Feminism Still Matters Because…Because…
1. Every time a woman says something smart or something funny, she’s making a feminist gesture. Actually, every time a woman opens her mouth to do something besides make a cooing sound, a giggling or drawling “OMG! I simply cannot believe I just said that!” she’s making a feminist gesture.
2. Historically and across cultures, women were meant to be silent, decorative objects with significant openings to be used as others saw fit. You know, sort of like vases. It’s taken sacrifice, vigilance, intellectual (and sometimes physical) muscle, as well as psychology resilience and spiritual courage to challenge this concept. We’re still working on it.
3. “Power is the ability not to have to please,” critic Elizabeth Janeway tells us. Women and girls often regard their ability to please as, paradoxically, one of their greatest strengths. As a culture, we still encourage women and girls to “make nice.” We should be teaching them to “make trouble.” Nice alone doesn’t make history. Nice alone doesn’t break down barriers, break apart powerful cliques, cartels or consortiums of inherited power and privilege which are, unsurprisingly, often gender-linked.
4. Kindness, however, can change the world, especially when linked with generosity and the pursuit of equity and justice. Our ancestors who fought for women’s rights were fighting not for themselves but instead for the women of the future: for us. Our literal and figurative daughters depend on us to do the same.
5. We cannot become complacent about the rights we have wrested from an often unwilling world—the right to be educated, the right to participate in government, the right to speak out, the right to have control over our own bodies. Even established rights need constant defense when they are under perpetual attack.
6. There’s still a remarkable amount of work to be done, not only around the world but in our own voting booths: in the past several years, there have emerged, as if from the woodwork and floorboards, politicians who argue –in all seriousness– that women’s bodies can spontaneously block conception after “legitimate rape, that some women “rape easy,” and that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.” The kind of ignorant misogyny many of us thought was the subject of a comic’s punchline are the platforms of some politicians. We need to shut that thing down.
7. Feminists neither lie down nor lean in when what we should be doing is standing up: We stand together, watch out for one another and laugh out loud.
8. Feminists, female and male, are usually the most astute, clever, dynamic and lively people in the room. Why would you want to be anything else?
Gina Barreca, author of It’s Not That I’m Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World has appeared on 20/20, The Today Show, CNN, the BBC, NPR and Oprah to discuss gender, power, politics, and humor. Her earlier books include the bestselling They Used to Call Me Snow White But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor and Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coeducation in the Ivy. Gina has been called “smart and funny” by People magazine and “Very, very funny. For a woman,” by Dave Barry. She’s a syndicated columnist for the Tribune Company and is Professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut.