I checked my old email address today and found a lovely thank you note from a reader named Megan who had written to me a year ago on the topic of feminism.
Given that today happens to be International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share the chain of our email correspondence:
On Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 4:00 PM, Megan H. wrote:
My name is Megan, and I’m the reader who asked what feminism is.
I’m an 18 year old girl who is genuinely confused about the issue. I asked because with all these government debates of birth control and tampons, I feel conflicted. I don’t feel like I’m being represented, but what I’ve read and heard in the past from “feminist” points of view is that women’s bodies lend themselves to objectification and only through denial of these traits can a woman be respected—and that’s just one idea. I’ve listened to so many different, contradicting interpretations of feminism that I feel lost.
Now, I know what I believe in terms of my own confidence, and I hold myself to be a strong, independent young woman. I reject the concept that putting effort into looking attractive for those you are attracted to is setting back a movement. In my professional life I have always ignored my sex and focused on my capability and work ethic—my product is what’s important, rather than my personal beliefs and what I produce in life is no less because of my sex or ideals. I don’t believe in the superiority of women but the equality of all, and so have always considered myself distinctly NON-feminist.
But it almost feels as the GOP’s all-male panels are beginning to force me into the role of activist. I respect your standing and confidence as a woman as well as your opinions, and was hoping for your take on subject. I understand if you don’t want to put this on your website. But this is my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I would appreciate an answer with which to begin my own development of opinions on the subject, since I recognize my ignorance and don’t know where to begin.
On Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 4:42 PM, The Coquette wrote:
“I don’t believe in the superiority of women but the equality of all, and so have always considered myself distinctly NON-feminist.”
It is precisely for this reason that you are a feminist. Believing in the equality of women is the primary feminist principle.
You may claim to be merely an egalitarian humanist, but if you truly believe in equality for all, then in a patriarchal society you also have to be a feminist.
That’s the point you seem to be missing. Patriarchy is the hegemonic social structure of virtually every culture. Sometimes it’s benign. Sometimes it is very malignant. Nevertheless, it is always present.
This isn’t about the superiority or inferiority of either gender. This isn’t a “men vs. women” thing. It’s about slow, progressive shifts in culture that correct the inherent inequality of patriarchal social systems.
The inequality is very real. You may not have personally experienced it yet, but you will.
Hope this points you in the right direction.
On Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 4:49 PM, Megan H. wrote:
I really appreciate your contacting me.
Thanks, Coke Talk.
On Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 4:48 PM, Megan H. wrote:
I wanted to personally thank you. Not from an anonymous textbox, but seriously. It’s incredible to think this response was only from a year ago. Your answer started me on an incredible path of research. Your perspective kicked my ass into gear and gave me keywords to check out. A year later, I am an activist in my college’s Women’s Center and I do my part to influence and educate my friends and family. The funny thing is, that before I wrote this, I honestly thought I hadn’t personally experienced inequality, but I had, and continue to, everyday within my own household and without. A part of my rejection of feminism stemmed from my own internalized-misogyny, including a self-hatred of my own fears and what I perceived as weakness. I used to hate so very much that I am a woman, and it was easier to tell myself we as a society are post-feminism, that those chasing equality were all man-hating, angry women with delusions of their own oppression and grandeur. The corrections I have made to my way of thinking have helped me to become a much better, healthier person, and also to come to terms with the coercion, manipulation, fear and unspoken/indirect threats I had undergone in a relationship. I had framed my situation as simply a natural interaction between man and woman, and once I began my research I was forced to see how this was a relationship of power and control, neither of which I had. Reading your blog(s) started me on a journey of — is it corny to say enlightenment? Aw shit, who cares. You’ve given me the tools to start really respecting myself, and that is invaluable. You more than pointed me in the right direction, Coquette. You confused and rattled my ignorance enough to make me figure my nonsense out and start coping with my own bullshit. So thank you, from the bottom of my feminist heart.