A Dirty Word: Feminism
In my house, there was a dirty word that was not allowed to be supported. It could be spoken, it could be used in derision, it could be used in a way that would silence dissent from the patriarchal status quo. That word was of course feminism. Yes, believe it or not, feminism in my home was always considered a bad thing. I could never really understand why that was the case. I mean, I grew up with two sisters.
In all my wonderings over time, all I can really ascertain is the influence of the conservative Christian patriarchal elevation of the male role as supreme and not to be questioned. I recall phrases like “bra burners”, “ratbag feminists” and so forth. Though I never saw any real consideration of any issues raised by feminism, just an absolute dismissal.
I lived within very much a conservative Christian world view, my mother’s dad was a minister, two of his brother in law’s were also ministers. They were ministers within the Anglican church. The church actively resisted allowing women to be ministers within that denomination. Even today that particular area of the Anglican church still subjugates women in this way.
I never really got it. It just made no sense to me. I always was like, well what’s wrong with equality. Perhaps it was my autistic brain attempting to cut through the bullshit. Not that I was ever free to express such views as any dissent was swiftly punished.
Times of resistance.
Within the reality of my thinking that what was wrong with feminism anyway, was a reluctance to truly appreciate it to the fullest. I can’t place completely why this is the case. I am sure it is a layering of many many issues. But suffice it to say I have never in fact labelled myself a feminist. To my own personal detriment.
I can’t reconcile the resistance. I mean I have in my heart always been in favour of equality. Always been aghast at injustice. Flowing strongly through my consciousness has always been an intense sense of fairness and longing for justice. Perhaps I had partly signed on to the lie that feminism was not about equality but denigrating of men.
Of course, feminism is no such thing and yet I resisted it.
I married early. Way too early! Abysmal failure would be an extremely kind way to describe that marriage. It was, in fact, a traumatic and abusive period for me personally. I experienced a lot of pain and hurt and emerged from it in a state of PTSD.
In the aftermath, I experienced a bit of a diversion and I took on the feminism as a dirty word to myself. This was a flawed reaction to experiencing some real difficulty navigating the family court system and experiencing, I guess, what many women face, not being believed about what happened and being assumed to be making it all up, or at best making exaggerations.
To my shame, I took on a mindset that was somewhat anti-feminist. Effectively assuming that feminism was not in fact interested in equality but in the denigration and reversal of patriarchy into something that elevated women at the expense of men. I was very wrong in this.
I even succumbed, to some extent, to the mantra of some of the men’s rights groups. For this, I am utterly ashamed of myself.
There is no question that some men do experience abuse and violence at the hands of women, but this is not the norm and is not in the same ballpark even as that of abuse and violence against women. What’s more, even if the frequency of such abuse and violence it does not present the very real life and death risk that violence against women does.
I’m fairly certain I have expressed this poorly.
My heart had not changed.
The reality within me was though that my heart had not changed. Still paramount was a heart for justice, a longing for equality. Inherent in my belief and thought was that all people are equal and should be treated with respect and dignity and be able to live in safety from violence and abuse.
In time I was able to see quite clearly, that not only did I see feminists standing up for women’s rights and equality in that regard but so doing in many arenas. Whether it be the treatment of refugees, racial equality, or religious freedom among other issues, the constant was the voice of feminism and feminists standing for the marginalised, the oppressed and the silenced.
Finally, I realised this was perfectly aligned with my own beliefs and heart for justice and equality. My heart was always that way inclined, even if some time was taken to realise and embrace it.
Time to claim it.
Not a dirty word at all. Something though to acknowledge a need for and to get behind. Feminism then is something I wholeheartedly embrace, something I declare myself behind.
And so here I stand a feminist. I stand for equaity, for justice, for respect and dignity, for safety and for that to be true for all. Regardless of gender, disability, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or any other classification that can be named.
In a sense I repent of my sexism, my lack of calling out patriarchal privilege. I turn from it and dare to declare that I am a feminsit.
It is not all that complex really. I just stand for equality and call out inequality where I see it.