5 Gifts a Feminist Wants for Christmas
There are only 5 things this feminist wants for Christmas, and they are not monetary, vain, or tangible. They are wishes and hopes and desires that I find are missing in society. They are necessary for the enlightenment and empowerment of our girls and women, and I consider them "gifts" because they need to be given from a place of goodness and mutual respect.
I want men and women to be treated equally -- in the boardroom, in the bedroom, in the home, and in every public and private sector of the community. I want men to look upon women, not as sexual entities -- objects placed in the world to satisfy their desires, whether they are sexual or domestic -- but as equal members of society whose work and talents can benefit society and humanity. I want to see women be treated with respect, to get paid the same amount of money as men who do the same level of work, and I want to see doors opened and glass ceilings shattered so that women can fulfill their potential as individuals with the same kind of privilege that men are afforded simply because of their gender.
Stronger Heroines: I want to see stronger heroines in books and movies. I want my daughter and other little girls her age to see the same kind of heroines when they read their books or watch movies as they grow older. For movies, I want to see a female vampire slayer that isn't dressed like a porn star. I want to see the girls having the adventures, instead of standing aside while the boys have them. I want to see girls cast in the role of movies that focus on adventures that move beyond falling in love. I want to see Jackie as she climbs the beanstalk and attacks the giant; I want my daughter to see a girl highlighted in Percy Jackson flicks; I want her to envision herself as the female hero the likes of Walter Mitty. I want girls to have adventures, and this begins with the role models they have not only in their lives but also via the media.
If girls have strong heroines, they will envision themselves as strong, willful, and empowered. And if this happens, they will believe; they will become what they imagine. Let's help them move away from Pretty Little Liars and these gossipy/cliquish YA books and television shows that are ruining and misleading their potential as serious women. Let's give them strong women that use their brains and brawn to get ahead.
The End of Rape: I want men to stop raping girls and women. It takes a twisted kind of mind to physically abuse a woman, and raping them goes even deeper because it is downright evil and life-altering. Girls and women are affected for the rest of their lives when they lose their inherent right to their bodies. They lose power and live in fear, and rapists know this. Rape will only be diminished when all men look at women with respect and not as objects onto which they can assert their will, violence, and power.
We need to go as far as teaching young men that it's not OK to drug a girl, or get her drunk, so that she will be too intoxicated to resist their advances. Until then, women have to arm themselves in self-defense. They have to fight back to ensure a safe world for themselves and their daughters. And they have to fight back as hard and ruthless as boys are taught to fight bullies.
Redefinition of Feminism: I want a world in which claiming to be a feminist is not associated with aggression and male-hatred. I want young women to stop rolling their eyes at the term and denying the concept while advocating for female equality. That is what feminism is. Feminism is responsible for the right to vote that women have, the fact that they can attend higher education, and the many doors that have opened to them because of the sacrifices they made so that their daughters could be given freedoms that privilege all men, despite their race, class, religion, or ethnicity.
If you want all people -- men, women, children -- to be treated with unprejudiced respect, then you are feminist. If you want men and women to be paid the same when they are in the same field and have the same work experience, education, and credentials, then this is feminism. Feminism is not a dirty word. It is one that empowers you and teaches you and others how to be treated. It may not make you popular, but it invokes strength and courage.
Respectful Representation of Women by the Media: I want my daughter to be deprived of images of sultry female models and actresses who are deluded into thinking that their sex appeal makes them valuable. If your power comes from your vanity, from your ability to turn heads, this is not power. It's illusory and temporary. It disappears as soon as you get older or some other young girl replaces you. This is not power.
Think about how men continue to keep their power even when they get older and old. This is because their power is situated in success as businessmen, thinkers, scientists, writers, inventors, and leaders. They know what women have yet to learn: beauty is a tall glass of nothing. If women want power, they have to play with the boys -- in sports, in business, in higher education, in technology, science, engineering, mathematics, and in politics. They have to crash through boundaries and limitations that keep us grounded in the domestic, the fashionable, and the vain.
By reveling in the images that male advertisers define for us, we are perpetuating the cycle of sexism, and we are equally culpable for buying into the myth, the stereotype, the objectification of our own gender. As long as we remain silent, we are just as guilty. I am sick and tired of hyper-sexualized images of girls and young women on television shows and commercials, movies, and in the music industry. Behind each and every one of these girls is a man who owns the business, the label, the channel, the production -- and these images are male-dominated and male-created for an audience of men. Let's not buy into it because when we do, we teach our daughters to buy into them as well. And this is not empowerment.