The F Word

October 13th, 2005

Oh my God, people. You can SO call yourself a feminist and still shave your legs and wear high heels and listen to Eminem and the Bloodhoung Gang. You can even read PLAYBOY and still be a feminist—I KNOW the girls are all scary thin and air-brushed, but where else are you going to find Chuck Palahniuk's latest gross-out short story?

What you CAN'T do and still be a feminist is let men tell you what you should do with your body…oh, and you DEFINITELY should be getting as much money for the same work as the boys are getting.

Got it?

I don't quite understand when feminism became a dirty word, considering all feminism means is that you believe in equal social, political, and economic rights for women. It doesn't mean you think women are better than men or that you can't wear lip gloss. It just means you think women are EQUAL to men, and deserve the same rights.

It's a shame, if you ask me, that so many female performers are denying that they're feminists. Because being a feminist is not a bad thing. It's the best thing in the world you can be, in my opinion!

I have heard some people say that they are not feminists because they don't believe it's necessary, due to the fact that men and women are treated equally in our country.

Um, if you think men and women are treated equally in this country, you would be very wrong. I myself can attest to this, since one summer not too long ago, I worked for Sears as a temp (through Manpower—get it? MANpower?), where my job was to move wet/dry vacs from one end of the store to the other, put up shelves to display them on, and paint the shelves. I was paid minimum wage, and felt lucky to be getting it, as jobs, at the time, were scarce in my community.

There were about ten women in my group, all doing the same job. And there was also a big group of men (most of whom were on work release for DUIs) doing the EXACT SAME JOB.

I probably don't have to mention the fact that we ladies did the job better, faster, and more efficiently than the men. We got more wet/dry vacs moved, and more shelves built and painted, every day than the men did. Period.

Then came payday. And one of the women got a look at one of the men's paychecks, and saw that he was getting two dollars more per hour than we were. Two dollars more an hour, for doing the EXACT SAME JOB that we ladies were doing (better than the men were)!!!!!

We women were, understandably, furious. For one thing, a lot of the ladies in my group were single moms who had kids to feed and rent to pay. The only man in their life that they felt they could depend on was our boss—MANpower.

Whom we'd just learned was screwing us.

So we called Manpower on the spot and demanded they come over and take action IMMEDIATELY.

Which they did (come over, anyway). When we told them we were doing the EXACT SAME THING as the men, only getting paid two dollars an hour less for it, they said to us, and I quote: “Well, yeah, but they're guys. We can't get guys to work for minimum wage, like we can you ladies.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!

We filed a complaint and eventually got MANpower to retro-pay us for the work we'd done. But it was a huge pain, and afterwards, the Sears people didn't treat us very well, because they were so mad at us for complaining. Which is when I totally quit, because, um, EW.

Sadly, the ladies I worked with didn't have the luxury of being able to quit. They had bills to pay. I was just trying to finance a trip to Europe.

Still, you can see how my brush with sexism scarred me.

The thing that kills me most is that people have been trying to blame feminists for the bad things that have been happening in this country—most memorably, Jerry Falwell blaming them (and gays, pagans, the ACLU, and People for the American Way) for 9/11 (later, he apologized, but I personally will never accept his apology. I just won't).

But I do understand why Jerry is so scared. For many thousands of years, certain men have been trying to keep women from getting their jobs, because they know that, in most cases, we are simply going to do their jobs better than they are (like when I was at Sears).

And so, like Jerry, some men are afraid. Very afraid.

Some of them are so afraid that they are trying to make out that if you believe in equal rights for women, you are somehow unattractive. At least, this is what some little girls said to me recently, when I asked them if they were feminists.

“No way!” they said. “Feminists are fat and ugly! And they dress gross.”

Thanks to this stereotype (which men have apparently been able to successfully spread to young girls, including Gwen Stefani), a lot of otherwise seemingly sensible people, when they think of feminists, think of hippyish, crazy-haired women who don't wear bras or makeup, and don't listen to cool music or watch Showtime After Dark or read romance novels. Which is so not true.

The thing that bothers me most about all this is that my mom and lots of women in her generation—not to mention those ladies back in the wet/dry vac section at Sears–fought really hard so that women of my generation (and yours) could have the same jobs for the same pay as men. If you choose to stay home and raise kids, like my mom did, that is totally your prerogative.

But it is because of women like my mom and her friends that we HAVE that prerogative: before, it was just a GIVEN that that was what you'd do—stay home and raise the kids.

If you don't want to wear a bra, you don't have to. But if you do want to–like a really cute pink polka dotted one from Agent Provocateur–you totally can.

And you can still call yourself a feminist. Really. It's all right. IT'S NOT A DIRTY WORD.

And now I have to go listen to the new Bloodhound Gang CD, because that song “Unh Tiss Unh Tiss” is bangin'.

More later.

Much love,

Meg

PS
Oh, yeah. This girl is a feminist. And look…she shaves her legs! Go Grrl Power!