I’m a Feminist Because Sexism is Usually an Accident
Oops, y’all discriminated in your pants.
I don’t know a lot of balls-out sexists. I grew up in the heart of backwards America, and even there they might tell you that women are differently abled, or born with certain capacities that are just as important as making money and leading (wink, wink.) But there are very few people who openly admit (or believe) that women are skr8 up inferior to men and should be in the kitchen and the birthing stirrups.
I think that this is why a lot of people find feminism suspect. They probably believe in theoretical prejudice and they might even tolerate talk of microaggressions if particularly enlightened. But when women say that there is rampant sexism in the world — institutionalized, structural sexism built into our society — people on the other side of the aisle think, “I don’t know anyone who believes that women are second-class citizens. Those crazy ladies are making up problems to be offended.”
So I have to wonder how, if there are indeed all these egalitarian-minded people out there, it has happened that the genitals belonging to the people in power are primarily in the penile way? Well, the long and short of it is, it’s probably mostly through negligence. It’s an accident.
Let’s look at the workforce, for instance. I’ve worked with plenty of progressive white women. They hire a lot of white women because they know a lot of white women. I’ve worked with a lot of dudes. They hire a lot of men because they know a lot of men. I’ve worked with a lot of great straight people. You get the picture. Those in power aren’t necessarily hiring the wrong people for the job and they’re not necessarily frothing-mouthed bigots, they’re not giving enough of the population a chance because “those people” are strangers.
And what’s most curious about this loop of privilege doom is that, for the most part, no one ever notices! Then some exceptional woman, who has risen through the professional ranks through sheer competence, strength and will alone gets up to the top and goes, “Hey, did y’all ever notice that there’s really only white men in your senior leadership team/sitting on your panel/giving advice on your advisory board/fucking up the United States Congress?” And those in power are always flabbergasted.“How could this have happened?” The people where I come from would call this “Funny, but not funny-haha.”
It’s also not-funny-haha that people clamor for women to identify as humanists over feminists, because it’s the nature of humanity that causes this mess in the fucking first place. We tend to care what happens to those who are “like” us, to identify with those who we see ourselves in. I have a sneaking suspicion, for instance, that gay rights saw such a swift and incredible reversal towards acceptance because white men do not like to see other white men put down. They subconsciously can’t stomach the thought that white dudes in America, even gay ones, could be second-class. If homosexuality occurred exclusively among women or people of color, I’d reckon we’d see marriage equality in about 9056.
As humans, it’s just our dumb animal natures that we have glaring blindspots in our worldviews. The only way to see what you previously could not is to actively and forcefully rid yourself of the heavy, omnipresent veils that hang in front of your eyes. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of humans who are willing or able to do that, and so we’re stuck with a society where people watch out for their own, work with their friends, hang out with similar peeps and essentially exist in a bubble of homogeny.
Unless, of course, there’s a circle in the midst of all the squares, noticing all the things that the squares aren’t seeing and saying, occasionally, “I think perhaps we could do with another circle. Or maybe even a rhombus or octagon?” And then, when all the little shapes are in the sandbox and everyone is playing with everyone, then those blindspots are slowly filled in. Because when you spend enough time with people who are not like you, you start to see them. You start to notice when they are absent. More than that, the room feels incomplete when they’re not in it. It feels too severe and could use some rounding out. It feels stale and could use some new points. It feels traditional and everyone else is doing the same boring thing, too.
It’s funny when I say I’m a feminist and men say, “Yeah, but you’re not like one of those feminists.” Like the rest have hooks for hands and sawed-off shotguns for vaginas. People believe that feminists have true animus for men which is just, look people, society wouldn’t function if this were the thing. But people very much believe that women become feminists because they like to feel like victims who are being harmed by the vile men who actively hate women.
But what I’m saying is this: the world is full of primarily good men who don’t think about women much at all outside of sex stuff. Look at men’s bookshelves. Their heroes. Their favorite movies. Their favorite bands. Their favorite friends. It’s a problem of visibility. But it’s one that I’m not even putting on you, see! I’m taking it off your plate! I’m saying that I will be that person who is devoted to the cause. So, yeah, square, I’m a feminist.
But when boards of directors and legislators and company presidents and soldiers and millionaires and entrepreneurs are half women and half men, then I’ll just be pleased as fuckin’ cherry punch made with sherbet to call myself a humanist. But for now, take every seat that exists in America and perhaps the entire Northern Hemisphere, because it’s your prejudice accident that I’m having to clean up.