Originally written and posted by [livejournal.com profile] cluegirl and seen on my friend [livejournal.com profile] rafaela's journal

Dear Gentlemen,

I want you to understand something about me, and about my feminism.

Despite what the Patriarchy would like you to believe, I am not a feminist because I hate you. Nor because I fear you, loathe you, despise you, distrust you, nor because I am envious of your genitalia. I don't hate you; not generally, collectively, nor specifically, on the basis of either your plumbing, or your privilege. And looking at what your penises put you poor bastards through at puberty, you may rest assured, I absolutely and categorically do NOT envy you that particular burden.

The fact is, I respect you, gentlemen, and that is why I am a feminist. I respect your capacity for strength, for honourability, for fairness, and for intellectual, rational discourse too much to allow our society to shortchange you on those accounts.

You are not incompetent, gentlemen; you do not need a system, acknowledged or unspoken, to guarantee that you will earn more than any woman who matches you in effort, education and rank. You do not need your boss setting handicaps against your female coworkers so that you can get ahead. You do not need to resort to seduction to get your promotions and raises at work, and I know you realize that your female co workers should not be suspected of it when they do attain them. You are better than that, wiser than that. I know you are. And that is why I am a feminist.

You are not petty toddlers who can't mix in public without making fart jokes, throwing mud at people and stealing their snacks for a lark, and there's no reason at all why you should not be expected to behave like the adults you are. It is, in fact, insulting to you as adult men that those amoung you who do behave like apes should be given a social pass on it even when it makes all of you look badly. There is no reason why the worst behavior of the most childish of your gender should set the level of society's expectations for you. Most of you don't even agree with the drunken douchebag making a sloppy pass at the office ladies, and most of you find his behavior pretty repulsive. And I know you've got it in you to check him, to tell him to quit his shite, to cover his arse, and stop making your gender look like crap-throwing apes, because you are better than that. I know you are. And that is why I am a feminist.

You are not sociopaths, biologically incapable of empathy, sympathy, or altruism; you are emotionally sapient creatures, entirely capable of perceiving, understanding, and extending grace to those whose emotional and cultural experiences do not mirror your own. You don't need special, easier societal rules made just for you because the ones for everybody else are too hard. You don't have to be rape survivors in order to get that making jokes about rape is a creepy thing to do. You don't have to be a waiter to know that stiffing your waitress is makes you a selfish boor and a cheapskate. You don't have to be the one trying to cover your shiners for work in order to know that beating your domestic partner is unacceptable. You don't have to be the one with a restraining order against her former boyfriend in order to get that it's not cool to follow and harass a girl until she breaks down and gives you what you want. You know right from wrong, and knowing that it's wrong, you are entirely able to just not do it. I know you are. You know you are. And that is why I am a feminist.

You are not violent animals, entirely at the mercy of your erections -- your penises do not overrule your humanity. We both know that you are perfectly able to be aroused by someone, or something, and to then do nothing further about it. We both know you are capable of stopping at any time during the arousal process, right up to when your orgasm actually begins -- anybody who's ever had their date's dad walk in on them has proven that fact. We both know that a skirt, or a pair of shoes do not turn you into a machine that must achieve penetration before it can be switched off. And we both know that society making those exact excuses for men who didn't care to control themselves just looks bad on you. The rapists make you look bad, and the people who make excuses for rapists make you look even worse, because they make it look like you all want to be rapists, really. I know you don't. You don't look at yourselves in the mirror and say 'today, I'll force someone who doesn't want to to have sex with me!' It's ridiculous to assume you would do so. And as such, I don't feel that the laws, and the cultural outlooks that make it seem as though the rapists are the normal ones should stand. You are better than the rapists. I know you are. You know you are. And that is why I am a feminist.

You are not selfish little boors who cannot stand not to Own All The Things. You can open your fists and allow the women you live with, and work with to have things that are relevant to their particular needs, and which don't feature you in any way. You do not have to try and take away a woman's access to childcare just because you don't have children at home. You don't have to shut down rape crisis centers just because you don't perceive yourself to be a potential victim. You don't have to take away a woman's OBGYN funding just because in you, genital warts is an annoyance that won't turn into cancer and kill you the way it will her. You don't have to take away her mammogram screenings just because breast cancer isn't going to kill you. I know you're not that petty, and you know it as well. And that is why I am a feminist.

I believe you are brave enough to stand in battle next to female soldiers, and to view them as your comrades, not as servants, or potential victims of your sexuality. I believe you can work with women, play with women, dance with women, debate with women, sing with women, fight with women, build with women, and design elegant pastries with women without even once having to resort to violence or abuse. You're smart men; your mothers raised you better than that, and we both know it. You're man enough that you don't always have to be in charge of everything. You're man enough to let someone else lead sometimes, even if she's got tits. I know you are. And that is why I am a feminist.

I believe you are brave enough to trust a woman with the choices that will determine her way in the world, and to allow her to make those choices without imposing your will, your wishes, or your religion on her. I believe you have enough respect for the women that you love, that you are entirely capable of expressing your opinion to her if she should ask for it, but otherwise, to acknowledge that it is not you who will be carrying a parasite inside you for a year, it is not you who will have to push it out, and if you choose to walk away from it, it isn't even you who has to feed it for the next 18 years to follow. You know the decision is really hers, because the consequences of that pregnancy are nearly all hers to bear, and you know it always has been. You know that, as men, you have always had the option to walk away from your wild oats and pretend they don't exist. You're fair enough to admit that's pretty shitty, but realistic enough to know that it isn't going to change, and so you are also fair enough to shut up, sit back, and let the woman decide for herself about these things that affect her the most. And if you really want a son of your own, we both know that you're perfectly capable of finding one of the millions of like-minded women out there who want to conceive and carry them for you, BEFORE you've got your girl up the duff. I know you're capable of it, and I find it offensive that the Patriarchy seems to think you aren't that fair, that reasonable, or that honourable. And that is why I am a feminist.

I believe you are brave enough to work for a boss who is a woman, and to do your job with all the skill and presence of mind you would bring to it if you were taking the money and orders from a man. You are entirely capable of taking a woman's orders, and not letting it cheapen your own estimation of your worth as a man. And if those orders go against your ethics, you are capable of resisting them in exactly the same ways as you would resist the orders from a man who wanted you to compromise yourself for his benefit. You are not too fragile to bend, gentlemen, I know this. And so do you. And that is why I am a feminist.

I believe you are brave enough to leave people whose sexuality has nothing to do with you alone. You are brave enough to let a man who loves men, or a woman who loves women make the same kinds of family arrangements that you enjoy, and to infer nothing of that onto your own life or marriage. You are brave enough to look at a man who likes men, and to realize that he might like you, but that doesn't make him a danger to you. You are reasonable enough to then just tell that man you're not interested in him that way, and to leave him alone. You are also brave enough to admit it if you might be interested in him that way, but aren't sure and need some time to work that out. And what's more, you know that HE is reasonable enough to back off if you tell him to. No punches necessary. You don't need to hide behind ritualized violence and denial for that. Just as you can let a guy like a different baseball team, you can let him like a different gender. You are that reasonable, that generous, and more. I know this, and you know this. And that is why I am a feminist.

I believe you are brave enough to look at a woman who has no sexual interest in men, and to realize that it's not a comment on your unworthiness. That she isn't issuing you a dare to change her mind, or challenging you to prove that exposure to your genitalia can straighten her out. That she, in point of fact, agrees with you on what is sexy, and what is fun, and on who you'd both like to have in bed with you. I believe you are big enough to see those women -- and indeed, ALL women, -- as peers, and not as freaks, territory to be conquered, or threats to your manhood. You are that brave. I know this. And that is why I am a feminist.

I believe you are brave enough to yield your point when another person makes its better in debate, regardless of that person's gender or appearance. I believe you are wise enough to understand that a beautiful woman is capable of being your intellectual peer just as an ugly woman, or a plain woman, or a fat woman, or a tall woman, or a tiny woman is so. I think it is insulting to you to assume otherwise -- after all, would we assume that an attractive man had nothing of value to say in the world? No, we would not. And I know you are logical enough to understand the reverse, and to man up to that line, as well. And that is why I am a feminist.

I believe you are brave enough to WANT the women with whom you share your world to get all the education possible. I believe you are wise enough to understand that when the women you love have the opportunity to expand their experiences, and to enrich their minds, that it makes them better partners in your lives, and better mothers to your children. I believe you really do know that the brain is the sexiest part of a woman, and that at heart, you're ready to fall in love with brainy girls without the stigma that's been attached to them for so very long. I believe you are brave enough not to require that your mate be stupider than you, or at least less educated. And that is why I am a feminist.

In short, gentlemen of the world, I am a feminist because I respect you more than the society in which we live respects you. And because I see no reason whatsoever why you could not, or should not live up to that respect. Some of you do so, and regularly. Some of you exceed my respect, and impress me all the time. But others of you persist in coasting along at the level of the lowest common denominator, making cheap jokes, taking cheap shots, settling for cheap sexual encounters, and generally cheapening yourselves for the illusion of tribal acceptance, for the notion that the bros will somehow back you up when it counts, and so the hos don't matter much. Even though you know, deep down, that you're better than that.

I know you're better than that too, and I will accept no bullshite excuses for acting like a coward, like a bully, like a jerk, like a rapist, like a liar, like a user, like a player, like a creep. You're better than that, and I will accept nothing less than your best from you.

And that is why I will always be a feminist.
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