I often identify as a political radical—or at the very least a liberal. I’m not into this whole wishy-washy “progressive” label, and I’m interested in making my opinions known and arguing back against moderatism and conservatism, especially here at Princeton, where such views are rampant and it’s not cool to be a leftist at all. Because of this tendency, I’ve had the word “extreme” used to describe my writing at least a couple times in my time here. And I could see where it showed through today, when I responded to some things other folks I know had written, so I’d like to share those things here. You can tell me if I’m “too extreme.”
First, replying to a comment someone left on Facebook about the non-feminist Obamas post. She said that she didn’t entirely see the connection between the whole chastity thing and growing up to be strong, independent women, and this is what I said:
I’m definitely not knocking religion for religion’s sake—some of religion’s effects can be very positive. I also don’t have any problem with chastity and abstinence if they’re independent choices free of the cultural pressures that actually do get associated with them when they’re philosophies impressed upon kids in our schools and in our society. The effect is a subliminal one, to be sure, but it’s also one that is teaching our kids—and particularly our girls—that sex is not something they can own and that they can deal with, and is something they should repress. That’s not healthy, that’s not any way to be a teenager realistically, and it also often accompanies a message in particular that discourages girls and young women from owning their own sexuality. That, to me, is a dangerous thing. The trappings of the abstinence movement—like abstinence pledges, and purity rings and balls, do little more than peer-pressure a lot of teenagers, particularly girls (who have enough problems as it is owning their sexualities), into hiding from and remaining ignorant of a part of themselves that isn’t going to go away. Instead, these aspects of our youth culture should be teaching girls much more than just abstinence, so that they’re well-informed enough to make the choice for themselves. But that’s not something our current pop-culture icons, like the Jonas Bros. and Twilight, are very well-equipped to do. In the case of what I mentioned above, I only hope the Obamas are balancing those icons’ messages with messages of their own about the freedom their daughters have.
Then, commenting on a blog post by one of my Princeton peers, who said that she isn’t down with modern feminism:
Ummm… I really think you’ve kind of misrepresented feminism there. One can’t trust “popular opinion,” you know, because I don’t think there’s anything that suggests that feminism is reverse chauvinism.
If you look carefully, there’s sexism all around us in our culture: women do not earn equal pay for equal work, their sexualities and their family choices are stigmatized, it’s considered acceptable to call Hillary Clinton a cunt and a bitch and not get reprisals for it, etc. I myself have been a victim of sexism so many times in my life that I’ve lost count. It’s fucked me up and it’s angered me and there’s nothing to do but fight back.
That’s what feminism is about: fighting back. It’s about striving for that equal place in society that every woman deserves to have; it’s about political goals like reproductive rights and equal pay, but it’s also about social rights like fighting back against sexual harassment, the pressure on women to be chaste and desexualized, and the negative, hurtful comments one hears every single day just because one has breasts and a vagina.
These are the same things Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan were fighting for. I don’t think anyone really sees sex in and of itself as a political act–but the decision to have sex made as a free choice, against the societal pressures that say that women should be meek and submissive? Sex that celebrates a woman’s freedom to decide when and where and how and with whom she can have sex? That’s a powerful notion indeed.
And one last thing: what’s wrong with rejecting the male-female binary? Binaries are all around us in life and they’re destructive and hurtful. This particular one says “if you’re a man, you have to behave like this; if you’re a woman, you have to behave like that.” It tries to neatly pigeonhole every single person into two categories. But that’s simply not true! I’m sure you don’t fit into every single aspect of the “what a woman is” stereotype, any more than I do, or than most of the men we know fit perfectly into the “what a man is” stereotype. Furthermore, there are people who legitimately cannot be classified as one of two genders: transgender and genderqueer people certainly do not fall within those neatly divided lines, and their concern is a very, very legitimate one.
I am a feminist because I have no place in my life for anyone who tries to tell me who and what I can do and be just because I have a vagina. I’m fighting back against all the people who have tried to do that to me all my life, and I’m making my own place in the world, with my own choices. I’m celebrating every day my freedom of choice, and I make sure no one takes that freedom away from me.
Now please, tell me how the right to be treated fairly constitutes being “out-of-whack.”
I’d like to think it’s good for me to get a little riled up before lunch, but that aside, I’m a very proud and very active feminist (if you couldn’t tell by the first few posts on this blog, in which I appear to be typecasting myself). With all due respect to the two commenters I replied to (I honestly do appreciate hearing their views! I just respectfully disagree), it does get me angry when young women who are my age with a lot of the same privileges and upbringing as I had do not see this insidious, harmful force that I see all around us. I see a need to fight back, every day of my life. I see a constant struggle. But maybe that’s just me being too extreme?