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What Is Feminism?

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What Is Feminism?

Dim Lights Thick Smoke

  ♥   Vickye Fisher runs the blog For The Country Record, writing about mainstream country music and more with a feminist bent. In the wake of country artists like Taylor Swift waffling on identifying as feminists, and the internet "manosphere" advocating to abolish the word, this piece was a breath of fresh air. A big part of this blog will be reposting the work of ladybloggers that inspire us. Feel free to send some posts our way, or create your own original content.  

What Is Feminism?

by Vickye Fisher

Okay, I don’t pretend to be the expert here. These days, the idea of feminism can be a tad confusing, with some thinking it refers to man haters, with others feeling like it’s a subject you need to study before you can profess to being a part of it. Feminism and its ideals have long been a part of country music, but it’s very rarely been referred to explicitly using that exact terminology, and that’s an interesting phenomenon in itself. So what gives me the right to tell you what feminism is? Well, not a lot. But, I am a woman, and I describe myself as a feminist, and I follow the goings on of a few feminists and feminist publications, and do a hell of a lot of thinking about it, and really that’s as much expertise as most people have.

My waking up to feminism came when I read British journalist /comedienne Caitlin Moran’s semi-memoir ‘How To Be A Woman’. In it she describes various instances growing up that are specific to womanhood, all done so in a very honest, funny and relatable manner, with a feminist narrative running alongside. I read it because I liked her tweets; she made me laugh, and I was interested to read something specifically aimed at my own gender from my own gender. As a woman, that’s rarer than you might think. Caitlin knows her stuff when it comes to a lot of things, and as a self-described strident feminist, I learned a lot from her. But the one thing that was the most Earth-shattering to me, was that anybody can be a feminist. You don’t have to have read The Female Eunich by Germaine Greer (I still haven’t), you don’t have to be full of stats about the women’s movement and you don’t have to go on protest marches or burn your underwear. Some women (and men) have done those things, and that was their prerogative and it should be celebrated, but it doesn’t suit everyone, and it shouldn’t. It doesn’t mean you’re a “bad feminist”, or that you’re not one at all, but that everyone fights their battle in different ways.

Second of all, she taught me that feminism does not mean man hating, or female dominance, or anything like that. It just means wanting and striving for gender equality, and that’s a key term. A feminist doesn’t want to turn the patriarchy into a matriarchy, but get rid of the societal power and connotations associated with gender altogether. A feminist wants to remove sexism from the playing field, for both men and women, so that people can be paid the same, be treated the same, get the same opportunities, regardless of whether they have a penis or a vagina. Of course, that doesn’t mean that men and women have to dress the same, or like the same things, and post-feminism, in simplistic terms, believes that people should do what they want because they can. If a woman wants to wear a dress and high heels because that’s what she enjoys, she should. If she wants to wear trousers because it makes her feel more comfortable, she should. If a man wants to wear nail polish or eyeliner, because it’s a part of his self-expression, he should. For some people these ideas are pushing the boundaries; for others, they believed in them without even realizing.

If you don’t think women should be second-class citizens, you’re a feminist. If you get annoyed when a woman automatically gets custody of their child and a man has to fight for it, you’re a feminist. If you want people not to be discriminated against because of how they look, or whether they bleed once a month, then you’re a feminist. The fact that feminist has “fem” in the name of course creates confusion, and I can understand how it could be misinterpreted. Hell, I was one of those people once. But it’s named that way because no matter which way you look at it we live in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society, and more often than not it’s women’s rights that have to be fought for. But that doesn’t mean it looks to exclusively raise the social standing of women above all others, and it doesn’t look to categorize men as misogynist or lesser beings.

So how does this apply to country music? Well, there’s a lot of misconceptions I’ve found within the genre and the industry. People are afraid of the word. I asked Ashley Monroe earlier this year if she would said the Pistol Annies’ album ‘Annie Up’ covered feminist topics or wrote from a feminist perspective and she replied, “Oh, no no no. I feel like it’s my duty to show women it’s okay to talk about things that would normally make other people uncomfortable. Myself or the Annies didn’t set out and say let’s write songs about hating men, or that women are better. We never did it intentionally… I’ve seen a lot of life and I can do a lot of things that men can do, so I’m sure somewhere downrooted in me, I root for my girls, because I know it can be a little bit hard on us… I write more for that, than saying I’m a feminist or that I’m on this big campaign to stir up stuff, I’m not that smart!”

I loved her response, because she was being diplomatic while remaining strongly in favor of women’s music, but I nearly laughed at the time because what she described was feminist, she just didn’t know it. That’s in no way confined to Ashley and I’m not having a go at her for that at all, but I think it’s a more general thing because people are not really taught about feminism other than bold statements such as women not shaving and abstaining from sex, burning their underwear and becoming a butch lesbian. As ludicrous as that may sound to some, to others those are the connotations that feminism provides, and it’s sad that there isn’t more discussion and empowerment going on. Miranda Lambert is a feminist, Carrie Underwood is a feminist, Kacey Musgraves is a feminist, Brandy Clark is a feminist, Ashley Monroe is a feminist even if she doesn’t think she is. It’s rooting for everyone and being proud of who they are, regardless of gender, and rooting for a more equal society where no-one gets the rough end of the deal. Hell, even Taylor Swift is a feminist despite a lot of people saying she’s not. In her own way, she’s encouraging women (and girls) to rise up and take charge of their lives, and encouraging them to be who they want to be. And, whether she intends to or not, her high-profile relationships promote the idea of female sexual empowerment, a notion that has long been controversial through the ideals of purity attached to women.

Everyone has their own version of feminism. Some are stronger on certain aspects than others, and many feminists will have different views to each other. The point is it’s all-inclusive, and anything I can do to help promote that community and the use of the word is another good deed I’ve done.

This article originally appeared on Vickye's fantastic music blog: For The Country Record. <--- Def check it out!