This post is about just what it says. I don’t want to be a feminist. Or, more accurately, I wish I didn’t HAVE TO BE a feminist. But, I live in a world that requires a feminist response.
I’ve stolen the title “I don’t want to be a feminist” from Amy Vernon, who just posted this smart piece on how a post-feminist world simply hasn’t happened yet–not even in the workplace, where we might imagine it would be relatively easy to make things equal, at least on paper. (How hard is it to write contracts with equal vacation time, seriously?) Vernon’s reflections struck a chord with me because I’ve been in very similar situations to the ones she describes–as I’m sure most women have.
Once, when I was teaching a course on women’s and gender studies, I told two different stories on two different days about being compensated less in the workforce because I am a woman. A male student said, “This sure happens to you a lot” with the clear implication that it’s not about my embodiment, but about my being a whiner. I felt a brief flash of embarrassment–oh no! I’m whining! How unattractive!–before firing back that, yes, it does happen to me a lot. I don’t ever get to take off my “woman body” and just be “normal” and reap “normal” benefits. If you’re tired of hearing me talk about these things, imagine how tiring it must be to live them all the time. That’s the point. To that student’s credit, he heard me. I really didn’t think he’d be able to, but he did.
A few weeks after that conversation, I got a check in the mail from Wal-Mart–one of the employers I had been talking about in that WGS class. I worked for Wal-Mart when I was 16, and it turns out that I was one of the beneficiaries of a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit. Part of me didn’t want to cash that ridiculous $9 check intended to make up for months of discrimination that occurred more than a decade ago; I didn’t want be complicit in the notion that $9 was adequate compensation.
But I also wanted to establish that I’m still here, and I still don’t live in some post-feminist world where blatant workplace discrimination is a thing of the past. So I cashed that damn check. And I hope everyone else that got one did, too.