No, he wasn’t shocked. I sensed the frustration and worry in the mildly escalated tone of my boyfriend’s quasi-question. There will be a follow up, I’m pretty sure.
“Don’t go rant to me about men objectifying women and playing with women’s feelings to get in their pants! I’ve had that conversation before and I don’t know how to answer your possible issues!”
Two routes. One, I could mentally draw red circles on all sexist and insensitive points of his statement. Or, I can simply conclude that my boyfriend is bewildered and proceed to the more alarming issue: What’s with the violent reaction with Feminism? Why does he seem scarred and traumatized? And who’s that girl who gave him the limited concept of Feminism?
Oh snap. How can you be such a cliche. Objectification of women? There’s more to Feminism than fighting for your right to wear bikinis, plunging necklines and daisy dukes (and upload it) and not get checked out and ugh, objectified, by guys.
“Feminism is taking the burden off men.”
That’s how my English Literature teacher Ms. Quibilan tried to define Feminism and probably the most brilliant lesson I have learned in high school.
I thank my education for opening my mind that the “What you can do, I can do better.” adage is just a mere reflection of one of the many Feminist schools of thought - Kate Millet’s Sexual politics. (Read more about it here.) I learned that it was never about defeating men - it is about freeing ourselves from Patriarchy and sexist dogmas that was brought by century-old social constructs. I fell in love with the insight that being a strong woman is also being sensitive to men’s needs, aspirations, weaknesses and most of all, fears.
Gynocriticism, my favorite, gave me a refreshing insight on the uniqueness of the feminine experience. It was a reaction to Freud’s very popular theories of psychoanalysis - which regarded the female psyche as “other” and established patriarchal (sometimes oppressive) constructs that limit the understanding of the female psyche. It celebrated freedom from the patriarchal and sexist (not necessarily “masculine”) frames of mind.
Learning Feminism (beyond pop-culture driven movies, magazines and songs) from my teachers, I felt that I was gifted with a certain independence and identity. I began to regard my gender and my sexuality as factors that contributes to myself as an individual. I won’t say “rational individual” because I recognize the fact that I have emotions too, so sometimes, I will be an emotional individual.
What I know about Feminism is not enough. I’m not an expert, at all. But I cringe at the thought that some women out there preach Feminism and regard themselves as Feminist, when all they know are just the tip of the icebergs. Yes, Feminism may be about being “empowered”, but what does “empowered” really mean? Who gives it to you? Where and how do you get the power? Oh please, Feminism is beyond Destiny’s Child singing “Independent Women”, or Drew Barrymore or Ellen Page portraying their snarky heroine roles, or Diablo Cody writing another feisty comedy with a perfectly quirky female lead. Its beyond getting all angsty of how the society supposedly fucked you up. Conversely, don’t you think its about how you have contributed to change the fucked up-ness of this society?
At its core, well at least for me, Feminism is about having a choice. History is already telling us the story of how women fought hard for it: from equal rights to in vitro fertilization. I think Feminism is about knowing yourself well, understanding people and situations better and making responsible choices. Feminism is also having a voice. But not merely expressing yourself, but its about putting something sensible and inspiring out there. You have a voice when you have people who listen to you.
Feminism is never about defeating men. Its not just standing up for your girlfriends. Feminism is always making a sensible choice and having the perfect mix of prudence and courage to find a voice so you can fight for it.
P.S. I must admit, this is something that has lingered in my head for quite some time. I was just waiting for the perfect time to write about this. And Teacher’s Day gave me the perfect reason to do so. Because Feminism is one of the few best thing I’ve learned in school. I’ve got my high school teachers to thank that for.