When I was a kid growing up in the late 80s feminism was described to me as collage kids burning bras and woman in pants suits in the formally man’s world of business. Being a teenager in the 90’s I was correct by some very nice young women that feminism was about woman sticking together against the tyranny of men. It wasn’t until I got to collage in the mid 90s that feminism was all about equality. Equal pay, equal responsibility, equal rights.
All along the evolution of this understanding I was all for it. I would have enjoyed a good bra burning and everyone is equal. We are moving toward that at a steady pace. Slower than many would like and that’s why those feminism groups are still around.
But I was wrong.
I wasn’t wrong that feminism was about equality. What I thought of as equality was wrong.
I first realized how wrong I was at Woodstock ’94. (Not the one at the army bass that ruined it for any future Woodstock in ’99. A story for another day.) Back then I was a notorious crowd surfer and spent a fair amount of time in mosh pits. It was here that I saw the true face of inequality in our world. I saw female crowd surfers being grabbed in was I never would be. I saw boobs being grabbed, asses being fought over, and women disappearing into the crowd not from a bad toss but from men pulling them down.
My first thoughts on this were I would never crowd surf if I was female. It seems like they wanted to get felt up. Then this one guy who was in front of me turned his back toward the stage as another female was tossed behind us. The look in his eyes, a lustful, practically evil stare at a woman who’s boob he had just felt up. I must have been starting as hard at him as he was at her because he looked down at me long enough to give me a puzzled look.
I yelled over the music, “What are you doing.?”
“Didn’t you see her?” he responded. “I’m going to grab her pussy next time.”
I drifted away from that spot. My mind drifted from the music and the half a million other people watching Live perform to that one woman who had passed overhead. Why can’t she experience the same joy I have when crowd surfing without being molested? Why should men treat women like women and not like men? Why should the slight physical differences between us mean we get treated differently? I started to tie this to the other struggles for equality, racism, classism, ageism, and later GLBT rights. I finally realized the true nature of, or what the root of inequality was.
Inequality is not the unfair treatment of one group from another but the distinction between one group from another. Feminism is not the fight for better treatment of women but the struggle to make the distinction between man and woman mean nothing. If black and white only referred to hue and not culture there would be no racism. The closer we get to equality the less terms like feminism, civil rights, gay rights, and equality will be in our vocabulary.
I see a future where there is no need for organizations like the NAACP, or NOW because their core purpose has been fulfilled. When I think of where I want the future to go in this aspect I always picture the movie Starship Troopers. There the military grunts all lived, worked, and slept together. There is even a shower scene where all the recruits, men and women are naked and showing. There was no tension, no shyness. This nearly implausible event by today’s standards is not even commented on. It just is.
We are not to that point yet. I doubt I’ll see the end of the struggle in my lifetime. But I do feel a turning point. As those who are a generation older than me start to hand the reigns of society over to mine who grew up with these thoughts of equal treatment for everyone, things will change for the better. As our kids grow up I hope we taught them better than our parents taught us.
What I hope for us to teach our children about feminism was summed up in this picture. When I saw this it hit me hard. When we teach how to avoid getting raped we teach potential victims, (Aka women) how to lower their risk of being victims of criminals (Aka men.) When we teach not to rape, what is rape, what is right and wrong, we teach everyone how to avoid being victims of ourselves. We say plagiarism is wrong before every class in collage. Orientations include details of what is considered plagiarism, it’s in the student handbook and on every syllabus. I don’t remember hearing about rape in sex-ed in high school and never heard about it in college. To change the culture we need to educate people on what the culture is.
I see feminism as the front line of this and other equality struggles. I consider myself a feminist. Now when I see something like what happened at Woodstock 94 I say something. I try to be what I think the future should be. I wouldn’t mind the cooed showers either.