Tonight is Take Back the Night at Plattsburgh and I am ashamed, as a Smithie, to say that this is the first time I will have ever gone to a TBTN. The Breadwinner asked me a few days ago to make us shirts or stencil something for it. I've been thinking about editing the feminist uprising stencil that I've been putting on all sorts of subversive things (pink aprons and onezies). Maybe I could put knitting needles or a duster in the hand. And then I realized how many people would be offended, how many people I'd have to explain it to. I spend so much of my life explaining and justifying myself to other people because I fall between the cracks of every group of which I find myself a part.
A) Smithies: In reading an alum blog about cutting the Ada Comstock program, I noted an alum writing about having more impact than she would have if she had taken the wife/mother path that was generally open to her in the '60's. Right. I get it. Wife/mother should not be the only option for a woman. But am I wasting my Smith education by wanting to become a wife/mother? Am I not having a greater impact? I want to raise my children using all of the knowledge I gained at Smith. I want my daughters in a rainbow of colors not just pink; I want my sons to learn how to change a diaper on their own baby dolls. They will not watch a Disney movie without me by their side to pause and explain how it negatively portrays women. And because I will inevitably be raising my children with another woman, they will see women taking care of all aspects of life from setting the table to fixing the leaky faucet. They will not see any difference between men's work and women's work in our home. What better way is there to ensure that feminism is alive and well than raising children in a feminist household?
I guess I am using Smithie and feminist in the same way, so I might consider both in this category. Additionally, if being a wife/mother makes me happy, isn't that what life is all about? Why is my happiness so offensive to some women? The feeling I get when I finish knitting a stuffed animal for a baby cannot begin to compete with any satisfaction I would get in "the workforce." Yes, I am financially dependent upon someone else. But that person is also dependent upon me for many aspects of life like food and happiness. Why is it that people think having money to offer makes someone dominant in a relationship? If you care about someone and work with them at making a life, you will make it equal, no matter what the distribution of wealth. Wealth does not equal power.
B) Queers: While sixty years ago I would have been a model queer, I'm definitely less of one now. I am coming to terms with how I fit into queer society. I do not believe in two genders. I am offended for all the people close to my heart who can't whenever I need to check M or F. Nevertheless, I'm a pretty content femme. I myself don't tend to subvert gender norms but I am known to describe people as: "Oh, he's one of my closest friends! He was my exgirlfriend." I don't get tongue-tied when I say genderqueer pronouns. So why is it that when I talk about liking butches I am so full of shame? Plus, the whole aforementioned thing about wanting to be a wife/mother tends to rub a lot of the queermos in my life the wrong way.
C) Femmes: While I'm at odds with being queer because I consider myself a femme/housedyke, I don't quite fit in there either. I don't shave my legs. This is a big thing to a lot of people on both sides. Some people think it's gross and that it makes me look manly (bad femme). Some people are offended that if I could, I would do so and thus perpetuate the unrealistic standards of beauty that The Man sets for us (bad queer/feminist/Smithie). I would because I prefer not to be stared at, that simple. I don't like to stand out; I don't want to always have to explain myself. Sometimes, I even want to "pass" for straight just to feel comfortable and safe in a hostile world. Ideally, no one would stare at my hairy legs and this would not be an issue, but the bottom line is that I can't shave my legs because I have a skin condition and I get infected sores when I do anything to remove my leg hair. Additionally, I am in a relationship with a non-butch. If we're sticking to butch/femme of the 1940's persuasion, I fail at being a femme. This is all so funny to me because I remember how offended I was when I heard someone refer to her sexual orientation as being a "femme lesbian." I thought how ridiculous, how outdated, how offensive. But here I am, trying to fit in and frustrated that I can't be a total femme or a total fuck-it-all queer.
D) Atheists: I don't believe in God, gods, or any variation thereof. This makes me an atheist. This makes me part of one of the most hated groups in society. In my own life, I've had a much harder time being accepted into society as an atheist than I have as a homo. Religion is a choice and sexual orientation is not, it seems. I don't really understand this argument entirely since I certainly did not decide one day that I was never going to believe in God. The whole idea was just up there with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to me since I was a young child. So how can I be an atheist who regularly attends a gathering that is considered "organized religion"? Because friends meeting isn't about God or baby Jesus and it makes me feel good. It's about people and living a peaceful, healthy, positive life. That's it. But try explaining that to my die-hard atheist family members or friends who think that I'm somehow leaving them.
E) Friends: I have so much crap. I want to have less, I really do, but I get emotionally attached to so many things and I just end up owning so much more than I need. "Everything you own that you don't need is stealing" plays in my head every day. But I should be able to forgive myself for this because that's what life is all about, forgiving and seeing the good. I have trouble with that in the people closest to me (including myself) and total strangers. I have trouble remembering that the people at the gym who get me all enraged are people too.
This is where I write a paragraph summarizing how I just feel out of place in every aspect of life but now that I've written this whole rant, I feel like I can think of so many friends who fall between the cracks of every subculture they are a part of. No one fits in a box and the world is not made of simple dichotomies. M&F, Gay&Straight, Butch&Femme, Feminist&Mysoginist, Atheist&Jesus Freak, Red Sox&Yankees. It just ain't like that. So when you're thinking someone is a "bad feminist" think of all the ways you are a bad Red Sox fan before passing judgement.