Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"I'm a Feminist or a Fruitcake"

To be a female means I am supposed to be pretty. I should be kind, lady-like, motherly, and a great hostess. I should be intelligent enough to manipulate others, and add a dash of demure to get away with it all. I must work a job like everyone else, raise my children, support my family, keep up a house, volunteer, and encourage never-ending quests for knowledge. I do not find my tasks in life to be easy, nor is my situation always fair – but I am a woman, and most importantly I believe that means I am here to endure, to encourage, and to enlighten.  Where some women may feel objectified by the female figure in art and sculpture, I find flattery and honor in the adoration of the feminine figure. While I wince at ridiculous western societal norms regarding feminine hygiene and hair removal, I can’t deny the irresistibility of the smooth, sweet-smelling female form. I have never been denied schooling at an institution based on my race, gender, or religion. I was challenged to accept masculine qualities as an athlete and performer, just as I was pressured to fulfill the most womanly and feminine attributes of a Southern lady. I experience gender privilege when men open most doors I enter; I experience white privilege when given the benefit of the doubt. However, I most often experience social misconceptions regarding my age, my religion, and my sexuality. Zinn & Dill (2009) say “the matrix of domination seeks to account for the multiple ways that women experience themselves as gendered, raced, classed, and sexualized” (p.92). This is the basis of multiracial feminism.
Under the heading of “third wave feminism” work can begin to level out the playing field; to give women a chance to understand the responsibilities inherent in their earned freedoms. Now is the time.  Multiracial feminism, however, has roots throughout every “wave” of historical feminism (Berger & Bettez, 2007). Personally, I would really like to take the time to reestablish what it means to be a woman in the ebb and flow of a third wave of feminism. Are cultural differences becoming simply an explanation for societal groupings, or is there still a lingering disadvantage tied to cultural and ethnic misconceptions? I have yet to personally witness any injustice in my life based on race or gender, but does that warrant my belief that all is well? I am, in fact, a woman who remembers Designing Women’s electrically charged episode The Strange Case of Clarence and Anita, where they donned black shirts with white letters: “He Lied.” I remember the words of second wave feminism ringing loud and clear, though I did not understand from my own perspective. Perhaps there is much to learn from the past, but I’d like the chance to reflect on just how far we’ve come. In Mary Jo’s Bette Davis-style monologue (Bloodworth 1991) I Encourage you to see the lengths we have grown.
Mary Jo: All we want is to be treated with equality and respect. Is that asking too much? I'm sorry, I don't mean to be strident and overbearing, but you know nice just doesn't cut it anymore. I'm mad because we're 51 percent of the population and only two percent of the United States Senate. I'm mad because 406 men in the House of Representatives have a pool, a sauna and a gym, and we have six hairdryers and a ping pong table. I'm mad because in a Seminole, Oklahoma police station; there's a poster of a naked woman that says 'Women make bad cops.' I'm mad because in spite of the fact that we scrub the nation's floors, wash the dishes, have all the babies and commit very little of the crime, we still only make 58 cents on the dollar. And I don't know about the rest of you women out there, but I don't give a damn if people think I'm a feminist or a fruitcake! What I'm going to do is get in my car and drive to the centermost part of the United States of America and climb the tallest tower and yell; Hey, don't get me wrong, we love ya, but who the hell do you men think you are?!!”
Berger, M. & Bettez, S. (2007). Multicultural Feminism. In G. Ritzer (Ed.), Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Retrieved from
Bloodworth-Thomason, L. (Writer), & Steinberg, D. (Director). (1991). The Strange Case of Clarence and Anita [television series episode]. In (Producer), Designing Women. Los Angeles, CA: Studio. Retrieved from;summary
Zinn, M. & Dill, B. (2009). Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.), Feminist Frontiers (pp. 89-94). New York, NY; McGraw Hill.