Further thoughts on Feminism.

October 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

’cause some guy designed
these shoes I use to walk around
some big man’s business turns a profit
every time I lay my money down
some guy designed the room I’m standing in
another built it with his own tools
who says I like right angles?
these are not my laws
there are not my rules.

Ani Difranco, I’m No Heroine.

When I was at University in the 1990’s, it was at the height of a new wave of feminism and the popularity of Women’s Studies. I completed some amazing courses: Feminism and Sex, A Critique of Modern Romance Fiction, Women in Advertising, and lots of 19th Century Women’s Fiction from both Canada and England. 

When I journeyed to Canada in my final year for a semester of University in Montreal, I reached a turning point. Maybe it was that I was alone in many ways: I lived in a typical north American ‘dorm’, with people all around me, but essentially I knew no one in Canada, and as a 20 year old I was not as forthcoming as I am now, not as open or quick to form connections (part of the reason for this was that I left behind a partner in Australia, but that is another story for another time….).

Maybe it was the lifestyle I got into…..staying up very late into the night, only to sleep in and surface for lunch. As the days trickled into Fall, I was only exposed to 3-4 hours of daylight a day, most of which was spent at lectures. Maybe it was the few friends I did find….women, like me, having their eyes opened for the first time to the deep and far reaching tentacles of ‘the evil Patriarchy‘!

Toward the end of my eight month stay, I found myself walking down the street one day in Montreal, only able to notice the brash advertising around me, the busy road full of cars that ‘men’ created; I realised that men designed buildings with sharp edges and square windows, and in fact were responsible for lots of the problems of the whole world. It was crushing.

Even more crushing was the realisation that I was not happy thinking about the world this way. I was becoming a victim.

Was this worldview really serving me? A worldview that focused on the wrongs done to women throughout history. That focused on present day inequalities and approached all men with white hot rage, just because they were men (either men were conscious perpetrators of misogyny or they were unconsciously acting it out – there was no third option).

On top of the Empire State Building, 1998.

On top of the Empire State Building, 1998.

I could continue being angry at the way buildings were designed, and the way the world turns, but how exactly is that empowering? I don’t think that basing my identity on my politics or on anger helps make the world a better place. I don’t think it raises other women up.

Hating men is reductive and oversimplifies the real issues. I’m so dismayed that Feminism is now a dirty word amongst younger women, probably due to that hard-line view that was popular when I was at University. (An example: I remember reading andrea dworkin, who would not use capitals in her name as they were a patriarchal construct. Her view was that heterosexual sex could almost never be anything but violence against women, due to simple differences in anatomy.)

After that day on the street in Montreal I changed my worldview and my personal definition of feminism. At one level, it is about the right for self determination over one’s own body, equal pay and freedom for women. On another level it is what I mentioned in my previous post: a balance of masculine and feminine energies in the world. A unity that promotes mutual respect, harmony and peace.

Feminism ain’t about women
No, that’s not who it is for
It’s about a shifting consciousness
That’ll bring an end to war

Ani Difranco, Which Side Are You On

I now live in a boxy house with sharp corners, but one day soon I will build  the strawbale home with rounded walls and intelligent nature-enhancing design. For now I give thanks that I have a house. I choose to focus on the good things in the world. I choose to further my own growth and development in a positive way, and I believe this has the most positively powerful and healing impact on society as a whole.

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