Feminism


Time Magazine’s Person of the Year is the whistle-blowers. Those women who have tirelessly and at great personal risk spoken up and out against misogyny. It’s fitting and timely, as the announcement came today on the anniversary of the anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, the mass shooting that took place on Dec. 6, 1989 in Montreal that resulted in the deaths of 14 women. Women who died simply because they were women daring to pursue an education in engineering.

I know my daughters like to believe that we live in a post sexist age and certainly there are many in politics and the media who like to push that narrative as well. It sometimes seems to me – an old crone in her early fifties – that the western world at large is almost wholly sold on the notion that women’s struggles are over and any residual resistance stems only from our inability to accept that fact and the playing field as it lies.

But I don’t believe it. There’s more evidence than ever to suggest that women’s rights are not considered the norm in the circles where the rights of everyone are granted.

On paper – here in Canada at any right – women’s rights are assured, but in practice, women are harassed, dismissed, denied, abused and murdered with almost the same impunity as they always have been.

My rights on paper are simply not good enough. Not for me. Not for my daughters.

I have wondered often what it would take for women to at last come together and had hoped it would have a more positive genesis than the election of an in your face misogynist American president, but historical moments are not born out of the positive as often as they are the negative. And if toppling male privilege has to be angry and messy, so be it. Men have had decades – my entire lifetime really – to come to the table on women’s rights on their own and they haven’t done it. If they must be prodded by shame and driven by fear, well, that’s a choice they made.

Women can no longer, nor should they ever go back to being silent. Our bodies belong to us. Decisions concerning our bodies, our sexuality, our choices about everything that directly affects us were never men’s to make. If we have to be angry to make them understand this, we have to be angry.

We are taught as small girls to hide all our negative emotions but angry is not always negative.

Angry is a necessary ingredient for action and in righteousness. My bible is rusty but I am pretty sure Jesus said something to that effect once.

However, my favorite quote about anger, and it’s necessity, comes from Ursula K. Leguin,

“Stay angry, little Meg,” Mrs Whatsit whispered. “You will need all your anger now.”


As much as it’s possible for me to have heroes, I still consider Hillary to be one.

Not only a hero, but a feminist one. And if you knew me at all, you’d know that I cringe a lot at the thought of openly declaring for a personal feminist icon.

Feminism is such a charged term. I’ve been on the pro and con side of the use of it over the course of my adult live, but in recent years, I’ve decided that it’s the best term to describe my feelings on equality.

In my opinion, if  a person believes that men and women are equals in the eyes of the law – civil and human rights – that person is a feminist. Whether they call themselves a feminist or not is up to them, but that’s how I view them.

Back in 2008, I supported Clinton in the Democratic primary race over Obama.

Not because she was a woman.

It is my believe that when all things are equal, people who support feminism should support women in political races because that’s the road to parity in terms of legislative representation, which is crucial in moving females forward on all fronts rights. And equality is a good thing for everyone.

However, I supported her because I thought she was the most qualified and that he wasn’t quite yet. Nothing has happened over the past eight years to convince me that I was terribly wrong in my assessment at the time.

As the 2008 race heated up, I remember telling my husband that the primary was shaping up to be a sexism versus racism contest. Were Americans more racist or more sexist. I felt that latter and though disappointed that I was correct, I wasn’t surprised.

Like many Hillary supporters, I felt she sold out at the convention, but the reality was always that she was being a good politician. She saw the writing on the wall, took one for the team and was rewarded with Secretary of State.

That’s how politics works.

And while how politics works makes me roll my eyes hard – because it’s a game invented by men that doesn’t work as well as it should or could, and we all suffer for the pig-headed, power-hungry idiocy of it all – I admire the way that Clinton has learned the game and bests her male colleagues at it more often than not.

It is not easy to succeed in a world that still mostly belongs to men and operates according to the rules of privilege that have changed little over the millennia.

It takes brains, determination and a whole lot of what is commonly referred to as “the right stuff” to ascend the ladder in a profession that not only has little use for women but is inherently hostile to them.

Hillary Clinton has done what few women have done, and she’s arrived not once but twice at the doors to the pinnacle of American politics – vying with not just some success for a nomination to run for President.

At this point, I can hear the anguished cries of Millennials and Gen-Xers exhorting me to look at her “lies, shifty ways and innumerable crimes against (insert name of your favorite horror here)”.

And it’s at this point, I sigh heavily.

I don’t have heroes. Not in the pristine sense of the word. Even when calling Hillary one of my heroes, I am not using the word the way others do.

I don’t expect perfection. I don’t even believe that it’s possible.

I am especially skeptical that anyone could reach the upper echelons of political power could be anything other than a flawed and compromised human being because to be a good elected representative of people anywhere means have made tougher calls than most could fathom even contemplating.

I don’t admire Hillary Clinton because she hasn’t made mistakes. Really bad ones sometimes even. I admire her because she hasn’t quit.

Even with a past that arguably isn’t always stellar, she still appears to believe that the system can be used for good. That it’s possible to achieve change even though it’s more evident than ever that change isn’t always great and that great change is often achieved at a heart-wrenchingly slow pace and is not universally wished for or welcome.

She believes in team, equality and the hard work both take.

When I look at Hillary Clinton, I see someone who has spent her life evolving. It doesn’t seem that she ever arrived anywhere and said, “Well, I’m here, it’s all good, and I’m done.”

She pays attention, sees when tides are turning and isn’t afraid to follow them if needs be. Even in the face of derisive scolds and harsh personal attacks. And frankly, it’s her ability to adapt and change that strikes me as being the most realistic approach to life because life isn’t set in stone. Shit happens. You roll with it or you get buried under a stinking mess.

I understand Democrats and Independents who see Clinton as part of a problem that plagues American politics these days. I get that she’s not change the way they’d like it to be.

I wouldn’t argue that she understands the system and knows how to work it. But in that sense, she’s no different than Bernie Sanders, whose been a politician much longer than she has and is just as adept.

But I see Hillary Clinton as a smart, shrewd, strong woman who’s succeeded in ways no other woman has before. She’s followed trails blazed by others and pushed those boundaries farther than any woman has before. How is that not change? She could be the President of the United States of America. A capable woman leading the most powerful nation in the world.  How can that not make a difference?

When I listen to all the reasons that people won’t support her. Won’t vote for her. All I hear are excuses, rationalizing away a leap forward for women – for the world really – that simply don’t add up to more than material self-interest or a lack of life experience or both.

Because, in my opinion, real change is something that shakes the pillars of a foundation and rattles the teeth of those inside.

At the end of the primary, if Clinton is the nominee, she will be reaching out and building consensus. Count on that. If not she will be the team player backing Sanders, the same way she backed Obama – something that can be counted on too should it play out that way – mark my words. Which is just about sums up why she’s achieved the success she has. She understands that sometimes you lead and sometimes you give support. That real change is a group effort.


Seated Yoga Meditation - mantra

Rebecca Traister has a book out, disseminating the 2008 Presidential election in the U.S. and its beneficial fallout for women.

Mostly it retreads the worn “old lady feminists versus younger women” wars. I am sure you remember. Women of a certain age support Clinton while the youthful and hip females supported Obama. It’s generational twaddle that misses the point on both ends. The bra-burning demo can’t understand the lack of gratitude and reluctance to carry a torch that handed women as many new issues as it alleviated – temporarily – old ones. Younger women, on the other hand, are too complacent and too eager to look at the side-effects of the women’s rights movement as “improvements” when the reality is that we are still as second class as we ever were – our cages are just roomier and furnished with IKEA.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Jezebel interviewed Traister and asked the following:

J: Instead, you write, what ended up galvanizing young women and others around Hillary was seeing how she was treated in the media… It’s still amazing to go back and watch that footage. It’s interesting that these were mostly older guys on MSNBC and Fox, and yet you also argue that there was also sexism among younger male Obama supporters when it came to Hillary.

And Traister rehashed the sexist old codgers at the major news outlets but added this bit about younger men that really annoyed me:

RT: At the time, I wrote about what I perceived as a complicated misogynist vibe coming from some of the young male Obama devotees in the last stages of the primary cycle. I think one of the reasons that I was so struck by it — and this is not to give some pass to all younger men — is that there is such a marked generational change among men. There’s more of an awareness of gender, they’re often raised by feminist moms and working moms. Men who are [at least] used to the idea of equally splitting domestic duties; they’re active fathers.

I had actually come to expect much more from young men. We’re very lucky to live with a new generation of men, and I think our kids will be luckier still. But this was an instance in which some old attitudes seemed to bubble up among younger men.

What?

Why are we so lucky exactly? Men are granting us the rights that were ours all along anyway, and we should be grateful? That men are finally actively raising their own children, picking up a tiny bit of the housework slack and not total douches á la Mad Men? We should be grateful when men behave as though the women in their lives are valuable, smart, and they are damn lucky that anyone so awesome would agree to share a bed with them? Gratitude for what simply should be?

Give me a break.

I’m not going to pat a guy on the head and say “good boy” for doing something he should do without thought.

Like Obama.

Man‘s done so little for women that I can’t fathom any woman voting for him in 2012 without getting in writing how he plans to show his gratitude.

I can’t speak for all women, or any women at all really, but I am done with the grateful. All the “nots” on the list of what should be “givens” for females puts “grateful” in an harsh ugly light, but isn’t that the way of reality?