Sunday, September 18, 2011

That Moment of Validation

I love the feeling I get when I find an article or blog entry that perfectly puts into words something I've been thinking, but haven't been able to put it into words - or worse, that I'm afraid of the backlash that might come from saying it, sure that I'm the only person who feels that way and people are going to jump all over me for saying it. Finding that piece is often an "AHA" moment, and a moment where I find comfort in knowing I'm not the only one who feels or thinks that way, and that I'm not crazy.

For example, I found this blog post today, which sums up my frustration with the "crazy" label perfectly. For years I've dated guy after guy who's told me I'm being too emotional, too sensitive, or just crazy - for getting upset with him for doing something selfish, mean, or just plain insensitive. I've always hated it, always felt there was something wrong with it. I even wrote a "Feminist Dating Advice" post about it, urging women to not tolerate being called crazy. And someone jumped down my throat for it, calling me an insult to feminism. Made me want to stop writing, really, and certainly made me want to shut up about the "crazy" issue, sure that I must be the only person who takes issue with it. But according to this blog entry, I'm not alone, and I'm really not crazy after all.

For another example, I found this a while back, a blog entry about female nerds self-objectifying themselves - sort of a Female Chauvinist Pigs specific to nerd culture. I was frustrated with the same issue, especially when I was at Anime Boston, especially after dark when the convention was dominated by 18+ events, including Hentai Dubbing where girls would get up on stage and moan and gyrate for the entertainment of a room full of people, followed by a Cosplay Burlesque. Those words put together just make me feel sad. Why I went to the event I'll never know, but I left feeling sick. Again, I seemed to be the only person who had a problem with it, even my female friends thought it was fun to watch hentai dubbing and that there was nothing wrong with the trend of skimpy cosplays, so I kept my mouth shut.

The fact is, when you're the only one with an opinion, it can be almost impossible to sway the masses. But that's why blogging is so important. If those bloggers mentioned above had never penned their essays on issues of gaslighting and self-objectification, I'd still keep my mouth shut. But because I know my beliefs are being backed up from afar, and now that I've found some intelligent ways to put my own frustrations into words, I'm more likely to speak up about the issues myself, adding my voice to the mix with conviction. And as more people add their voices, that belief gains strength in the public eye. Blogging helps a opinion go from a fringe belief to a message that can sway the masses.

PS: one does not need validation because they are weak or insecure. We need validation because we are human, and it is human to be afraid to stand alone.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Call for Social Amnesty

Too often we're quick to chide victims of rape for putting themselves in unsafe situations. "She should have known better," people remark. Believe me, I'm sure she knows that too. Hindsight is 20/20, and after being a victim of sexual assault, it's common for the victim to kick herself for every decision she made that night that may or may not have led to her assault. I shouldn't have gone to that party, I shouldn't have hung out with that guy, I shouldn't have gone to his apartment, I should have gone home instead of crash at his place, I shouldn't have worn that top, I shouldn't have worn those panties, I shouldn't have accepted those drinks, I shouldn't have danced like that, the list goes on and on. She doesn't need a slap on the wrist, she's already slapping herself.

A rape victim doesn't need to be scolded for her decisions. It's unnecessary and makes her feel worse about what has happened to her. Because of this, I propose social amnesty for rape victims. What does that mean? Think about it as similar to a university's medical amnesty policy. Usually if a student is caught violating the alcohol policy, he or she gets in trouble. However, if that student seeks medical attention in the case of extreme intoxication, that student as well as those with them at the time do not get in trouble. This is to make sure that people who are really sick get the medical attention they need. Similarly, social amnesty means that if a woman is raped, any "stupid" decision she made that night - any decision that, had nothing happened her, might have warranted a scolding of "are you stupid?? never do that again, you could have been raped!!" - is overlooked and her peers focus instead on making sure she gets the help and support she needs - support she may not even try to seek out if she's afraid people will blame her for what happened, or afraid of getting in trouble with her friends and family for putting herself in that situation.

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Isn't a Wave - But It Should Be

After the Women's Suffrage Movement (or the "first wave" of feminism), there was a decade of complacency. Women enjoyed their right to vote, but beyond that, saw no reason to push for more rights, nor did people in general feel the need to care about politics. It was a period known for its music, its fashion trends, and for its fun-loving attitude. Women began to show more skin, party more, and enjoy sex more than they ever had. Compare the 1920's to the 1980's, where women has just received a plethora of rights from the Women's Liberation Movement (or "second wave" of feminism), but suddenly began to see a greater focus on looking good (crazy fashion trends, big hair that required a lot of work and styling products), being thin (think of all the workout videos associated with the decade), and being sexual (think MTV).

Shortly after the 1920's came a period of depression and war. Eyes were on Washington again, as politics suddenly became more relevant to everyday people, but there was little focus on women's rights. Sure, women entered the workplace when family money was scarce, and when WWII required women to take the jobs the men left behind, and along with that surge in women's labor came adjustments to women's rights in the workplace. Similarly, in the last decade we've seen a greater interest in politics as the country went to war and plunged into a recession, but those concerns were so great that women's rights have hardly been a social or political priority. Women are going to work not because they necessarily want to, but because they need to in order to put food on the table.

The period between the first and second waves of feminism did see some feminist activity. Someone had to fight for women's labor rights in the 1930's and 1940's, and surely the American people had greater support for these reforms during that time period because there was a need for women's labor. The New Deal also included support for low income mothers. Feminism wasn't dead in that time period, but it was very subtle, a fringe movement that people paid little attention to. That's where we are now.

We're not in a "third wave" of feminism. The Third Wave hasn't come yet. We feminists are like surfers out in the water, trying to catch the occasional baby wave and occasionally getting a good ride in, but nothing major has come our way since the 1970's. We're in a lull, and almost a regressive period where, if anything, legislatures are drastically turning back the clock on women's reproductive rights; rape apologism and victim blaming are rampant with no end in sight, and people are so concerned with evil jezebels making false rape claims that even victims are beginning to doubt their own stories; and people still defend employers who pay their female employees less money for the same job, or who impose greater image standards on the women who work for them than the men who work for them. To many people, feminism is a dead movement. We got what we want, why don't we fight for something more important, right?

In order for Third Wave Feminism to become a reality, there needs to be a catalyst - an earthquake to churn the tsunami. The first two waves arose out of the struggle of African Americans - the suffrage movement arose out of the abolitionist movement; and the early women's liberation movement had close ties to the civil rights movement. Could the catalyst for Third Wave Feminism once again be connected with a racially charged movement? Could be, since we're no more post-racial than we are post-feminist. We don't see any feminist activity arising from an anti-war movement either, as it had during the Vietnam war. Abortion and gay marriage are hot button topics, but as much as they're closely tied with modern-day feminism, there are plenty of people who are pro-choice or pro-gay marriage without identifying as feminists, and there are even people who identify as both pro-life and feminist.

If we are in the early stages of Third Wave Feminism, we need momentum. And if the wave hasn't come yet, we need to figure out how to make it happen.