My Freedom and Equality are Inextricably Tied to Yours

Last week I was on the point of deactivating this blog, for several reasons. Some are simple and practical – without the garage gym demo-posts are hard because I can’t get photos, and I’ve started yet another new job that requires my focus, but others are more complicated. The one I feel most able to articulate is that my inspiration has shifted. I have no less passion for low-maintanence but nutritious cooking that you can actually handle thinking about on a weeknight, and certainly no less for fitness generally and CrossFit specifically. However, the things most often on my mind now are the explanations I’ve given previously for why fitness means so much TO ME as a woman, and why I think strength training, especially, can be such a powerful force in anyone’s life – but especially the life of anyone who has been accustomed to the expectation that they be less-than, that they be smaller, quieter, or less capable – that they ARE less.  One of the most damaging, limiting things we can do to another person is to simply as less of them, to expect less until they themselves expect less.

I even called my hosting company to close my account, but here I am because I got cold feet by the next morning and withdrew the request. Instead, I’ve updated the format and also the information you’ll find on the static pages about who I am and why I’m here, as well as what I believe. I know some visitors may be turned off by the very word” feminism” but that’s yet another reason that I’m sticking around. Feminism does not mean the ascendancy of women above men – though to some of them it may feel that the movement is to their detriment because when you’re used to enjoying more than you half of the pie, equality might look only like “now I have less pie.” It’s vital, not just in terms of gender equality but in the name of equality for all human beings, that we learn to recognize that phenomenon.

I may have been born on the small side of the gender pie, but in America I was born on the big side of the racial pie – and I can see the evolution of my perspective throughout my life, the process it took me to learn to see “equal” instead of “less for me.” I think it’s very important to admit that, and I hope that more men will learn to see that when it comes to the equality sought by feminism just as I hope more of those of us in any majority group will be able to see it. It’s important to talk about. I can also see the progress through my life towards being able to identify and articulate the ways in which I was NOT equal because of my gender, whatever the men (and many women) surrounding me insisted. I’ve also been fortunate, again, to be spared the many far more severe experiences other women in our country live each day But I know that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening and I’ve seen the evidence, literally, in my work. 

Were you told in high school what you could or could not wear, in order to “not distract the boys?” I was. Ironically, were you also told by popular culture that you should dress so as to please them? I was. Were you encouraged to objectify yourself, to view yourself as an ornament, to aspire to be an object of male pleasure? I was. If you refused to conform, dressed in a way that served your own function instead of fashion, enjoyed hobbies that were “for boys” because they looked fun to you too – were you an outcast for it? I was.

Have you ever felt that less was expected of you, less asked or even demanded of you, “because you’re only a girl”? That you could be praised for doing and being less, stop struggling, and just accept that you can’t do as much or as well as the boys “because you are a girl”? This is not a favor. This is not a privilege.

Were you told that you should take your wedding ring off for job interviews, so that the recruiters wouldn’t assume you either had or would soon have children, and therefore not focus as well on your job? I was. In the year two thousand fucking seven.

Have strange men groped you on the subway, asked you to smile, asked for your number, followed you down the street, walked into your office where you work as a professional and felt free to request that you do simple errands for them, sweetheart (this, last week)? Have doctors dismissed your health complaints on the basis of your gender – have you been asked to shoulder the burden of birth control with side effects men are not expected to tolerate, while we’ve argues over whether the same insurance policies that cover viagra should rightly be required to cover birth control?

Have you ever allowed a man liberties with your body because you were afraid what would happen if you gave voice to the internal screaming NO, or because all inside was quieted by shock? Have you known no one would believe you anyway – have you known “it’s not really assault anyway” or “it wasn’t that bad”?

Mothers shouldn’t be required to cut back on their careers just as fathers shouldn’t be denied the chance to do so. Military service, with all its risks and hardships is not only the responsibility of men – and the rights and benefits of citizenship in this nation, including it’s governance is neither their sole or primary province. You hold open a door for me when my hands are full – I’ll gladly do the same for you. We have come far – and we must not go back. The journey is not over – and it’s not over for our fellows of other faiths and races. Our equality is inextricably intertwined with theirs – and our equality as women is inextricably intertwined with that of the men in my life.  Let me be absolutely clear – this is not an issue of political party affiliiation (personally, I still stubbornly have none, because I find the propagation of the us vs. them mentality insidious and harmful), this is an issue of humanity.  Feminism is not, and should not be about the subjugation of men. It is not about elevating what is female as superior to what is male. It’s about equality – the idea that we are ALL people first and foremost. My gender, race, who I want to marry or my religious beliefs should no more influence how I am treated, how my words or actions are weighed by those around me, or the expectations placed upon me, than the size of my shoes or the color of my eyes.

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