I apologize a lot.
“But I’m a feminist, so….” is a common refrain for me, after I’ve wrapped up a rant about political and social issues I care about. It’s always been something I said to soften the blow of my opinions – I give the listener an easy way to write off what I said.
What if I stopped saying “But I’m a feminist, so….”? What if I stopped apologizing for my beliefs about women’s issues, and stood solid in the knowledge that there’s no such thing as women’s issues, there are just issues? Is sexual assault a women’s issue? Or equal pay? Or a culture that encourages people to loath their own bodies if they can’t measure up to airbrushed perfection?
No, those are societal issues. If sexual assault is a women’s issue, then that discredits male survivors and any good man who would never assault someone. If equal pay is a women’s issue, what about equal pay for everyone who isn’t a tan trim white male (even overweight people, who make nearly $20,000 less than their skinny counterparts)? Even the myths of beauty, which made commentators on the aforementioned “overweight=less pay” story wonder if that news would encourage ladies to diet. These myths damage men’s self esteem too (not every man looks like Brad Pitt – but women still find them attractive, whether or not they feel worthy of that), and make it harder to get a compliment through to someone (“no, I’m not beautiful, because I don’t look like airbrushed Megan Fox”).
Even once those issues are squarely wrapped up for me, there’s still a self-examination left to do about apologizing. Saying that I’m sorry for how I feel, or inviting someone to discredit my beliefs because they’re uncomfortable or unconventional – goes against everything I stand for. Every time I say it, I’m doing a disservice to the women I admire, like Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and so many others. If they could stand up against society and say that they believed we should all be treated equally under law and under culture, then I have no excuse to be bashful in Kansas City in 2011.
If I stand steady in being a feminist, then I’m part of something much bigger than myself. I’ll stand in solidarity with other women who believe it’s ok to wear high heels if we want to, and shouldn’t have to fear being sexually harassed for it. Women who believe it’s ok to be sensual and sexy, and that doesn’t mean we’re any less entitled to be treated equally. And women who believe being a feminist might be more aptly titled being a people-ist, because women’s issues shouldn’t be draped in pink and set in the corner like they don’t matter.
I’m going to stop saying “But I’m a feminist, so…”. I am a feminist. Maybe you disagree with my ideas, and that’s ok. You don’t have to apologize, either.