"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." -Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler
Although the above quote may be due to the cited sources, I was introduced to it by the wonderful Professor Lani Roberts of the Oregon State University philosophy department. Although it is not yet Feminist July, I want to take a post to discuss what Feminism means to me. I have recently read a series of wonderful posts by various bloggers about what Feminism means to them. You can find them here, here, and here. The first linked was prompted by the second, the second by the third, and mine, in turn, by the first.
In a post last year I wrote that, "[h]ere I am using Feminist in the sense of one who examines the interactions between one's gender and their lives, a more academic sense perhaps, rather than one who simply believes that they [women] are also people." As I note, this is a fairly academic definition of what Feminist, or Feminism, means. Here I hope to make a more personal account.
I want to begin by saying that the first post makes what I personally consider to be a very important point, so I link to it again. In liberating women from the necessity to reproduce traditionally feminine modes of personality and behavior, men too become liberated to more fully realize themselves, rather than attempting to replicate a traditional mold of masculinity. Thus, women's lib is also shy, caring men's lib, among many others' lib, which is of great personal importance to me. Because the first article addresses this issue at such length with great skill, I shall move on without devoting to it the length its importance deserves.
In addition to my own personal liberation, Feminism also means greater security for people that I love. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, 25% of women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and 20% of high school women experience dating violence. The National Organization for Women reports 232,960 instances of rape or sexual assault in the US in the year 2006 alone. According to Wikipedia there were 155.6 females in the US in 2009, so the rapes and sexual assaults in the year 2006 ALONE represent 0.15% of the female population.
I present these statistics not to scare or dishearten, although they certainly do sadden me, but rather to explain the powerful need that anyone who cares about any women in their life ought feel for Feminism. Statistics such as these provide explanation for the traditional notions of machismo, wherein a male would provide security for a select group of HIS females. However, in addition to being demeaning to women's humanity, this model is clearly dysfunctional considering the rates of relationship violence. In order to make the world safer for the women that we, as either men or women, love, it only makes sense to promote a world wherein all women are safer.
In a final note, I would like to preempt any possible deflection toward the plight of men. I am a man, I recognize how full of suck life can be for men. However, unless you can connect increasing the safety of women directly to increasing the injustices occurring to men, bringing it up in this context seems like naught but a feint or distraction, because male suffering neither invalidates nor justifies female suffering.