What do you call a woman flying a plane?
Most of you who are familiar with me on any level know that I am a pretty vocal feminist for the most part. It has been a gradual evolution over the course of my life and I won’t go into the details of it at this time. The thing is that once you step into that, once your eyes are opened to the reality of what it means to be a female in America, the constant media input as to what the expectations are about your body, your behavior, your role in society in relation to those around you, be they other women, men, children, your boss, your subordinates, etc. Once you see that you cannot unsee it.
There are constant reminders that it is the job of the female to exist in a state of constant prettiness as determined by outside forces, even to the detriment of her own sense of self-worth, physical well being and personal autonomy, and ignoring any body of knowledge, training or skills that said woman may possess.
Some time ago I stumbled across an opportunity to submit an essay to a contest, the subject being Feminist Utopia. My first thoughts were, hey, I’m a writer and a feminist. This should be easy!
But I sat down to write it, and…. nothing.
The more I thought about what a feminist utopia actually means to me in my very heart of hearts, the more I realized that a feminist utopia is…. utopia. Just a regular old plain vanilla utopia. Everyone has plenty of what they want and they get to live their lives according to their own choosing. For anyone and everyone. That’s it. That’s all.
Some time ago I walked to the library by myself. On the way I got catcalled no less than five times. Do I think it happened because I’m just so danged attractive as to cause people to descend into some primal mating response of making loud noises with so as to attract a viable female? No. I don’t think that.
To tell you the truth I cannot no matter how much I try figure out why people cat call. Has there ever in the history of the human race been an instance in which the woman stops what she is doing and chases down the car to gather the phone number of the catcaller because she was some overcome with desire? I don’t know. Not to my knowledge. The message I received after about the third cat call was that I am not allowed to be out in the world, simply existing in my own skin without inviting commentary no matter how rudimentary it may be. I am not allowed to walk down the street alone with my own thoughts without the shrill reminder thrown at me from passing car windows that I do not belong to myself.
Just ignore it.
Okay and then what. One has to have a certain level of awareness to ones surroundings when walking, whether it be in the woods, down a side walk, through a parking lot, through the middle of the tundra, wherever. As human animals it is vital to be aware of one’s surroundings. To “ignore” outside noises is irresponsible to one’s baser instincts of self protection. Sure, I could just keep walking without responding, but this is not the same as “ignoring”. The damage has already been done. The happy observation of the blue jay just up ahead has been interrupted. The idea that I was rolling around for another novel has been cut short. The inevitable sense of danger that raises the ‘fight or flight’ instinct has already been triggered. Ignoring is just not an option.
Take it as a compliment.
It is so hard to address this one, because once again cat calls and wolf whistles are not compliments. They are harassment. What this statement is really saying is that you don’t have a right to be upset. You don’t have the right to feel threatened. If you do, then the problem is with you. This invalidates a persons reaction probably more than any other statement, because not only are you forced to hear the message but also you are not allowed to have your feelings about it. They are not valid and you should not feel what you feel. Not only are you subjected to receiving the unwanted attention, but you are also forced to feel how we tell you to about it.
Don’t go walking alone.
Okay. Really? I am grown woman, forty years old. I should be able to go for a walk in my own neighborhood if I want to.
Thing is, once a person is aware of it. You can’t turn it off. I would have loved, LOVED to walk through my own neighborhood without the intrusion of verbal harassment. I would love to live in a world in which my children can play with whatever toys they want to without getting the stink eye. (Guess what. As long as they are at home they already do!) I would love to watch a movie and NOT notice the plunging neck lines, the gratuitous camera angles, the badly written story lines (forced romantic elements, anyone?). I would love to live in a world in which both men and women are seen as fully encompassed human beings, fully capable of existing within their own agency.
Someone asked me recently if I was “that” kind of feminist, you know, a man hating feminist. Um…
If I want equality, which is kind of the whole point, why would I hate that which I consider equal to myself? No, I’m not that kind of feminist, and I don’t know of many who are. Not personally, not theoretically. I have yet to find that stereotype of the man-hating she-beast who berates anything male as being less than. That is just the same problem over again, and the complete opposite of the goal of feminism.
I would love to be able to relax and just exist, being in the world in the manner that I see fit without having to fight just to walk down the street. Once that becomes a reality, I will happily no longer call myself a feminist.
In the mean time…