I recently had a conversation with a friend about how some women tend to be embarrassed about admitting to being a feminist. And we got to wondering why that happens. What are other women so ashamed of? Is wanting to be treated equally and demanding respect for yourself things that one shouldn’t be comfortable declaring out loud? Not every feminist is a lesbian or will flip out if someone makes a “that’s what she said” joke.
Webster defines feminism as:
1. the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2. organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
I’m not saying that we need to start protesting for our rights again (although I wish I lived in the 1920’s so badly sometimes for that reason…), but I think that admitting to being a feminist isn’t something that girls should feel embarrassed to do and that guys should feel intimidated by. I think that if you’re a woman and you want people to treat you as they themselves want to be treated, whether in the workplace or walking down the street, then you’re a feminist.
And although great improvements have been made since the 1950’s when it was pretty much expected that a woman stay at home and care for the house and family, there are still issues today. It’s almost like some people are fine with it, though. As if the fact that we’ve made any advances at all is remarkable and we should just accept what comes our way now. For example, I dealt with so much sexism at my old job that it drove me crazy sometimes. Which is really why I started writing this in the first place; I needed an outlet for my complaints.
I worked at a gym which targeted people who wanted to train for bodybuilding competitions. Needless to say, there was a lot of testosterone floating around the place. A lot of the people that I encountered everyday said things that I thought were only stereotypes of jocks and “muscle heads,” and not possibly realistic.
One guy that I worked with was really nice, but he had a lot of conservative perspectives. This surprised me because he was the same age as me (22) and I find people my own age to typically be more liberal. He would tell people who came in and were, for example, police officers that they were “real, great Americans,” and other similar terms of endearment. And I couldn’t help but think of all the unjust things that I’ve seen and heard of police officers doing. Does having the right job title really make someone a “great American”? I also never heard him once call a woman that, but they were always the sweethearts and beautiful.
A big conversation topic which most of the men who worked there or worked out there agreed upon were the standards of dating. Not only were they all disgusted with homosexuality and made it a point to laugh at the gay guys who worked out there behind their backs, but some even agreed that it would be the worst thing in their world to have a gay son. It shocked me, especially in a state that had just legalized gay marriage, that some people still harbored such harsh opinions. Then when it came to dating girls, they were all overly protective and jealous. When I told them that my ex-boyfriend hung out with an ex-girlfriend, they thought it was outrageous that I even let it happen. Apparently, this is something that their girlfriends could never do. When I’m in a relationship, I try to let nothing bother me too much, especially in terms of jealousy. But if these guys don’t express jealousy, then it’s as if they don’t care about the girl they’re dating.
The biggest issue I had was how comfortable people were with critiquing women’s bodies and exploiting them. Even some of the girls did this, which only makes it seem like it’s fine for men to do this. That seemed like such a simple concept to understand to me, but apparently I was alone.
I had multiple guys make comments about my body. They asked me to jump up and down, told me to come out from behind the desk more often because they didn’t know I was “working with all that,” and made constant comments about the food I was eating and my weight. I’m not an overweight person at all, but I’m also not a twig. I like eating pizza and would sometimes order it to the gym during my shift. I did this twice and the same person (actually, the same jerk who told me to jump up and down) looked me up and down and made a comment about how it wasn’t good for me or going to help me, and that I shouldn’t eat it. I don’t know when it became so ordinary for a person who I hardly even know
to tell me not to eat something that I like. What does he care if I gain weight? I can become morbidly obese with my same personality, and most of the guys there would probably stop talking to me. I even had to spend one shift with one of my female coworkers while she searched through tumblr pictures of tattoos for inspiration, and then criticized skinny girls saying they shouldn’t get tattoos on the side of their bodies if you can’t see their ribs because it doesn’t look good when you’re “fat.” I heard her talk about how she freaked out and had an anxiety attack the day that Hurricane Irene came through New York because the gym was closed and she felt fat. That kind of conversation is acceptable, but eating pizza and saying that I’m a feminist are taboo topics.
Needless to say this was the worst job of my life and I dealt with so much negativity there. I have since quit and still go there for free, but I try to avoid talking to the ignorant fools that I had to deal with daily for four months. I’m much happier now. (: