I received a very nice email from reader E over the weekend, who suggested that I take a stab at explaining how feminism plays out in my daily life. I thought this might be fun, and dispel a myth that I've faced over at my Tumblr project (that I'm only an "online" feminist and my time would be better spent working on "real" feminist issues.)
E asked, "how do you go about your life, do you shout out to the television when something isn't up to your standards (like I do), do you refrain from talking about your passion when among friends/family members who don't appreciate it (like I do :( )."
This got my wheels turning so I figured I'd beak down how feminism plays out in a few different spheres of my life: online, at work, with friends, with family, and in my free time.
Online: It's no secret that I spend a lot of time engaged in online feminist activism. My primary activism is here, where I get into a detailed discussion of my opinions and reactions about social trends, pop culture, and etc. When I see something heinous on TV or online, yes, I yell at it and rage and then I try to take a reasoned analysis of it here and post why that cultural artifact is sexist.
I also fun the aforementioned Sexism! As Seen on Facebook Tumblr. My online presence is probably the most straightforward and comprehensive way to see the feminism in my life. However, there is a difference between how I use Twitter/Tumblr and Facebook. On Facebook, since I post under my "real" name and many of my "friends" and family are not feminists, I tone down my activism. I'm honest about what I believe and how I feel, but I don't inundate my page with as many articles and opinions. I don't see a ton of sexism on my own newsfeed that I need to call out, because I have defriended or unsubscribed from the most offensive people. When I do see sexist BS on a friend's page, I don't always immediately call it/them out. It depends on how well I know them. If they're not worth it, I defriend. I will screen cap and share on Tumblr, however.
Honestly, I wish I could be bolder on Facebook.
At work: I am very fortunate to be employed on a full time, professional basis in girl services at a reputable nonprofit organization There, I am able to exercise my simple belief that girls matter. I've been with my current employer since 2010, but I have been in this business overall since 2005. Through a variety of roles over the years, I have not only gained a lot of insight about the challenges girls are facing and what is most important to them, but I have also enjoyed my financial livelihood serving as a natural extension of my activism. I'd also lump my academic studies over the years in with this topic, because I always found a way to tie my studies to my feminism. For example--in one of my graduate classes we were to do a case study of a nonprofit subsector in another country. I chose feminist organizations in Germany.
In my office, most of us identify as feminists. And because of our line of work, we naturally talk frequently about gender stereotypes, sexism, and other social justice issues. My coworkers are aware of my writing, but I choose not to write under my real name or talk about my employer by name here because (as I wrote on my "about me" page) as someone whose livelihood depends on the generosity of others (individual donors, government grants, corporations, foundations, etc.) I do not ever want my personal opinions to be seen as representative of my professional affiliations. I don't feel that my writing is particularly controversial, but you never know what others might think, and I want to minimize any confusion between the personal and professional spheres of my life.
So while my daily work is very feminist in nature, we don't really talk about being a feminist organization.
With friends: There's no question that my friends know I'm a feminist. I will talk with them about it...all the time. And talk their heads off about it. I have a reputation. I know that I can be tedious, but most of them are progressive and they either 1) already are feminists themselves or 2) know they will suffer the consequences if they do/say something offensive. I will say, however, that the humorless feminist stereotype is BS and I still have a ton of fun and laugh alllll the time.
When I'm first making friends with someone and they don't know much about me, I can be pretty quiet about my feminism. It's hard to know when to drop the F bomb. You never know if you're up against a shit ton of stereotypes in their head.
With family: This is where I'm the least openly feminist. My family is aware of how I feel and identify (for example there was our nontraditional wedding arrangements and the fact that I didn't change my name) but I often don't really push my opinions in that sphere. It's such a constant balancing act of knowing if it's worth it to open up a political can of worms. Fortunately, I don't have too many family members who are blatantly sexist (and other -ists) but when things do tread into that realm, my husband and I will quickly change the subject or throw a quick opinion out there and try to move on to safer topics.
Free time/general life: (After initially writing this, I realized I needed this category too.) I always try to put my money where my mouth is and purchase products that don't display sexism. I volunteer for two women/girls organizations outside the one I work for. I rally at the Texas state capital for choice. I march in Slutwalk. I support women artists, filmmakers, authors, and healthcare practitioners. I try to make choices independent of sexist assumptions. (For example, I don't often wear makeup because it's tedious to me, but I paint my nails because I love it, my husband and I share our housework, and I'm in charge of our finances because that matches my skill set more than his.)
Well, that's pretty much how I live feminism. It's actually really influential in my day-to-day, and it has become the lens through which I view everything and it shapes my decisions. I can't watch a movie, read a book, or enjoy music without my feminist lens. And because I believe that feminism must be intersectional, it means that I'm noticing really disappointing things literally everywhere.
But, honestly, I much prefer it to any alternative way of viewing the world. I don't want to mindlessly consume media, do work, make choices, or have relationships. And maybe it's naive, but I feel kind of hopeful about the change that I can possibly incite through asking feminist questions and challenging the status quo.
So, how do you live feminism?
Monday, December 3, 2012
How I Live Feminism
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