I’ve blogged before about how I never really realized the depth of neglect in my childhood until I was raising a child of my own. The same is true of me and feminism. I never considered myself a feminist, but how could I not be while I’m trying to raise my daughter.
I know she’s only seven, but we’ve already talked about how the way women in tv/movies/comics dress and how it affects them/her (“It’s okay for adults to wear what they want, but I think I should wear clothes that cover all the parts of me that other people shouldn’t touch.”), how she feels that girls aren’t supposed to like science fiction, and recently we’ve talked about women’s inequality.
I never meant to have these talks with her. But I refuse to skip a chance to talk about a deeper issue just because she’s seven. Or just because I’m uncomfortable with the topic, or I don’t really have answers to give her. It didn’t escape our notice that most of the people who criticized our Dear DC blog were male, and all the people who got outright nasty were male. What surprised me was that after the Ms. Magazine blog picked up the article she asked me what a feminist was.
I explained that feminist has come to mean a lot of things, but basically it’s a person, male or female, who fights for the right of women to be equal. This confused her. When I explained that there was a time when women weren’t allowed to vote, when they couldn’t own property, they couldn’t hold most jobs and often weren’t allowed to go to school after a certain age she was stunned. She’d never considered such a thing. I have a hard time trying to explain why this is, too.
Worse, we had the misfortune of experiencing that kind of sexism this year. I’m an avid role player, hard core table top and I met my partner at a LARP. Earlier this year I was part of a D&D game that I loved. Unfortunately one of the late-addition players has a problem with women. We came to an outright confrontation when I wouldn’t spend my experience the way he demanded that I do it, and furthermore when I played my character in a way he didn’t like. (For those in the know, my elven fighter was made commander of a moderate amount of troops and he, as the player, demanded that I turn over the troop to his character’s control and became extremely agitated and augmentative when I chose to command my own troops. Pretty much everything I did that last game was met by arguing, yelling and physical agitation by him.)
The DM decided, rather than supporting my right to play my character my way to break up the problem by kicking me out of the game. That’s right, not the person causing the fights. Me, for not giving into him, I guess. I don’t know. They didn’t even have the balls to tell me they were kicking me out, they said the game was over and then snuck off to play somewhere else.
Then a few months later the problem player expressly invited my partner to come play in a game he was running and made sure it was clear that I was not invited. Here’s the kicker, there are two other women in the circle of friends who are tolerated to “hang out” (but aren’t allowed to role play) but they don’t talk much and they certainly never disagree with said jerk.
I admit my feelings were hurt. This was not a new set of friends. They were people who had lived with us at time after losing their homes. People I bought food for. People I supported at times with money, but mostly emotionally and with help like rides places, research, lend resources, etc. For years we got along fine.
This hasn’t escaped my daughter’s notice, especially since on these game days even she and her brother are welcome to go play with the other kids, but somehow I’m not welcome.
So she asked, and now she knows that yes, there are still people out there who think women don’t deserve to be equal. I’m not talking about the unconscious skewing of society to oh, de-criminalize domestic violence because the perception is that it’s a female crime. Or the habit of people to blame the victim when it comes to rape but not for male-on-male assault, or even, say gang violence or murder. Or the sexualization of women in media, but not men. (Or at least, certainly not to the same degree. There certainly is a fictional image of perfection present in males in media, but it’s skewed more toward strength and confidence and perfection of moral character–either toward good or evil–not sexualized.)
So now it’s hard not to see it, even for her. and once you see it it’s ridiculous for me not to tell her that just because some people fall for the B.S., just because some people outright buy into it, doesn’t mean she has to be let them make her less of a person. It doesn’t make her opinion, her voice, invalid. It’s jsut so important to me that she know that, and if that makes me a feminist, so be it.