More Hell, Fewer Dahlias: The Musings of a Radical Feminist.

You Don’t Look Like A (radical) Feminist.

Posted on: March 20, 2010


I’ve gotten that comment several times in the past week, mostly from people who know me in off the net land and I’ve linked to this blog. Apparently, I need a shaved head (I’m detangling waist length hair as I type), lots of denim (I prefer cotton blend) and combat boots (I do have really awesome black and white boots, but they’re less combat and more adorable imo).  Those attributes, along with a “Dead Men Don’t Rape” sign and some copies of the SCUM manifesto, and I’m all set to portray the characterized image of a radical feminist that our media is so eager to toss around.  Despite the fact that I, and many of the other radical feminists I’ve met, don’t at all look like that, this image is what is tossed around. Oh, and we’re babykillers. Can’t forget that part!

Instead of launching into what I’d planned right here, I’m going to stray from my outline: I originally was going to talk about how feminists come in all shapes and sizes, and how the image the media puts out marginalizes women of color, differing abilities, and many other factors, all of whom already participate in and shape the culture of radical feminism. But most reading this (from my estimates, who I’ve linked, and the cute referral thing WordPress has!) aren’t radical feminists, and some don’t even self identify as moderate feminists (though those of you I know IRL are totally feminists and more radical than you think and I bet those of you I don’t personally know are too!).

Hence, there’s a slightly different need for this post: the image that the media puts of out of feminists, both radical and not, cuts you, the non identifying feminist, off from feminism. That seems like a “Duh” statement to make, and especially to bold, but after reading several signs my women’s college put up about feminism, it needs to be said. These signs were attached to whiteboards, and people wrote their opinions on them. I was fairly horrified at some of the responses, which identified feminists as whiny, lazy, “others,” unpopular, ugly, and fighting a lost battle, along with being unneeded and outdated. Woah. The thing is, I guarantee you that 90% of the people who wrote those things all take advantage of the things feminism has provided on any given day.

HELLO, WOMEN’S COLLEGE.

Maybe if we were at women’s college devoted to the “womanly arts” of sewing/cooking/being submissive, like offered at some Bible Institutes, you could disavow feminism, but feminism is the reason that you, as a woman, are attending college, living on your own, in dorms or apartments, and able to go on afterwards to fufilling careers and travels. Sorry that we’re apparently so ugly and outdated now, but seriously…we got you where you are today.

So why all the disapproval? Shouldn’t every woman be a feminist to some degree, if they value even one of these abilities: to get an education, work at (most, still some room here) careers, marry whom they choose if at all, develop their sexuality, travel unescorted, own/sell property, control their own bodies and reproduction, VOTE and SO MANY OTHER THINGS?

It’s that image. The one of me in denim and passing out the SCUM manifesto. Women can look at it and think “Well, I’m not like THAT. That’s not ME. They’re so ugly and outdated.”  Many of the people saying these things are feminists: they hold jobs, degrees, educations, property, etc. They just don’t self identify as feminists. And hence a huge issue within the movement: the thousands of “secret feminists” who feel they defy the feminist image and hence aren’t feminists and won’t identify as so.

But who put that image out there, and should we be listening to them?

NO!!!

Being media savvy is part of being a feminist, a woman, and a human, and it should be a part of everyone’s day. The media feeds us things that aren’t true, that are overexaggerated, that are purely sensationalism. And while I love the stories of puppies and small children being rescued from lakes/trees/burning buildings, that’s not the only thing they tell us is true/good/right. Question the six o’clock news. Question the validity of what they’re saying, ask if you see that in your daily life. Give it a quick google, talk to people.

You’ll find that radical feminist, the one who fits the image. You’ll also find a lot of girls with long hair in velvet skirts. The face of feminism is NOT just who the media portrays it to be, it is so much more diverse and encompassing and is working on becoming more so.

Step past the media’s lights. The next time someone starts in on us “ugly, outdated” feminists, look them in the eye and say, “you really think I’m ugly and outdated?”

Chances are, they don’t. And if they do, well, they’re an asshole and you won’t be able to get through to them anyways.

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1 Response to "You Don’t Look Like A (radical) Feminist."

The Women’s Resource Center at my university sells/gives away shirts that say “This is what a feminist looks like.” and it happens to be one of my favorite shirts, and seeing people wearing it across campus is always a little bright spot in my day. I like that it challenges media portrayal of feminists, showing my not-always-radical-feminist-friendly campus that we’re “just like you.” Similarly I love the facebook group that has the title identical to that slogan http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=2204676030&ref=ts . In the group, they have “Feminists of the week” that come in every gender, color, shape, size, nationality, etc.

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