Why Do I Talk About Feminism on a Book Blog?

feminism
The other day a close friend remarked to me that she’s noticed that I’ve become more outspokenly feminist–the implication was that this is annoying.  Why address the ways in which television shows objectify women woman?  Why talk about how female characters are given or not given agency in stories?  Can’t we just enjoy them?  They’re just entertainment, right?

This interaction was followed by another in which a female friend recommended a reading (not to me personally, but to someone else I know) that would show that, essentially “feminism is bad because it makes women hate men.”  I wanted to pound my head against a wall while yelling “What about wage equality or adequate childcare provisions during employment or the ability to walk down the street safely?”  I knew this would not be a productive response, however, so I refrained.

But here’s the thing.  My feminism may be annoying to some people, but it’s not something I can divorce from myself.  Simply by existing as a woman, I am faced with the reality of sexism every day.  I can’t escape it and I can’t stop it from affecting the way I think and act.  Here’s what a typical day might look like for me (and I’m sure many will share these experiences):

  • I wake up.  I decide what to wear.  I need to look fashionable and like I care, but not like I care too much because then I’ll be perceived as high maintenance.   I have to be attractive, too, but not too sexy because then no one will take me seriously or they’ll think I’m “asking for it”.
  • I walk down the street.  Men catcall me, blow kisses at from their cars, shout lewd things, or even follow me down the street in their vehicles.
  • I’m at work.  I have to be assertive so my boss will think I’m a go-getter and competent, but if I’m too assertive then I’m “aggressive” and “not a team player.”  I watch my male colleagues assert their authority with ease.  No one questions their competence and they can say things I could never say without being labelled a “b—.”
  • If I interact with the public, I have to put up with flirtatious men who will report me as unhelpful if I don’t reciprocate in the way they want.
  • I go to a meeting.  I pitch ideas that people dismiss.  Five minutes later, a man repeats what I said.  Suddenly my idea is a great idea–and the man gets all the credit for it.  I wonder if he even realizes what he’s done or if he really thinks it’s his idea.
  • I’m on break and now I’m being criticized by men because I “don’t smile enough” or I didn’t laugh at their jokes.
  • Maybe I eat my lunch outside.  Men approach me to hit on me.  If I don’t respond favorably, they might become aggressive.  If I turn them down, they demand to know why.  I must have a boyfriend, right?  That’s the only reason I wouldn’t be interested in them, even though we’ve known each other for five minutes and he seems crass and a little angry.
  • I walk home. It’s getting late and I’m worried about my safety.  Is that person following me dangerous?  If someone hurts me, will anyone help or will the bystander effect take place?  If something happens and I press charges, will anyone believe me or will they say I “deserved it” or that I made it up “for attention?”
  • I’m home.  I watch TV.  Women either don’t exist in these shows or they are objects for the male gaze or they exist solely as love interests.  I pick up a magazine to see more objectified women.
  • I say something about how I’m feeling and a man in the room tells me my feelings are invalid.
  • I go to bed. I  recall that when I wear my hair a certain way, people find me less attractive.  I decide to wear my hear that way tomorrow because no one ever hits on me when I do, and some days I just want to eat lunch in peace.

So.  The patriarchy is all around, right?  A girl can’t even decide on an outfit without thinking how that will affect her job or who approaches her after work.  These are all “small” things, of course, and don’t even take into account wage inequality, the difficulties of working while pregnant or with children, the difficulty getting hired if you employer thinks you might become pregnant, the difficulty advancing in a career when women receive less credit for doing the same amount of work as men do, etc.  But that’s my reality.  And I am ticked off about it?  Of course.

I exist as a woman who has to deal with all of this, so when I read or watch a story and see how women are treated, I can’t pretend I don’t see what’s happening or how it could affect how women are treated in real life.  Stories affect people.  They change lives.  When we constantly erase women from media or refuse to show them in certain careers or illustrate them as having value only insofar as they support a man’s love life, then we are telling society that this is how women are to be treated.  And that is not okay.

I don’t explicitly talk about feminism or portrayals of women in everything I do–that would be exhausting and sometimes, yes, I do want to try to enjoy a film as best as I can despite how the women in it are treated.  Yet I also think it’s impossible to separate one’s identity, one’s experiences and background, from one’s writings.  The world and body I inhabit necessarily affect the way I think.  If some people don’t like that I am feminist, that I believe women and men are equal in dignity, I can’t help that.  I can’t morally justify to myself not talking about the injustices that I see.

*Inspired by Doing Dewey’s post on whether bloggers have an obligation to promote feminism.

Krysta 64

42 thoughts on “Why Do I Talk About Feminism on a Book Blog?

  1. Nandini Bharadwaj says:

    The examples provided in the post are all relevant to women all over the world, I’m sure. I’m still studying in college at the moment but I face this discrimination with my peers. Boys tend not to take girls seriously and constantly undermine their achievements. Perhaps it’s a mindset problem that starts very early and nobody bothers addressing it.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It seems like a systemic problem and I’m not entirely sure how to address it. Studies have been performed addressing different aspects of sexism and they’ve indicated, for example, that even other women tend to think things like “girls are worse at math.” Recently a study by a group at Montana State University, “Quality of evidence revealing subtle gender biases in
      science is in the eye of the beholder,” indicated that when STEM faculty were presented with evidence of gender bias in STEM fields, the male faculty didn’t believe the data. How do we convince people that we need to address sexism if they won’t even believe the evidence showing sexism exists?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nandini Bharadwaj says:

        I agree. Most men seem to think that now that women are “allowed” to work and are getting paid for it, everything is equal. If they can’t see the problem, it’s very hard to do anything about it. There’s also the whole problem of feminism being ridiculed and not being taken seriously. There are videos of women slamming feminists on YouTube. We can’t even agree within ourselves. This is not going away any time soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    I love this post! I feel like I went to work with you, but at the same time, lived my own life. I work from home now, but when I worked in a different department, I was surrounded by 98% men, all of which were former military. Fairly inappropriate things would fly out of their mouths all the time, they would ogle me, tell me I looked pretty or smelled nice, and my old team leader would send me to deal with the difficult men because he said that my looks would smooth everything over. I mean how disgusting is that? And because I worked with all men I couldn’t go complain to my male boss who was just as open with his thoughts as my team leader. And God forbid I wore my crappy sweater or no makeup that one day, it was like I was some old hag. He’d even give me a look and say, rough night or something stupid like that. The worst part is when they steal all of your ideas and take credit for them, or when the idiot who sits next to you is given the award for your work. I’ve been down this road with different bosses. The one thing I learned is to shut them down. Luckily, not everyone was like this. Most of the guys I worked with did respect my work. I even had some that brought me cakes and pastries and things to say thank you. For every idiot, I had 5 that were decent so that was nice. You’re so right for bringing up this topic because it happens all the time, and I don’t think people realize how much.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve had one time in my life when I was surrounded mostly by men–in the chemistry department. They seemed mostly to forget I was there and the things they said about other women were not things I needed to hear. Otherwise, I have somehow found myself in various cases where I worked mainly with women (though for some reason the head/manager/director/whatever is usually a man).

      And yet I can still go to a meeting and have a man take the credit for my work. I can still be criticized for the way I present myself or dress or talk or not talk. You’d think that the greater ratio of women to men would cut down on these problems, but it doesn’t seem to. The only times I’ve ever really been able to work without being criticized for, let’s face it, being a woman, is when a woman was in charge. The feedback given to me then usually actually focuses on my work.

      I can’t even imagine going through what you did every day. I think it would really take a toll on me emotionally.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

        I agree. More women added to the mix doesn’t seem to help balance it out. Some guys will still be pigs no matter who they’re paired with. The worst is some of the guys posting half naked girls up in their cubicles. How gross? It’s supposed to be a workplace not a man cave. I lucked out with my current position. All of my bosses are women except two, but the men take orders from the women in this department. I also lucked out that the men I work with now are professionals, so I don’t have the same issues as I had before. The IT guys are not the same as the former military crew, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that. That’s the worst having a man steal your idea and take credit for it. I’ve had a few that even received awards for my ideas or pawned them off as a group idea so everyone on our team would get the award. I refused to accept the awards on the principle alone. I like that you brought this up because it’s relevant to all women. We’ve all had to deal with some type of situation like this at one point in our lives. Nice post!

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Woah. I would have thought some workplace policy would prohibit provocative decor, even if some people don’t care that displaying such material could make their coworkers uncomfortable.

          In the past, I was always too timid to stand up for myself when someone stole my idea. In high school, for example, I was taught that good people don’t cause trouble, so I kept my mouth shut and let people take advantage of me. Now I’ve come to realize that calling women names when they speak up for themselves is just another way to control them and keep them “in their place.” Luckily, however, I’ve recently found myself surrounded mostly by women who are very supportive in general and passionate about feminism. I think some of the men are struggling with it, but they are making an effort to be respectful.

          Like

          • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

            There are policies but I work on a Navy base, so when it comes to the military they get away with murder. I sat next to a guy that was caught in the act of doing things to himself in the presence of women on two separate occasions and all he got was a 10 day suspension. That’s it! My boss had to threaten him physical harm to get him to stop ogling me all the time. He used to roll his chair out in the aisle and lick his lips at me. It was revolting, and of course, he was former Navy. The stuff they get away with is unbelievable. When I requested to work from home in the section with the horrible team leader, I was bullied by my male bosses because I wouldn’t back down and labeled a problem child. I went to my congressman, union rep, and a lawyer to get out of that building and nothing worked. Thankfully, my promotion was in another area where I was given work from home and no longer subjected to the same things. And on top of that, the unsafe building conditions gave me a sinus condition that I now work from home because of. I have so many bad experiences just from this job alone.

            Like

            • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

              Thank you! I’m just glad I no longer have to deal with any of it. It felt good to actually get it out. I hardly ever think about it or talk about it. But when I do think about it, I get really irritated that they allow that kind of stuff to go on.

              Like

  3. uptilmidnight says:

    Great post! I agree with everything you said. I can relate to a few of those examples. I feel like women everywhere can relate. Once you wake up and see the reality of things, it gets a bit depressing. However, I’m glad you won’t sit down and take these injustices 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It’s so encouraging to read all the lovely responses here! Writing a personal post like this felt a little daring, but I think the responses show that it’s something we do need to talk about!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lauren says:

    Excellent post. It is a sad state of affairs in our society when women criticize others for being feminist. One thing I truly hate is when women call themselves b*tches. Don’t we get enough of that from men, why do we do it to each other?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think some women are trying to reclaim the word, but I feel very uncomfortable when another woman refers to me like that. I’m not sure the men around us understand the idea of reclaiming it and It feels a little like we’re giving them license to use the word, as well. And, of course, some women simply use the word in its original sense, which really saddens me. We don’t need to criticize each other. Life is hard enough!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. hermionefowl says:

    I know what you mean about a lot of this, but luckily it’s not as bad for me. I’m a high school student, so I’m not sure if it’s my generation or just because we’re young or if I happen to be lucky. I notice it all the time in media, and it’s really about time things started changing. I get so mad that there’s that misconception about feminists hating men – that isn’t what we’re about at all! People like that are a loud minority, who are really just as bad as the men who discriminate against women

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I experienced some sexism in high school, but though I was able to recognize it, I wasn’t as prepared to articulate why it was wrong, and I was too shy to stand up for myself. A lot of the time a guy would present a poorly-prepared project or a badly-written essay and receive accolades for it, while my obviously superior project received a vague “Oh, yes, that’s nice” response, if anything at all. And guys would regularly steal my ideas and take the credit for them during meetings for extra-curriculars.

      But my high school basically taught that a nice, upright, moral person didn’t get angry or cause waves. If someone stole your idea or wronged you, the teaching was that a good person “turned the other cheek.” I wanted to be a good person, so I let the guys takes the credit for my ideas. I realize now that I should not have been silent and that letting other people walk all over you isn’t want makes you a good person. But it took me years to get there and I regret it.

      And though there may be feminists who hate men, I have yet to meet one. And their approach certainly doesn’t make wage equality a bad idea!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Cait @ Paper Fury says:

    *applauds wildly* THIS POST IS BRILLIANT AND I COULDN’T AGREE MORE!! I get so very angry when people are dismissive over feminism and go “oh well I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men” and I just want to stamp my foot. It’s not that hard to educate yourself on what a feminist is. And anyone who is not a feminist, I believe, has got very crooked priorities that need sorting out NOW. Equality is not something we should work to deserve. Equality should be our RIGHT from the day we’re born till we die.
    *pauses* *takes deep breath*
    hehe, So I’m wildly passionate about this too. 😉 Please don’t ever stop blogging about feminism!! I intend to blog more about it too, actually, because the idea that people find it “annoying” is ridiculous and I think the more we talk about it, the more light we shed on the reality of things.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I always find the response of “I don’t hate men” odd. I’m a feminist. No one I know thinks I hate men (because, you know, I don’t). Clearly feminism is not incompatible with not hating men! And when women say it, it’s just so hurtful to me because I feel like they’re receiving less pay than their male counterparts or being treated dismissively by their colleagues or being objectified on the street or something and don’t even know it so they have no way to stand up for themselves.

      And the really funny thing is that I don’t think I talk about feminism that much. I bring it up when it’s relevant to a book or a show or something that happened to me, but I don’t wake up in the morning and lecture about feminism over my oatmeal. If it seems like I talk about feminism too much in response to something I read or experienced, then I think the problem is, in fact, not me.

      Like

  7. readbooksanddrinkcoffee says:

    I read the title of this post and I immediately thought because people who would ask you this need to be educated on equal rights for everyone, no matter what gender/race/sexual orientation/religion because everyone should be treated equally. We are all human

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I still feel so under-prepared to talk with everyone, though! I keep trying to educate myself, but it just seems like there are so many other people who are more informed and so articulate. I need pamphlets I can pass out to people explaining what feminism is and why we need it. 😉

      And, honestly, sometimes I don’t even know where to start. Do I start by explaining that feminists don’t hate men? Do I begin by explaining why I refuse to fit the model of a well-behaved women in this scenario and will indeed dare to express an opinion/claim credit for my work? Do I address the sexist condescension of the original question? I only have so much time. Which route will be most productive? It feels overwhelming sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • readbooksanddrinkcoffee says:

        Trust me I quite often feel under educated when it comes to things like this. But I believe that the best thing you can do is tell inform others on what you know(but make sure what you’re saying is correct). I feel like you could start by talking about books that you feel is important when is comes to equality. Maybe diversity in books or accurate representation of LGBT people or people with mental health disabilities or any other sort of disability. I wouldn’t make it seem harsh or like a rant. I think I’d start each post with a brief statement saying that you don’t mean to offend anyone and that you are just wanting to state your opinion and help inform others on issues that you find concerning etcetera. But other then that I think you should make posts on it. They don’t have to be related to books, you could see something on the news that you found troubling. What ever you post about should be your choice and you should be happy about it at the end of the day.
        – Yasmin

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Yes, every now and then I do a list of diverse books on the blog and it’s usually pretty popular! But then I have tried to share some of those books with people in real life, like “Look at Otter destroying gender stereotypes! Woah!” and people just give me weird looks. So maybe I have to find a way to translate what I do on the blog into my everyday interactions.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Erin Tweed says:

    This is SUCH a fantastic post. It still baffles me when people say “I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men,” or ” I’m not a feminist because I believe in equal rights.” What do you think feminism is trying to achieve? It is so men and women are EQUAL in society and is only helping to break down ridiculous gender roles. It is NOT a bad thing, or something you should have to justify. We SHOULD point out the sexism and misogyny in media because it perpetuates the harmful stereotypes that affect both women and men everyday, and nothing about it will change if no one will even acknowledge it in the first place. Lovely post!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I haven’t heard the equal rights argument. Do they think women are trying to gain world domination? Maybe we should be flattered they think we’re capable of it? 😉

      Like

      • Briana says:

        I think that’s exactly it. There’s a segment of people who think feminists are trying to get “more” than men. And, if I’m being frank, I’ve met a couple women who had made it quite clear that IS their agenda. Men had “more” for centuries, so now it’s women’s turn to be “on top.” I don’t consider those people to represent the bulk of feminists, however. Every group has its extremists, and it’s just disappointing when others decide to willfully believe the extremists are the majority.

        Like

  9. Annika - Hiding Books says:

    YES to all of this! I talk about feminism a lot – not necessarily on my blog – but actually in real life (you know, kind of rare for me 😉 ) and I always find it baffling how people react to this topic!
    If I want to discuss it people think I hate men. Or maybe that I’m gay? I don’t even know how to respond to that one, you know?l — I mean there’s so many things wrong there! My opinions are not valid because someone else doesn’t understand feminism – like, what?!

    Some men I talk to – and this includes my cousin and my dad, who I’d like to think really care about my opinions and well-being – get really patronising when I talk about this topic. They think I don’t really understand what’s going on. They have these slightly mocking smiles on their faces. And I’m trying to explain that – actually, yes, someone following me and hounding me for my phone number isn’t okay, or funny, and no, it’s not just me taking things too seriously.
    It’s just, women’s attitudes to this can be awful too. The whole “everything’s okay in my life, so I don’t think we need feminism” rhetoric drives me insane.

    I’m sorry for totally writing a ranty essay in response! I just really identify with what you’re saying and understand it so well. ❤
    (I'm saving your post so that if I ever get brave enough to write about this topic myself I can link to yours because this is wonderful!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I think there’s an attitude of “women generally have equal rights in this country so there’s nothing to worry about” from many men who honestly mean well. And, I get that. Women in many ways are doing better historically than they ever have been. Yet that’s a not reason to ignore what may seem like “little” problems in comparison to not being able to vote or not being able to own property, etc. But what they don’t understand is that the “little” things matter. Someone catcalling you on the street can turn into someone following you when you don’t respond the way they want. People belittling women at work can lead to systemic sexism, women avoiding STEM fields, etc. Women had the right to be respected while they’re enjoying their lovely equal rights.

      Like

      • Krysta says:

        So true! But then I hear guys complain that they can’t even approach women because of feminism. Something about they’re scared to talk to anyone in case the woman calls it harassment. But if you’re approaching women respectfully and not catcalling them, you’re probably not going to have a problem! It’s not that much different from other social interactions. When you talk to a stranger you’re not attracted to, you generally know when you’re bothering them and when you’re not.

        Like

        • Annika - Hiding Books says:

          Yes yes yes. The fact that we can vote doesn’t mean everything is alright, for one. Also men who say women have nothing to complain about are not women, so how do they know?
          Krysta – so true. If a guy is respectful it’s okay. It doesn’t mean a woman won’t say ‘no.’ But I’d like to think we don’t just call things harassment without a reason…

          Like

            • Annika - Hiding Books says:

              Definitely! And the fact that some men think they know what it’s like to be a woman because they have girlfriends, sisters, mothers. Even telling them about guys who won’t leave us alone, guys who think it’s okay to grope you because you’re at a night club, guys who make us feel like it’s not safe for us to walk alone after 7pm – it doesn’t help because they don’t have to go through it. Obviously some men do get it, and many are sympathetic but still..

              Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it can be really frustrating to try to talk about what can be a very personal and sensitive topic and have it be dismissed. Today I was sitting outside wearing a skirt and tights and a man slowed down his car with the window open so he could obviously try to get a look up my skirt. I deliberately made eye contact with him and gave him a nasty look–which didn’t faze him at all. He drove by again maybe ten minutes later to try to get another look.

      If I tell this story to some people, they will tell me I am supposed to be flattered by his attention. In fact, I feel violated and I am scared. This unknown man thinks it’s okay to treat me like an object and he knows where I live!

      I think it’s difficult for some men to understand that women can find unwanted attention intimidating. Someone like the guy who drove by obviously has no respect for me and thinks he can treat my body in whatever way gives him pleasure. I have no guarantee that he’s going to stay in his car. What if he approaches me or touches me? And he’s probably bigger and stronger than I am.

      But I have men in my life who will totally tell me the guy didn’t mean anything and I shouldn’t be so touchy about it, it was a compliment, etc.

      So..there’s my ranty response. It felt good to vent my frustration a little.

      Like

  10. Mica says:

    You should never stop talking about your principles! Especially in a platform of your own. As a feminist myself, it is refreshing and also pretty amazing reading pieces like these. Go you!

    Like

  11. astarteia says:

    I never comment, but I have to congratulate you. I`ve become increasingly aware of how women are portrayed in some of my (former) favorite shows and books, and how really unequal our treatment is.
    To add to the sad collection of stories in these comments– after going through college fairly scratch-free (yeah, sometimes in groups of all-men I was veeery undermined, but that was about it), I have been interviewing for jobs. I do alright until I get to the interview with my future boss or bosses — aall men, every time. And then they go from asking me if I’ll “manage” to work without earrings and rings as if I didn’t know proper laboratory protocol, or that my vanity would prevent me from complying, to asking me “if I feel comfortable working with men”, which always brings me to a halt — do they mean to say will I be quiet if they make sexist remarks? Can I endure casual conversations on topics they don’t see fit for me? Will I object to an emptier, cleaner ladies’ room? And what kind of person actually thinks that’s a worthwhile question in 2016, where every classroom and activity is mixed since infancy?? (None of my guy friends was asked if they could handle working with women, weirdly enough.)
    Anyways, I think it really is important to keep in mind these distortions and unite forces in setting them straight, whether in fiction or reality. So thank you for your feminist content 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Woah. I can’t believe someone would ask questions like that! They’re sexist, but they’re also dumb. Not all women wear jewelry in the first place and those who do are fully capable of removing it for safety reasons! And why do they assume you can’t work with men? STEM fields are dominated by men. Statistically speaking, you probably spent most of your academic career surrounded mostly by men. (And like you, I’m not even sure what that question means. It’s like they’re suggesting their own employees are horrible to work with. Yikes!) I am insulted on your behalf and really sorry you have to put up with that.

      Like

  12. DoingDewey says:

    Great post! I hope anyone who thinks we don’t need feminism any more because women have equal rights now sees your post and recognizes all the nasty, insidious ways sexism can makes women’s lives less pleasant each and every day.

    Like

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s