Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Meaning of Feminism

M. LeBlanc over at Bitch Ph.D's blog writes about an epiphany from her own sense of surprise over arriving at a band's show and finding out the band is all female:

But in all this trying, all this thinking and learning and analyzing, I never understood something the way I had that night. I looked at these women of the band, these forceful, beautiful, human beings, and I cried. I cried, because seeing them shocked me. The scale of thousands of years of the oppression of women flashed before my eyes, like I was dying.

I thought of the billions of women who have lived and are living. I thought of women raped and forced into slavery, sold for money, held in subjugation. I thought of the sheer numbers of women, which is to say, nearly all of them, who were told explicitly or implicitly that they couldn't do something they wanted to do, because of their sex. Told that they were less smart, less capable, less strong, less worthy, less important than their brothers. Women who didn't go to school because resources were limited and funds were saved for their brothers' education. Women who dropped out of school to care for their siblings. Women who were beaten by their husbands or fathers, women fired for being too sexy or not sexy enough. Women ignored or silenced, women whose writings disappeared because they never existed or never mattered. Women who died trying to terminate a pregnancy. Women, all of them, who feel that they are not worth loving because they do not conform to impossible ideals of beauty, women who hate their bodies, women who starve themselves to death, women who refuse to live their lives the way they want for fear of being scorned because they are not acceptable. Women insulted, abused, downtrodden, scared. Women, all of them, limited by the forces outside them that keep them small and quiet.

If there is anything I can do with my life and my career, to lift women out of poverty and shame, to help them live as full human beings, to take away the shackles of oppression and free them, to exercise their power to live complete, unafraid, glorious lives, I will do it.