Being a feminist is completely new to me and I’m learning something new about myself, the people I surround myself with, and the community I associate with everyday. A lot of what I learned has been positive, such as: I’ve found new friendships within Minneapolis that probably would have never blossomed had I not found a passion in feminism, I would have never, ever expressed my opinion on something if I knew someone was going to disagree with me, and most importantly, I’m learning how to be more comfortable in my skin. But aside from all the positive things I’ve been graced with, there have been a few negative things I’ve learned and haven’t exactly figured out a way to deal with them.
For instance, I’m realizing how misogynistic a lot of my peers are, I feel like a lot of us don’t know how poisonous some words, phrases, and gestures are. I hate hearing people around me call someone a “b*tch” because they’re a woman who is mean, cranky, or just in a bad mood (which we are all, men and women, entitled to be every once in a while), or because a man did something that our society has implanted in our minds to be considered “unmanly.” Or like calling a woman a sl*t because she is comfortable expressing her sexuality in a way that makes some people uncomfortable.
I’m also having a hard time finding good music to listen to at parties, because I like to dance, get rowdy, and jam to rap as much as the next person but it’s becoming increasingly difficult when all I hear is, “b*tch this, b*tch that.” What’s even harder though is voicing and expressing your opinion on the matter and being alienated or labeled as “the girl that needs to chill.” This weekend, for example, I was at an all ages hip-hop concert and one of the performers was using vulgar language in relation to women. I obviously wasn’t cool with that because that’s not the kind of thing I want to hear in an open music setting, especially one where nearly half the audience was women, and some were even underage. I asserted myself and expressed my opinion but wasn’t taken seriously. Why? Is it because misogyny in music is something I have to get on board with? Maybe it’s because women are better seen not heard? Or maybe it’s because men are so afraid to be viewed as sexist they won’t acknowledge the privilege that they have? This situation even got me asking another question: Maybe I was overreacting? A part of me is mad at myself for even suggesting that or thinking in that way, but can you blame me? Don’t get me wrong, some parts of our culture congratulate women for speaking up and expressing themselves, but the part of our culture that I grew up with, based on various TV shows, movies, music etc. women were expected to act “ladylike,” and to never cause a scene.
The issue behind all of this is privilege; in many situations white males stand in a higher position of privilege than almost anyone else. And the amount of privilege you have is in direct relation to how you interpret and respond to any situation. Like when a person is in a position of great privilege it might cause them to write-off feelings or emotions of people that aren’t necessarily the same as theirs or opinions they don’t agree with, it might cause them to justify wrongdoings, and it might even influence the reaction that people involved in a specific incident may have. So when someone is in a position where they lack privilege, it may cause them to second-guess themselves, it may scare them from speaking up if they don’t agree with something, and it may cause them to feel alone. I guess what I’m trying to say is: maybe we all need to check our privilege.