Feminism | Posted by Rachel F on 10/26/2009

Why I Became a Feminist

It’s summer, and I’m walking along, talking to some friends. And because it’s summer, I’m wearing a skirt, with bare legs. Anyway, we were walking, when we heard a voice behind us. It’s a boy from my year, so we slow down and wait for him to catch up. And the very first thing he says to us, as he gets close, is “Hey Rachel, you should really get some fake tan on those legs.”

Now, there are so many things wrong with this statement. Firstly, of course, there’s the implication that I ought to conform to his standards of beauty, which exclude anyone who isn’t blonde, tanned, a size 8 and (basically) a Page 3 girl. Then there’s the fact that he thinks that he has the right to say that to me. Because apparently, being female, I’m public property (again, I suspect this comes back to the Page 3 girls). Thirdly, and without even thinking like a feminist, it’s just rude! What would he do if I walked up to him and said, “You know, you really ought to get those teeth done.” ?

I’d never really thought about feminism before, but he made me so angry I decided then and there to become a feminist. Since then, I’ve started pulling people up whenever I hear them say something sexist. What’s depressing is that I hear it so often – in the last 3 months I’ve heard, “rapists are all old men who have different values, after they’re all dead there won’t be any rape”, “I wouldn’t go out with her because she’s a whore” (this of a girl who had had 2 boyfriends at most), and, even better, “Chris Brown probably had a good reason to hit Rihanna”.

I just don’t understand how people can think like that!

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  • -Z- @ at 11:11 am, October 26th, 2009

    I wish that fbomb was around when I was a teen. I’m 24 and specifically remember fighting a lot of those battles single handedly in junior high/highschool. Not that it wasn’t a lot of fun!

    Rachel, props to you for taking sexism to task in your daily life. That’s where progress begins. I think that in the midst of all the news hype and miley cyrus shiz, we post-highschool feminists get out of touch with your generation; it’s encouraging to see that young women don’t correspond to the stereotypes older generations like to place them in.

    Plus, there’s nothing better than shutting someone up with some sweet feminist theory. I’m a huge fan. Keep on keeping on.

  • How I became a (Christian) feminist. | RENEGADEconversations @ at 11:52 am, October 26th, 2009

    [...] don’t necessarily want to tell you what to do (well, probably I do) but you should definitely click on this link and read Rachel F’s story about why she became a feminist. Hers is not a journey into [...]

  • merlin @ at 12:45 pm, October 26th, 2009

    right. respect.

    come, on: you get a terrorist fistbump for that one.
    :)

  • Lucy @ at 1:17 pm, October 26th, 2009

    To steal a shameless phrase, ”sing it, sister.” Similarly heinous anti-feminist/anti-woman statements in my world this week include… “Sorry to rape your facebook wall like this, girl, but I have no other form of free contact with you” (huh?), references to 13-year-old girls as ‘sluts’ ‘hoes’ or ‘whores’ (whoops…), and any use of the word ‘rape’ to refer to anything other than, you know, a serious and traumatising crime that deserves and demands a rightful understanding and ‘respect’(sounds wrong, I know) as the sexual assault that it is, instead of a slangy way to describe dry-humping or play-fighting between a boy and girl; or English teachers that say to a class full of girls, “I often find the word ‘cunt’ to be an occasionally useful tool to express my frustration at someone – I find it’s been removed from most of its previous sexual connotations.’ (Well, I don’t, much. But, whatever you say…)

    Conclusion: I totally get where you’re soming from. -Though I also get the fact that it’s generally just ignorance and familiar informality or insensitivity that leads a lot of people to say stuff like that rather than a real maliciousness on their part, and they’re mostly just nice people with irritating blind spots rather than a serious attitude problem.

  • John @ at 3:59 pm, October 26th, 2009

    I guess what I find distressing is that it appears as though you feel that that kind of slander only goes one way. While I am a man I personally do not and was raised not to refer to a woman as a whore unless she actualy was a prostitute. I hear so called feminists quite often refer to men in equally derogatory tones with comments such as Cock male oppressor, pig, Chauvenist Pig or any number of veriation similar to that.

    Placing a generalization on all men that women have to be a size 8 and a page 3 girl or men won’t like you is purley in my opinion a female driven ideology and not based in actuality. I myself am attracted to plainer looking women of average size and really find the model types rather unattractive so I recomend doing thinking before throwing out generalizations. They wouldn’t make barbie if girls didn’t like them.

  • Rachel @ at 5:04 pm, October 26th, 2009

    John – the problem is that I just don’t hear this kind of stuff from women towards men!

    And yes, I get that different men like different types of women -fine. But if you’re a teenage boy, you’re incredibly immature and have very little experience of women (generally), so you tend to draw your ideas of women from those you can find, namely Page 3 girls. To borrow your phrasing, they wouldn’t print Page 3 if men didn’t buy it.

  • Toongrrl @ at 5:29 pm, October 26th, 2009

    I hope you really told him to improve HIS looks. He needs a spiritual makeover NOW.

  • John @ at 6:22 pm, October 26th, 2009

    Rachel your point of “they wouldn’t print page 3 girls if men didn’t like them” is absolutly correct. However to use your teenager point girls are just as immature as the boys and having a teenage girl I can attest from experiance that when teen girls are with their friends they are just as rude and cruel as a teenage boy.

    I hear them put down the boys in their classes calling them nerds and other such insults as well as making nasty sounds if one tells another one of the boys that doesn’t meet their specific preferance or doesn’t dress the way they like,likes them. Teenage girls are from my observation just as into the page 3 guys as the boys are into the page 3 girls.

    My point is that girls are just as guilty as the boys. And it is just as hurtfull for boys as I am sure it is for girls. I know this because those things were said about me when I was a nerdy teenage boy. There is no excuse for rudeness from either sex.

    Thank you for including me in this conversation it is an interesting topic

  • Rachel @ at 6:51 pm, October 26th, 2009

    John – I agree that girls can be just as rude as boys. However, if you read the last three examples of sexism that I give, I don’t think you can claim that they are equivalent to girls being ‘rude and cruel’.

    Also, I would rather somebody was being rude about me behind my back than commenting negatively on my appearance in front of a group of people!

  • John @ at 7:17 pm, October 26th, 2009

    I agree that there is no defense for those 3 examples that you give at the end. However those statements are from masogynistic simps similar to the more hard line feminists out there that say equaly ridiculous things. I don’t believe that those who make such egreagious accusations and comments represent the majority of men anymore than I feel that women who make comments that all men are bad or rapist represent the majority of feminists.

    I am sure that you in reading different feminist blogs and articles have seen some outragious claims made about men I know I have.

    And it isn’t just behind the back that teen girls say these things either when I was in school as I said above I was a nerd and they said some pretty hurtfull things about my appearance to my face as well. And it was very hurtfull however rather than let the foolish comments ruin my view of women in general I only allowed it to ruin my view of those women.

  • SarahC @ at 7:31 pm, October 26th, 2009

    “And it isn’t just behind the back that teen girls say these things either when I was in school as I said above I was a nerd and they said some pretty hurtfull things about my appearance to my face as well.”
    A lot of teenage girls are like that. However, these girls knew they were insulting you, whereas society permits boys and men to make the comments Rachel mentioned without much forethought. As a ‘nerd’, you were part of a relatively low group in the social hierarchy of High School. Similiarly, women are in the lower half of society’s hierarchy.

    “And it was very hurtfull however rather than let the foolish comments ruin my view of women in general I only allowed it to ruin my view of those women.”
    This isn’t about men. Being about men would be different. This is about changing the hierarchy wherein women are, by default, held at a lower level. Just as being insulted caused resentment for the hierarchy of your high school, being treated like Rachel describes causes us to want to change the hierarchy of society.

  • Steph @ at 10:15 pm, October 26th, 2009

    Speaking as someone who’s been both a teenage boy AND is now a teenage girl, you’ve both got valid points, but I think that John, you need to examine your privelege in that situation. Boys DO get a lot of their experiences of girls from what they have in their environments. Whether that be media’s portrayal of women, or their moms, or the bits they know of girls in their grade – it’s a warped sense of communication, and there’s definitely a touch of rape culture in there.
    John has some valid points, too, though. Crazy radical feminists DO hate men simply for being men (and are totes cool with trans men, in an odd reversal of transphobia and misandry). But us here at thefbomb – we’re NOT radical feminists. Radical feminists are CRAZY.

    Yeah, boys put down boys, but girls put down other girls WAY MORE. Trust me.

    There’s a concept called ‘kyriarchy’, which refers to intersectionality of privelege. So while women are ‘lesser’, b/c men have male privelege, certain women (say, cheerleaders or The Popular Girls) have more power than someone from a ‘lesser’ social group (nerds, say, or theatre kids).

  • Katherine @ at 11:16 pm, October 26th, 2009

    Steph- just a note- “radical feminists” are not defined as man-haters. Thanks.

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 11:46 pm, October 26th, 2009

    And the very first thing he says to us, as he gets close, is “Hey Rachel, you should really get some fake tan on those legs.”

    I wouldn’t of been able to stop laughing. I can think of another group of people that say what’s on their mind without thinking – very young children (1-4 year olds).

    Alex that women is fat! That man has hair growing out of his nose. The blue man (Some dark blacks have a blue undertone to their skin). Spoken as loudly as possible so their is no way to avoid embarrassment. “She’s not mine! I’m baby sitting!”

    Teenage boys are simple, you need to smack them upside the head now and again to reset their brain.

  • Mara @ at 12:23 am, October 27th, 2009

    The rudest thing a boy has ever said to my face was when I was walking down the hallway at school, wearing shorts. He said, “You really shouldn’t try to pull off shorts like that.” I replied, “Well, I’d like to see YOU pull them off!” and walked away.

  • Rachel @ at 7:53 am, October 27th, 2009

    John – no, they weren’t from ‘hardline’ misogynists, they were said by teenage boys, between 12 and 17. They weren’t really thinking about what they were saying at all, and that scares me.

    SarahC – that’s exactly what I was thinking but didn’t know how to say, thankyou!

  • Amy C T @ at 8:19 am, October 27th, 2009

    There are so many things wrong with what he said to you that I don’t even know where to start… >.<

  • dare2believe @ at 8:35 am, October 27th, 2009

    John, the difference between when you were insulted and what is written in this article is that while the girls insulted you because they wanted to be hurtful, that gut was actually trying to be helpful! In his mind, he wasn’t insulting anyone, just being friendly. And THAT’s the problem.

  • Lauren @ at 8:56 am, October 28th, 2009

    John, regardless of your intentions, derailing a thread is a common silencing technique.

    http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#butbut

  • Lauren @ at 9:00 am, October 28th, 2009

    Also, some of us at the F Bomb are radical feminists.

  • John @ at 7:38 pm, October 28th, 2009

    Lauren my intentions were this, I was only trying to better understand and offer a potential contrast to the initial post from a male perspective the proposed male privledge did not enter into it at all.

    I also wanted to get a better perspective as to where these ladies were coming from on this issue. I am truly sorry that you internalized my participation as trying to derail the conversation or make some veiled attempt to make Rachel or any of the other women feel “marginalized”. I have no intention of atempting to silencing anyone.

    I am also sorry that you apparently find my presance so distastefull based upon my gender. Obviously mistaking my interest in the views of women and how they feel that society views them in different situations from School life to work life and how those feelings effect them on a personal level as some sort of veiled attack.

    Furthermore I felt that these women made excellent points and that I did personaly learn something from this discussion and hope that one day you will see that not all of us (men) want to silence women and their views.

    One last thing I am glad that you are a radical feminist because if that level of anger that makes you or anyone a radical anything makes you happy and gives you a sense of purpose or peace in life then hold onto that because as we all know male, female, Transgender, or otherwise life is tough for everyone and if you can find any level of security in yourself as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others it makes life that much easier.

  • Nathan @ at 3:15 am, December 27th, 2009

    While feminism is quite a valiant effort, I think it’s much too focused in general. Everybody should be equal, and we males get our fair share of bullshit against us as well, as do people of any and every race, religion (as well as for being non-religious, as is the case for me). Admittedly males don’t experience as much discrimination etc., but that’s no reason whatsoever to let the fight for equality be specific only to a single gender.

  • Garen @ at 11:33 am, January 6th, 2010

    @ Alex Catgirl

    blacks = black people

    black is an adjective. It doesn’t define the whole person.

    but I agree with the rest of your response. That teenaeg boy behaved like a toddler :/

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