Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Wow, I'm not "in Style"

I was reading Feministing today, and came across a story from The Globe and Mail telling us that Feminism is not "in style". The column points out that, based on the author's experience with her niece and daughter, my generation knows nothing about feminism. I call Bull Shit.

Yes, there are many women in my generation who don't know the first thing about feminism, who start pro-feminist statements with the dreaded "I'm not feminist, but..." however there are many of us (myself included, in case you were wondering) that consider ourselves feminist. If you'd asked me at 16 (the age of the author's daughter) who Gloria Steinem was, I'd have had the same reaction as her daughter (Who?). Ask me that question now, and I still wouldn't be able to give you a great answer.

Ask me if I think it's wrong that women doing the same job earn an average of 70% of what a man earns, I'll tell you it's wrong. Ask any of my friends, I expect the same answer. Ask a high school student, probably the same answer again. Ask me if I think there are too few women in politics, or running companies, I would say yes. Ask me a question about the issues facing women in our world, and I'll be able to answer, as would most young women.

I've been a feminist since I was 12, before I even knew what a feminist was. When I was in Grade 6 we had a small basketball court beside the school where we would play at lunch. The girls were more than welcome to join a game of 4-square, but when it was time to play "Horse" we were booted off the court by the boys. I got pissed off. I hated playing Horse, I hated basketball, but I hated the fact that the boys wouldn't let me play more. I was determined to play, so I'd stand on the court, and try to get the ball. When they wouldn't pass it to me, I started to argue with them. When I managed to get the ball, I'd toss it to one of the other girls who wanted to play. Finally it got the the point where I'd had enough. The boys weren't listening to me, so I went above them, to our teacher. I demanded that the boys let us play to, because it simply wasn't fair. They included me in games after school, but the other girls didn't play, because they weren't part of their group. I was when there weren't other girls around and it wasn't fair to those girls.

The brief negotiations began, our teacher acting as moderator and we reached a deal. If the boys didn't want to share, they had to split the time, the girls got the court 2 days a week, the boys 2 (Wednesdays were half-days, and we didn't have a lunch-time recess). I negotiated with 3 boys, there were girls with me, but I always did most of the talking at school anyway. I was never popular with boys the way the other girls were, so they felt more comfortable with me. I was an equal, for the most part, while the other girls were there to be impressed. They were willing to talk to me, so we talked and worked it out.

I wasn't stylish then, and I'm fairly certain that a lot of what I think and say isn't stylish now, but that has never bothered me. Change doesn't happen when people are comfortable, and even though many of my peers aren't comfortable with feminism, they do know what it is, and that they have a lot riding on it. We're still here, and we'll keep fighting. Being un-stylish has never stopped us before.

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