I don't call myself a feminist. I've been rethinking this position lately, but I just can't seem to make myself take the plunge. I think women ought to be treated equally, and I think all of society benefits from equality, not just the minority. I've read Tekanji's How to be a Real Nice Guy, and while I have some contentions with the finer points of the "reverse -ism" argument, it's a nice combination of "things I ought to be more aware of" and "things that make me feel a little less guilty and worried." It underscores a lot of things (like privilege) that I've had a gut feeling about for years, and it's nice to see them put into words. It really helps me understand why I feel so torn over Politically Correct language (English major/editor anxieties about language vs. "liberal guilt" and respect for minorities). Despite all this, I have a hard time thinking of myself as a feminist. I tell people that I don't feel like I've earned the right, and every time I think about privilege, I feel even less certain of that.
Hm...it's at this point that I'm going to invoke the "Read More" link. Things get personal below the fold, folks. If you don't care, just come back tomorrow and enjoy a Civil War rant.
See, part of my problem is that I've always had an overactive sense of guilt. I've always tended toward being "the good kid," and I think a large part of that is due to a youth spent with an overactive imagination that would tend to pick out the worst possible consequences to any action, and frequently replay them. That, and I always identified with the good guys; I wanted to be Superman and He-Man and Optimus Prime (and yes, I credit cartoons and comic books with a significant part of building a strong moral fiber).
Though not humility, apparently. In case the general lack of personal info on my blog hasn't clued you in, I really don't like writing about myself. My feelings? Sure. My reactions to this week's Batman or whatever? You betcha. But who gives a damn about my past and my life? Whatever, I'm knee-deep in it now, might as well take the plunge.
So, due to a variety of little quirks in my upbringing, I'm always a little worried about being a racist, homophobic, bigoted jerk. I've said some horrendously homophobic things, and it was only around the end of my Junior year of High School that I got the bigot's epiphany. I've done whatever I could since then to promote equal rights and acceptance for the GLBTQ community--going to rallies, joining the Gay-Straight Alliance--mostly because I've felt so passionately about the subject, but also in hopes of atoning for the things I said in the past, so that I might clear my own conscience.
So I think that my personal history of prejudice has a major effect on my feelings about considering myself, with the privilege smorgasbord of being a young white middle-class heterosexual male, ideologically equal to someone who actually has to deal with discrimination and bigotry on a daily basis. The most I've done is attend a rally or two and watch The Vagina Monologues for V-Day. The last time I felt discrimination was when I was thirteen and old clerks followed me through the drugstore (well...unless you count religious discrimination, but even that's pretty minor). How does that measure up to people who have to fight every day to be recognized as people?
And then there's the little matter that I tend to play apologist/Devil's Advocate for some of the various majority groups to which I belong. As much as I can imagine myself into another person's shoes, the only perspective I can offer is that of a young white heterosexual middle-class male. It only reinforces the barriers between us to see that perspective dismissed or unconsidered, and sometimes I can't resist the impulse to say "well, look at it this way." It's only through understanding each other that we'll even be able to discourse equally, let alone treat each other equally. Good fences don't make good neighbors, they just make it harder to see the other side.
Yes, I believe women are people. I believe homosexuals ought to have the same rights as heterosexuals. I believe that everyone should be treated equally regardless of gender, skin color, religious affiliation, or sexual preference. I believe that comics aren't "meant for" any one audience, and that everyone should be able to pick up an issue of Justice League and find something that appeals to them. I believe that overt sexualization and stereotyping hurt comics' appeal far more than the occasional late book or fill-in artist. I want to see developed, defined, well-rounded characters of every sort, not characters who are defined by how developed and well-rounded their breasts are. I'd like to see equality, in comics and the real world, because I think equality ultimately benefits everyone. It's not a zero-sum game; you don't appeal to female readers at the expense of the male ones. You broaden the scope, you don't just shift the narrow focus. You open it up to everyone, and allow everyone to find something that includes them.
I believe that people ought to be treated with respect, whether they're real or four-color. I do what I can to treat real people with respect; I could do more, I'm sure, and I'll keep trying. I'd like to be in a position to treat four-color folks with respect, but that's really up to DC Comics, at this point (hint hint). I don't think that's enough for me to take up a label associated with people who have to fight to receive that sort of respect. Maybe I'm way off-base, here, and I wouldn't mind being told so. But it seems to me that calling myself a feminist would be the height of presumptuousness.
At this point, I'd usually go back and make sure this all makes sense, but I know that nothing I do to it will eliminate the rambling incoherence of it. This is going to be the Finnegan's Wake of comic blog posts. Sorry 'bout that, folks.