Thinks boys can’t be feminists? The seven boys who have taken my high school feminism class in the last two years disagree. They even got together to make a video to share the ways in which feminism has made an impact on their lives as young men.
“My reason for taking the feminism course is that especially in high school, there’s not opportunities like this that come around, ever,” says Bruke, a high school senior who took my feminism class when he was a junior in the fall of 2012.
“At one point, we wrote an intersectionality essay, and that taught me that nothing is really one-dimensional. Like you can’t just be black. You can be black and gay; or like black, gay, disabled. There are many different things that don’t relate to the master narrative,” Nathaniel, senior, who also took my course in 2012 and later appeared with Gloria…
Back in 2012 I realized I am a feminist—albeit with a little hesitation. Claiming to be a feminist, after all, can carry a lot of pressure, and a good deal of judgement. People see feminists as shrill, bossy, angry hordes of women coming to rip men apart with their pointy feminist teeth. Snap!
So I thought, “I’m not shrill or angry. I don’t want to chew on the souls of men…maybe I’m not a feminist.”
We’re also in a really interesting time in history. It’s like the smelling salts have been snapped, and we’re all getting a jarring new look around. Organizations like Miss Representation, Feminist Frequency, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media are doing the painstaking work of really inspecting what we see and hear in TV, film, and advertising. Through that process a lot of really normal and accepted stuff is being called out as sexist. Misogyny lurks under so many things we really dig (Blurred Lines, anyone?), and one of the roles of feminism is to really look at our world, and call creepy, sexist BS for what it is. But if you’re in the shower singing Blurred Lines and thinking, “This is my jam!” and then you read about how it’s a bunch of creepy, sexist, BS that normalizes rape, suddenly you feel like a creepy sexist who normalizes rape culture. Hmm…(It’s okay. You probably aren’t.)
Feminism also tackles a whole host of topics, some of which might make you uncomfortable. Like the roles of women (and men) in the workplace. The roles of women (and men) in the home. And reproductive rights, which necessitates the use of the word vagina. (Why is vagina such a scary word, you all? 7th graders say it in health class.)
And that stuff? That makes feminism feel like a club that you’re not in.
But unless you’re the mayor of Crapville, you’re probably a feminist. Here’s a test to find out:
Do you think women are just as important as men?
Do you think it’s wrong and bad for women to be beat, groped, harassed, or raped?
Do you think that babies need parents, and that women and men should be allowed to take time off from work when said babies are born or adopted?
Do you think men can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be strong, or violent, or void of emotion?
Do you think women can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be subservient, or demure, or “pretty”?
Do you believe that all people are valuable and we should treat them that way?
Did you answer “yes” to most of those? Well, friend…you’re a feminist.
We’re not going to agree on everything. We feminists—we’re going to have differences and diversity just like anyone else. We’re going to muddle through all of these topics, push back on norms, and bumble around quite a bit. And you’re not going to feel like you’re doing it right.
But you don’t stop being a parent because you don’t know all the answers. You don’t stop voting just because the issues are complicated. You don’t stop shopping until you straighten out your economic theory. You dive in. You work it out. You take it easy on yourself and your fellow humans. You know there’s room to grow.
It is actually important to use the F word
The more people freely say, “I’m a feminist,” the less people will associate feminism with harpy witch women who hate men. The more men say, “I’m a feminist,” the more we can use feminism to improve men’s lives too. (Want to see a man doing some badass work for feminism? Look no further than your favorite Star Trek captain.) The more people throw their weight behind feminism, the faster we’ll progress.
Go celebrate International Women’s Day by claiming feminism as your own. Tell your friends and family to join in on the fun. Let’s make a ruckus and do some good work. I’ll raise a fist in the air for you.
Or Thanksgiving, as it’s known to those who don’t have an insatiable lust for tinsel, candy canes, gift receipts and reindeer blood (only in Denmark).
Oh, noble Thanksgiving, what has happened to you? You used to be the star of autumn but now you’re dwarfed next to Halloween and Christmas like an accountant seated between two sumo wrestlers in coach.
You used to be the day of food, but I have to say that the Super Bowl stole that one from you. I mean, even turducken can’t compete with octodogs (my brother’s favorite) and deep-fried mini Philly cheese steaks (I’ve actually eaten that trash. Mmmm…tasty trash.).
Christmas and Halloween totally have you beat on the product front. Can’t you cross stitch a pilgrim’s hat on a sweater or come out with some turkey skin tights that smell like butter and rosemary? It’s all about the products! Get in the game, Thanksgiving! You’re totally behind in the polls.
But not in my heart. No, in my heart, Thanksgiving is possibly the best of all of the holidays. It’s all about good food, and even better friends. Where Halloween is essentially a dry-run for diabetes and Christmas doles out anticipation and anxiety in equal measure, Thanksgiving is just joy, good times and gratitude. If Oprah, Martha Stewart and a team of fairies were tasked with coming up with a new holiday, I’d bet it would look a lot like Thanksgiving.
So while the Target stores and seasonal aisles will all blow past Thanksgiving like a teenager past a yellow light, I’ll be doing my best to stretch it out until the last bite of turkey is gobbled.
In recent years I have attended a show which features a killer whale. Twice, in fact. And, while I’m sure this wasn’t the intention, it left me with an insatiable desire to correct the errant messages that were communicated via the jumping skills of this large mammal. Allow me to explain.
As the show opens, the audience sits with bated breath while gigantic video screens move into place. We see a boy. He’s probably 10. Nice young lad. He’s whittling. He whittles a perfect whale tail.
Now, children, just a moment. Let me clarify something for you: you cannot whittle a perfect whale tail. Don’t worry, that kid couldn’t do it, either. That’s what we call “movie magic”. If you try that at home you will, without fail, cut your opposing thumbs off. Just FYI. Moving on…
The young lad peers out the window with the introspection of a wise old soul. In the distance…the ocean. What’s that? A splash! Could it be…? Yes, by all means, lad, go! Find out what’s out there!
Moments later, the boy is on the beach. Alone. With a kayak. Now, children: no. This is not allowed. You cannot go to a vacant beach unsupervised. Where are this kid’s parents?! But never mind that, for…what is that? A splash! Could it be…?
At this point, the boy gets in the kayak. WHAT? For real? Paddle, paddle, paddle…out to the ocean. THE. OCEAN. Alone. And what is he pursuing? A whale! That’s your reaction, kid? Oooh…a whale! I should go get it alone in my tiny kayak so it can jump on me and I can die! Children, this is a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. Don’t do this. Your parents will crap their pants out of fear. Literally crap their pants. Just imagine how long you will be grounded if you are the cause of pants-crapping.
But not in the movie. No sir-ee. The lad believes in his destiny to kayak right next to a whale and—SPLASH! It jumps out of the water like it’s putting on a show just for him! Amazing!
So, you know—tada. That’s the end of the movie that is, apparently, about the dumbest latchkey kid to ever have wizard-level whittling skills. But wait. What’s this? It’s a real, live whale here in the whale tank! Yay! Look at it swim about and such! And here comes a dude! And that dude is RIDING THE FREAKING WHALE! Oh, man. That’s super cool. But whaaaa? What is that on his neck? Could it be…? It’s the whale tail on a necklace!
Now, children. Let’s reach back to that lesson about movie magic we learned earlier. This is not real, live, grown-up, dummy latchkey kid. It just isn’t. And that dude didn’t whittle that whale tail, either. He got it from the gift shop. It was made in China. Possibly by a 10 year-old, actually, but that’s another topic.
What they’re trying to say to you, young lambs, is that if you sucker your parents into buying you that whale tail, and if you come back to this bedazzled place 800 times, and if you run about with reckless abandon trying to get eaten by a whale, you will end up riding a killer whale for a living. This is not true. Not even in the slightest.
Now, I’m a big fan of dreaming. You absolutely should dream. Lots of people dream to be, and then become, teachers. Or an accountants. Or truck drivers. Or: secretaries; store clerks; general managers; or customer service representatives. Or probably 1000 other things that aren’t dude-that-rides-a-whale-for-a-living-at-an-emotionally-manipulative-theme-park. And—now this is the key—there’s nothing wrong with that.
Please, children, ignore all this silliness. Go be awesome and sensible and grow up to be the best derned office clerks you can be.
Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening. Today, and for many days, in fact.
I have this little silly habit of getting hooked on puzzle games. It’s weird. And slightly pathetic. I’m not exactly sure why I’m choosing to share this personal tidbit, in fact, because I’m bound to have a formidable amount of shame about it later. Nonetheless, read on…
So, I found a new game involving shiny little candies. You swap them around and try to get them to line up in a certain way and, when they do, they explode and you get points. If you get them to line up in trickier ways, you get special candies. Then, if you line those special candies up together they just blow the crap out of all the candies with lightning bolts and all kinds of fanfare. It’s not the most original game of all time, but I like it. Probably because of the shiny candies.
It started out fun. A click here, a click there, kapow! Kablam! Fun, right? I mean, who doesn’t like exploding candy? And then I got a little better. And I figured out how to get a higher score. I got a star, even. TWO stars. This was getting good.
But then…disaster. My score started lowering. Hmm. That can’t be right. I was getting kinda awesome at this. But alas, my score was, indeed, going down. There was significantly less kapow. And barely any kablam. What the hell?
So, as any self-respecting adult would do, I doubled my efforts. I furrowed my brow and mustered all my concentration as I clicked the “Play Again” button. A few minutes later…dangit. “Play Again.” Dangit. “Play Again.” Son of a… seriously! The more I play, the lower my score. The lower my score, the more I want to play again to get a better score. So here I am, playing the candy game like a fiend, I tell you, and I don’t even have mad shiny candy game skills to show for my effort!
All the while I have other, awesome, creative things I could be doing with my time. They’re sitting in the corner of my mind all cold, skinny and gray from neglect. And the stress of that reality grates on my fragile psyche. I need a break. Some down time. I need to blow the crap outta some candies.
If Benjamin Franklin were alive, and in my apartment, he would straight up murder me.