Feminism is not a Dirty Word 3

So I’ve been reading all about this controversy with the cover of Ms Magazine lately.

“I Can Haz Feminism?”

Jezebel had a post today about an ongoing dispute between Ms. magazine and other self described feminists. Basically these “super feminists” are pissed that Barack Obama is on the cover of Ms. because of how he was portrayed as “Superman” which is…not feminism. Some feminists feel that, well, they could have put anyone up there other than Barack Obama. I can’t say I disagree, we as a nation had two women who made huge strides in the “feminist movement” and they chose…Barack Obama who…hasn’t really done anything outstanding for feminism in my opinion. The argument against it is a little ridiculous but I think Naomi Wolff says it best in this video by disagreeing and yet agreeing with the overall point.

I think the argument should be focused less on the fact that he’s a man (Ms. has had men on their cover before) and more because well…what has he DONE for feminism? Having the “ear of the administration” as Ms. Watts said is a huge stride after the past eight years of anti-woman policies from the Bush Administration. But does that explain how when he was a state senator he voted present on a few “horrnedous anti-abortion” votes instead of voting no? If these women who put him up there are the ones who largely define feminism by your stance on reproductive rights then they made a big mistake because while he calls himself “pro-choice” I wouldn’t say he’s voted like he’s proudly pro-choice. A feminist – male or female -‚  should be PROUD of it, proud of all of his/her opinions in regards to ALL women’s issues. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t but to a lot of us feminists, maybe he hasn’t quite proven it. Overall though, Amy Siskind was right – men can be feminists.

Still though, Barack Obama’s questionable feminist status aside, how 70’s angry butch feminist of us to say men can’t be feminist, while I realize this isn’t exactly what they’re saying- I think anyone devoted to “equalizing” rights (though I personally think they’re all pretty equal as it is) or committed to electing women to office – you know the whole “breaking the glass ceiling?” and creating policies that affect women in positive ways. I think that’s feminism.

Feminism (at least to me) is not just about reproductive rights, it’s not just about the Lilly Ledbetter Act. It’s about equality and empowerment and setting goals and accomplishing them because we’re not in the 1900’s anymore and we can vote, we can run for office and we can have careers and The Man can’t stop us. We’ve come a long way since Jeanette Rankin my friends. What Sarah Palin wasn’t a feminist? She was/is a successful governor, the vice presidential candidate of a party criticized for being the party of middle aged white men and so what if she’s pro-life…she values life over choice – surprisingly a decent sized percentage of this nation is split on this issue and not as pro-choice as we think ourselves to be (much more moderate than many “feminists” would like to think- and that’s their right. But the point is politics aside, that’s the great thing about our nation, we have the RIGHT to opinions. Sarah Palin is still a woman and she broke barriers, like it or not. Hillary Clinton is no more of a feminist than Condi Rice, or Sarah Palin or anyone else I forgot to mention. 80 some-odd years ago women couldn’t even vote and now we’ve had two women run as vice presidential candidates, a woman run for the presidential nomination and lose to a black man (who made strides in his own right which is admirable). All of these women are feminist heros in their own rights. In my humble opinion at least.

People are too quick to define feminism in black and white as a single issue cause. My problem with this is the”feminism is only reproductive rights” feminists.

I am pro-choice however, my feminism is not defined by my pro-choice opinion. I’m not as far left as groups like NARAL, but rather a bit more moderate. How can you be moderate and pro-choice? I value that it’s a decision we as women have the right to make. However I am not gung-ho pro-abortion as many pro-choice women are perceived to be.

This is why I think reproductive rights do not define feminism. They don’t. Feminism is about more than that. I like Amy Siskind’s idea of a fourth wave of feminism for anyone – man or woman regardless of politics – who is “focused on electing a woman “" any woman “" to public office regardless of her stance on issues.”

Why? Because, women deserve to represented by their peers. Women deserve to have equal representation. How many women are in the House of Representatives or in the US Senate? Certainly not 50% of either house is female – yet 50% or so of our population is comprised of women. Go figure. Women deserve to break that so-called glass ceiling. Shatter the s**t out of it if you will. But while trying to do this we should not oppress men just because they “oppressed” us. We should be equal, doing otherwise would simply make us hypocrites.

Feminism doesn’t need a face. If you say “I’m a feminist” and you know what it means to you, and you want to empower women? Then that’s freakin’ awesome. If you think you’re a feminist only on the basis that you’re pro-choice? Good for you I suppose. If you’re a feminist because you think we deserve to not be oppressed by the man and you want to do everything in your power to stop it then so be it. I don’t care if you’re a PhD, or if you don’t even have a GED. Feminism shouldn’t just be defined whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, man or woman, Republican or Democrat. Feminism is about a cause, it always has been dating back to the Suffragists of the early 1900’s. They took a stand for a cause that they believed in. Same with the equal rights movement in the 1960’s, with Roe v. Wade and Title IX in the 70’s. Our issue now? Representation? Equality? Why shouldn’t they both be causes? And why shouldn’t we include anyone who wants to get women to higher places – be it in politics or business – in feminism?

Why not?

I’m proud to be a feminist. Feminism, despite the preconceived notion, is not a dirty word.

commentary cross posted to BlogHer and Blast Magazine