously benefits from women having the vote -- as one who does it, and as one who was elected, at least in part, by women voters (I find it highly unlikely that only men voters would have cast ballots in her favour).
3. She is out in the workforce at a time when most men and women are long retired (at the time of the article, written in 2001, her age is given as 81), and not at home, tending to her husband and household's needs.
4. She's in a position of prominence, one she would not hold, were it not for women's suffrage, and, more broadly, feminism.
5. What about those few of us who don't find fulfillment in cleaning house?
6. What about those of us who prefer to stand on our own two feet, and not wholly rely on another person to pay the bills, or tend to our needs?
7. What about those of us who derive satisfaction from being out in the workforce?
8. ARGH.

I'm reminded of one of the guests who appeared a number of times on one of my shows, who believed that feminism was directly responsible for the erosion of the family. She was about my age, 23 or 24 at that time, and in school to become a lawyer.

Now, though I never was able to share my views on her beliefs with her, my "traditional family values" response would have been something along the lines of:

Okay, revert to your desire for traditional family values (tm). To begin, you're over the hill -- why aren't you married? Where are your children?

Please remove yourself from university; you're occupying valuable student seat space that could be better used by a man, one who stands a chance of becoming a lawyer and not quitting to raise a family.

Women make ineffectual lawyers. Their hormones and periods make them irrational, and they are too delicate to handle the more "unseemly" cases.

Also, and maybe this one is a bit more extreme, but please don't put yourself on the radio. If nothing else, this show airs from 5-7, a time during which you should be making and eating dinner with your family. You don't speak for me, and, I like to imagine, for many other women in many different fields, who are currently working hard to support themselves as well as their children (if they have any).

Mind you, that argument works in reverse -- you can just as easily say that I don't speak for you, which is fair. But I wasn't the one on air.

I fully support women's right to stay home and be the primary at-home caregiver. It's not a role I wish for myself at this time, but maybe when the biological clock kicks in and I've suckered some poor bastard into wanting and loving me forever and ever (tm), I'll feel differently. But I refuse to believe that my biological makeup will make me better-suited to staying at home, cleaning, cooking or nurturing. I'm contrary that way -- and I think someone like my ex-bf J is a much better caregiver than I. Although my kitties are fairly well looked-after...

So-called "traditional values" have been re-defined many times through the years in oder to suit the society at the time. During the Industrial Revolution up through the Great Depression (I believe), it was common for children to work in order to support and supplement the household. The acceptance of homosexual affairs has ebbed and flowed from the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Society and societal mores have changed with the teimes; I can only hope that we are evolving and moving forward, to a position of equality for men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgenders, people of different cultures, races, and religions -- from all walks of life. My feminism includes all of that.

Except for when I hate people. Then it's me and my cats, and nuts to the rest of ya.

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