Did I tell you that I am a feminist? Card-carrying, with capital letters and without apology or equivocation? Did you just roll your eyes? It’s okay, this won’t take long.
I understand feminism to be a social justice movement that has served more people, effected more progressive change in its first and second waves, than any other documented social justice movement before or since. Feminism resulted in the vote for women, property ownership and business management by women, reproductive choice and freedom, daycare, improved health care, fewer child mortalities, education, legislation, the recognition of violent crime against women and children, and a higher standard and quality of life for everyone affected by it.
There are many feminisms, many practices and applications. Feminism can be radical, socialist, liberal and postmodern. Well maybe it can’t be postmodern… but it can be, and is, defined differently by academics, legal practitioners, frontline workers and women who do not work directly under its umbrella. It is neither a new concept nor one that can be considered redundant. Its objectives have not been met. It’s not dead and it’s not going away, although it has been wounded and held captive at different times. While often not successful at either, feminism implies an analysis that is antiracist and anti-oppressive. It works to free women from historical patriarchal bonds and strictures. It would free men too, if they wanted it to.
Oh sure, there are a lot of feminists who bother me, and I know that I am seen as a nutbar by others, but in the larger scheme of things, feminism is a practice, a way of being, that is about five minutes old, barely a toddler really and continuing to evolve in its form and understanding of the world it inhabits. It is quite capable of excess and error. But it is evolutionary, revolutionary and dedicated to social, political and economic equality. So what’s the problem? Why in the last decade has feminism come to generate so much backlash and fear?
I have a cousin who is the superintendent of all the school boards in his province. He is an educated man and interesting, interested. In conversation with me, he claimed that feminists have no sense of humour and need to lighten up. Not take things so seriously. I agreed and suggested that this sometimes might be a little difficult when three women are murdered by their male partners every month in my home province and a woman is raped every seventeen minutes nationally and that women as a group remain severely economically and politically disenfranchised. I asked him if the political leaders he generally supports are known for their sense of humour, and whether that affects his decision to vote for or against them.
Excerpted from The Story of Jane Doe by Jane Doe. Copyright © 2003 Jane Doe. Reprinted by permission of Random House Canada.