I am a feminist. Not an “I’m a feminist but…”
I unbashedly declare myself a feminist even though it is the sort of declaration that is often met with a raised eyebrow or a knowing sneer. Because when you are not afraid to admit you are a feminist, everyone knows what that means, and the ugly words that come along with it. Lesbian. Hairy. Ugly. Dyke. Man-hater. BITCH.
That kind of reductionist thinking is unfair and problematic, but the trove of feminist writing on the interwebs has given me more perspective on the unfortunate stereotypes swirling around all things “feminist.” I have learned that not all feminists are created equal, that there is so much intersectionality in the movement that it makes my head swirl, and lastly, there is a line of fundamentalism that I will not cross.
I believe in the right to equal pay for equal work and access to safe and affordable birth control. I believe that we need to do something, as a species, about the disturbing regularity with which girls and women are being raped, beaten, trafficked, and murdered all over the world, and the way that rape is being used as a tool of war to inflict the maximum amount of suffering on the enemy.
I believe that we need to step away from all of the plasticky, artificial, and photoshopped images and start rethinking the way we regard women’s bodies and their right to physical privacy. I try to read a variety of feminist voices so that I can understand the issues facing women with lives different from my own, but some that are similar to mine as well. An article caught my eye just the other day, called “Why Drag Queens Are Better Role Models Than Disney Princesses.” I read it. And I was disappointed. The very first paragraph stuck in my craw.
Feminist mom resolved that her twin daughters would not grow up to be “hoes.” First of all, what a hateful word that is – “hoes.” How does one recognize a hoe? In their appearance? In their behavior? How would a parent prevent that? Where will they draw the line, and will their mother abandon them if they don’t grow up to meet her self-righteous standards? The one thing I can guarantee that this writer’s girls will be, if they follow her lead, is judgmental.
If I hadn’t already been so disappointed by the first paragraph, I might have laughed knowingly when she described her “horror” at realizing that her daughters loved the Disney princesses. Admittedly, I am not comfortable with Disney princesses, Barbies, Bratz, or anything of their ilk. I didn’t play with them as a child and I never fantasized about being a princess. I hate their pointy little feet that are permanently molded into the shape of a high heel, and I hate their frozen smiles.
But that is my deal. If my daughter goes through a princess phase, I will open up the conversation about princesses and what they represent, and I will let her make her own choices. Disagreement with the state of the world does not, in and of itself, relieve us of the responsibility of discussing it with our daughters. Pretending that princesses don’t exist doesn’t make them go away. Should all good feminists be jamming play hammers and trucks into their daughter’s hands?
Isn’t feminism about choice? Why does being a feminist mean that pink is no longer a legitimate choice? Do girls who like Disney Princesses all grow up to be “hoes”? I don’t believe that making sure your child doesn’t grow up to be a “hoe” is a realistic parenting goal. Let’s not underestimate our daughters’ ability to weigh the messages presented and decide what kind of women they want to be.
I still firmly dislike the division of toys into boy and girl sections. Especially when the girl section is dripping with fake rhinestones and maribou and gaudy pink plastic. Not only because it puts little girls into a single box, but because it does the same to little boys.
It is important to tell our daughters that their bodies belong to them, and that no one else has a right to access their bodies without consent. It is important for our daughters to be self-reliant, to be able to pay their own bills and take care of themselves. But to pretend that we all sing Kumbaya and get along? What a shock the real world will be for little girls raised in a feminist bubble. Princesses might be a fantasy, but so is a world where there isn’t so much work left to be done.