I don’t know about you, but when I look at my closet and everything is clean and available I breathe a sigh of contentment and say to myself, “Look how great today is going to be! I have all these options and choices!” Now, we may not all be fashionistas with a shirt in every color and style out there, but you get the point: what instinctually feels better, the freedom and ability to choose or the limitation imposed by a lack of choices and options? Even if, for you, looking at my closet would be overwhelming and you prefer your own 3 or 4 standard issue costume changes, wouldn’t you rather have access to that choice than be restricted from it? This, kids, is the beating heart of feminism thinly disguised as a reason to applaud my walk-in.
Put aside all the garbage that comes to mind when you hear the word “feminism” for a moment, and journey with me to a blissful land envisioned by participants in the feminist movements of our time: a place where equality abounds for all and where we’ve wiped out the traditional heteronormative, sex-and-gender-dichotomous roadmap and set in its place every choice our imaginations could gin up… and the critical RESPECT that would make each and every one valid, celebrated and placed firmly within our reach. Harkening back to the closet (pun fully intended!), perhaps this would leave you feeling a little overwhelmed or unsure of how the world worked? The beauty of this new world is that you can choose the traditional IF it speaks to and empowers you… you have unlimited choice.
Feminism is a four letter word in many parts of our society, long-suffering a bum rap pigeon-holing it into the camp of radical lesbianism (you know, those man-hating Feminazis you hear so much about) and mischaracterizing it as liberation for only the ladies. I’m here to tell you that when we lift damaging sex and gender stereotypes we ALL win, both women and men. Not sure I’m right? Give it some thought… how many men out there don’t fit that mold of hyper masculinity portrayed on every billboard and assaulting you on every gym advertisement? Maybe you’re rail thin and your look is more androgynous, or maybe there’s a lot of you to love and that pair of 30 inch waist jeans would comfortably hug your upper thigh at best. Maybe you weren’t blessed with an aptitude for sports, maybe you fancy the therapeutic touch of a good cry, maybe you’d rather be in the kitchen than out chopping wood? In any of these scenarios and millions more, you just don’t fit that traditional mold and it’s probably meant, at best, that life has been full of teasing and a search for community. On the flipside, maybe you’re the linebacker who took to ballet like a fish to water or the construction worker creating gorgeous furniture in your free time but afraid to ever share it. Who did those things to us? Made one narrow band of choices the only acceptable ones and left the rest of human behavior in the junk pile?
I can see lights going on over heads. This is Feminism 101, people. Society has a vested interest in us playing the roles that net forces in this world the most money and drive us the most quickly toward that all-consuming goal of populating our planet. The game is rigged that way NOT because nature provides and shows no alternative, but because it benefits someone (or those pesky corporations who now get peoplehood status, too). Why else would the color-coding start at birth (boys get blue, girls get pink… sidebar… ALSO a recent societal invention showing our gender mores DO indeed change!)? Why else would the gender norms be rigidly enforced via teasing and corrective action that alienates nonconformists? You may not fall that far outside the “norm”, but I’ll bet even you wanted a little extra latitude at some point and found instead a redirection back to your prescribed role and behavior.
Ask yourself what the harm would be in more choice and you’ve just started your own feminist debate. Welcome to the team!