Tag Archives: equality

Straight People, Don’t Do Me No Favors!

It’s happened again.

Every so often it happens. A straight friend, or acquaintance, or just human who I’ve met, makes an announcement “I’m not getting married until everyone can get married!”

Sometimes they make the announcement in a general sort of way, and sometimes it is aimed directly at me (“it’s just not fair to you!”) Sometimes these people are engaged, sometimes they are single, though typically they are at least partnered. Sometimes I get the impression that they are using this political stance to avoid a commitment they probably don’t really want in the first time, and sometimes I get the impression that they desperately want to be married and are so appalled that some people can’t have the thing they want so they are denying themselves. What all these people have in common is that they care, they deeply care, about what they perceive as a great injustice. So before I go on, before I say what I have to say, I want to stop and thank every single one of them. If you are a human being who can legally marry the person of your choosing, and you are so upset that some people (like me) can’t legally marry the person of their choosing that you are considering forgoing the whole thing: THANK YOU SO MUCH. Thank you for caring, thank you for thinking of us, thank you for your empathy and your compassion and your frustration.

But just get married if you want to. Seriously. I understand that your compulsion to bypass on marriage comes from a good place, but please, don’t make me part of your decision to marry or not to marry. Here are just a few reasons you should just get hitched already:

1. Despite what they want you to think, the government is actually not a business, nor does it work like one.
It makes sense to boycott businesses that have practices or support policies that you find abominable. It’s that whole vote-with-your-dollar thing. It’s the reason you don’t eat at chick-fil-a (unless you are vegetarian or vegan, in which case that is probably the reason you don’t eat at chick-fil-a). Businesses are driven by profits, so if you give your money to businesses that do more good than harm, and enough other people do that as well, then arguably those “better businesses” will be stronger, and the ones you don’t like with struggle. It makes a ton of sense when you are talking about a business.
Except the government, it’s not a business. Many politicians would like to treat it more like one, but the fact remains that it still isn’t one. The government is not driven by profits the same way a business is (no, I’m not saying the government is better or is driven by anything inherently better than profits, just making a point about how it actually works) and so it isn’t vulnerable to a boycott in the same way. If a bunch of liberal progressive and radical straight people choose not to get married, it does not punish the government, the government does not loose enough money from the marriage license you didn’t get to make it think twice about its position on gay marriage. There are a lot of ways to pressure a government into offering more equal marriage laws, but this way just doesn’t work.

2. Your conservative relatives don’t get it.
You are in your twenties, you are liberal, you have a live-in-partner, and you choose to put off marriage. Unless you are walking around wearing a T-shirt that says “I would be married by now if you weren’t so homophobic” your conservative relatives assume that you are not married for all the other reasons twenty something liberals aren’t married. They might think you don’t value marriage, they might think you’re lazy, they might think you are afraid of commitment. I’ll tell you what they almost definitely do not think: “Gee, I bet Martha and Johny would be married by now if only I hadn’t voted for that anti-gay-marriage amendment back in 2004! Boy was that ever a mistake!”
There’s a better way to send this message. Go ahead and get married. Make sure you get married in a church or institution that isn’t bigoted (cause you should do that anyways) and then have your officiant make an announcement during the ceremony. Bam. All of your relatives just heard that. Now you made a statement. Good work.

Here’s a cute post about ways you can show your support for gay marriage during your straight wedding.

3. You are going to be waiting an incredibly long time.
As I’ve discussed before, so-called marriage equality isn’t actually about making marriage equal, it’s about slightly widening the exclusive group with access to marriage rights and protections. So if you aren’t getting married because you want EVERYONE to be able to get married… you know what? You probably aren’t ever going to get married. And if you don’t want to ever get married, that’s fine, but please be honest about your reasons.

4. Marriage benefits are not a finite resource.
It isn’t as though if you forgo all the good stuff that goes along with a legally recognized marriage, there’ll be more of it to pass around to us gays… If I had access to the kind of legal benefits that a state recognized marriage confers, I would take them because they are extremely helpful, and because my refusing to take them wouldn’t make life any easier for say, poly families.

5. Marriage rights are NOT the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today, nor are they the most important civil rights issue of our time.
I’m really just repeating myself here. But yeah, you know where this is going.

6. I’m getting married, and you can too!
It’s not just me. More and more gays are choosing to get married, to have weddings and celebrate with their families and live as married people, regardless of their state’s position on it. I am getting married in September. I am excited. As of this writing, my state will not recognize my marriage, so we will have no legal benefits whatsoever. But that’s not the point. Very few people get married just for the legal benefits, and if you are a straight person who wants to get married, odds are you aren’t doing it just for the legal benefits either. I’m having a ceremony and a party and a cake and a crazy dress, and there is no reason you can’t have those things too.

8. I love weddings.
Have you ever been to a wedding? Weddings are so much fun! I even like the ceremony part (though I know plenty of people who find them boring, but hey, I’ve always enjoyed that sort of thing) and then after the ceremony there’s a big party! People get emotional together, which is always sort of nice, and then there’s dancing, and food, and booze, and dessert! I’ve recently learned that planning one of these big to-dos can be a bit stressful, so I’m probably only going to do the one. But if you are thinking of getting married, and you want to do something nice for gays, you should have a wedding and then invite me. Please have a vegetarian option at dinner. Thanks!

There. I’m happy to reassure you that you can, in fact, get married, and that you’re refusing to marry does nothing whatsoever for me. You’re welcome, and congratulations!


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Poly Marriage: Narrow Views

Are you all sick of talking about marriage yet? Yes? Well, too bad. The fact is that we have a lot more to talk about, and it’s gonna keep getting complicated. Also, between all the gay marriage hoopla and my own impending nuptials, it’s of particular interest right now.


If you remember, when I wrote my piece on gay marriage, I talked a bit about how poly marriage is still illegal and we can’t call it “marriage equality” since we aren’t really talking about equality. Here, I’ll quote myself.

One thing that the gang on Sister Wives do though, that most folks pushing for gay marriage try their best not to do, is compare their situation to the gay marriage struggle. The comparison is easy to make. Gay people do not have the right to marry legally in most of this country. Polygamists also do not have the right to marry legally, however they have the added bonus of being able to be prosecuted for living as if they were married! Wowza! If three adult people decide to enter into a marriage-like agreement, even if they do not seek any legal spousal benefits for the third spouse, they can be prosecuted for that. Think about that for a second, when I did, it was probably the first time that I felt privileged as a queer person. I mean, my fiancee and I may never be able to share insurance, but no one is going to take me to jail for calling her my wife.

(It bares mentioning that that was not always the case, and historically many gay people were in fact locked up for the crime of having “indecent” relationships.)

And yet, when conservatives bring up polygamy in that “if we allow gays to get married, what’s next?” sort of way, the vocal majority of those pushing for gay marriage have one clearly resounding answer: We are nothing like them. They are icky. We absolutely oppose polygamy. We promise if you just let us nice, clean, polite, monogamous, gays get married, you’ll never have to worry about polygamy being legalized.

And this is what we call marriage equality? Does that sound anything like equality?

This week, I saw two different pieces talking about this very issue.

First up is Slate, which published a piece simply called Legalize Polygamy! Here’s a quote:

As a feminist, it’s easy and intuitive to support women who choose education, independence, and careers. It’s not as intuitive to support women who choose values and lifestyles that seem outdated or even sexist, but those women deserve our respect just as much as any others. It’s condescending, not supportive, to minimize them as mere “victims” without considering the possibility that some of them have simply made a different choice.

Jillian Keenan does not discuss polyamory at all (it’s worth mentioning that I didn’t really either) she is exclusively talking about polygamy. More than that, she’s talking about a specific kind of polygamy, polygyny, marriages where one man is married to multiple women simultaneously. She doesn’t touch on polyandry (one woman married to multiple men simultaneously), the possibility of queer polygamist unions, or the idea that 3 or more people might want to all be married to each other. Put simply, the issue is complicated, and she is looking at only one facet of it. I know some polyamorous people were quite upset by this – they felt like they’d been passed over, and in a way they have been. Keenan talks primarily about Mormon polygamy, and mentions Islamic polygamy briefly.

What Keenan does well in her piece is to respond to some of the prejudices against this kind of marriage. She makes arguments that I have made myself (legalizing polygamy would make it easier to find the child abusers) and responds to some of the arguments that I have found myself responding to. Because if you think that polygamist marriage should be illegal because it is a sexist institution, then, well, you have to make the majority of traditional marriage illegal. You have to make the Duggars’ marriage illegal. It’s definitely worth a quick read.

Of course, I’ve also heard the claim that polygyny is the “ultimate feminist institution” because you know, sister wives means lots of ladies helping each other out. That kind of logic only works if you assume that women need to have children and that only women can do things like homekeeping and childcare. Which, do we even need to talk about how that is a sexist stance?


And then, coming in on the other end of the spectrum, is this piece on The Stranger, with the delightful title “You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom; Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen

Mistress Matisse takes the exact opposite stance, she’s a polyamorous person, and she completely ignores the reality of polygamous marriage. Doesn’t even mention it, just like Keenan didn’t even mention polyamory. Mistress Matisse’s basic stance is this: poly relationships are far too complicated, and poly people far too unorganized, for a push for poly(amorous) marriage to ever happen. No worries! Gay marriage is as bad as it will get.

What I like about the piece is that she talks about many of the complexities that Keenan washed over. Ok, so you have three partners. Is that three separate marriages (all parties being married to each other individually)? or is it just one big marriage? Or what if one person wants to be married to two people but they don’t necessarily want to be married to each other? How would that work? And who gets to decide? And how will that decision bring more equality anyways? And then there’s this:

But being in love doesn’t have to include a ring or a big white cake. To be polyamorous is to let your heart grow to hold many loving relationships that come in different shapes and sizes. Once you’ve learned to do that, why would you try to squeeze it back down into a pattern built for two?


After reading both of these articles, I keep going back to how similar they are. Actually, they are completely different, they ignore opposite things, and they take very different positions. But they both start with a similar assumption: the institution of marriage is basically fine, and basically works well as what it is.

And I disagree. When conservative politicians cry “what’s next? poly marriage?” when we talk about gay marriage what they are really upset about is the idea that marriage, as an ideal, and as a civil institution, will be rethought. They are scared by the idea of people questioning what marriage means, what it’s role should be in society, and whether or not it should be elevated to the super-status it currently holds. They are afraid that we will look at “traditional” American marriage and say “hey wait a minute, this doesn’t make any sense! let’s take it apart and make something better!”


And that, in my opinion, is exactly what should be happening. Complete with complicated poly marriages, if people want them.

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On ‘White History Month’

Well folks, it’s almost Black History Month again!

And as we all know, the biggest problem with Black History Month is that there is no equivalent for white people, there is no ‘White History Month’.
… wait, what?
That’s right, there’s no single White History Month, because there are eleven white history months. There’s no White History Month because white history is not pushed aside and ignored to the point of needing to slow down and say “well hang on now, let’s think about white people for a minute!” There’s no White History Month because in our current culture, WHITE HISTORY is practically synonymous with HISTORY. And all of that is a problem. It’s also a problem that so many white people have such blinders on to their own privilege that they could ever assume that not having a white history month is a detriment to them, when it is actually part of the very fabric of white privilege.
Actually, it is a detriment to white people, in that racism, especially culturally sanctioned and imbedded racism, is a detriment to all people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, equality is not about trying to be MORE equal than anybody else, it’s about trying to set up a world where we are all equal. That means that lifting up minorities does not threaten the majority position. That means letting go of our hierarchies. Ideally, that means seeing history as WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST as opposed to WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST AS IT PERTAINS TO “IMPORTANT” WHITE MEN.
Maybe you think that I’m exaggerating? Maybe you are saying “I’ve heard people of color mentioned in history books other than in February!” to which I would respond with two points:
1) rarely.
2) only when they did something that was important to white people! For example, when I was in school I only learned about the indigenous people of North America in terms of when and how they interacted with white people. The whole time there were disputes and sometimes friendships going on between the settlers and the natives, there were also tribal wars and all sorts of other things going on among the many nations that populated this continent. And yet we learned only about their interactions with Europeans, because that is what was important to white history.
So tomorrow begins Black History Month, a whole month when we (sometimes) discuss history that is not solely white history. Of course ideally, this would not be necessary. Ideally, we would talk about and teach all history all the time, not just the history of “important” white men. Ideally we would talk about the important contributions of African Americans to the history of America all year round, and we would also talk about first nation people and even countries that aren’t the United States sometimes (wouldn’t that be grand)! But we do not live in an ideal world, and history is still largely the pastime and province of white men out to glorify other white men. Until we teach history in a more equal way, Black History Month is a drop in the bucket, a small and important step towards including the histories of all people. Children of color deserve to know that white men were not the only people to ever accomplish things, and for many, Black History Month might help to show them that. For white kids, Black History Month can and should serve as an important reminder that lots and lots of people have done important things, not just people who look like them. Hurray!
Yet, some white people are still upset about it.
So I have a solution that’s bound to make everyone happy. Let’s go ahead and institute White History Month! We can have March, maybe, so we don’t have to wait too long? (I’d say January since white people probably want to be first, but goodness knows some folks will be upset that they “missed” it!) We can have White History Month, but that means that we no longer get eleven white history months per year. That way, the playing field will actually be leveled! For one month of the year we can talk about the important contributions to history and society by white leaders, and I’m sure we’ll find there’s plenty else to talk about for the other ten months.
If you’d like to suggest a topic for me to discuss this Black History Month, I’d love to hear it!
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Bad Feminists and Straw Feminists

I’m a little behind on writing this up (and I still owe you more installments on When Feminism Fails) but I want to talk to you briefly about some of the criticism of feminism, and when it comes from sources you might not expect.

I recently read this piece on Libby Ann’s fantastic blog, Love, Joy, Feminism, which talks about the argument over feminism in the atheist community. Now, I don’t identify as an atheist, and I don’t follow atheist blogs unless they also talk about something else which interests me (Libby Ann’s blog is a prime example of this) so while I had kind of heard there’d been some hoopla about the feminism going on I wasn’t familiar with the specifics.

If you are interested, I encourage you to go read that post. I think it is worth your time and I think Libby had some important things to say. Originally I thought I’d go point by point, with quotes and all that, but instead I’m going to try to (for once) keep this brief.

Basically, what is happening here is that some people in the atheist community (all the people Libby quotes are men, though the concept itself was created by a woman) are trying to make a distinction between two kinds of feminism that they see as completely different and somewhat opposed to each other. They call these two kinds of feminism “equity feminism” and “gender feminism”. It needs to be noted right off the bat that all the people who believe that feminism breaks down into these two categories, all those people consider themselves to be “equity feminists.” The people who they would categorize as “gender feminists” do not see the world of feminism in terms of these two different categories, and we mostly just call ourselves, you know, feminists.

The first big problem is the way that they define these two different forms of feminism. In their world, equity feminism is considered with creating legal and social equality for women, and gender feminism is dumb and wrong. That’s a little bit of hyperbole, but it’s not too far off the mark. Rather than first defining the two things as “equity feminism thinks this and gender feminism thinks this” and THEN moving on to “and I’m an equity feminist and here’s why I think gender feminism is missing the mark” they include their criticisms of gender feminism right in their definitions. Ok, here’s just one quote to show you what I’m talking about:

Gender feminism is very different. It looks far less egalitarian, involves sharp criticism of gender roles, and seems to emphasize victimhood.

Libby personally doesn’t pick apart why that definition is a problem, but I want to. Because any time that your definition of your opposing view includes such negative language, you aren’t really engaging with it at all. Rather than explaining the criticism of gender roles, and then explaining why they find that to be less egalitarian, they start right off the bat telling you that gender feminism is NOT ABOUT EQUALITY.

Hm. Insisting that the majority of feminists aren’t interested in equality and just want to play the victim… does that sound familiar to you? Let’s come back to that in a minute.

Because that’s just the first problem. The second problem is the insistence that gender feminists want to deny that there are biological differences between men and women. Essentially, what they are saying is that if there aren’t more women engineers, it’s probably because women just aren’t as good at engineering as they are at some other things (like childcare!) and we just need to accept that men and women are different and let them do the things they are best suited for. As long as women have full legal rights, gender roles are a-ok with equity feminists.

So many issues here. First, sex and gender are two different things, and that is an important thing to know. When you use the words “sex” and “gender” interchangeably you create some very real problems (and I stop taking your argument seriously). Sex is biological, and gender is social. The two are often related, but not always. Also, because gender is a social construct, gender norms and expectations can vary greatly from culture to culture. If this is still confusing to anyone, here is an example:

Having breasts is part of being of the female sex, while wearing a bra is part of the female gender (in many parts of the world). Breasts are biological, whereas to claim that women naturally wear brassieres, as if it were somehow part of their biological make-up to do so, is preposterous. In many parts of the world women do not wear them, and while in our culture it is considered a feminine thing to do, it is entirely possible to still be female without one on, and it is also possible for male people to wear them.

The argument being made by the “equity feminists” (and it’s really the same argument being made by many supporters of old-school patriarchy) is that when we rail against gender roles, we’re trying to deny that there is any difference between men and women at all. That simply is not true. Because sex and gender are different things. And because we don’t any of us live in a vacuum. It is impossible to know whether women are by nature more nurturing then men are, as long as we encourage young girls to play with baby dolls and discourage young boys from doing the same. And even if you, as a parent, don’t tell your son not to play with baby dolls, unless you are parenting in the woods with only toys you made yourself by hand, the gender roles of the dominant American culture affect your child.

Go into a toy store. Go into the “pink” aisle. Tell me how many baby dolls there are. Now do the same in the “blue” aisle.

And if that weren’t enough, what are they using to back up their gender essentialist claims? Oh good, it’s evolutionary psychology. Here’s some criticism of evolutionary psychology that you might find interesting, including this gem about an evolutionary psychology study that claimed to FINALLY discover why girls prefer pink. (Spoiler, pink used to be considered a boy’s color, and the study makes no sense.) Recently I had to try to explain evolutionary psychology to a friend who was not familiar, and I broke it down like this:

Evolutionary psychology is when you take a look at your wife staying home to take care of the house and kids, and you wonder why that might be. Then you think “hey, maybe there’s an evolutionary reason she wants to do that! I bet that back during evolution times MEN were the ones hunting (cause men hunt now!) which lead me to believe that women stayed home with the kids (cause someone had to or they would have been eaten by a lion).” Then you take that faulty logic and REAPPLY it to the modern world, asserting that women EVOLVED to stay home with babies, and therefore that must be what they are best suited for now.

Most of the scientists I know just start laughing when evolutionary psychology comes up.


Ok so this still hasn’t been as brief as I would have liked, there was a lot to talk about. We need to bring it full circle now. Because the argument that some feminists are good and want equality and some feminists are bad and want to be victims… it’s an argument we’ve heard before in many different forms.

“now, when you say feminist, do you mean pro-equality, or pro-women?”

Bam. He was just asking a simple and honest question, which actually led to a very productive and positive conversation. However, wrapped up in that question were all of the reasons I didn’t call myself a feminist when I was fifteen, all of the reasons my mother doesn’t call herself a feminist now because “I’m for equality for everyone, not just women.” The raised eyebrows I was met with when I actually did start calling myself a feminist, the way I still get a little nervous dropping an f-bomn in public sometimes, and the reasons it is so effing important to keep doing it, they were all there in that simple little sentence.

Yes, I realize that quoting oneself is kind of ridiculous. This is from my piece about why it’s important to speak out for feminism and against patriarchy. Because that is all I could think about while I read about supposedly liberal-minded, equality-minded atheists arguing that the reason most of the speakers at atheist conventions are men is because speaking at conventions is “kind of a guy thing.” Because rather than saying that ALL FEMINISTS are bad, these “equity feminists” are setting themselves up as the “good feminists” and all others as the “bad feminists”… the same old straw feminists that we are all sick and tired of hearing about.

But other than that, other than that assertion that there is a small group of good feminists who think that voting rights are enough, their argument sounds EXACTLY the same as the tired old conservative patriarchal argument that women ought to just stay in their place.

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I have complicated feelings about that: sometimes, you have to use the F word

Recently I was having a conversation with an acquaintance and colleague (the kind of acquaintance and colleague that I sure hope will soon become and honest to goodness friend) about television. It was the middle of the day and I was suddenly sleepy and this person was asking a lot of “have you watched x?” type questions. I got to talk about how stubborn I can be. It was really fun! And then I brought up Sady Doyle.

Actually, I didn’t say “oh yeah that’s true because Sady Doyle blah blah blah blah blah,” what I said was “But I only finally started watching 30Rock after this feminist writer that I really like wrote about it quite a lot. Eventually, I wanted to know what she was talking about.”

My chatting companion visibly froze. He (this was a male acquaintance, though I get similar responses from women when an f-bomb drops) looked nervous and said “now, when you say feminist, do you mean pro-equality, or pro-women?”

Bam. He was just asking a simple and honest question, which actually led to a very productive and positive conversation. However, wrapped up in that question were all of the reasons I didn’t call myself a feminist when I was fifteen, all of the reasons my mother doesn’t call herself a feminist now because “I’m for equality for everyone, not just women.” The raised eyebrows I was met with when I actually did start calling myself a feminist, the way I still get a little nervous dropping an f-bomn in public sometimes, and the reasons it is so effing important to keep doing it, they were all there in that simple little sentence.

When I was fifteen, I was pretty sure I knew what a feminist was, even if I didn’t know what feminism was. A feminist was an angry lady. She was power hungry. She probably wore horrible shoulder pads and lipstick that clashed with her complexion and made you really wish she hadn’t decided to dabble in makeup. She both hated being a woman and wanted to make everyone else a woman. She might actually spell the word “women” as “womyn” because she both didn’t understand the etymology of the word and she hated men so much that a totally inappropriate “y” was preferable to ever having to write the three letters M-E-N unless it was part of the statement “men suck.” She was decidedly un-fun.

When, in my junior year history class, our teacher showed us a video which discussed whether feminism had gone too far (this was presented to us as him teaching us to look at both sides of a nuanced argument, although looking back on it the whole thing was incredibly biased and prefaced with a talk that basically went “some people (feminists!) want to say there is no difference between men and women, but that is just obviously not true!”) I kind of sided with him. Maybe these ladies were taking it too far.

All that is to say, I understand how one could develop a distrust of feminists and feminism in our culture, because I grew up in this culture and I used to feel that way. Fortunately for me, I started reading books. And while my mother never called herself a feminist, she did teach me both to think for myself and that I could do anything I wanted to do, even if it was a “boy thing”. Experiences such as teachers (both male and female) who obviously favored male students helped me to realize that gender equality was still an issue, it was not something that we had achieved in the 70s (as I had assumed). It followed that we needed a movement to push it along. And hey! Presto! There already was one, it was called feminism!

All of this got me thinking of my favorite ‘Hark, a vagrant’ comic of all time. If you click no other link in this post, seriously, click that one. Here it is again. This is really the inspiration for this whole thing.

So if feminism isn’t about hating men, what is feminism about? One thing I’m proud of is that, in the conversation mentioned at the beginning, when I was asked if I meant “pro-equality or pro-women”, I didn’t blow up. I didn’t say “GOD WHY ARE PEOPLE ALWAYS ASSUMING THE WORST OF FEMINISTS YOU ARE ALL SUCH JERKS!” Instead I got myself a glass of water, and attempted to calmly and reasonably define that scary f-word. It isn’t always easy to do that. I’m not going to link to any of the definitions of feminism here, I’m just going to dive right in.

In my mind (and I need to mention that I can’t speak for everyone who identifies as a feminist here) feminism is a) the recognition that we live in a patriarchal society and b) opposition to that patriarchy. That’s pretty simple and straightforward, so in case this isn’t long and rambling enough, let’s just take a minute and unpack that.

Patriarchy is a system where power is concentrated in the hands of men, in a variety of both obvious and less than obvious ways. It almost always comes with a side dish of racism and heteronormitivity, so that in a patriarchal society power is concentrated in the hands of men who are perceived to be masculine and “straight” (according to the specific rules of their culture) and are part of the dominant racial or ethnic group. Patriarchy has been around for a long time, and while it has been chipped away at (by people such as feminists!) we still live in a patriarchal society. If you read this and you’re all like “nah, no way man!” you need to take a good look at people in power. Whether it’s Congress or CEOs of major companies, what you are going to see is this: predominantly white, predominantly male. The male-female population ratio (oh and we’re going to talk about how that dichotomy is fake and messed up soon, don’t worry kiddos! but please roll with me for a second, this is the measurement we have) is roughly 50-50. Now let’s look at the U.S. Congress…

While the partisan composition of the Congress is fairly close to that of the electorate, there are larger disparities between the Congress and the general citizenry in term of sex and race. In the House, there are currently 362 men and 76 women. In the Senate, there are 17 women and 83 men. (source)

The second part of feminism is opposing that patriarchy. Patriarchy hurts everyone. I was going to preface that with “I believe that…” or “It is my opinion that…” But no. Patriarchy hurts everyone. Full stop. Patriarchy forces men and women into roles that are not always healthy for them, and fully denies the existence and relevancy of anyone who does not fit into one of those roles. The ideas of patriarchy seep into every aspect of life in a patriarchal society. Patriarchy teaches boys to be aggressive and ambitious and girls to be nice and accommodating, and then blames women when they don’t achieve leadership positions.

It’s as if we give a lady a whisk, and a man proper building tools, and then measure success by house building! When someone points out that it is unfortunate that the lady wasn’t able to build a house, someone else is there to say “we can’t be held responsible if women don’t want to build houses!” or worse “maybe this just proves that women naturally don’t build houses! It’s in their nature to make meringue!” Meanwhile, the lady is holding a goddamn whisk! You can’t even hammer a nail with a whisk! As a feminist, I oppose both the inequality of the whisk-giving arrangement, and the subsequent victim blaming when the whisk wielder isn’t able to build a livable structure with it. Do you want to know why there aren’t more women in leadership positions? It’s because first we teach girls to be “nice” in a world that values competitiveness, and then we chastise them for not competing, and then we take their niceness as evidence that they weren’t cut out for competition in the first place. There is no winning.

Sorry, I get kind of worked up sometimes. Whew.

So back to my conversation. It was great. I explained my position as a feminist, and he listened. I felt like we came to a mutual understanding. There is still sexism. There is still a glass ceiling and a wage gap. These are for real problems. I oppose that. My friend (let’s just call him my friend, I can tell we are gonna be buds) is totally cool with all that. Then he says:

“Oh that’s cool. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t one of those extreme feminists!”

I’m going to post that Hark, a vagrant link again here, because it is totally relevant.


I got to thinking about this days after that conversation. Here is the thing. People hate Sady Doyle. They hate her because she is a feminist. I’m not going to post any of the nasty things that are written about her on the internet here, because I don’t want to give those creeps the traffic. But she is basically what people are talking about when they talk about “extreme” feminists. She’s a killjoy because she talks about sexism in the media, she talks about how pervasive and dangerous patriarchy can be, she talks about rape and how patriarchy supports rape culture. “Oh come on!” they say.

And I’m kind of like that too! When I mention how as I think referring to men as “men” and women as “females” is disrespectful and derogatory, people say “oh come on!” People tell me to lighten up. People tell me I’m being “oversensitive.” I’m probably among the most “extreme” feminists you know, and yet all I’m doing is calling it like I see it. I recognize the patriarchy, I oppose the patriarchy, and I have the audacity to talk about.

I have a lot of feminist friends and I have read a lot of feminist writing, both in blogs and in print. The thing is, that man-hating woman with the shoulder pads, I haven’t found her yet. Sure, people wore a lot of bad shoulder pads in the 80s, and yes some people feel the need to put a “y” in the word “women”, but I think that comic I’ve posted approximately 85 times might be right. Those evil man-hating harpies just do not exist. Or if they do, they certainly aren’t a major part of the feminist movement. I have some complaints about mainstream feminism, but not the ones that anti-feminists have. In blog posts and on other platforms I repeatedly see people willfully misunderstanding feminist aims though, and trying to make us into those man-hating harpies. It goes down like this:

feminist: women should get more respect in the workforce!
anti-feminist: you’re saying all women should have careers and no women should want to stay home with their children! you’re saying men shouldn’t be respected! you want to castrate all men forever!

feminist: women still make less money than men for doing the same job! I think it’s bad!
anti-feminist: omg I can’t BELIEVE you just said that women should make more than men! that’s crazy talk! you don’t want equality, you want superiority!

But you know what the great thing is? I can have conversation with totally awesome people, and I can tell them that I am a feminist, and then I can show them that I am not crazy, I don’t wear shoulder pads, and I don’t hate men. There. Now they know at least one real-life, honest-to-goodness, feminist, who doesn’t fit the stereotype we’ve all been sold. That’s sort of wonderful. And that’s it, right there. That’s why it’s so important to use the f word. I use the f word:

-because I want to help define it

-because it helps feminism to be more visible

-because it still makes me nervous to use it

-because so many people who believe in equality don’t, for fear of being perceived negatively.

Do you believe in equality for people of all genders? Great! Next time someone asks, tell them you’re a feminist. Yeah, even if you’re a dude.Image

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