We’re Not Done Yet…

Sometimes I hate social media.  I have learned that serious and planned cyber sabbaticals keep me sane. I was on the verge of throwing it all out last week when I fell headlong into a serious debate on Facebook.  It is easy to isolate ourselves in the cyber world, to cultivate a space of opinions and ideas that only confirm our own well considered prejudices.   My first cyber space conflict tested my convictions and my compassion, but social media redeemed itself, at least for now.

She and I have always been political polar opposites. We could probably never agree on a church service or a meal time prayer.  We listen to different newscasts, read different blogs, and will raise our boys to know different faiths.  We are strong women and good friends.  And I could not ignore her Facebook post about the end of the women’s movement because a long time ago I made feminism my armor.  I have taught my grown brothers to announce – out loud and whenever possible – that they are feminists.  My own young boys know feminists who are doctors, lawyers, business owners, teachers, and stay at home parents.  They have been taught that families make different choices and that feminism is about making sure women have the opportunity to make choices.  So my friend’s short post about the “phony feminist fight” surrounding the economics of birth control brought me to my proverbial feminine knees.

I was upset.  To me the debate reeks of sexism and misogyny.  The objection to a mandate that requires insurance companies to cover birth control options is ludicrous. Not to mention that the objections come from politicians who simultaneously sexualize women and insist that our calls for access to birth control are some kind of promiscuous promise.  But my girlfriend sees it differently.  She worries that we are being played.  She sees greedy politicians attempting to buy the female vote with feminist rhetoric and hollow promises.  I worry that she might be right.

I will always be a feminist and I will hold on to the power of the women’s movement.  To me this means hard work. It is diligent outreach to ensure that women have the occasion to make our own choices.  Without access to birth control, we have few other choices.  I will be loud, and at times angry, about wage gaps and sexual politics and the still intact glass ceiling. I feel obligated to alter the conversation, to suggest that we reconsider old habits, and to point out inadequacies in language and practice that still leave women feeling isolated and marginalized.  We cannot afford to forget how much more we have to gain.

Something strange happened after I posted a snarky, not-so-subtle status update in response to my friend.  The instant power of social media started a conversation.  My friend sent me a private and apologetic message.  She was first concerned with our longtime friendship.  Then she worked hard to explain herself. She does think that the women’s movement is over, or at least irrevocably altered.  She admits to being cynical and she is convinced that women will never be able to unite around a single, universal goal. But she also wants women to work at whatever they are “called to do” and she has made room for loud, convicted women like me.  She pointed out that there will be “thousands upon thousands of women, both and young and old, waking up tomorrow with big ideas” and access to powerful tools like the internet.

With enough patience, it may be a space well suited for an honest conversation and debate.

– S

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7 thoughts on “We’re Not Done Yet…

  1. Great post! I agree with you. What upsets me is that the word “feminism” has obtained a negative connotation throughout the years, especially with the Limbaugh-invention of “feminazi,” which makes my blood boil. However, the ideals behind feminism must not be forgotten, and we must remain diligent out fight for equality in all realms of life: work, health, education, etc. No matter what word we use, this fight is not over.

  2. I dislike the focus on language that social movements tend to have. It’s good to fight against dishonest, rhetorical language that strawmans a whole population. However, when a philosophical debate boils down to semantics, that is an irrevocable sign that the debate is over.

    “Feminazi” can be equivalent to “faggot”. Why should the word “faggot” offend me? Does it not refer to a gay man? Am I not a gay man? By taking ownership of the phrase, you diffuse the power it has over you. Rush Limbaugh is a turkey-necked, pill-popping, mysogynistic tub of grease. He came up with the term ‘feminazi’ to have power over the group. If he says the phrase, he then knows that a large portion of women will be angry.

    Is it not, then, the responsible of feminists to diffuse the power of the word? The only way to defeat bullies like Limbaugh is to take power away from them, after all.

  3. The difficulty with that, J, is the “feminazi” is even more “loaded” than “faggot.” The implied connection between feminism and Nazism undermines all that feminists worked for. Feminism has always been, from its earliest beginnings, ( see the SEneca Falls Convention of 1848) about equal rights. Nazism is absolutely NOT about equal rights. The word “Nazi” conjures up images of concentration camps, and of genocide. It completely subverts what Feminsim stands for. I think we need to continue to use the word “feminist” and identify ourselves as feminists. By doing so, we will keep the correct word in circulation. We wil not be co-opted by the Limbaughs of this world.

    • There is definitely power in words, and to some extent I agree with JD that we can take back power by using the word that others may deem offensive. For example, the Obama campaign has taken ownership of the word “Obamacare” as a way to diffuse the negative connotation of the phrase.

      On the other hand, I agree with Jane because of the reference to “nazi” within that Limbaugh phrase. Some words are simply meant to belittle and insult and no matter how much we try to “own” them, we cannot change the negativity of it. In that case, all we can do is educate, educate, educate.

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