FYI: Feminism Is A Reaction To Men, Not An Original Standpoint

Photo: David MG / Shutterstock
FYI: Feminism Is A Reaction To Men, Not An Original Standpoint

I always had this idea in my mind that the strongest version of me would be the "me" that isn’t a reaction of another person or idea. But that notion is very hard when live in a singular fashion while the world around us is dualistic in nature. 

I remember when feminism became a thing. I watched the manifesto formulate and disperse; I watched as more and more women took hold of the idea that they were not second-rate citizens nor were they second to anything. Then, I saw the ideas go into practice; the first that comes to mind is the burning of bras.

I never really understood how burning one’s bra was associated with female liberation. Were we to equate the bra with some sort of male-enforced prison that we needed to free ourselves from? What was worse was that I really liked (and still do like) wearing a bra. So, how could walking around jiggling and bouncing, nipples to the wind, be freeing to the person who really enjoyed the security of her boobs being held in? 

It then occurred to me that not every woman is the same: What you call freedom, I might call torture. It had also occurred to me that if losing the bra was supposed to be a statement of, “No man shall constrict me!” then surely we ended up doing many men an ironic favor back then, by letting them see our precious breasts of freedom, bouncing to and fro. Oh, how they must have suffered that. We really taught them a lesson with that one, didn’t we?

The truth was, and is, that the feminism definition is essentially a reactionary rebellion against what I would have to call masculinism. With it comes a rule book of things to believe in, and if you are to consider yourself a feminist, you have to abide by and believe in the dogma of the rule book.

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There is no such thing as, “I am woman.” There can only be, “I am woman and I am not yours to trod upon.” 

Feminism is a reaction, not an original standpoint.

Feminism, though noble, has become a religion that defines new rules at an astronomical rate. And because now, more than ever, we are exposed to all that goes on at every moment in time due to social media and a constant flow of information, both positive and negative — we race to keep up with it. Feminism is the Grande Domme, and we, the women who care to not be trod upon, bow to her whip.

It’s hard to write about feminism, mainly because there are a zillion people waiting around to see what you get wrong, and what you don’t understand about it. Which is, of course, my point: feminism is individual and it requires (for me, at least) an individual understanding.

Yes, of course, that understanding might take one woman on a man-bashing tour of the world, another on a crusade to equal the pay ratio between men and women, and another on a personal journey to see whether or not she can relate to the man she loves.

But for a while now, feminism has taken on the face of bitter intolerance. Where we all sincerely do not want to be objectified, harassed, belittled, shunned, rejected, raped, beaten, denied human rights or the right to choose anything we damned well please, we have now also become acid-spewing harpies who will kill a man if he dares to gaze at us lovingly. We no longer allow ourselves the softness that is associated with vulnerability.

When Steve Martin tweeted his love and admiration for the late Carrie Fisher, we turned on him so hard that he had to retract his statement and slink off in shame for mentioning the beauty of the actress, followed by words of praise for her intelligence. So, we may have our bras back on and we may be empowered by the love of our own beauty and bra-clad sensuality, but we are relentlessly unforgiving in how we perceive compliments on that beauty when those compliments are given by men.

Once, a long time ago, a man said right to my face, without any hesitation or second thought, “Men are superior to women.” I remember laughing, thinking what a low-level idiot he must be to even want to let that out of his mouth. But he was saying it to me, and I was different than everyone else; I always knew I was "equal" if not complete, on my own, as is, as a woman.

I never believed what others were saying about women not being as powerful as men, and so I moved through the world as a monarch, owning my power naturally. When this man so boldly showed his ass, it hadn’t occurred to me that this was a real problem. Alas, I was a singular creature living in the dualistic world, where inequality ruled supreme. I just hadn’t let it rule my life.

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And as much as I’d like to have remained a rock, an island, I noticed that my natural feeling of equality was a losing game, as the world was not playing along with me. 

I could walk into a room, thinking I was a queen, and the men around me would mentally reduce me to their version of second-class citizen. I, the queen, would not get full pay. I, the queen, would not get taken seriously. I, the queen, would not be thought of as equal.

And I, the queen, would forever have to deal with the snickering assumptions of the men who judged me and believed that I, the queen, was born to cook, clean, give blowjobs, have sex, give birth, be loyal, work for less pay, be denied opportunity again and again due to my gender, and when I get too old to look pretty doing it, I, the queen, could be tossed to the side for the upgrade.

The problem with being a feminist queen is that sometimes you like giving blowjobs. Therein lies the rub, eh? How can you admit to something as base as that without making yourself into an object? Can a feminist warrior queen enjoy a compliment on her beauty or a roll in the hay without it having to become a statement on how she’s taking her life back, owning her queendom and defending her self-empowerment?

It’s called splitting the difference. Righteous discrimination. Choice. Feminism isn’t black and white; it’s the thousand and one gray areas that make up the universe and how women fit into it.

We can’t be so simply defined as intolerant rebels who fight a male-dominated system that has unfairly and unreasonably repressed us for an insane amount of time, nor can we deny how rich it is to feel appreciated by good men, raise families, bring strong children into the world and sacrifice for those children.

We are everything we imagine ourselves to be and our potential goes way beyond words and titles and definitions. In a world of dualities, both feminine and masculine, the strongest thing we can do for ourselves is to know ourselves as complete. We can’t fight if we believe ourselves to be too broken to stand on our own.

Feminism is not lost, it simply needs to be completed and that means we need to populate the ideology with good people who know themselves as complete.

I have lived through everything. All of the above and then some. I’ve been cracked and banged and broken into a thousand pieces, yet I am complete, and no one person, or idea, or philosophy, or fear will ever convince me that I am anything less than whole as is.

I am a strong woman, a mother, an artist and a lover to a man.

This is my will.

This is my feminism.

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Dori Hartley is primarily a portrait artist. As an essayist and a journalist, she can be read in The Huffington Post, ParentDish, YourTango, The Daily Beast, Psychology Today, More Magazine, XOJane, MyDaily and The Stir. Her art books ‘Beauty’, ‘Antler Velvet’, and 'Mads Mikkelsen: Portraits of the Actor' are all available on Amazon.