My feminism :: an interview with @askcatbat

Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am running a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to @sueveneer on twitter.

Thanks to Katherine for sharing her story.

1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?

  I was born a feminist. Being that I was born on a mountain in Honduras and lived in a Chosa I was away from the pressures of society. It wasn’t until I moved to city area that I started to feel a resistance for an unknown force. The point that I always mark as the blossoming feminist in me was when I was five. I was living with my aunt and her husband. He was arriving from work one evening and sat down on the coach. She ordered me to get down on my knees, take off his shoes, and put on his slippers. As I was undoing the first shoe a burning heat buildup inside me. Until I got up to go to his lap so I could face him and slap him across the face. I didn’t know why it felt right but I was punished for it afterwards. I knew about feminism since I was in third grade. It was around the same time I was looking into philosophy and aliens. I was a weird kid. Something about the movement really fit me. It was one of those words that when I saw it I could identify myself with it. And I knew I had found a piece of me.

2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has this shifted over time?

It’s hard to focus on one. As someone who is a curvy Hispanic female I grew up with a constant pressure to fit a norm that didn’t look like me. Several of my focuses include racism, body image/eating disorders, and sexuality. Over the years my brand of feminism has evolved significantly. I went through a phase where I despised men for being oppressors. Then I went through another phase where I despised women for allowing it to happen, for playing along to the stereotypes, and competing for attentions and favors of men. Then I hated myself for allowing myself to be pulled in to the myths and lies that exist in western culture about women. Coming to the truth about who I was is hard in a country where I’m not equally represented, or worst – invisible. If there is one thing I learned here it’s that some lives matter more than others, and some voices are heard while others aren’t. Because of this I’m more vocal because I have to be. I have to put my voice out there or risk not being part of the conversation.

There is another transformation I have gone through this year. I used to be pro-porn when I was quiet about my beliefs and opinions. Both of these things have changed about me. I knew about sex trafficking at a very young age. But I didn’t make the connection between what some privileged women in porn and stripping were doing by choice and how it drove up demand for further exploitation for others in sex slavery and rape culture. I got into a fight with a famous porn star online and I was never so disgusted in my life. I thought surely she must understand some of the negative effects this has. I came away realizing that some women in the industry don’t care about anyone but themselves. They didn’t care that most women, and children, around the world didn’t have a choice. They wanted to ignore these issues and pretend they didn’t exist – pretend I didn’t exist. All so they could maintain their image for their clients. The industry was all a veneer.

Everywhere I look I’m faced with lies from the media that want to convince people that this is “empowering”. I find that when I want to have an honest conversation about it most people think I’m being biased when I expose the overwhelming number of people that it hurts. How is what I discuss bias but listening to woman who live in a rich country and had a choice to join the sex industry not bias? I realize most people would rather talk to the few women who managed to climb to the top of the industry and portray the happy picture of the sex industry. People haven’t connected the dots in the porn industry and how it relates to the slave industry, pedophilia, and the general justification of hatred and apathy for human life.  People should be free to make choices but not if takes away other people’s right a life. If it’s not bias to claim that tanning and smoking is bad for you, why should the sex industry be any different? If most of what they contribute to is world suffering and what they produce is ultimately unnecessary to human sexuality? What other conclusion could someone come to?

3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc?

Feminism has given me power in a society that actively works to take away my humanity. It is what made me ignore the statistics that Hispanic women had the lowest test scores and many people concluded we must be inferior. People add and substrate things to statistics, they use them to come to crazy conclusions. Feminism has allowed me to ignore everyone who tries to define me, or tries to limit me, silence me, or stand in my way.

4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?

I was afraid of the back lash feminism seems to be getting, but after speaking to people who are strongly against feminism I no longer fear. For some reason feminism is getting a bad name but no matter.  It reminds me of what Mark Twain said: Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

I think people are afraid of change, or afraid of losing any perceived power. But it’s so silly. We would all benefit if we were more equal. My hope is that we can focus on our goals and achieve more equality for women! Forget what all the haters say, we’re moving toward process, and this movement is bigger than us.

5. Who inspires your feminism?

It’s really hard to narrow it down. I admire a lot of women, and my list always changes. Right now I’m loving Meghan Murphy, Gail Dines, Anita Sarkeesian, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Leanne Ratcliffe (Freelee). I’m in inspired by anyone who makes me think.

6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would it be and why?

I recommend Persepolis –   it’s one of my favorite films. This movie really spoke to me. It’s set in 1970s Iran and is about a young girl named Marji who watched Iran being ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. Marji refused to stay silent about her daily oppression and her parents, fearing for her safety, send her abroad to Vienna to study. I really love how it captures war, cultural shock, and oppression.

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My feminism :: an interview with Captain_Chaos

Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am running a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to @sueveneer on twitter.

Thanks to @Captain_Chaos43 for sharing her story.

1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?

I’ve always been a strong believer in social justice, I have been involved in activism of various kinds for around 30 years now. I think I’ve always been a feminist, I’ve always believed that women were just as good as men, that we are deserving of fair treatment etc. However, for me, having children was a big wake up call, and then going back to work after a long break raising my sons, one of whom has some serious difficulties associated with autism. I actually had a manager tell me that women don’t do such and such a role with our company and that really opened my eyes.

2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has this shifted over time?

My particular areas of interest are: rape, domestic violence and childhood abuse. I am a survivor of all 3. We live in a rape culture, everywhere you go, there are images of violence and violation of women. Women are still not believed when they disclose their abuse, and even when they are, they are blamed for having brought it on themselves in some way. Narratives abound where women are expected to keep themselves safe from men, and yet, men aren’t taking any real level of responsibility for the epidemic of male violence that’s going on in front of their faces.

3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc?

My friendship groups have changed a lot. I am less and less tolerant of off hand sexist/racist/ablist twaddle the older I get. I tend to have a lot of acquaintances eye rolling at me if I call them out on their attitudes, this has been especially true since the Ched Evans case, however, once you give them the facts, they tend to end up agreeing that he is a rapist and was bang to rights.

I am now going back to college in order to go to university to study psychology. I want to use my studies to point a spotlight on male violence and to help women to find their own tools to heal from past abuse. I can work to prevent male violence, but there will always be women who have experienced painful things at the hands of men, and if I can help with the healing, I will consider my life well spent.

4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?

I see feminism being taken over by man pleasing ideas of empowerment through actions which are inherently unfeminist a lot on social media. I really hope that this trend can be stopped before it utterly destroys the movement. It’s the ultimate divide and conquer gambit by men, and women seem to be sleep walking into it! I’d love to see women coming together more, in safe spaces, I hope that we can engineer that, in spite of all efforts to close down women’s space.

There have been a lot of positives that I’ve seen recently, older women sharing their experiences with younger women, true sisterhood of support and encouragement social media has been a major mover in this, so I hope we can all come up with new ways to exploit that in order to make the world a better place.

5. Who inspires your feminism?

Other women! I have been really lucky to have met a group of women who support and care for each other, who live out what the world could look like if we threw off the chains of Patriarchy and stopped hating each other.

All sorts of women inspire me, from the wonderful Jean Hatchet and her funny and self deprecating battling against some truly vitriolic trolling from men angry at her defence of rape victims, through to the many women who just make life happen for the people they love everyday, women who support other women, offer them the hand of friendship and love rather than endless policing and hurt. We have men who do that, women should look out for each other, especially feminists, and it’s really difficult to see when women gang together to rip other women apart.

6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would it be and why?

I suppose, for women my age who have been in relationships for a while, it would be Wifework by Susan Maushart, which explains just how much of the gruntwork women do every day within the majority of homes, and how men have been merrily shirking these shit jobs for too long. I’d also recommend Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, it can get quite dense at times, but it a really easily understood primer for anyone who wants to be sure that there’s no such thing as “lady brain”

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