You’re pretty hairy for a feminist!

this is what a feminist looks like

[not an accurate representation of how awesome my shirt is]

I was grabbing one of these awesome hot dogs from Biker Jim’s hot dog stand on campus the other day when the man cooking up my dog laughs at my “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt and the following dialogue occurs:

Him: “You’re pretty hairy for a feminist!”
Me: “Yeah, we can be.”

He laughed. I laughed. I walked away equal parts amused and ashamed. Ashamed because I made a joke playing on the common expectation of what a feminist looks like. Amused because it was a good joke and affirmed two things to me. First, that a man can be a feminist. Second, that it doesn’t really matter what we look like.

Plus it was funny.

Or it wasn’t and I’m easy to please. One of the two.

But it did get me thinking about myself. I’m male. I love baseball. I love women. I love to competition. I love video games. I love books. I love movies. I love television. I love beer. I love whiskey. I love my scruffy beard.

And I’m a feminist. Deal with it.

I think that helps put in perspective for me that anyone can be a feminist no matter what you look like or how you were raised. I think that’s a hard thing for some people to understand. There are all these stereotypes about what a feminist is or can be. There’s this concept that feminists are bra-burning lesbians who hate men with a passion. And that’s a lie.

I was part of a panel for a class at Metro State University in Denver last week. The professor asked for students who identified as feminist to share their experiences. And when it comes down to it, being part of that panel was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life. It was simply amazing to sit on a panel as young men and women asked questions about what it means to be a feminist, how people respond to knowing that you’re a feminist, and who can be a feminist. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite questions and answers (spread across two classes and 5 panelists).

Q: Have you always been a feminist?

Yes, though I haven’t always identified my views that way. When I was younger and didn’t have the vocabulary, I called myself an “equalitist”…which isn’t a thing. But what I was trying to say is that I am a Humanist, and I equate humanism with feminism. I think the major reason why I say feminist rather than humanist is that there’s more direction implied with feminism. It’s the concept that there’s something different than wanting equality for everyone and knowing that there is inequality that needs to be addressed.

Q: When people find out that you (as a man) are a feminist, do they assume that you’re gay?

No. Certainly for some, that is the case, but not in my case. And I think that’s fascinating. I think the concept that the only men who are feminists are women is deeply indicative of a culture that relies on expectation. The only real requirement to be a feminist is to believe that everyone is equal and should be treated as such. That means that not only do I believe that women should be encouraged to play football with men, but also that men should be encouraged to do gymnastics and cheer-leading. We all should have the right to be exactly who we are and treated exactly the same for it. And being a man doesn’t mean that I have to think I’m better than women. It means that I should strive to be better than I am—and know that everyone deserves the opportunity to be the same.

Q: So, when you go to out with a woman, do you open the door for her? Do you pay for the dinner?

Yes, I open the door. Of course, if she gets there first, then she opens it. If someone is behind me, I hold it open for them. All that matters is that someone opens the door and I really don’t care who it is–just get it done. As for dinner, yes, I pay a majority of the time. Why? Because when it comes down to it, I know that I get paid more than a lot of women my age. So in an attitude that Conan O’Brien would approve of, I’ll continue paying until women are paid the same for doing the same job. It’s only fair. Of course, if a woman wants to pay, she is welcome to. It won’t hurt my feelings any.

feeling-22-cents-underpaid-on-the-dollar.american-apparel-unisex-tank.white.w760h760

[Awesome shirt and very accurate. You can find it here]

Q: Can I be a feminist and not believe in abortion?

SUCH A HOT TOPIC. And yes…sort of. When it comes down to it, you just have to believe that it isn’t your right or job to police what other people do with their bodies. That means not trying to controlling who people love, what people put on their bodies, or what they do with their own medical procedures. So you can 100% believe that abortion is wrong and immoral or whatever—but you can’t force your beliefs on others. A feminist doesn’t do that. I’ve known plenty of feminists who would never personally get an abortion—but they know that it isn’t their job to stop others. Encourage them to seek other possibilities? Sure. Attempt to force them or judge them for their choices? Never.

Q: If you had to break down the waves of feminism into a single word to describe them, how would you do so?

Feminism is often described as being in waves, but I think that’s problematic. This concept of waves is common to threes, which implies that after the third wave there’s nothing else. It also implies that the move for equality peaks and recedes like the tides. Neither is true. The search for equality isn’t really something that ends; it’s something that evolves. But if I were to describe what current feminism is about, I would say it’s about education. It’s about educating others in the fact that inequality is real, prominent in our society, and something we can all work to fix. I don’t expect equality to just appear in the next decade, but I do anticipate that the only way to be equal is for people to realize that we aren’t currently and to strive for that to change.

Overall, there were a lot great questions raised, and even more great answers. But I think the one that means the most to me was this: as someone of the privileged class (cishet white male), I have the opportunity to speak without fear of being judged and silence is just as damning as speaking against equality. So I speak out, just like John Legend, Patrick Stewart, John Scalzi, Joss Whedon (though he is a bit problematic in his own right), and plenty other men do. We don’t think women are less—and neither should you. I personally can’t wait for the day that I can shut up and sit back, but until that day comes, I’ll keep up in the ranks of powerful men and women shouting for equality—no matter what anyone else thinks.

Feminist-Kitten[because that was kind of heavy, enjoy a kitty!]

Yes, Cyrus Deserves a Conversation–But So Does Thicke

I tried all last week to write a blog post about Miley Cyrus and her performance at the VMAs. I ran into a few problems, though. Do I discuss the slut shaming that came after the performance? It is, after all, a major aspect when considering the impact of her performance. Or do I discuss how racist the whole act was? It’s everywhere in her performance and her life, from the use of black women as both props (literally objects) and as animals (teddy bears? Really?), to her appropriation of ratchet culture by way of twerking.

But I just couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it not because it didn’t deserve to be discussed. It does deserve discussion. It deserves hours of discussion, loud discussion, in public and private places both. It deserves to be used as a tool to enlighten the masses on the injustices done both TO Cyrus and BY Cyrus, as well as a conversation about others who have done the same.

But what I think deserves more attention is how LITTLE attention is given to Robin Thicke.

Robin Thicke, son of Canadian actor and comedian Alan Thicke, is well known these days. His pop single Blurred Lines has been ranked #1 for a stunning 19 weeks.

That’s not a typo. Nineteen. One-Nine. That’s exceptional—but it’s far from something that I’m pleased about, for a few reasons.

First: the line “I know you want it” that pervades the lyrics. It’s repeated over and over, mimicking the use when someone is pressing sex on an unwilling partner. It’s the height of rape  propaganda and something we can’t help but find completely counter to our concept of consent. It’s a phrase that consistently “perpetuates the idea that women don’t really know what they want and just need to be taken by force.”  More than anything, it just emphasizes how much of this song is really about rape, and the blurred lines between rape and consensual sex in situations involving drugs and alcohol (as indicated by the lines “Baby can you breathe? I got this from Jamaica / It always works for me…/ No more pretending”).

So, the first thing that angers me about Thicke and his song is that it’s a rape song, and we as a society are tacitly agreeing that it’s okay through our continued listening and support. There’s a reason I don’t listen to Chris Brown. Time to add Thicke to the list.

The second issue I have is his video. Not just the video with half naked women dancing around fully clothed men. No, I take issue with his other video with topless women dancing around (surprise!) fully clothed men (link not included because it disgusts me. It’s on vevo if you care to look for it). The type of video is very common to rap and hip hop songs these days, but it in no way absolves Thicke of his objectification of women. It’s videos like this, and our societal support of them, that keeps pornography as a multibillion dollar industry and consistently disrupts our attempts to counter the impression that women are just here for man’s use.

More than that, however, I take issue with the double standard in media. After Thicke’s video came out (and his NSFW version was removed from YouTube but his “safe” version maintained), a Blurred Lines parody created by a group of feminist law students from Auckland University appeared—and was subsequently removed for violating YouTube’s terms and conditions by displaying sexually explicit content. This is definitely a double standard as the only difference in visual content was that the women were fully clothed and the men were dancing around in their underwear. Why do we think it’s okay for Thicke to do it, but when social commentary occurs and women are empowered, we take it down? Happily, after a public outcry, the video is back up. I definitely recommend that you watch it; the parody is intended to be taken as a bit of a joke, as most commentary is, but it definitely sends a far more positive message than Thicke’s gratuitous video (it is, obviously, not safe for work, but it’s amazing and worth a view or six). 

The last issue I take is with Thicke himself, and this…this I present without comment:

“People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.’”

So, what do you think?

EDIT (9/3/13): There’s a petition on change.org to remove the music video for Thicke’s song from YouTube for being misogynistic and inappropriate. If you’d like to sign it, you can find it here.