I’m hanging it up.
Yeah, that’s right. I’m done with feminism. It’s not working. We’re getting nowhere. In fact it actually seems like we’re going backwards. Someone come confiscate my “Feminist as F*ck” t-shirt, buy me a beekeeper suit and leave me to my new, non-feminist existence which will entail popping out more children and possibly listening to a lot of Katy Perry, who is an avowed non-feminist. (The woman who dresses her tits up like cupcakes says she is not a feminist, are you surprised?).
Fighting double standards has become worse than passé. In that entire media whore-nado over Miley Cyrus and her VMA spectacle, the only person I saw pointing out that Robin Thicke is actually kind of questionable for grinding his bits on a girl who could be his daughter… was another dude. Even we in our own circular firing squad of feminism didn’t manage to catch that one, as we were too busy deciding whether to be mad at Miley because she was demeaning herself (maybe) or because she was treating the black women onstage with her like sex dolls (probably) or because “We Can’t Stop” is a mediocre song that has gotten far more play than it deserves (definitely).
The juggernaut of terrible anti-abortion laws just keeps coming despite our best efforts to stop it. State legislatures are in a race to the bottom and still they manage to exceed my expectations. I’ve stopped saying “It can’t get any worse,” because it’s become a dare. Statutory rape cases like the one in Montana just frustrate and depress me; a 49-year-old male teacher walked away with a 30 day sentence after a supposedly consensual relationship with a 14 year old student ended in her suicide.
I just can’t anymore.
I have arguments with otherwise entirely reasonable people who wonder aloud whether women really take enough responsibility for avoiding rape, that maybe they’re just not careful about what they wear and where they go, because women’s sexuality just isn’t the same as men’s, and we don’t understand how hard it is for them to control their penises. As if every woman in America doesn’t have a list of things in her head that she does to avoid getting raped. As if the staggering 35% of college aged guys who have admitted they would rape someone if they thought they could get away with it are beyond educating. As if we are completely wasting our time hoping for any better.
I love sex, I consider myself pro-sex, and I want to say that women should do whatever the hell they feel like with their vaginas, yet I feel like that’s a pipe dream and that it’s neither safe nor OK to do that. Because it’s not. You might get photographed and slut-shamed on Twitter. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to avoid the rape threats or the actual rapes or any of the other fun stuff that could go along with that. Though you might just as well expect that kind of treatment for, say, campaigning for Jane Austen to be printed on some money.
And god forbid you are, or have ever been, a woman in or near the sex industry. Men can pay for prostitutes and be back in the saddle after a tearful apology and a few years out of the spotlight. But not the women they patronize. They lose their jobs and careers and lives when that kind of information gets out, even if it was 15 years ago and the woman in question now is a professional with a master’s degree.
So I’m hanging it up. Let Ann Coulter come and take away my 19th Amendment. I don’t need it. I’ll clean house and maybe watch re-runs of “The Real Housewives of Who Gives a Damn.” It feels like the entire world is telling me to shut up and I’m tired of fighting it. Y’all can go on without me. I’m quitting feminism. I mean it.
Except, I can’t.
Every one of the issues that I bring up here is worth an editorial (or several) of its own. Most of them have already been discussed at length in many different venues including this one. Some of them are subjects I myself still have to do some heavy lifting on to sort out a position that makes sense. But deciding that I’m tired and want to lay down my sword is not an option. The world is going to keep kicking me, and us, whether I feel like kicking back or not.
Sometimes, when reading the news feels like living in London during the Blitz, it’s hard to remember that just because the opposition is fighting harder, it doesn’t mean they’re winning. The worst abortion laws are consistently losing in court challenges. Ohio recently passed a law wiping the prostitution records of victims of sex trafficking, a move that in America, disproportionately helps women. Republican Governor and Tony Soprano body double Chris Christie just signed an equal pay law in New Jersey (yes, really). The percentage of women in Congress, while still pathetically low, is higher than it’s ever been. And female leaders from journalism to politics to business are becoming household names and are standing as examples for ways to be a strong woman in the world. The Democrats’ current best hope for the presidency in the next election cycle is Hillary Clinton. People are flocking to the banners of Elizabeth Warren and Wendy Davis. PBS has turned The News Hour over to Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill. And I defy you to find one person over the Labor Day Weekend who wasn’t talking about Diana Nyad’s historic swim from Cuba to Florida. When it’s incremental, progress can feel like it’s not happening. When there are a lot of bombs going off, it’s hard to notice that a lot of the flying rocks are not actually hitting you.
So, yeah. I know you’re tired of hearing about rape culture. But I’m tired of my friends getting raped.
I know you’re tired of hearing about abortion. I am too. So stop trying to tell me what to do with my uterus, and I promise you won’t hear another word from me about it.
I know men and women are different from each other. I’m just tired of that fact being used to excuse the inexcusable.
I know you’re tired of hearing about income inequality. But fuck you, pay us.
This is how it works. We get mad, we fight, we get tired, we get mad, we start again. Rinse, repeat. Feminism isn’t without its flaws, and it doesn’t seem able to speak with one voice or crystallize answers on the darker, stickier aspects of human nature and sexuality. But if I may get Rumsfeldian for a minute, this is the army we have. The fight comes to us whether we seek it or not, whether we want it or not, and whether we are ready or not.
So might as well be ready. Ready, and maybe even happy, to die on the hill.
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