“That’s the first time I go out with a feminist. Everything is new to me”

Glad to be back on a Thursday this week!This is a special post for me in the celebration of International Women’s Day. I put a lot of thought and love into it. I hope you enjoy. ❤

I heard this from a guy, who I went out with a couple weeks ago. I got really upset when I heard him saying about the time his ex-girlfriend cheat on him.
“I’m glad I didn’t see her that night. I’m afraid I would have hit her”, he added. The hypothetical situation of hitting a woman triggered the worst feelings on me. I got scared and deeply sad. It was our second date and everything was going so well, until that.

He noticed my deception and immediately tried to explain that he would never touch her or any other woman. He justified that he was using “figurative language”. Honestly, I was bummed.

Is sexism so rooted in the male DNA that they don’t even notice when it comes out?
Can I judge someone based on something they said on the second date
Was this guy justifying what he said because of my disapproval?
Was he being honest when justifying it OR (AND?) when saying he would hit her?

I had these and many other questions in my mind when he interrupted my thoughts saying:

— That’s the first time I go out with a feminist. Everything is new to me. I’m being honest with you. I got mad that my ex cheated on me, I wanted to hit her, but I never did or would. If what I said is a deal breaker for you. It’s a deal breaker for me too, I was opening my heart and sharing my story with you.

He drove me home and music kind of connected us again.
I chose to get to know him better.

My point in sharing this story is to exemplify one of many episodes when people get confused about what it means to be a feminist and when women get hurt by something men say — with or without an intention of being sexist.
Roxane Gay in “Bad Feminist” writes about the misconceptions and expectations about feminism. For a lot of people, a “real” feminist is well versed in feminist history, don’t shave their legs, don’t willingly give blow-jobs and consequently hate men. Roxane identifies herself as a “bad feminist”, so she can adore pink and explore her sexuality however she wants.

I understand her because I share her dilemma. Some of my ideas most certainly would be rejected from the feminist community. For instance:
I would like to have a man taking care of me. Someone with confidence, attitude and also caring, smart, and funny.

I think some chores are gendered*, for example, electrical and hydraulic problems, automobile repair, and mirror/shelves installation. *Note: Women are capable of performing all of these domestic tasks. Unfortunately, for centuries these are areas of expertise dominate by men. We need to incentive our girls from an early age to learn about these fields.

In my opinion, while payment inequality exists the expectation for men to pay the bill on a casual date would remain. When in a relationship, the decision of who gets the bill is a topic to be discussed between the couple.

On the other hands, I think that this idea of “radical feminist” is overrated and a “real feminist” is someone who believes in gender equality and freedom. If a woman wants to get married and stay at home, let her be. If she chooses to be single and start her own business, let her be. If she decides to get married, have children and open a business, let her be! Seriously, the world could be better starting with less judgment.

Just let the girl be!

Talking about choices, let me share another episode that happened to me last weekend. I had friends visiting from out of town we decided to go to a stand-up comedy show in Long Beach. The first comedian started his show bullying vegans, black people, and…women. In one of his acts he said:

— I’m all for women’s right. Women should be free and have the right to do whatever she wants with her body.

To which he added right away:

— As long as she makes the right choice.

He then fist bumped another guy in the audience. Most people laughed, while I was feeling hurt. I looked around hoping to in someone’s glance the same frustration I felt. Nothing. The show continued with a bunch of other offensive jokes. I was clearly uncomfortable and sipped some whiskey to calm me down.

Here’s the thing: I defend freedom of speech at all cost and I also believe that there’s a fine line in the ethics of comedy. Offending and diminishing a minority group it’s not funny to me — but a way to reinforce prejudice using humor as a camouflage. Often times sexism, racism and homophobia appear in the movies and music industries hidden in sarcastic comments, inappropriate words, exaggerated characters, and controversial behaviors.

Some people would justify that they are acting accordant to their culture. To which I would argue with: culture is the values of a people, their shared ideas. If you disagree with something that’s been passed forward in your culture, do something to stop the cycle.

Do your part. Educate yourself and empower the ones around you. That’s when change happens!

Unlike the comedian, I’m all for women’s right (period). When it comes to reproductive freedom, for example, the right choice is the one the woman decides on her own terms.

Her own terms don’t mean alone. If she wants, she can discuss her reasons and risks for discontinuing a pregnancy with her partner, family, friends, spiritual coach or a doctor. But whenever the government, religion and even science try to convince women about her best choice, her alienable right is being treated.

To start, women lose their right to privacy when pregnant. Her body would get the new shape, her habits would change and everyone will notice that she is caring another human being inside of her.

I remember once at a restaurant I saw a pregnant woman (yes, I’m sure she was pregnant) ordering a cocktail. The waitress doubled checked if the drink was for her and if she knew that there was alcohol in it. The pregnant woman didn’t see to be offended, she just confirmed and kept chatting with her friends at the table.

Then, the pregnant lady ordered a glass of wine for herself.

Damn! I was observing everything and felt uncomfortable. I was concerned about the baby. I judged the lady. I thought she shouldn’t drink during the 40 weeks of her pregnancy for the sake of her own health, and of course, for the baby’s health as well. I don’t think her choice that was the “right choice”.

Next, I realized: “Well, it’s not what I would have done, but I have to respect her freedom to do what she wants with her body”. Perhaps, she didn’t have information about the risks of drinking during pregnancy. Or maybe she was following doctor’s recommendation of drinking only one to two units of alcohol during the pregnancy. (Well, she ordered a third round, so who knows…).

The point is that she had the freedom to ordered those drinks and seemed to be happy about it.

Now, let’s think about a pregnant woman who decides to interrupt her pregnancy. In the United States, since 1973 they have the right to choose, as long as the woman attend some requirements. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the most obvious one: being pregnant. As Gay writes in her book, in 35 states of U.S women are required to receive counseling before an abortion. In 26 states she might be offered or given a written material. Some states like Virginia tried to pass a bill where an unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound is required, along with an exam that obligates the woman to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Roxane writes:

Waiting periods, counseling, ultrasounds, transvaginal ultrasound, sonogram storytelling — all of these legislative moves are invasive, insulting, and condescending because they are deeply misguided attempts to pressure women into changing their minds, to pressure women into not terminate their pregnancies, as if women are so easily swayed that such petty and cruel stall tactics will work. These politicians do not understand that once a woman has made up her mind about terminating a pregnancy, very little will sway her.

Another thing that bothers me about all this is the controversy: all these interventions clammed to “protect the women”, but there is so much information missing about the complexity of women body. For example, as I mentioned here, the Skene’s gland (aka “female prostate”) has been described over 300 years ago, and yet we know just a little about it.

We know that only women can carry another life. But, isn’t curious that there’s not a way for men to prevent a pregnancy other than using a condom?

Why there is no other birth control for men?
Why has no one created a pill that they could take?

They would probably blame that the medicine would affect their testosterone level and it could compromise their ability to produce sperms in the long term.

The lack of methods where men would assume the responsibility for getting a women pregnant exist simply because they don’t want this responsibility.

We should all be in this together, right? One of my favorite moments is when a guy, at that certain point in a relationship, says something desperately hopeful like, “Are you on the pill?” I simply say, “No, are you?” Gay, Roxane. (Bad Feminist, 2014, pg. 277)

To change this game me need more women in Science, Politics, Technology, and so on…

The change needs to happen from inside out. You will notice more and more messages of sexism if you just listen. Another day, while doing my school assignment I came across a case study where the author explained how Johnie Walker’s agency reframed their whiskey campaign in China:

The first segment, guanxi men, are status-driven businessmen aged 35 to 45 who spend a great deal of time networking and trying to set up a business deal. The second segment is “strong independent women”, also in the 35–to-45 age bracket.

The problem? Well, take a look closer.

Nothing?

All right. When describing the guanxi men the author didn’t use any air quotes. However, when describing the female niche “strong independent women” comes protected by the finger quotes. We all know that these quotations marks are used to express sarcasm.

Where is the sarcasm on strong independent women? I don’t know.

Perhaps the idea was so rotted to the author that he didn’t even realize. Or maybe he is a jerk who thinks is funny when a woman is described as strong and independent.

Our language has an enormous impact on how I interact with the world. Being aware of the terms we use and how we acknowledge people around us is a good way to start the change.

By the way, this reminds me of a strong independent woman I met at the Women’s March in Redondo Beach. Arnette Travis is actively involved in her community, where she serves as a Blue Zones Project® Ambassador.
We started talking about women’s right and our role in today’s society when she comments about her book “Bitch: A Definitive and Restorative Guide” (coming up at the end of the month!). Needless to say, we clicked!

Arnette Travis during the Women’s March 2018, in Redondo Beach.

I got the privileged to read few chapters of the book beforehand and I cannot wait to get the book to my girlfriends. Arnette builds her argument around the use of the word “bitch” and its impact on our preconceptions and language. She writes:

Through redefinition and ownership of the term, bitch became a palatable proposition that fostered positive reinforcement for female aspirations. Similar to the ownership of the n-word by some Afro-Americans, bitch found acceptance when used by women to describe their own behaviors and attitudes — but remained anathema coming from a man. (Arnette Travis, 2018, “Bitch: A Definitive and Restorative Guide”)

It’s not that the world becomes boring and you can’t joke or use certain words. The world is actually getting better. Many people are creating awareness about the struggle of minorities and little by little, change is happening!
I’m excited to be alive and contributing a little bit to get us to a better place. Back to that guy in the begging of this article, I hope many other men get a chance to go out with a feminist. And if they do, I hope they truly listen and learn with them.

We are in this world together!

For me, International Women’s Day is about this reflection. It’s a time to stop and listen what women are saying. It’s starting the conversation with men and women. It’s acknowledging movements such as TimesUp and #MeToo. It’s supporting female business’ owned. It’s about appreciating my mother and grandmothers. It’s about supporting my girlfriends and telling them how they inspire me. And most of all, it’s time to connect with me and understand my place in this planet. It’s about becoming Odara.

How about you? What is unclear or confusing for you about feminism and gender equality? Leave your comment! I would love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks for reading and See You Next Tuesday! ;-)

Let’s connect! Tell me your about your journey in the comments and/or follow me on Twitter: @anaclaraotoni.

Journalist. Sustainability, Social Justice & Gender Equality. Becoming Odara daily. Passionate about life, sexuality & wine. Mugs lover.