I am a feminist.
Like most my liberal leanings, becoming a feminist has been a journey. I have been an imperfect ally to feminists throughout my writing career, but I believe I have found my way, mostly due to being a contributor at Shakesville and reading so much from a true feminist leader - Melissa McEwan.
And if there was one thing Melissa was absolutely correct about, it was that if you're not a feminist, you're not a progressive.
So I suppose, today is the day I stop being a fauxgressive. Today was the day it struck me that I'm not being part of the solution, I'm being part of the problem. Just agreeing with feminist views and not standing up for them is by no means enough.
Today, I woke up in my Mom's hospital room at the City of Hope. My sister and I have been taking turns staying in her room with her as she undergoes her bone marrow transplant. Today, when we saw her white blood cell numbers - 1.1 - we were thrilled, as was the whole of our family and my Mom's many friends when they found out. That number - which was at .02 just two days ago - was a huge ray of hope and even triumph. Because while my Mom still has a battle left to win her fight against leukemia, that number stood out as a huge sign - my Mom is beating leukemia, just as she had previously beaten ovarian cancer.
When I left the hospital earlier today, I left my Mom and my sister and was feeling giddy and proud of them both. They are two incredible, brilliant and strong people. I am in awe of them both.
Coming home, however, I noticed how the news cycle had jumped on Hillary Clinton's comments of how sexism has affected her run for President. Obviously, after reading through 93 parts of the "Hillary Sexism Watch," my only real thought was that Clinton should long ago have been more aggressive about the sexism that's dragged down her campaign. After seeing the story "Clinton chastises press for ignoring sexism" on CNN.com, I drifted down to the "moderated" comments:
"As a woman, I'm appalled by all of this whining about sexism."
"Sure…play the victim…cue the violins…shed a tear…..and curtain!"
"Sexist??? Let's see….it IS hard to remember she's technically female…"
"Good god she looks old in that picture….She needs a face lift."
"Since they were covering you they weren't ignoring it Hill. You commited the racism and then turned around and cried about non-existant (or extremely isolated) sexism."
"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA The PRESS won't help me play the GENDERCARD!!!! WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA I am a GURL!! Vote for me cause I am a GURL!!! WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA"
"Can she offer specifics of this so-called sexist behavior?"
"I did not notice a SINGLE example of the alleged sexism."
"The billarys, have no shame.. they are so hunger power, it is so shameful."
"I can't believe that she keeps whining about all of this like she has. A man wouldn't whine like this."
"Blah blah. Have fun doing the dishes after you finish losing."
Following that, I looked around for reactions around the Web about Clinton's comments.
From Fox News:
"Hillary Supporters Scream 'Sexism!' What do you think?
Should Democrats vote for the “bro” (short for ‘brother’) or should they vote for the “ho” (short for a word I’d rather not write on the FNC website)? Think I’m being offensive? Take a look at these nearly 30 unofficial pro-Obama campaign t-shirts.
Then there were these stories at The Huffington Post, first from Arianna Huffington, who actually wrote an extremely positive story about Clinton, except for the fact that it was written as a political obituary, which she's probably had in the can for months with the way her site has worked to blast away at Clinton.
I have regularly criticized Clinton over the course of her campaign (and long before it, starting with her vote to authorize the war), but there is no question that she has forever altered the way women running for president will be viewed from here on out. In the words of the Times, Clinton has established "a new marker for what a woman can accomplish in a campaign -- raising over $170 million, frequently winning more favorable reviews on debate performances than her male rivals, rallying older women, and persuading white male voters who were never expected to support her."
Then from Gary Cohan at The Huffington Post, one day later:
"Hillary's Sexist End-game"
… For all her unfathomable tenacity against NO odds, she's been curiously dubbed by political talking heads as "The Terminator", the "Energizer Bunny" and compared to Glenn Close in the film Fatal Attraction. Those pundits owe apologies to Mr. Schwarzenegger, Ms. Close and the cute pink bunny. Why?
Because the elephant in the room is a simple concept -- the Clintons' flaunting of Obama's clear and decisive victory defines nothing short of unadulterated sexism. Before this unanticipated hot-button word makes you utter "what the f---?" and turn off your brain(s), hear me out. Hillary, we'll assume, has no Y chromosome. Then how could the Clintons be playing the "gender" card and be labeled as sexists?
… Quite simply and sadly, this tragic passion play is an exercise of deeply ingrained Democratic "wussiness" and sexism. …
If Hillary were a man -- for example, a terrific populist candidate like John Edwards -- she would have been long gone. Then why is this woman still on the stump with the blessings of her own political party, her supporters and the media pundits who are witnessing this train wreck in slow motion? …
… Where are the thoughtful, outspoken and outraged feminists of this country - including the disappointed crowd who ardently supported Hillary's brave campaign yet still love this country - to tell her that enough is enough. Why don't these women point out that Ferraro's playing of the "gender card" is as insulting to the electorate as it is to her highly qualified but short-on-delegates candidate? Why are they not incensed that we will not and cannot allow one person's ego to drag down the entire party down for one person's future political ambitions?
Seeing all of this was nothing new, of course. But it did really affect me. But what finished it off for me was watching ABC incessantly promote a mediocre new reality show, where the male voice over proclaims that the tests contestants will go through will "Make them cry … Like a Girl!"
The juxtaposition of it all was too much, I suppose. After spending so much time at City of Hope, watching my Mother, Sister, female nurses, doctors and other workers go about their heroic business, and then taking in so much sexism at once, I looked inside myself and saw something I didn't like - that while I have written about feminist issues (albeit rarely), I have by no means been a feminist. I have left that fight for others. But that's over now. And while the topics I choose and the style that I write will likely not change a great deal, I have an overwhelming need to proclaim that I am in this fight and will focus on feminist issues more often. I need to declare what I so sadly have yet to truly declare.
I am a feminist. And I am proud of it.