Anyway, there were two things that struck me today as things that I had to address. I will begin with the shorter one.
Today, as I was driving and listening to the radio, I heard a news report, which I try to avoid while driving because news reports not presented by Jon Stewart tend to make me want to scream and throw things which, I need hardly say, is dangerous to do while driving. This particular report was about how folks in the Kerry camp were trying to convince Bush to renounce the actions of the Switchboat Captains for Truth, or whatever they call themselves, who made television commercials telling unambiguous lies about John Kerry's service in Vietnam. Bush, strangely, wasn't moved by this effort. Instead he sent his mouthpiece Scott McClellan, (who, I'm happy to report, has now attained full-fledged douchebag status), to say, in a nauseatingly smug voice, "John Kerry says he wants to talk about the issues. He has a funny way of showing it." (Or something to that effect; I forget the exact words.) At this point I almost swerved off the road. I screamed at my car speakers, "Scott McClellan, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and people who wallow with pigs shouldn't sling mud."
This is pure conjecture on my part, but there is no doubt in my mind that Bush, or someone close to him, hired (or possibly extorted) these thugs to go on the air and tell lies about John Kerry. Oh sure, perhaps they were WILLING to do it because they dislike the anti-war stance that Kerry took after his tour of duty, but I think it's pretty far-fetched to believe that they suddenly decided to make untruthful commercials that denounce him after staying quiet for the previous five months during which, for all intents and purposes, he was the Democratic presidential candidate. Five months during which, incidentally, Bush was running anti-Kerry ads left and right. Surely, if it was their own idea, it would have occurred to them before now.
Now for my second topic of the day: feminism and sexism.
While I am certainly in favor of women's rights, I do not identify myself as a feminist. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, I don't want to be specific about the marginalized groups that deserve equality. To me, styling myself a feminist would be saying that women are more worthy of equal rights than, say, American Indians and gay men, just to pick two random examples. Not only that, but I, personally, have never felt marginalized or discriminated against because of my gender. Not to say that I couldn't have been. If I'd wanted to be, say, a mechanic instead of a writer/teacher, I'm sure I would have come up against a lot of discrimination. But I do not feel that I have ever been denied anything, so for me the feminist movement seems archaic at best and irrelevant at worst.
The second reason is a bit more complicated, and it deals with semantics. There is no doubt in my mind that everybody who identifies him- or herself as a feminist truly believes that what they seek is equality for women. I of course am not opposed to equality, but the problem is that, based on my observations, most of those who identify themselves as feminist seem to define "equality" differently than I do.
To me, equality means that we treat women they same way that we treat men, and vice versa. If a certain behavior is unacceptable for men, it should be unacceptable for women as well. If we condemn men for making sexist comments and objectfying women, we should condemn women for making sexist comments and objectifying men. Whereas most feminists define equality as "they got to treat us like crap for millennia, now it's our turn to do the same to them and see how it feels."
While I try to respect their views, this strikes me as manifestly wrong. Not only wrong, but destructive. When one group is marginalized or discriminated against, we all suffer, even when the tables are turned and the oppressed becomes the oppressor. It is nothing more than a downward spiral.
Today I went to the doctor's office to have them look a sinus problem that makes me miserable but stubbornly refuses to become a sinus infection for which I could take antibiotics. While I was in the waiting room, I happened to notice an issue of Parenting magazine, and an article about discipline strategies like "time-outs" that "work on husbands too!"
Yes, ladies and gentlemen: this magazine article apparently serves to teach women how to discipline their husbands as they would their children. Implying that the husbands are little better than children themselves and are therefore not full partners in parenting or in marriage.
If I were a man I would be extremely insulted by that condescending implication. In fact, I am not a man and I am STILL outraged!
Some would argue that the stereotype that men are overgrown babies is not new. I don't care. That doesn't make it true, and it doesn't make it any less damaging. Some would argue that people have said similar things and worse about women in the past. I still don't care. Now, in the 21st century, most people would never think about making such a blatantly sexist remark about women, let alone publish it in a magazine. Even if they held such views, they'd be smart enough to obscure them. Imagine if a modern men's magazine were to publish an article about "How to Discipline Your Wife." They'd be facing angry letters at best and lawsuits at worst.
Some who were really tenacious might argue that men are not hurt by these negative stereotypes. I cannot speak from personal experience, but by observation I can refute these claims. I have read articles and testimonials to the contrary. Once I was involved in a discussion about negative male stereotypes and a very dear male friend of mine (who, incidentally, has always shown the utmost respect toward women) said that when he hears sexist jokes or comments about men it makes him want to "stick my genitals into an electrical outlet." I want to emphasize that that is a direct quote.
That is tragic. No one should ever feel like that. No one DESERVES to feel like that. And no one deserves to be coolly condescended to and humiliated by a magazine, especially one that calls itself Parenting. Not Mothering, but Parenting.
ADDENDUM: Rather than deleting this entry altogether, or editing it so that the comments stop making sense, I would like to add the following update, which I posted as a comment, but I want to be sure that anyone who reads this essay from this point on reads it:
I've been thinking about it, and perhaps I did make too many generalizations (disguising them to myself as "observations") regarding feminism. I've fallen into the "some of my best friends are..." trap.
It is not for us to point fingers at people and say, "These people are sexists." It is for us to point fingers at the offensive behavior and say, "This is sexism. It is unacceptable. It will be unacceptable regardless of who perpetrates it against whom. Those responsible--and only those responsible--will be chastised." There are feminists who are sexists. There are feminists who are not, and they do not deserve to be lumped in with the ones who are. Therefore, to any feminists I may have unduly judged, I apologize.
That being said, I still refuse to call myself a feminist. I don't see how the labels that we choose to brand ourselves with are so superior to those that other people brand us with. It is still a means for other people to make snap judgments about who and what we are. Well, I can't stop people from making judgments about me, but I will not make it easy for them. If you want to compartmentalize me, you are going to have to work at it. You are going to have to come up with your own labels. I will not supply them for you.