Isn’t it great when someone tells you that you’re not living in the real world? That you’re delusional? That your grasp on reality is wrong? I love it when that happens. It actually happens a lot to me, somewhat worryingly. Admittedly, I am a bit of a romantic, a conceptual thinker rather than a practical one, concerned with a mystical life that doesn’t necessarily scan with the eyes, a dreamer of far-flung dreams. And I’m a bit of a flake.
That being said, I spend a lot of time looking at reality from many different points of view. I spend a lot of my time in shoes that aren’t my own. It’s a bit of a paradox for me. I can probably see another person’s reality far more clearly than I can my own. Sadly, reality is all too real for me. Most of the time, it really sucks.
Why Do We Need That Again?
The other day, I shared this photo on Facebook. I figured that it would spark some comments and it did. The first comment came from my mother, a wonderful, smart, conservative, Christian woman who I have always admired. She said this:
I don’t need feminism. Exactly what rights is he talking about?”
I also got this from my aunt:
I’ll give him a hand for trying to stand up for women, but I can do that myself thanks anyway!
Yes, I did a lot of sighing and eye-rolling when I read these. Sometimes it is very frustrating to be a more liberal minded person in a family of conservative people. Perhaps it is just as hard to have a liberal minded child in your family. I can just imagine that my mother gets “real sick and tired” (as she says) of my pontificating on social media, my supposedly “holier than thou” attitude. I’m probably a bit flighty to her mind and not practical enough. After all, sharing a post on Facebook really isn’t helping the world much, is it? That is probably reality as she sees it when it comes to me.
Nevertheless, these comments sparked my brain. I wanted to argue, to clarify, to show them how wrong they are, to change their minds. I am, if anything, a bit naive about how much power a good argument has over someone’s opinion. But an argument isn’t really the point here. I can’t change their minds. After 20+ years of being my mother’s child, you’d think I would have figured that out already. I’ve always been a slow learner.
Fundamentally, however, these comments come from the same place: “I don’t need feminism. I do just fine on my own. No thanks.” And I get that. I don’t put a lot of my identity into the term “feminist” either. And if someone asked me if I was one, I would say no, for reasons I will explain a bit later. Having said that, though, the question is this: why do we need that again?
It’s Not About You
Obviously, my mother and my aunt have decided they don’t need it. They’re right. They both live in one of the most privileged countries in the world that is based on Western Values which have evolved over time to allow women more freedoms than they have ever enjoyed in history up to this point. They don’t need feminism because they are not oppressed (a debatable point, but one I’ll concede here). My mother and my aunt and many, many American women don’t need feminism.
It’s not about them.
Feminism and rights movements in a broad manner of speaking are not for people who already enjoy those rights, but that does not mean that they are completely unneeded. Feminism is necessary in our world because there are women who do not have the luxury to tell a supportive man, “I can do that myself, thanks anyway.”
It’s not about your reality. It’s about someone else’s facts of life that aren’t as fortunate as yours.
A Crazy, Random Happenstance
I was born into a white American family where the parents were married and lived together, we owned our home, my mom was a stay at home mom, my dad always had a job, and us kids had luxuries like PlayStation and TV. Not everyone is so fortunate. In fact, I hit the lottery as far as places to be born goes. The only thing that would have made me more privileged growing up was if I had been born biologically male. I did nothing to deserve or earn these privileges. I was born into it by chance. Basically, I got very, very lucky.
[Please note that some of the following links or descriptions may be triggering for some people]
I could have been born in Indonesia, where if I slept with a man I was not married to, I could be turned into the authorities as a criminal and publicly caned as a form of “justice.” Being such a woman, my accusers would be able to gang-rape me and avoid prosecution for assault because (a) I was a woman, (b) I was an adulteress, and (c) they were men. If you think I’m exaggerating, please read this.
Or I could have been one of the 783 million people without access to water, or about 9 percent of the world’s population.
I could be one of the people who is sexually assaulted in the United States every 2 minutes.
I could be any one of those women who has no rights to speak or be in public without a male guardian present. I could have no choice in how I dress, act, live or work simply because I am a woman.
Or you could be.
If you are a privileged person living freely like I am, then we are that way only by some crazy, random happenstance. Our reality is nothing but an outcome of luck.
As Common As Breathing
While I am a person of religious belief, I do not think it plays much part in my views on this issue. People deserve to be treated with respect simply because they are human beings, not because religion tells you so. Similarly, I am not a self-identified feminist, mostly because I do not believe the problems of inequality is a women-only issue. I do not believe we should label ourselves as “feminists” or “rights activists,” as though it was an uncommon thing, a badge to take on ourselves in order to do some good in the world. Labels should not be necessary in order for people to know that we support equality and justice. We should simply support equality and justice because we are human.
The Golden Rule is something that many Christians talk about or use to their own advantage, but don’t actually do anything about. In many, many parts of the world, the Golden Rule is not a reality. Men and women, different races and ethnicities, different socio-economic classes, different countries, different cultures and religions – they should all be able to expect to be treated in the way that “do unto others” would have. That way of living and that reality should be as common as breathing.
I don’t need feminism mostly because all the good outcomes that feminism wants are already in effect for me. That is my day-to-day reality. But that does not mean that it is unnecessary. I will never change my mother’s mind about this and I don’t expect to. I’m not going to argue with her on Facebook about it. What I will do is present a different reality than the one she and I share. That’s what she raised me to do. She wanted it to be as common as breathing to me. Now it is. And despite the crazy, random happenstance that allows me the freedom I enjoy, I don’t want to be complacent. Because somewhere, someone else’s reality is less fortunate and while I may not need feminism, they just might.