Growing up I always vociferously declared that I was not a feminist. To me, being a feminist was a bad thing because feminists were all about burning bras, down with men, men suck and women are goddesses. Quite frankly, that’s just not how I roll. In my mind, men and women are equal despite society/history’s insistence that we’re not. Therefore, to accomplish that equality, men do not need to be torn down, women need to rise. Pretty simple concept in thought, not so simple in practice. With that belief and the work that I have been drawn to, it has become abundantly clear that I am indeed a feminist and that’s a good thing. I am simply a feminist with a small “f” (second definition) as opposed to a feminist with a capital “F” (first definition). It is through that distinction that I have been able to finally, comfortably declare myself a feminist.
However, I’ve discovered that the more research that I do into under-represented women in our past and the more that I read things about under-representation in our present the more that it seeps into my everyday thoughts and the more miserable I get. For example, some friends and I went to see the new Planes movie “Fire and Rescue.” An animated kid’s movie for a cute 90 minute diversion. However, instead of enjoying the show, I left frustrated, hating the movie because I had spent the entire time examining it under a feminist magnifying glass. (For anybody that hasn’t seen it, and doesn’t want spoilers, I would suggest that you stop reading.)
In the movie, there are three memorable female characters. The first we meet is a mechanic – nice, female representation in what is primarily a male dominated profession. The second is a plane in the Fire and Rescue division – again nice female representation. The third is a sweet little old camper lady on vacation with her sweet little old camper husband – gonna reserve judgment on this one. Now as the movie progresses we discover that the female mechanic, who is touted for being an amazing mechanic, is unable to fix our lead character’s engine. Not only can’t she fix it, but she sadly informs him that it can’t be fixed, no way, no how and they can’t find a replacement. Flash forward to the end and the main Fire and Rescue mechanic, who is a man, builds our lead character a brand new engine like it’s no big deal, completely invalidating the expertise of the female mechanic.
Let’s take a look at the second female character – the Fire and Rescue plane. Yes, she works in this great job and she’s good at what she does. However, the primary focus of this character isn’t when she’s working, but during the down time in between. What we see there is a dingy, sex-crazed, socially-awkward woman who unabashedly pursues the main character, despite the fact that he never gives her any indication that he’s interested. This tells us that for a woman to want to hold that kind of job then clearly it’s because there is something lacking in her personality so she is unable to get a husband and settle down. Awesome.
Now let’s move on to the sweet little old camper couple. They venture off to visit the bridge where they met, and of course that’s when the wildfire kicks in and really starts raging. So they’re trapped and have to be saved by our hero the main character. However, when we finally see them on the burning bridge they aren’t both huddled together awaiting a rescue. Oh, no! The woman is practically dangling off the bridge, being held up by her husband. In a situation where both a man and a woman needed rescuing, they had to make it so that the woman needed rescuing more. The silly broad couldn’t stay away from the edge and now she’s made herself a helpless victim twice over.
I was so bitter and frustrated. From an animated movie for kids. Let me repeat that, an animated movie, for kids, left me bitter and frustrated. After I had time to cool down and shake it off, I realized how ridiculous I was being. Instead of just enjoying the stupid animated movie and relaxing for 90 minutes I had fixated on everything that I deemed to be wrong. Instead of focusing on the intended message that you have to face your fears and sometimes you have to be willing to sacrifice yourself in order to help others, I focused on the fact that I wasn’t satisfied with the female characters. It was at this moment that I stopped and asked myself, to be a feminist, do I really have to be a feminist all the time? Do I really have to be on the look-out for every little indiscretion, or slight that is perpetrated toward women at all times, everywhere? Or am I allowed to leave the battlefield behind from time to time and simply live? Live without a bigger purpose, without a betterment in mind. Simply live for the pleasure of the moment, which may mean that I will occasionally enjoy things that don’t fall in line with the feminist agenda.
My conclusion, absolutely. I am not the type of person that can crusade for a cause 24/7 without losing my mind and just being miserable. I know that about myself, I have to split my focus. There is a reason that I find Lucy Stone so much more intriguing and influential than Susan B. Anthony, and that is because Lucy refused to have tunnel vision. Susan B. Anthony and her contingent fought tooth and nail for women’s rights and tried to quash any legislature that did not positively address women – feminist with a capital “F.” On the other hand, Lucy Stone fought tooth and nail for women’s suffrage, but she also fought tooth and nail for abolition and rights for African Americans – feminist with a small “f.” She believed that rights and empowerment for any marginalized group was a step in the right direction for gaining rights and empowerment for all marginalized groups. Her fight for women’s suffrage never lessoned, she simply understood that there were other things in life worthy of her attention as well. Now I’m not saying that I am anywhere near the caliber of a Lucy Stone, I am way too selfish to be placed amongst the likes of her. However, I think we can all benefit from widening our perspective and recognizing that there may be things outside of our main goals that are worthy of our attention too.