March 15, 2006

Why I Am Still A Feminist

Reposting stuff I like from the archives. This is from 2006. It has also been republished in print in GASPP, A Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose.

I am still a feminist because I am no longer ashamed of saying I am one. I have grown tired for apologizing for so many of the things I am: for being liberal, lesbian, anti-Bush and anti-war, a Christian that hates the fundamentalists. Anymore to apologize for, and I may have to apologize for being Chinese.

I was feminist before I was lesbian. I was feminist before I was liberal. I was feminist before I knew feminism had become synonymous with ‘bra burning’ and ‘aggressive’ (I like my bras too much, and I prefer to be passive-aggressive). I was feminist the moment I was acutely aware that being a girl meant there were many things I could not do, and so much more I was expected to.

The first feminist I knew was my father, who taught me I must never bow to the demands of any man, and must never let any man suppress my intellect or free will. He must have known I was a feminist from the time I was 4, when, I did not believe the distribution of potato chips was fair and equal, and demanded he demonstrate by bringing out actual weighing scales, that I had as much as my male brothers and cousins.

In primary school, I was an avid soccer player. About as good as the boys, the boys told me. I played every recess time and after school, every day. I was the midfielder with stamina, who was fast as well and was everywhere and anywhere on the pitch at all times. Good enough, that the boys thought nothing of inserting me into their ambitious tournament plans for the next few years: we were a team. I started the first match in the tournament with the brand new soccer boots I paid for myself. At half time, the referee — his name was Mr Azman — said I couldn’t play, ever again. Even though this was an informal tournament in school, with no rulebook or precedents, he said that’s just the way it is: no girls allowed.

By the time I was 18, I thought I already had a pretty good grip on the “girl” issue. During one class debate, a member of the opposition made a disparaging remark about how sometimes rape victims “were just asking for it”. Livid, I made a comment which led him to say: “Let’s go outside, I’ll show you how good it is to be raped.” This same person is on his way to becoming a lawyer, and I fear.

I’m turning 21 this year and while I don’t play soccer anymore, as a photographer I’m told “they want guys, because they look more like photographers”, as a Mac Evangelist in retail I’m told they “want to consult the guys”, even though I know as much. Guys still hit on my girlfriend in front of me because I evidently don’t count and I’m not the real thing; if I’m opinionated, I’m being either aggressive or emotional, and if I’m stoic, I’m heartless.

As a member of the majority race and male, you may not believe it when I say that sexism is alive and well, because you have never encountered it. You see female managers and female CEOs, females in positions above you, and you fear for your male superiority. What you don’t see is the sacrifice only women are made to make when they choose career, how they could be similarly qualified and similarly excellent or better leaders, yet climb slower and earn less, how if they are assertive they are aggressive female bosses, how if they are not then they are ineffectual leaders and submissive. What you don’t see is how she had to fight hard for most things that come easily to you.

As a member of the majority race and male, you sat next to me in school today at the library cafe, talking about how your girlfriend is not as loud as pornstars when you “fuck her”, wondering if that’s because “she doesn’t know how to express her pleasure”, then your friends all started talking about blowjobs and said in no unclear terms, that the world revolves around “your cocks”.

I will continue to be a feminist until the day my classmates are not seen as objects, whose pleasure is necessarily held up against porn industry ideals, until the day their pleasure is not dictated by the selfish dicks they date.

As a member of the majority race and male, you fathered one of my closest friends. When your daughter complained to you that she used to be touched inappropriately by your friend’s son, when your daughter discussed with you the topic of male infidelity, you laughed and said, “We’re men, we’re like that.”

I will continue to be a feminist until the day every father stands up for their daughter’s rights, the way my father does.

As a member of the majority race and male, everything you might be culpable for is “because she asked for it.” Can’t have children? She must be infertile. Want to use condoms? Only if she pays for it. She doesn’t seem to like sex with you? There must be something wrong with her. Pregnant? She sleeps around. Sex video spreads on the internet? It’s her morals. Lesbian? They haven’t met the right man, and you just might be the one.

I will continue to be a feminist until the day my friends’ fathers stop explaining away their affairs based upon what their wives supposedly lack.

So when you say, those feminists, in the same breath as those nazis, those communists, those crazy bra burning women, you need to know that the object of our hatred is never men — it is what some men do to us.

I will continue to be a feminist until the day my uncle in the flesh and blood stops being an asshole, and his immigrant wife is not afraid to divorce him and press charges.

I will continue to be a feminist until it is realized that while it is best for every child to have his mother and father, if the father is a dangerous man he has to be kept away from her beautiful young children before he does any permanent damage.

I will continue to be a feminist until it is realized the existence of many good men does not mean it is irrelevant to be a feminist. They are our fathers, our boyfriends and husbands, our sons. All it takes is just one man, that isn’t good, to destroy the lives of too many women around the world, and among us now.

This is why I will remain a feminist, I’m not apologetic for it, I won’t burn my bra, I don’t hate you, and no, you can’t watch either.