Inspired by this post over at Shakesville. This started as a comment but then it got talky so I put it over here where no one will be forced against their will to read it.
Here’s why I’m a feminist. It has nothing to do with any sort of theoretical philosophy, or any high minded academic ideas of human rights. It has everything to do with how my life has actually progressed and who will stand behind me and my experiences, who will listen to me and hear me and think “you were innocent, and you were wronged and that shouldn’t happen to anyone”.
Sometime in the late 80s I was in the room while my father tried to kill my mother by choking her. I don’t know how she got away because I, a grade school child, ran to my room and hid under my bed with my two year old brother because I was afraid he’d try to come after us next. He had never hurt me before but the threat of violence under the circumstances was certainly very real.
My mother chose not to press charges because she didn’t want *her* name to be dragged through the mud. After all, people would talk, and she had a decent job and needed her reputation. My mother had the legal right to press charges against her husband but the shame that her community would have heaped on her for “causing a scene” interfered with her using her legal rights.
I hope things are better now, I hope more women realize that when a crime has been committed against them that it is not only okay but expected that they go to the police no matter who perpetrated the crime. If that is the case, if there are fewer women like my mother who are savagely beaten and then try to quietly hide the bruises on their neck, it is because of feminism. It is because of women and men who stand up and point out the subtle, quiet, and perfectly legal inequity that shames women into silence.
But then again, when I was a naïve 18 year old college student I went on a date with a 28 year old man who got me drunk and raped me. I did nothing about it because he was my friend’s boyfriend’s brother. I knew the likelihood of a conviction when there’s alcohol involved is practically nothing; never mind the fact that the laws on the book say that a person under the influence of alcohol is unable to give consent (to anything, not just sex).
The actual fact is that District Attorneys only have so many dollars to devote to justice and need to prosecute based at least partially on the likelihood of a conviction and juries don’t see what the big deal is with some 18 year old girl who had to much to drink and did something she regrets, I mean that’s like the definition of college right? She’s just trying to ruin this guy’s life because she feels like a slut now. I like to think no one would say that to my face, but plenty of people say it all the time about faceless rape victims they don’t know.
My life is not a philosophical hypothetical to be debated over. I am not a feminist because it seems like a good idea to be for equal rights ‘n’ stuff. I am a feminist because feminism is the movement that will hear me and women like me of which there are millions.
I wish I could tell all the stories of all the women I’ve met who have been assaulted, who the system failed because of this or that technicality. Guess what, they were still hurt, they still need to heal. You don’t have to believe their story for the pain to be real, and feminists know that. Lot’s of other movements try to be inclusive of everyone, like “humanist” but the only people who GET it deep in their hearts are feminists, and that’s why I’m proud to be among their ranks.