Back in the mid-90's, the company I was working for sent all of its key people to a leadership seminar taught by a psychologist (maybe a psychiatrist?). Carl James was his name, and I wish I could find him because I'd love to tell him how much I still remember of the seminar. I'm frankly surprised I remember a damn thing about it, since the night of the first day I received the first contact from my birthmother and went down that particular rabbit hole.
On the first day, we discussed a paradigm. I can't remember the name of the chart either (wow, apparently I don't remember as much as I think I do!) but it was basically drawn into four sections. The sections were to identify the following:
1) Things I know about myself that you don't
2) Things I know about myself that you know
3) Things you know about me that I know but I don't know that you know
4) Things you know about me that I don't know
I've never accepted #4.
Literally, yes there could be things you know about me that I don't know. You might know that my boyfriend (hypothetical because I don't have a boyfriend) is cheating on me and I dont' yet realize he's a lying piece of shit. You might know that my boss is planning to fire me on Friday while I go about my business blissfully unaware of the pending doom. Concrete, material things, yes, you might know these.
But I'll never agree that there is something about me the person, something about my personality, that I don't know. I might not acknowledge it - but I DO know it. You might think "Geez, she doesn't realize what a bitch she sounds like." But I do. I think we all know everything we need to know about ourselves, where we get tripped up and screwy is when we start lying to ourselves in order to not have to cope with something we don't want to change. Then we're strolling quickly down the slope of pernicious behavior, because a person who is coping by denying self-truth is a person in a constant state of de-stabilization. Codependents do it. Addicts do it. Politicians do it. Scary shit. But few things frost my cookies like someone pigeonholing me and thinking they know me because of a simple self-described title. One like "liberal feminist."
A post by Adrienne Royer discussing the rise of feminisim on the far right and lamenting how the liberal feminists have ignored or outright rejected conservative feminists was featured on Blogher today. In it, she paints liberal feminists with a rather large brush. I object to being classified in that way. Not as a liberal feminist, no, because I am. Both liberal and Feminist. No, what primed my pistons was the way the writer degenerates into comparing looks and lifestyles. Ms. Royer says that liberal feminists "eschew makeup and men" while conservative feminists are attractive, grocery-shopping mothers. That we resent Sarah Palin because she's pretty. Right then and there, she lost me.
Its not only that I object to being told that since I am a liberal feminist that I don't wear makeup and must be a lesbian. Neither of those statements is correct, but that's not really the point. The statement was problematic because of its insulting tone. There's nothing ugly about not wearing makeup - all women are unique and beautiful regardless of the application of makeup. Simply because one chooses to wear or not to wear makeup has little to do with whether she is a conservative or a liberal. I know plenty of women on either side of the aisle who don't wear makeup. A woman is not less of a woman or someone to be marginalized because she is gay. Its the insinuation that these things encompass all liberal feminists, AND that these things are somehow ugly and unattractive. I'm shocked to the core to hear a woman who calls herself a feminist pick up the misogynistic bullcrap the male entrenchment used to use to marginalize the feminist movement. And Ms. Royer's implication that we don't take Sarah Palin seriously because she's pretty? Project, much?
Sarah Palin IS pretty. I don't resent her for it. I could care less about how she looks. I care far more about what she DOES and SAYS. Politically, I am about as far from Sarah Palin in every respect possible. That said, I'm going to step out on a limb and say that Sarah Palin has scored a big hit for the power of women in this country, whether I like her personally or not. Feminism is about all women, not just liberal women. If we truly believe that, then the circle is wide enough to encompass all of us, Sarah Palin included. I think she and I have some differing opinions on exactly what constitutes equality and freedom for women, including our ability to control our reproductive choices, but there are certainly tenets upon which we both agree. I bet if we spent two hours over a pot of coffee or a hike in the woods that we could come up with plenty of common ground, despite our obvious differences.
I wrote a couple of months ago that "we either ALL benefit or none of us do. That to me part of being a feminist is fighting for the right of women not to be torn down by other women." To hear another woman call herself a "feminist" and then use pejorative stereotypes to imply that liberal feminists are less attractive than conservative feminists is preposterous. I have to question whether the writer is comletely brainwashed, mean spirited or simply off her rocker. Real feminists don't eschew makeup - we DO eschew looks-based stereotyping. We work reject petty jealousy and spite.
I got the sense that this writer felt left out by the feminist movement, and that she's assuaging her resentment, using her article to lash back at a movement she feels rejected by. Perhaps she experienced some kind of rejection on a personal level based on her conservative politics. I don't know.
What I DO know is that we all need to be careful about the language we use when we describe what feminism means to us. At its core, feminism seeks to create equal standing regardless of gender. That regardless of what role a woman chooses for her life, be it traditional or modern, that she be supported in it. That she be have equal opportunity at receiving an education, at applying for a job, at being paid for the work she does. That she be protected from violence. That she have access to adequate health care. That she be free, truly free.
I do believe that women on the liberal side of the Movement need to be more welcoming of our conservative sisters and that is a point on which I take no issue. The political events of the last two to four years have proven that we need a new dialogue to address our differences and advance our cause. What I would caution is that we be careful to avoid stereotyping women based on their political beliefs. When it comes down to it, day to day life looks pretty similar for women in similar situations, regardless of their politics. Career women. Mothers. Single Mothers. Wives. Partners. Farm workers. We all struggle for survival, safety, respect. Let us focus on our similarities and not our differences, Ms. Royer. Only then will we find a way to move forward.