Sunday, June 18, 2006

Yes, Virginia, You Do Have to Grow Up

I'm posting this here because I'm going to have to gut this to post it on Hugo's blog, and I wanted it in it's entirety somewhere on the world wide web.


You wrote in Hugo's comments:

I am not a hard player. I was asking why I shouldn't try to be one! But I am not sure whether I am a profemnist!
I need to first point out that you seem to be setting up a false dichotomy here. Perhaps, though, you were really trying to ask "Is being a player really being anti-feminist?" or "Can I be feminist and a player as well?" These are not only thought-provoking questions but also happen to be the ones Amanda and others are trying to answer with their "feminism is fun!" comments.

What came out instead was "Do I really have to be an adult yet?" The answer to which is "hell, yes." Which, unfortunately, did not seem to be the bulk of Hugo's answer to you.

My beef with Hugo is not that his teaching method doesn't work, but that (judging by his own words) he's abandoned it in his most recent advice to you. I'm guessing that Hugo got you to treat your sisters more nicely and change your views on gendered double standards in part by tapping into your genuine concern for the women around you and challenging whether or not your attitudes were really helping them or being respectful of them.

That is what I'm suggesting he do now. Tap into your desire to be a responsible, respected member of your community - however you define it - and question your priorities. Not by arguing that you can't have fun, but by reminding you that any amount of power brings with it a certain amount of responsibility. If you can find a way to be a "player" and still be responsible and respectful, more power to you. But if you are trying to decide between being a "player" and doing what you should, your beef isn't really with feminism specifically - it's with being an adult.

That is not, however, what he did. Or at least that wasn't the part he focused on in his blog post anyway. Perhaps your actual conversation was quite different, but as he presented it, responsibility was only a quickly dropped tangent in the overall discussion.

Quite frankly, whether or not you consider yourself to be a feminist is not my main concern. My main concern is that you treat everyone around you with respect and dignity.

In a recent interview, comic book artist Brian Wood was asked
Would you consider yourself a feminist?
He answered:
I don't know.  I don't know how to answer that question.  I guess I would say no — I'm uncomfortable with labels, and writing mostly female characters isn't a deliberate decision, at least not on the level of a social or political statement.  However, I don't try to get in the way of other people's interpretation of my work.  I just find it odd and a bit sad that a story with a strong woman in the lead has to be something that's rare and noteworthy and possibly a feminist act, and can't just be commonplace.
The "I'm not a feminist, but..." sentiment usually annoys me to no end, but Wood's sentiment practically warms my heart, and I vastly prefer it to this:
I get that injustice and inequality exist, but at the same time, I don't know why I have to get involved in this now, when I'm so young.
Since Hugo couldn't be bothered to focus on the obvious, I repeat, once again:

If you are old enough to understand that injustice and inequality exist, you most definitely do have to get involved in this now - no matter how young you are. The extent of your involvement in any particular cause or issue will be tempered by how capable you are in dealing with it and by any other responsibilities you may have, but under no circumstances do you get to put off growing up until you feel like it. Not if you expect others to respect you back.

Please also note that, as Hugo points out, feminism is a process - this is mostly because growing up is a constant process. (God knows I'm still working on both myself.) The fact that other people - even female people - are sometimes less feminist than you is no more a valid excuse for you to backslide than "but everyone else was doing it!" was ever a valid excuse with your parents. Questioning whether or not certain actions are really feminist or not - based on your experiences with the way many women react to them - is a valid and logical response. Basing your conclusion on your experiences alone, or using others stupid behaviour as an excuse for yours, are not.

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