For most of my life I didn’t think about women’s rights. I knew a bit about women’s suffrage and about the word feminism, but never looked into it deeply. It had seemed to me that feminism was another “ism” for which some people subscribed while others did not. As is the case most of the time, I was astounded by my own ignorance.
I had decided to take an Art history class to fulfill a class requirement at school. To be honest, it seemed like an easy A, and I enjoy art well enough. But it was so much more than I could have asked for. I wish I could remember the professors name, because it is likely without him I would not have become a feminist. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
At this time, I was sort of “exploring” the inner workings of myself. Trying to figure out what I believed in and how they fit into a the puzzle that is me. For my early 20s I was a self avowed Conservative Libertarian. When you are trying to figure out who you are, the best thing to do is try a little bit of everything and then decide later. Back to the subject though.
Feminism, to me at the time, was something that our parents did. It was part of the so called “Second Wave” and really understanding the concept never occurred to me. For those who know me, they’ll know that when I want to learn something it is not enough for me to know it, but to understand it. I put emphasis on this because I suspect that this is how many other men also feel. Not so much that they could not attach themselves to feminism. But that they feel unattached because of their ignorance (but they are ignorant about their ignorance! and so it’s very hard to get out of!).
Then one day our professor announced that we were going to have a chance to earn extra credit during class hours. We would earn it by going to a performance art piece by the guerrilla girls I was stoked to get some extra credit and all I had to do was sit through this performance piece for 40 minutes or so, get a slip signed and I was out of there.
When the day came the professor handed out a slip of paper. On the paper there were some questions:
- Are you a feminist?
- Can a man be a feminist?
- What are the main goals of the feminist movement?
These weren’t going to be graded. So I answered as honestly as I could.
- I don’t know
- For women to gain equal rights
He collected the papers and walked us to the auditorium. The next 40 or so minutes were very odd and confusing. It felt like I was being bombarded with information that I hadn’t heard before. These three women all in gorilla masks were jumping up and down screaming and shouting about things like the patriarchy and if I remember correctly there was at least 1 banana thrown in my direction.
For 40 minutes I was given the lesson that I should have gotten when I was in elementary school:
- Women are treated differently than men
- This is unfair
- You can help fix it
Now I have to say, I didn’t realize it over night. But I do distinctly remember walking out of the theater saying “Well I guess I’m a feminist” now.
Since then I’ve followed feminist blogs, read up more on the history of feminism and have found a large and grand respect for women who have chosen to take up this fight.
The most drastic thing I think I’ve done is change my language and habits. I do not say things like “Throws like a girl” for example.
I also try and call people out when they act in this way. These micro-activities that men have NO IDEA that they are participating in can do real damage. It takes a lot to take a step back and say “This is how I’ve been behaving for years? How embarrassing.”
People are different and as Linus Pauling famously said: You should treat other people 20% better than how you would like to be treated.
I’d like to take a brief moment, to publicly apologize for anything I might have said that would have been offensive. I’ve been told by some of my friends that I take things too far, and really I don’t mean to. If I hurt you in some way, no matter how small through my language or through an action I might have taken I give you my sincerest apologies. I work hard to fix these mistakes, but I also mess up a lot. So I’m sorry.