This past week I had an email exchange with one of those dry-wit Twitter handles that deliver political talking points with a caustic slant.
You know what I'm talking about, right? They're generally not representing the actual human behind the tweets, and they tend to eschew the more personal Twitter practices. For example, TheFightingLiberal provides us with such gems as "If the Obama's said drinking more water was healthy, the Right Wing would protest and go thirsty.......Oh wait. That already happened......"
What caught my eye, other than the self-imposed diminutive use of "girl" for what I assumed was accurately an adult woman, were two tweets insisting that this "girl" didn't need feminism:
Reasons I don't need feminism: I can take care of & encourage myself. I don't need a pack of power-hungry women to "empower" me.
Reasons I don't need feminism: women are not backseat citizens in America & there is no war on women here. Stop being a victim & toughen up.
Now, the rampant misunderstanding of "feminism" is well-documented, and I would rather not get into that with people who self-identify as children, anyway. However, after a few exchanges, Girl backpedalled, admitting that:
I realize some men are sexist, but I'm not going to use it as an excuse for the rest of my life. don't worry my eyes aren't closed.
This. This is the crux of Girl's issue -- not just the lack of definition -- and this is what I have wanted to explain to Girl for the past flurry of days, but couldn't quite put into 140 characters: how to explain to Girl that sexism, and its resulting need for feminist practices, support and actions are not issues to be thought about at an individual level (i.e. "some men")?
I pondered this for a couple days, but the answer came to me today, finally, on my morning jog. Here you go, Girl.
Like many days, I took a break from work this morning to go for a slow jog. This is a common practice for me, and I often run similar routes through a populated, friendly small-ish town. I often run into the same people, pass by the same shops, and see some of the same cars at the same stop signs. Today, I was tackling a rough hill near the end of my run when a car slowed down behind me, and a "some man" leaned out his window to catcall me. And, I'm not just talking about a woo-hoo yell as he passed by, but a full-out in-your-face screech not three feet from me.
But this isn't the point. Because that's just "some man" who, mercifully, kept driving and whose input I only kinda heard, thanks to some rocking AWOL Nation. Nope, there is a larger picture here then "some man," and these three points should illustrate exactly why sexism (and it's resulting need for feminist action) are much bigger than "some men."
Because the shop owner who was opening up his door at the accounting place that I was jogging past didn't even blink. This is a person who I've said hello to a million times, who witnessed a particularly lewd comment aimed in my direction. He didn't even pause. Not a look of commiseration, not a nod in my direction. Nothing. Sexist behavior is so ingrained and so a part of our society that it is viewed as "normal," and not even surprising.
Because the nice couple who lives three houses away from me, who know my children by name, who run into me as they're walking their dog just about every day, stood directly across from this man at the next stop sign, about half-block away, and didn't say anything (yes, they heard). Sexist behavior is so accepted that those who are in a position to shame catcallers probably don't even think about taking action.
Because, in reality, if I wanted to, I could have sped up and confronted "some man" at the stop sign. Instead, I slowed down. I hoped that his way was clear. I dreaded having to run by him again. Sexist behavior is so intimidating, even to loudmouth b*tches like me, that women hesitate to stand up to these aggressors, partially because we're not even sure we'll be backed by the community immediately around us.
Girl, I'm not telling you that you need feminism because a few men are sexist. When I can't jog through a small, relatively safe, populated town in broad daylight without feeling like a slab of beef, we both need feminism at a much higher level.
Sexism and feminism are not about a one-on-one "some man" level. It's not even really about men in the first place. What I am telling you, Girl, is that our culture and society have an ingrained and systemic set of behaviors that still make it ok -- even today -- to behave in this way without repercussions. That deep-seated, embedded sexism at the societal level is why you do indeed need feminism today.