Sunday, March 8, 2009
One day, when I was 5, I was out playing with the neighbourhood boys when someone had the brilliant idea to "play ninja turtles."
Naturally, I called dibs on being the one with the pretty purple mask.
"No way, you have to be April, and we rescue you!"
"Because you're a girl! (duh)"
Well. Something about that rubbed my five-year-old self entirely the wrong way. So, after trying unsuccessfully to convince the boys that I could be a perfectly capable ninja turtle, I did what any self-respecting ninja turtle would do. I refused to play and went home to cry about the injustice.
Et voila, a tiny little feminist was born.
I'm not sure when I became aware of the f word, but it must have been fairly early on, because for as long as I can remember, I took for granted that the majority of people would say they were feminists. I mean, come on, who doesn't believe women and men should be given equal rights and respect?
I didn't realize just how wrong I was, until my second year of college. Our history and politics teacher had been going over the suffragists movement, when she asked who in the class identified as a feminist. My hand, of course, shot up automatically. When my eyes followed a second later, I realized it was the only one.
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I guess I figured there might be a handfull of people who bought into the bra-burning, man-hating stereotype, but really? In a room full of journalism students, about 70% of whom were women, I was the only one. Seriously?
So, not unlike when I was denied ninja turtle status based on gender, I started asking why.
Most of the people I talked to either hadn't thought about it or thought it was an outdated concept. My favourite response though, was, "Well I believe in equality, but I wouldn't call myself a feminist."
It seems somewhere along the line, someone did a really effective job of convincing us that feminism was a dirty word. That feminists are cranky, ugly whiners with a vendetta against men. Probably the same someone who would like us to believe that shaking our asses in music videos is the true road to empowerment.
I'm not buying it.
Unfortunately, feminism is not likely to ever be an outdated concept. As long as there are women in the world fighting for the same rights and opportunities that men have, fighting to be viewed as more than disposable property, fighting to be heard, we need feminists. We need men and women who are willing to take up that fight and to be guardians of the rights feminists have fought for.
Even in countries like Canada, where we like to think we've come pretty far, we will always need people who are willing to stand up and be counted next to the amazing feminists who fought long and hard to ensure that women were even recognized as people under the law. We take our rights for granted, but if we're not vigilant, they can all too easily be taken from us.
So yes, I'm a feminist. I believe in equality and I'll damn well be a ninja turtle if I want to be!
*Since originally posting this, I've started a thread on the subject on 20sb. There's a very lively and fascinating discussion with great insight and opinions from all sorts of 20-somethings going on, If anyone else is interested.
Thanks to everyone who has commented and to Elle Bee for her own awesome post on the subject! Hearing so many of your well-thought out opinions on the subject has been seriously exciting!