Being a Feminist Means I Need To Stop Being Afraid of Being Called a Bitch
Contemporary feminism is, in a lot of ways, standing on the edge of a revolution — and I am convinced that it is a revolution that involves every single one of us. Celebrities like Beyonce, Olivia Wilde, and Ellen Page are increasingly considering the f-word a badge of pride, and rightly so. But lately, I've been noticing one area in which we could all be doing more.
Earlier today, I was innocently perusing the Huffington Post when I stumbled across an interesting personal essay. The piece, written by Kathleen Miles, was titled "I Witnessed Hollywood's Sexism Firsthand — And Said Nothing." It detailed the shocking (well, not so shocking ) comments the author overheard at two different Oscar viewing parties, and how she sat silently listening to them, unwilling to make a scene.
It would be hypocritical to damn essays on feminism as I literally sit writing one ... But we must admit to ourselves that on some level, it's easier to sit behind a computer screen than it is to look a group of men in the eye at an Oscar party and say, Hey asshole, you're demeaning the talented women you see in front of you, and I won't hear another word of it.
What I found so interesting about the essay was the recognition I felt in reading it.
When Gabourey Sidibe, the star from the film "Precious," walked on stage, the man held up his hand to block her from his sight, giggling like a middle schooler making fun of the chubby girl in class. He was similarly vocal about his disgust for Whoopi Goldberg, the only female presenter who didn't bare skin.
Miles' piece works towards the same goals as other essays found on countless women's websites, Bustle happily included. We are lucky to live in an age when millions of people are entering into thought-provoking conversations about feminism, and these discussions are being given a platform.
Still, something about these essays eats at me. It would be hypocritical to damn essays on feminism as I literally sit writing one, and I applaud Kathleen Miles' honesty. But we have to admit to ourselves that it's easier to sit behind a computer screen than it is to look a group of men in the eye at an Oscar party and say, Hey asshole, you're demeaning the talented women you see in front of you, and I won't hear another word of it.
I'd argue that we as women are still afraid of being perceived as frigid bitches when we talk about feminism. The fear is totally understandable: standing up to bullies is terrifying. But we need to do it anyway, because the kind of men who are willing to make misogynistic comments in front of us are probably not the kind read an essay on sexism at the Oscars.
I know I worry about seeming like a bitch — even when the issue at hand isn't about women.
Recently, I had a guy staying on my couch who was fond of saying that he really really wanted a black friend. The first time he said it I held my tongue, and the second time, I only gave him a look and probably said something along the lines of, "You should probably want to be friends with someone because you like their personality, no?"
Was I comfortable with his blatant fetishization of an entire race? Not remotely; but I wasn't willing to stand up and be the "bitch" who was going to call his comments out as racist. This is the fear that holds back all social movements, and this is the fear that keeps feminism from becoming even more widespread.
Eventually, I did let loose on him. He didn't get it. How could I be racist against black people if all I want is to be their friend?
Did I feel like a bitch telling him otherwise? Yeah, I did. It isn't considered socially graceful to tell someone that what they're saying is incredibly ignorant — especially when you're a woman. But you know what also isn't socially graceful? Being racist. It was about time he knew it. And you know what feels worse than being called a bitch? Not defending your beliefs because you're afraid.
So I invite you to stand up and be a bitch with me. Let's make people uncomfortable at Oscar parties — and everywhere there's bigotry. If standing up for what I believe in makes me a bitch, then count me in.