August 20, 2010 2 Comments
The more I blog, the more I’ve found myself talking to friends about feminist issues. I discussed them before with friends, sure, but only with ones I knew were feminists themselves.
Being a feminist in a red state can be difficult. For the most part, I know the political persuasions of my friends. Many of those friends are Republicans, and many more have at least some conservative leanings. So much of the time, I avoid politics when talking to friends. It’s easier that way. (edit: clarification: I avoid talking about certain issues with my more conservative friends. I can’t not talk about politics!)
But the more involved with blogging I’ve become, the harder it is to avoid it. (Hey, who wouldn’t be excited about your blog getting a larger readership, interning and moderating for other blogs, and another opportunity coming your way?) So, I talk.
And predictably, they get pretty heated. I’m traveling with a friend of mine currently, (Hello from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California!) and well, when you travel with one other person, you talk. A lot. When I say things get heated, I mean I get heated. I’m largely a self-educated feminist. As much as I would have loved participating in and completing the Women’s Studies program at my alma mater, I didn’t have the time to do it. I did what I always do when I want to learn about something: I read. I read books, I read blogs, and I read articles on news sites and in academic journals. I read court cases. Knowing all I know, it’s often frustrating talking to others who know so little of feminism, and much of that being myths and stereotypes.
It’s amazing to me that for so many people, feminism is this mythological creature that, like God, is mysterious, and is unable to be completely known. Outside of feminist circles, it’s spoken about in vague terms, with much hand-waving and platitudes. My non-feminist friends are no exception. When a topic is shrouded in vague and mystifying terms like feminism is, people often only know of generalities. Like many political issues, feminist issues are complicated and cannot be reduced to soundbites, but often are.
In these conversations with my friends, I strive to bring specificity to the table. I tell them of specific ways that these “feminisms” have manifested themselves in my life or theirs. I tell my stories. I tell Momma Beemer’s stories. Why? Because they’re raw, they’re real. No one can parrot a two-minute segment they saw on Fox News in an attempt to prove it’s not true.
By sharing my experiences, I expose the myth that sexism, sexual harassment, and rape, as well as other problems with patriarchal society are not rare, because to continue to believe so would mean that I’ve lived a life so extraordinary it would almost be mythological. And they know my life is not extraordinary. It’s not fantastical. My life is just like theirs. They can’t dispute it.
In so doing, it brings feminism back down to earth. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s a passionate movement that seeks to bring real change to the world, and for the better. It’s fair. It’s just. It’s free.
I may not change their minds, but I’ve accomplished something. With one friend, he realized that his views of rape were incomplete, wrong. That’s progress, even though he still rants about “those crazy liberals” in front of me, and insists that I’m not one of them, because I’m reasonable. That’s progress. Another friend, so shielded in his adolescence and young adulthood, has a lot to learn, and though he’s conservative, he can see my passion and admires it. That’s progress.