Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cranky Feminist is Cranky

I'm often cranky. "No way!" you say. Yes, yes it's true. I've also been on a bit of a feminism "kick" lately. I recently joined an online feminist group and they've been sending links to all sorts of interesting articles. So it's been fresh in my mind. I didn't always used to be so feminist. I remember when I actually started calling myself a feminist. It was back in college when I took Psychology of Women where the TA asked everyone in class if they were a feminist. Most people, myself included, shied away from saying they were. A lot of people, myself included, labeled themselves a "humanist" rather than just saying, "Yes, I'm a feminist and that clearly doesn't mean to infringe upon men's rights, either." After a bit of discussion and some self-contemplation I realized that duh, I was a feminist.

At that point I talked the talk but didn't really walk the walk. Upon declaring myself officially feminist I clearly needed some education on the matter. I started paying more attention to women's and feminist issues rather than just shrugging them off and saying to myself, "Things could be a lot worse like they were in the past." Long story short, in five years I've become a more conscious feminist. This includes opening my flapper. Longer story shorter, I've started contemplating quietly socially acceptable things that are hot button issues such as porn and strip clubs. Oddly enough, I went to a strip club last weekend for a friend's birthday and got a boob face wash. I made sure to tip the girls and be polite but I also was debating with myself in the back of my mind. Was I objectifying these women just as the men were? Am I still respectful while participating despite my beliefs? Is it alright because I'm also a woman? Is it alright because I'm doing it for fun and adventure and not arousal?

What about porn? I used to have a folder on my computer named Girls Don't Watch Porn. It had some porn files in it. A few selections I didn't find particularly degrading or overly cheesy. And I've heard of feminist porn. A Woman's Touch (a sexuality resource center in Milwaukee and Madison, WI) apparently has a decent selection of porn for the sexually liberated woman. I did a little reading about why many feminists are anti-porn. The Anti-Porn Resource Center at One Angry Girl gave me some food for thought. The porn myths and FAQs really got my brain churning. My initial thoughts about "choice" have been shaken up to say the least. I knew "choice" was always pretty lose in regards to porn and I realize "choice" maybe really mean "lack of better options". I still want to research feminist porn. I read another article on how porn made by feminists is really just a "softening of the blow" so to speak. In other words, if men are going to objectify women, women might as well get some enjoyment out of it as well". My mental jury is still out.

Now that the status of my feminism and feminist musings clarified and out of the way, onto my current feminist musings regarding my own life. Awhile back I sent an email to people I consider good, close friends explaining my lack of desire to be anywhere near my abusive ex. I only got a reply from one of them. Pretty discouraging considering I put my very difficult feelings out there when I previously actively avoided even hinting at them. My logic and emotions battled as to why they chose to ignore it. I felt they didn't give a shit. I thought they didn't know what to say. And most likely they didn't. It's a difficult topic anyway let alone so close to home. Never mind the fact that they are friends with my abusive ex. I clearly stated in my email that I did not intend to break apart their friendship with my abusive ex but that I would be voluntarily excluding myself from further events. No action was needed on their parts. But acknowledgment might have been nice. A little validation that, "No Indi, you're not being a dick, just merely taking care of yourself as a former victim, we understand."

This article gave me some insight onto the possible inner workings of my friends' thoughts. While it is about perceptions/reactions to a friend being a rapist rather than an abuser, the same principles apply. This response to that article clarified it even more. The part that really struck a chord with me was this:
"This idea is dangerous because when people hear that one of their male friends has been accused of raping one of their female friends, then in order to believe their female friend something has to give. Either people abandon their idea that rapists are all 'bad people' or they abandon the idea that their friend is a good person. But often neither of these things happen, and instead this person (who had been rigorously berating the evils of rape) doesn't believe the woman who was raped."
Hammer, meet head of nail. They became thisclose instantly. I believe my friends are in a conundrum of thoughts that is more complicated than just not knowing what to say. While this doesn't increase my confidence in my friendships, it gives me insight and understanding on their part. And knowing is half the battle they say. Knowledge, even if it makes me mad, is always helpful because it gives me less to fear. And there's enough tangible stuff out there to fear. I don't need intangible stuff to fear as well.

Finally, my last feminist musing for the day is in regards to name changes upon marriage. Clearly, this is a topic of interest to me because I will be married in less than three months. As a teenager I used to think about how my first name would pair up with the last names of boys I liked or dated. As I got older and my sense of self became more stubborn I ditched that. In fact, I've playfully suggested to my fiance that he become Mr. Dowler. Of course he didn't like that idea. This article at The Hand Mirror made some good points:
"I suppose what irks me about the maiden name debate is that the women alone experience the pressure to show that they are part of a ‘real couple’ by changing her name to his as him changing his name to hers is so clearly offbeat as to be well ridiculous."

"In the end it doesn’t actually matter which wedding traditions a couple keeps or for that matter decides to ditch because at heart all weddings by their very nature are traditional."

"...I would not change my name because I consider keeping my name more important than the reasons I should change it. However any male considering marrying me is most welcome to change his to mine if us having the same name is a really big a deal to him post-ceremony."
Ugh, it's true. I've been roughing up my impending wedding with non-traditionalism since my fiance offered me a ring and it still smacks of tradition. Of course this has been a challenge considering he's a pretty damn traditional sort of guy and I generally scoff at tradition and let the door hit it on the way out. Even the appeal of my tomboyish ideas don't always fly. He's still not too thrilled with my idea to have a remote control car as our ring bearer. You'd think a dude would be all over that idea. He eventually relented. I also got my way with having Lego figures on the cake, wearing sneakers under my dress, and we're still toying with the idea of having an arcade console or modified game console with ROMs at the reception. He balked when I suggested letting me dye my hair blue again. If it didn't pose professional problems as well it would have been no contest.

I'm going to have to show him this article about men taking their wives' last names. You know, just food for thought. ;)


  1. I sooo want to come to your wedding ... if it's too late to give you a feminist critique on marriage :)

    Zoe Parness

  2. I'm interested in hearing your feminist critique on marriage anyway. :) Send me an IM sometime you're free in SL.