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It’s All Feminism To Me: What The “F” Word Really Means

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It usually happens around the “tweaking” stage of dialog editing – when I am listening to a rough mix of a file and making minor adjustments here and there, all in the name of perfecting the voice and cleaning the audio to its most polished form. That’s typically the moment when I take the edit too far. Doctors have to swear an oath about it, but really, in a lot of professions, “first, do no harm,” is an admirable mission statement. Many times I have found myself listening to a selection, thinking, “What did this even originally sound like?” and a lot of those instances, I’ve managed to make the audio worse, somehow. “Over-editing,” my colleagues have called it. “Compulsive finessing” I’ve corrected them. Either way, in my line of work, whenever it happens, whenever I pass the point of constructive editorial, I simply have to delete the EQ settings, undo all the cuts, and start again with the original, raw file. I don’t think it’s that easy in the medical profession, which is why it’s an oath and not just a ‘good suggestion.’

Pretend it didn’t happen. Take a walk, rest your ears, come back and try again. Edit>Undo, Edit>Undo, Edit>Undo. If only everything in life was CTRL+Z-able. Unfortunately, despite having heard phantom TARDIS sounds outside my window from time to time, I haven’t figured out a way to travel back in time and undo certain less-than-helpful decisions, certain minor adjustments that we’ve done to our definitions, to our movements, and to our culture. In a moment of ill-fated curiosity, I searched the word “feminism” on Google. Immediately, I was inundated with what I can only describe in the politest way possible as “an absolute disaster” of misinformation and contradictory sentiments from an infinite variety of perspectives. Women For Feminism. Women Against Feminism. Post-Feminist Women. Men For Feminism As Long As It Doesn’t Actually Affect Them In Their Day-to-Day Lives. Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the point. It’s a mess.

How did our definition of the term become so… wonky? To me, feminism is pretty straightforward: it is the belief that men and women, as human people, are equal. But as I tabbed through the articles and blogs and websites dedicated to the issue, my brain started to reach a core-meltdown level of boiling. Is this what the writers at Time meant when they wanted to ban the word ‘feminist?’ Did they mean that we have gotten so far off the track of what feminism means that we should invent a new word all together and ditch the old one? I highly doubt it was but let’s just call this wishful thinking and move on. Is it possible to reclaim what it means to be a feminist, to wipe the slate clean and start again with a clear, unified definition in mind?

Not as far as Mike Buchanan is concerned, it seems. Recently, Mr. Buchanan has launched himself and his new, self-proclaimed anti-feminist party, “Justice for Men and Boys (and Women Who Love Them)” into the international spotlight with a series of interviews he gave about the crippling affects of female tyranny on modern society. His hope is that his political party will be a safe place for men and boys, and don’t forget those parenthetical women who love them, to turn to in a world being suppressed by those overbearing, demanding women called the feminists. The future he dreams of is one where calling oneself a feminist is as bad as calling oneself a fascist, or a bigot, or sexist. Not that I can think of a single person who would voluntarily call his/herself a fascist. It is Mr. Buchanan’s belief that feminists are destroying the nuclear family and creating a metaphorical toxic greenhouse effect of man-hatred and belittlement, probably with that glass ceiling of theirs that they totally made up and doesn’t at all exist. In the party’s 80-page manifesto, because nothing preposterous was ever referred to as a manifesto, Buchanan flips the coin on us, citing instances of gender inequality for the men of the UK in categories such as education, employment, unemployment, and political representation. There were other categories, but I couldn’t keep reading. My self-destruct button began to flash, and I had to close the tab.

Mr. Buchanan’s bold anti-feminist stance has been about as warmly received as Bellatrix LeStrange would be in the Weasley household, and has already inspired many satirical and reprimanding articles written by both men and women on the issue. My personal opinion is that he sounds like a loon. However, what bothers me more than his outrageous, unfounded claims about the ever-assaulted modern male, is how wrong his definition of what it means to be a feminist is. Over the last 160-some odd years, the feminist movement has been tweaked, altered, and prodded so much so that what it means to be a feminist is, apparently, almost indistinguishable at a casual glance. Critics like Buchanan jump on the bandwagon, saying, “Feminism is bra-burning! Feminism means hating all men! Feminism means wanting to put a foot down on this whole procreation thing all together!” Uh, no. Feminism is not those things. At times, some feminists have burned bras. At times, some feminists have hated some men. At times, some feminists have not wanted to have children. But those are not all-encompassing definitions of the movement.

But then again, what is? What defines a movement other than the beliefs of its followers and the perception of its adversaries? During my leisurely stroll around the web, I found several blogs and twitter accounts utilizing the phrase “Women Against Feminism.” Stock photos with script-text, or handwritten notes held up in front of faces, the reasons for abandoning the feminist movement were heart breaking. “Because I enjoy being feminine. Because I’m not a victim. Because I believe in equality, not supremacy.” I mean – I’m with you on those things, ladies. I believe in those things, too, and I’m a feminist. This is the part that frustrates me, this is the bit where the record breaks and I stutter out the same response: that’s not what feminism means, that’s not what feminism means. That’s not, that’s not, that’s not what feminism means.

As a live sound engineer, I knew it was part of my job to lift heavy objects from time to time, and I did so without complaint. But when a male coworker offered to carry the 75-pound road case if I would go organize the disaster that had become the microphone cabinet, I absolutely accepted. “This is easier for me, and that is easier for you,” he had shrugged. Both jobs needed to be done, and we were part of a team – one that encompassed a variety of skill-sets and players. What better a way to approach a collaborative task than to put each team member in the best position for success? Did I feel the cold grip of sexism tightening around my neck as he took the handles of the uncomfortably dense box away from me? No. I don’t disagree that both physically and mentally, men and women bring different attributes to the table; what I disagree with, what makes me a feminist, is that those differences somehow make women inferior to men.

Feminism, to those of us who are eager to associate with the term, is equality. That’s it – that’s all we’re trying to say. As a woman in a STEM field, I want an equal opportunity to do the work I love to do, and equal compensation for my position. As a woman in the United States, I’d like an equal right to make my own decisions about my body, my health, and what is best for me. As a woman of the world, I’d like to be afforded the same personal respect that any man would receive in his global community. It’s not about playing the victim, hating men, or shaming women who want to have children and stay at home with them; it’s about having the right to choose what I want, and the freedom to pursue it, just as any man would be permitted to do. Websites like Feminist Frequency and Crash Override don’t exist because a group of women wanted a weekly hangout spot to complain about how hard their lives are, that’s what Whiskey Wednesdays are for, obviously, they exist because rather than “play the victim,” some like-minded people mustered the nerve to fight back against online harassment and misogyny in our media culture by putting it on blast. Refusing to adhere to the status quo and calling for change is not the same as self-victimization. The feminist movement isn’t about abstaining from make-up or being the one to kill the spider, it’s about granting each woman the right to do what she wishes to do with her time on this earth. Which will last, as Mr. Buchanan reminded me, statistically longer than a man’s time. 

We cannot undo the misrepresentations that the feminist movement has suffered just as we cannot erase the parts of the movement’s history that we don’t particularly enjoy remembering. Try as we might, no amount of Etch-a-Sketch shaking will clear the slate of the various definitions for the feminist movement; but for those of us who find a solidarity in the word, a hope and a mission, we must embrace it in its purest form. Shockingly, it seems that re-defining feminism is not as simple as digital audio editing, despite the fact that the goals are similar in nature. In audio editing, you work to remove the noise that distracts from the story, edit to bring clarity to the subject, and mix to enhance the voice and support the message. In the quest for making feminism understood, we must do the same. On one of the “Women Against Feminism” posts, a young girl wrote that she believed in all the things that feminists believed in, but that she was not a feminist, because she was simply “a human being.”

Funnily enough, throughout history, that’s sort of the point of all equal rights campaigns, isn’t it? We’d all just like to be treated as human beings. Nevertheless, until we are all treated equally, none of us really get to blanket ourselves as “just a person.”

We could, however, blanket ourselves with the 80-pages of Buchanan’s manifesto and put it to some actual use.

Eleanor Thibeaux is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer and audio post-production engineer originally from the Lone Star State. A tech geek, science fiction/fantasy fanatic, and dessert enthusiast, Eleanor is the kind of Type A person who puts “finish season 4 of Battlestar Galactica” on her to-do list. It’s important to have priorities. You can find her other works via her website, or follow her every important thought on Twitter: @ethibeaux

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