On Why I Will Never Be A Great Feminist

I think I’m a pretty decent feminist. I change my own oil, can change a tire on the side of the highway, balance my checkbook, pay for my own dinner, do my best not to be a doormat for the men that I date, etc. However, I don’t see myself ever being a truly great feminist. Cuppy van der Cake will never be a household name, nor will I ever become part of the great feminist literary canon.

I’m too goddamn nice.

Seriously–I’ve got a pretty good backbone going on, I certainly don’t think of myself as the kind of girl you can walk all over and most everyone I know has at some point remarked on how they think of me as an exceptionally strong person. So I’m not worried about being a pushover. But I DO just want people to get along, and I believe very much in approaching issues from all sides and trying to share perspectives.

I got into a big fight with my ex-boyfriend once because he was in a fit of borderline violent road rage and I tried to explain what might have happened with the other driver and why it was all just a big misunderstanding and he shouldn’t be so angry about it. He did not like me empathizing with the other driver.

This kind of thing comes up in my life ALL THE TIME. I am constantly sticking up for strangers that I’ll probably never even meet because I hate listening to people get all worked up and spitting mad, assigning attributes to random people just because they don’t agree with them. Hell, I even empathize at times with Republicans and the religious right (I have nothing against the religious right as long as they don’t want to control how I live my life. If they find happiness and guidance in their religion, well that’s just super for them! It doesn’t work for me. But every time I see someone speak poorly of someone else strictly because of their religious or political ideology, when those things are not relevant to the issue at hand, I get really upset).

I don’t want to make myself out to be some great sympathetic morally wonderful person, because I’m NOT. I think terrible things sometimes, and I genuinely upset myself with the sort of bile that I can come up with, so please don’t think that I’m sitting here preaching. All “Oh woe is me, I shall never be a famous feminist because I am just too damn sensitive and sweet and caring!”

That’s not it at all. I see my determination to be fair and listen to everyone as a weakness. I am entirely TOO WILLING to empathize and forgive.

Some things shouldn’t be forgiven. Sometimes you have to draw the line and not back down.

I’m not good at drawing the line and not backing down.

When it comes to huge stuff–rape, murder, outright hatred–I can stand up to that. But many of the little things? Maybe, as a feminist, I SHOULD hate Rapelay, or I SHOULD be firmly against cosplay that involves sexualizing women’s bodies, or I SHOULD refuse to take my imaginary future husband’s last name if I ever get married. But here’s my dirty little secret–a lot of that stuff… I just can’t get upset about it as I should. I need to choose my battles.

I don’t think I’ll ever become a famous feminist by choosing my battles. What I think I CAN become is a good role model and guide to the people around me. We all see the high profile members of any movement–Sarah Palin, believe it or not, is not actually representative of every Republican. Just like Valerie Solanas is not representative of every feminist.

People get turned off by extremes, unless they feel that same passion. Sometimes you have to move in baby steps, and sometimes you’re never going to hit the extremes no matter what. However, wouldn’t it be great if more women felt some sort of allegiance to feminism? Just little things, like not just knowing that just because a guy takes you out and buys you dinner you don’t owe him sex, but actually feeling it. Or feeling like it’s okay to pay for your share of dinner so that issues like that never even come up. Or keeping a level head and rational mind on your side while shopping for makeup and shoes and clothes–it’s not easy to overcome the beauty standards of our culture, and sometimes it’s even fun to subscribe to them, but making sure that you keep your rational mind working for you so that you don’t get overwhelmed and depressed is important. Keeping in mind the wage gap, and striving to earn fair pay and good working conditions is important.

We’ve won a lot of the big name battles–we have the vote, we can work outside the home, we have access to birth control and abortion (for now at least). All that’s left are the smaller battles, and most of us don’t have the passion or the investment to fight them.

Some of us are never going to be the intense firebrand feminists. We’re going to be the casual feminists, who want to balance feminism with the rest of our lives. Not everyone can make feminism the center of their lives. I know I can’t, as much as I used to dream of being one of the big movers and shakers in the movement. I know that’s not where my life is headed, or where my personality will take me.

I have faith in my ability to help others feel a little more confident and powerful in themselves. I have faith in my ability to help others become more aware of the inequalities and subtle barbs that clutter our culture–as to which battles they choose to fight is their own decision. I have faith in my ability to help empower others, but I do not have faith in my ability to steer them in a direction.

If I help people to feel a little stronger, I will consider that a victory. If I help people see from someone else’s point of view, even if I don’t necessarily agree with that point of view but just because I think it’s important for people to understand each other, I will consider that a victory.

I know that there are times that my over-eagerness to try to understand and empathize with the point of view of others makes me weaker and less of a fighter than I should be. But that is who I am, so I have to work with what I have. I guess that I could try to change, but that’s not something that I want to do. I think there’s worse weaknesses to have.

If it means that sometimes, yes, I will write in defense of hentai videogames, then that’s that. If it means I’ll keep wearing costumes that might not be ideal, then that’s that. I like to think that I’m still providing some sort of service.

Maybe I’m wrong. But I’ll choose my battles and fight them, and you can choose yours.

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04/15/2010. Tags: . Uncategorized.

3 Comments

  1. Holly replied:

    I couldn’t agree harder. Sure, I want to fight the Good Fight. I also want to have friends and have sex and have fun and have a job in the meantime. Feminism is just one of a lot of priorities.

    Also, wow, I love your blog and I’m so adding you, and hey, we’re in the same area, that’s way cool.

    • Cuppy van der Cake replied:

      Exactly–my politics really just don’t control all of my life. I want to make them as much a part of my life as I can, but I can only go so far.

      And thank you! I am a huge fan of your blog 🙂 I actually think we know some of the same people. I twittered about one of your entries the other day and one of my friends got very excited!

      • Holly replied:

        I know we know some of the same people, actually, I confirmed it. We should like totally hang out some time!

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