It will surprise nobody who's ever spent five minutes with me that I'm a non-underarm-shaving, Gloria-Steinem-loving, pro-choice-espousing, argumentative-as-hell feminist. And a feisty one, at that. I will rant at you at length on Facebook about why I have the right to walk down my own road without men commenting on my rear. (One friend, a gay male, did not understand why this was a problem until I pointed out the whole threat-of-assault problem.) I will petition and picket and yell about why feminism is important for everybody, whether they think they need it or not — and this fire in my belly has, obviously, changed my outlook on the world.
As far as I can tell, I've always been this way. I caused consternation at my all-girls school when I announced in seventh grade that I'd rather have been born a boy, "because they have it better in society". But it's necessary not to take a point of view for granted. Feminism, as with all complex perspectives about rights and needs, needs to be continually monitored and reassessed, and I like to be kept aware of how my beliefs effect my world.
Here's a small list of how being a feminist changes your awareness of ordinary things. Often, unhappily, to be angry about them — but also to celebrate demonstrations of women's equality and how society treats our gender. I have no idea what color feminism-tinted glasses would be, but I for one am happy to keep wearing them.
Feminism makes you aware of challenges to gender equality in many areas, and advertising is unfortunately one of the worst offenders when it comes to gross sexism and nonsense. You become better at reading the subtle signals encoded in ads — why do women want dishwashers and men want cars? Why does every woman have to be young, thin, and white? Why are our bodies so frequently sexualized as vehicles for selling completely unrelated products? And why do female razors cost so much more than male ones ?
2. Stereotypes About Gender
What some people take as perfectly "natural" assumptions — men hate asking directions, women are better at detail-oriented tasks, women are more emotionally intelligent and less good at math — feminists tend to scrutinize with a little more suspicion. Just because they've been passed around as truths and made into sitcom punchlines doesn't make them true. And while the genders certainly differ, it's always tricky when those differences are used as an excuse for unequal treatment.
3. Political, Economic, & Media Representation
Feminists will always be looking for the woman in the picture of senators, the amount of ladies in a new Cabinet, the Fortune 500, the TV shows helmed and written by women, and the films that pass the Bechdel test (where women hold substantive conversations about something other than a man, if you've never heard the term before). Representation is a part of equality, particularly in positions of power and influence, even if it doesn't solve everything.
Feminism creates an interesting slant on how to change the world: a focus on empowering women. The stats don't lie: women who are more educated and have more control over their lives and decisions result in healthier, wealthier populations. Philanthropic ideas like micro finance and Kiva, which give micro-loans to people attempting to start small businesses, tend to appeal to feminists, as do ones that fund girls' education.
Who do you hero-worship? Here's a list of my feminist heroes: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Arundhati Roy, Aung San Suu Kyi, Stoya, Sheryl Sandberg, Patti Smith, Loretta Ross, Ruth Bader Ginsburg ... I could go on until my breath ran out. And men who espouse feminist values, like Desmond Tutu, are on that list too.
If you're a feminist, chances are strong that you idolize women who boss their particular fields, do work to make other women come after them, and position themselves as fighters for women's equality.
It's a nasty truth, but feminism makes you basically allergic to Two And A Half Men. On the bright side, though, it makes you super enthusiastic about stuff like Broad City, Amy Schumer's new screenplay with Jennifer Lawrence, the amazing A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the all-female Ghostbusters, and other female asskickery on the entertainment landscape.
Feminists likely want well-rounded, realistic stories where women actually have three-dimensional narratives and journeys. Plus, they are not cool with the idea that women "can't be funny."
7. The Artistic Canon
If you've ever looked at a reading list, art catalogue, or music compendium and had a moment of feminist rage — "Where are all the women?" — you're not alone. Feminism, or at the very least a sense of fair play, underpins a sense of frustration when looking at major players in artistic history, from literature to painting. It's all dudes, and often white dudes at that — and the feminist bones in your body will start to tingle when yet another person says Sylvia Plath "just learned everything from Ted Hughes anyway". Women do not get their artistic dues — and we see that.
8. Historical Narratives
See #7. History is dominated by powerful men making decisions, running amok, and generally taking up all the conversation. It's often not completely possible to correct this, because 1) women often weren't given enough responsibility to do anything world-changing, and 2) nobody wrote it down if they did. But history is also written and studied, and feminism might give you a push towards prioritizing the stories of women who did make it into the history books (hello, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hatshepsut, and Joan of Arc).
A feminist lady is not likely to get herself into a relationship with anybody who makes "go make me a sandwich" jokes, makes fun of her for being "too girlie," or is rude about PMS. Feminist relationships can take all forms, from the submissive to the dominating, but the inherent foundation of equality is the same throughout.
Respect for your choices and ideas becomes a necessity in a feminist relationship, not just an optional extra if the person is really special. The list of deal breakers might seem longer, but the end result, if it goes right, is pretty spectacular.
Images: vindpuss/Flickr, Giphy (9)