How to Feminist (now that it’s ‘cool’?)

Washington, DC (TFC) – Charles Rae writes about modern and everyday techniques for women to resisting patriarchy. This is a comprehensive list compiled and collaborated on by TFC’s new faction The Fem Column. Introduction written by Christina Adams. East Hartford, CT. 

Feminism has always been complicated. Exhausting, too. Brutal. At the darkest times, it feels hopeless. One thing feminism has never been until now is ‘cool.’ Now that it’s cool, the tactics are less useful than ever.

There are many ‘modern’ solutions to inequality which have been failing because they actually benefit men.

Sex positive feminism is one example, we seek to be equal to men sexually, but who is actually the winner? Bare your breasts? Now men get to see your breasts. Reclaim the word “slut?” Great, now men have an excuse to call you a slut. Claim that porn is liberating? Now men think women love it when they demand degrading acts in the bedroom. Say that prostitution is a job like any other and should be decriminalized? In countries where purchasing a woman’s body is legal, trafficking and sex slavery is rampant to meet the increasing demand.

Making men part of the solution isn’t working either. During Reclaim the Night, men are walking with us, when the entire purpose of the event is to demonstrate that we shouldn’t need them by our side. When men are included in our feminism, they tend to unwittingly drown out the voices of the women they are there to support or unintentionally render the point meaningless.

While some popular actions have helped to create visibility, it seems they haven’t been helpful. Equality isn’t working. Women are losing ground instead of gaining it. It’s time to try some new tactics.

Group events and trends in feminism need to focus more on everyday resistance. Each personal act of micro-resistance lends to the strength of the whole, women as a class are stronger together if we practice these actions as a group.

This is a list of daily actions designed for liberation.

1. Speak from the chest.

Your voice represents your authority. Speaking from the chest is a means of solidifying and projecting your individual authority. Women have a bad habit of speaking from their throats, such as using a baby voice, a flirty voice, or a high pitched voice whose intonation can be associated with a question. Some women are animated. Women feel like they receive power from these types of voices because in an odd way they do. Fitting the stereotype of weak, questioning and submitting their authority to another or to a group is what women do to fit in in a patriarchal world. Going against the grain and speaking assertively, from the chest, is a tool to project authority over our bodies and boundaries. To do this is to refuse to submit.

2. Set boundaries.

Setting healthy boundaries with people starts either the second you meet them, or right now. There is absolutely no time in your life that high expectations and clear boundaries should not be met. Boundaries include a lot of things, and you’re going to have to use your chest-voice to reinforce them: claim physical space, don’t let people talk over you, make sure your opinion is understood and heard, expect people in your life to contribute to your relationships in the same ways you do, don’t let men raise their voice to you, report harassment at work and in schools and see that reports are filed and appropriate action is taken, and leave abusive relationships behind immediately (see #3). If you don’t take those boundaries seriously, other people never will.

3. Study abuse.

Know what verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and physical abuse are. Look them up. If you are being abused in any way, tell someone you trust. If you don’t have someone, go to a local organization for women that provides help. Understand how abuse works. Research gaslighting. Read about codependency. Read about Stockholm syndrome. Know about these things.

“Knowledge of poisons is essential.” Janet Fitch

4. Control your emotions.

Easier said than done, I’m well aware. But some basics that you should remind yourself of constantly are these: never allow yourself to feel guilt if you didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t let yourself obsess over other people’s problems. Don’t be fooled into thinking that what other people say defines you. It doesn’t. Let their voices get lost in the wind. Learn about the gray rock method. Women police themselves when we have been fooled into feeling guilt for no reason, when we take care of everyone but ourselves, when we let others words hold so much weight in our minds. Refusing these things is power.

Image Source:  Ryan McGuire, gratisogrpahy, creative commons zero

Image Source: Ryan McGuire, gratisogrpahy, creative commons zero

5. Change your look.

Tight clothes cause nerve damage, sexualize the wearer, and physically put us at a disadvantage if we needed to run or protect ourselves. Pay attention to this. Wear shorts under your skirts and dresses. Don’t wear jeans so tight you can’t move around. Don’t wear heels, they’re really bad for you anyways. Don’t be the girl that’s outside in the winter freezing her ass off cause she wants to look cute. Get a nice coat. Stop shaving your body hair. Body hair protects you and regulates your body heat. Stop spending your money and time on razors. Notice the ways that your clothes and behaviors make you vulnerable andchange them. We should not be making ourselves more vulnerable. We already live in a dangerous world.

6. It has to be done.

Stop wearing make-up. You don’t need it. You’re beautiful. Make-up has chemicals and the insane ability to make you feel like you’re not a real person without it. How much time do you stare in the mirror wondering why you’re not perfect and applying another coat? Without make-up we wouldn’t need to check the mirror so often. Worrying and fixing the way we look is a pathological tick that women have. It’s a common theme in women’s lives. Self-policing. It’s like a twitch.

If you like make-up, buy organic, natural make up. Limit use to passionately artistic endeavors, not maintaining the female body for viewing pleasure.

7. Check your body language.

Dominant/submissive body language is obvious to those who know how it works and see it from the outside. When you’re in the middle of it, it’s confusing and subliminal. It’s important to understand body language because men are the masters of controlling energy with the way they move their bodies. Women take on more submissive body language: crossing legs and arms, taking up less space, making a lot of eye contact, mirroring others, the list goes on. Take some time to learn about body language and notice your own. Do you show patterns of submissive body language? Practice being assertive.

8. Stop using old value systems.

The old value systems we partake in need to stop. They can stop pretty easily in our own lives if we literally stop giving them value. I know, crazy right? Stop valuing women and yourself on attraction, sexuality, or procreation. Stop complimenting looks, make-up, bags and shirts. Force yourself to see past motherhood and into the life of the woman. Don’t ask other women all about their kids, ask them how they are. Only compliment women on substantial things, like a skill that they have, their smarts, their guile, their passion. Anything else. Don’t allow surprise to leave your mouth when you hear a girl tell you she likes science. Support girls and women who are assertive. New value systems will be paramount to implement and reinforce, and changing these systems has so much to do with behavioral learning that we pick up from other people. Notice the values systems and actively change them.

9. Know how rape happens.

Because the world doesn’t sit you down to let you know, I’ll give you a brief overview. Afterwards though, do some research. Media, films, etc, portray rape as an aggressive predator. We know this isn’t the case, so we have to stay aware of the ways in which we are vulnerable. We know that rape largely happens by people who we know and are close with. Men have put us in the position that enough of them commit violent acts against women that we can’t trust them. The men in your life have the potential of being coercive sexual predators who prey on us because we’ve been socialized to be vulnerable. This is where boundaries come in. If you’ve said no, it’s not acceptable for someone to keep asking. Make that clear. Use your body, use your voice. You live in enemy territory. Never forget where you are. If you are raped, don’t do what I did. Don’t live in your fear. Don’t silence yourself. You get to a hospital and you have them do a rape kit and you #nametheperp. Look online for feminists that will help you. We are out here. We are fighting.

10. Ask for more money.

I hate money. I’m not telling you to value money, that couldn’t be further from the case. But the thing is, women aren’t going to be able to liberate themselves if they refuse to play the game that’s currently going on in the world. We know that men are far more likely to get promotions and raises, and this has a lot to do with entitlement. Men have been taught to advocate for themselves, to talk themselves up, to ask for more money than offered, to be more assertive in general. Although this may feel foreign to you, it’s something that women are going to have to learn and teach each other. How to advocate for ourselves. Practice what you’re going to say. Know how you’re going to say it. Ask your male friends what they would say. Find that chest-voice we talked about. Lean in.

11. Split bills according to equity, not equality.

Newsflash: women don’t have equality yet. Why in the fuck would we payequally? That’s the definition of subjugation. If you split the bills at home with your man, sit down and re-do them. Equity means the bills should be split directly proportional to the levels of income. That might mean something more like 60/40, in accordance with your salaries.

12. Consult women specialists.

There are many women’s organizations in this world. Whether you go online or find a local organization, find women to help you with your heath, legal, family and personal problems. There are women and organizations who provide services or will help you find services like Planned Parenthood, Domestic Abuse Hotlines, rape crisis centers… anything. Go to women’s organizations. Talk to a woman. They will help you.

13. Expect and plan for the pushback.

This helps keep #4, your emotions, in check. Know that pushback will happen. This is how the world works. When people who are subjugated want to rise up, they’re not going to be supported by their oppressors in their liberation. That would make liberation unnecessary, obviously. Understand that you are establishing all of these boundaries, tools, and positions, because you demand liberation and respect. End of sentence.

Planning is crucial. In the 60’s when black liberation movements were resisting on a mass scale, they practiced being harassed and bullied with each other so they could know how to keep their heads. They knew what it felt like. They could hold strong to their ideals, respond according to their ideals, and remember their purpose.

Planning for pushback looks like many things. When men make comments to you in public, plan to turn to them abruptly, look them in the eyes and loudly say “excuse me?” When your friends get too handsy and they think it’s all good, plan to say “I don’t like it when you touch me like that.” When your partner or boyfriend or husband, or whatever you want to call it, raises his voice to you, plan to say “you need to lower your voice, I won’t be spoken to that way.” Knowing what you’re going to say and do is power. It allows you to act. Run through the times in your life that you felt powerless and think of what you should have said and done. Remember that. USE it.

14. Study more.

Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is knowledge. Knowledge can teach you how power works. Learn more about how power works. Learn about dominant/submissive body language. And then keep learning.

Marilyn Frye (Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory), Bell Hooks (Communion: the Female Search for Love), Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals).

Charles Rae studies theories of power and systematic abuse. Follow The Fem Column for more women-centered coverage.