Friday, February 24, 2006

The choices we make

Hello! I'm Charlie from Shades Of Grey, and today is my blogiversary. By way of celebration, our hostess has graciously agreed to trade blogs for a day. Well, actually, two days, because Welcome To The Nuthouse turns one itself in about a week. So if you hate this post, you might want to send the nut an email and let her know that she should cancel plans for next week. Or something. Actually, I hope you like it so it doesn't come to that. And if you do like it, please feel free to stop by Shades Of Grey every now and again. This past year of blogging has been very rewarding, and a big part of that is due to the friends I've made.

And in a sense, this post is about friends. Actually, it's about the consequences of publicly standing up for your beliefs, even when those beliefs are unpopular.

It probably comes as no surprise that I consider myself a feminist. There are as many definitions of feminism as their are feminists, but as for myself, feminism is all about choices. It's about giving a woman the choice to stay home with her family as much as it is about giving her the right to go to work instead. It's about a woman's right to decide what to do with her own body. It's about acknowledging that women are human beings just like men, with all the rights and choices that entails. And though it's a cliche in some circles to say it, feminism helps men in innumerable ways, too. Indeed, feminism isn't just a women's rights issue. It's an everybody's rights issue. The more choices women have, the more choices men have in return.

As you can probably see, feminism is important to me. Promoting the ideals of feminism leads to better lives for everyone. So the choice to live as a feminist should be an easy decision to make, right?

It isn't.

The reason for that is because it isn't a choice a person can make once and then forget about. As a feminist, I am confronted with choices every day. Do I laugh at a sexist joke just to be polite? Do I "defend" myself as expected when someone says that my choice of soda is girly? Do I speak up when someone whispers in a conspiratorial voice that we all know how women are?

The social pressures to conform are enormous. As a man, it would be easy to delete my blog and forget about feminism altogether. It is certainly far easier to be a closet feminist than to come out in the open. Because it is so easy to stay in the closet, it's a safe bet that there are tons of us just waiting for the day that it seems safe to express those views. And that's why it is so important to speak up.

Oh, I'm certainly not judging anyone for the moments when they don't. Those everyday choices I was talking about? Sometimes I make the right choice and speak up. But other times I just can't find the energy to make the effort. So this isn't about judging anyone's feminism. Rather, it's about being judged. It's easy to praise the feminism of Betty Friedan, Andrea Dworkin, or Anne Lamott. It's easy to call them heros. It is easy to say that their sacrifices were worthwhile because they have each made a prominent contribution to women's rights. It's much harder to see one's own actions as heroic, especially when the only obvious result is to earn yourself a reputation for being difficult. But in many ways, it is it is the person who does speak up who makes the biggest difference.

Of course, while it's true that feminism can be characterized as a series of choices, it's also true that it isn't much of a choice at all, at least for me. It's a lot like going on a diet, actually. They say that instead of going on a diet that you intend to go off of later, it's healthier and easier to make a lifelong decision to change the kinds of foods you eat. Adjust how you live your life, and your health will follow effortlessly. In the same way, it seems that the more I manage to internalize my feminism, the less of a choice I find I have. The societal pressure disappears when you realize that you don't want to be friends with those kind of people, anyway.

Though I wrote this post from the feminist point of view, I think it's worth pointing out that it didn't necessarily have to be about feminism. The greater point is true regardless of which philosophy you speak of. I could've written about religious tolerance, racism, classism, LGBT rights, weight issues, or disabilities. Though the examples would change, the point remains the same: the way you choose to live your life does make a difference.

Thanks again to the nut for allowing me to post here. Swing by Shades Of Grey and wish me a happy birthday! And check out the post that the nut wrote on my blog while you're there.