I have always considered myself a feminist, and for the most part I thought most women were. But the idea of feminism has been contorted over and over and over again rendering the concept nothing more but a picture of a frozen, man-hating bitch who just wants to take men down. I think this is a big shame, and it makes me feel disappointed and frustrated when I mention my passion for feminism or when someone asks, and I catch a glimpse of their facial expression right before they change the subject, or ask me why I hate men. lol It is just so ridiculous to me, because I never understood why this is the usual response. But then I took what could have been a great class-unfortunately taught by a notoriously bad Professor-and everything started to make sense...
Taking Women and Gender studies during my first year in University left a bitter taste in my mouth. My only memories of so-called empowered females were those close-minded women who infested the seats of the WGS200 course that I took first year. Those same women who made me rethink my entire idea of feminism within a few short months. My views on feminism before taking the class were based on equality, and a woman's right to choose. But the only themes that seemed to linger within the confines of the class were that of a feminist utopian society where males did not exist. Even more unsettling was the idea put forth that if you hold any traditionally true feminine qualities and liked yourself, you are not a true feminist.
As I do enjoy playing devil’s advocate when my sanity and values are held at stake, I often challenged authority in the classroom and once (or twice...) in a tutorial session, I was subsequently asked to leave the class until I “cooled down.” One of those times, I really thought I would be castrated by a heard of stampeding angry self-proclaimed feminists. I began to view the feminist persona as an ice-cold ideal held high by women frozen in their stubbornness and sexist thought patterns. In my eyes, these women were simply acting towards men in the same way they claimed men were acting towards women. Things like prostitution, pornography, and being a house wife were talked about with disgust and viewed as being a stab at feminism as a whole, and an overall disgrace to being a strong woman.
This really confused me, because I had spent all of my life envisioning feminism as a place where women encourage and celebrate other women in whatever venture or avenue they want to pursue. If a woman chooses to be a prostitute, to get an abortion, to be promiscuous, or to be a house wife, what business is it of ANYONE to tell her otherwise? Or even worse, to tell her that what she wants or chooses isn't good enough? It's her body, its her life, its her damn choice!
At the time, I was a child of Psychology (and still am), so I tried to reason and understand the science of the what these women around me were trying to force down my throat, but in the end, I found in order to achieve good marks and not be targeted in class, I had to assimilate my ideals, beliefs and love of some of the greatest minds of Psychology (i.e. Freud) in order to be accepted. I swore to no longer advertise myself as a feminist because I understood now where those facial expressions came from and why they were commonplace. I never wanted anyone to ever associate me with any of the values and beliefs encompassed within that first year course.
Never could I imagine that four years later, I would resort to taking WGS205 as a filler course and as a result, have my constructed views and distaste for the “frozen feminist” as I once called her, to be once again broken and rebuilt into something beautiful. Sitting uncomfortably in the front seat of the class, I was shocked upon hearing the Prof. Doctor Radia openly introduce the course with differentiating between mass culture and popular culture, and then encouraging us to envision our own understanding of what the terms mean to us.
Beginning with our first discussion, I noticed a dramatic change in structure of the course. Of course there were still those who had not changed from first year (those who held the same concrete and hypocritical views), but there were also a lot more women who thought like me. Women who were not looked down upon or burned for sharing their opinions and visions of choice and freedom for women. Compared to the overly organized, constrained, and limited atmosphere of the first year course four years prior, WGS205 opened up possibilities of thought and arguments from every angle, where each was presented with understanding and intrigue. Doctor Radia was charming, warm and non-threatening, quoting thought provoking series, empirically scientific articles (which were rarely raised first year), and to my pleasant surprise, she even quoted Sigmund Freud on a couple of occasions. I became excited to attend class and felt at ease sharing my thoughts and opinions without fear of judgment or retribution.
I remember the second week in class inspired an analytical spirit in me that peaked its head for the first time as we sat and watched the opening scenes of Pocahontas. Although somewhere within my mind I knew that passed the entertainment and the cute characters, the function of Disney movies were to educate children, I never really sat down and pondered what the films were actually educating. Things that were staring me right in the face never really surfaced until it was brought up and discussed.
For example, when we began watching Pocahontas, all the sexualized and gendered aspects in the film became salient after discussion. Most shocking was the distinct difference in picture, colour and music when shifting between the grey and dull “western culture” where John Smith and his mates crudely sing about killing natives to the colourful and music-filled scenes of the “New world.” Watching and discussing the themes that varied between John Smith and Pocahontas made me want to go home and revisit my old Disney VHS tapes to try and pick up on the blatant gender differences that I could easily find when I no longer looked at these films through the eyes of a toddler. I was also taken aback by Dundes' (2001) article, which I found furthered points made in class and allowed me to better understand the material, although I did find that Dundes was annoyingly one-sided in some of her arguments.
However, what was interesting was the point Dundes made in that from childhood, girls are taught to be selfless and constrained in everything that they do while boys’ actions are dismissed under the “boys will be boys” sanction. In fact, in a lot of these films, the boys are praised, or regarded as heroes by doing really reckless shit. She uses the example of how John Smith jumps off the ship during a major storm at the beginning of the film only to be promoted and called a hero by all of his crew mates. The viewers watching feel immediately like 'wow, this guy is so adventurous and fearless.' But not two minutes later, Pocahontas jumps off a cliff into calm water, and her friend asks her when she is going to stop being so immature? Although the viewer finds her quirky and fun at first, her actions are presented in a static way, hinting at the underlying fact that she is still young, immature, and will have to change eventually. In other words, she still has a lot of growing to do....apparently nothing that Mr. Smith's dick can't fix.
Even more staggering was the statement Dundes made regarding culture’s growing expectations of women in today's supposedly "equal" Western society. She claims that although women are now encouraged and expected to be independent and strong career women, underlying signals to be a good wife, mother and provider are still present, thus creating what I like calling, a double-edged sword. More specifically, it's because mothers now encourage their little girls to take advantage of more and more opportunities in life that adds to women’s ever-increasing pressures to succeed.
Because on top of being an independent, strong, well-rounded career woman, she is also expected to be a perfect wife and mother. And all before she turns 30!!! When women feel that they cannot succeed in all these avenues adequately (because no human being can!!!), or they hold one avenue (i.e. having a career) with more importance than the other (i.e. being a mother), they believe they have failed. It is a sick, sad, and relentless cycle that is in reality only strengthening over time, but this in itself is hard to see, because all of this is being expertly masked with a veil of "independence" and "Oh look how far we've come" slogans. We still have a hell of a long way to go in my opinion.
My hope is that women who choose to reproduce, raise their daughters with their best and unique interests at heart. All we can really do, regardless of the child's sex, is to provide guidance, and let him/her make their own choices, regardless of whether or not you (as a parent) agree with their choices in the end. And needless to say, keep your morals, or religious pre-determined expectations completely out of it for fucks sake. To women reading this blog, do what you choose to do: whether that be going into pornography, becoming a C.E.O. having 5 children and settling down, or getting your tubes tied, just do it. It is your body, and it is your life. No one can ever tell you otherwise.
Anyway, I am off to bed. I really hope I got my point across at least half-decently.
Todays Tea: Pai Mu Tan White tea.