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With respect to International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2013, this also applies to every country where women’s rights are being challenged, including the Middle East (where this student visited last year.) We need to Fight our fears; Use our brains; Control our destinies; Know our strengths. It’s time for us to F.U.C.K., as in: Face our oppressors. Unchain our voices and ambitions. Challenge the prejudices unleashed against us. Knock down those who are trying to return us to the dark ages.
Where are we, in March 2013, the month we celebrate women’s achievements? Are we travelling the road to a fulfilling and dignified future that was supposed to be part of the American dream? Or are we allowing ourselves to be shoved back into the widening road-side ditch that our mothers and grandmothers struggled courageously to climb out of with moderate, but pioneering, success? There is plenty of evidence of the latter regarding the widening road-ditch. This is not to demean our achievements, however; we must remain vigilant and alert.
For example, just last week some misogynist-types in the U.S. Congress tried to eviscerate some of our recent accomplishments. They failed this time, but be sure, ladies, they will try again and again when they see an opportunity. Much as malignant bacteria grow and spreads when temperature and moisture are present in the right amount, these men controlling our rights will seize the opportunity to metastasize.
Those in Congress who worked to strip the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of much of its strength, objected because the legislation opens up federal funding to protect and assist domestic abuse and sexual assault victims while helping prosecute these crimes. The changes certain members of Congress objected to in the VAWA legislation creates and expands federal programs to assist local communities with law enforcement and aiding victims of domestic and sexual abuse. They could not stomach Senate bill, S. 47 which went further by offering protections for gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic abuse, as well as allowing American Indian women who are assaulted on reservations by non-Indians to take their case to tribal courts—which otherwise would not have jurisdiction over assailants who do not live on tribal land. The failed House bill offered the same provision, but also offered non-Indian defendants the possibility to take their case to a federal court.
Finally, the VAWA was saved by legislation and passed Congress this month, on a vote of 286 to 138, with 199 Democrats joining 87 Republicans in support of the reauthorization of the landmark 1994 law forwarded to the White House for President Obama’s signature. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement after the vote. “Today, a bipartisan majority of the House joined the Senate in reaffirming our pledge to America’s women and families, strengthening this landmark law, extending protection to LGBT Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants, and preserving the security of all women.”
But its fate was uncertain until the last minute. And we must not forget that three women die at the hands of domestic violence in America every day, yet Congress allowed the Violence Against Women Act to expire for more than 500 days. As American women, we need to renew and reenergize our movement and preserve our gains. We will not live stagnant as victims and blaming others will only carry us so far. We know what to do to improve our F.U.C.K. and we’re getting better every day.
One hundred years after Inez Milholland, a 27 year old women’s rights activist from Brooklyn, New York, whom history remembers as an architect of women’s suffrage and civil rights, we still have issues to resolve. Ms. Milholland’s last words were, reportedly, to President Wilson, when she asked, “Mr. President, how long must Women wait for liberty?” With our former martyrs in mind, we need to eschew our contentment, indifference and the pernicious “you provide for me so you own me” mentality. We must reject racism, homophobia, Arabopobia, Islamophobia, cowardice, self-fueled misogyny, envy, dishonesty, lies, unemployment, and unequal pay. We need to discard the role that women too often have played in enabling darker elements in our patriarchal society by conceding or deferring some of our basic rights and convincing themselves that men are the superior sex.
I recently performed at my college’s Open-Mic Night addressing this issue with my first Slam-poetry piece. I spoke of the societal double-standards and conveyed to my audience the prejudice I’ve faced throughout the years for being a confident, sexual being. The problem exists in the delusion that sexually-active women are invitations for a free entrance, and men justify sexual assault with this notion. At the other end of the spectrum, men who view women as accessories, as something to collect, are congratulated and often have their status increased.
When I say I am a feminist, it apparently translates that I hate men and want to replace them with lesbians. The word “feminism” somehow denotes “lesbianism,” with both conjuring up images of the radical women who are insane man-haters, devoid of femininity who seek to replace men in all aspects of life. Did anyone else realize equal rights had such a lengthy and mythical description?
Most of us realize that this is an unfair, antagonistic and completely mistaken view of lesbianism. This use of labeling is another way of discriminating against a group of people based on their sexual preferences. Zero of my lesbian friends hate men, and they surely do not want to “replace” men; women are not a replacement of men for lesbians, they are the only option. For gay men, being called a “woman” by straight men is an insult, the intended message being that being compared to a woman, in this society, conflates with being weak.
I am reminded of the words of the Lebanese feminist writer Joumana Haddad who inspired this essay: “Battle of the sexes, you say? Isn’t it about time we call it a tie and start challenging ourselves instead?” She is not alone with this. During this centennial commutation of women’s rights, Joumana Haddad , author of the article “Politically Incorrect Questions” recently asked some key questions for every woman to ponder:
“When will a woman cheating on a man stop being judged as dissolute, while a man cheating on a woman is purely justified by his ‘polygamous genes’?
When will a woman dressed sexily stop being deemed as provocative (thus inviting harassment or even rape), while a man dressed sexily is only deemed ‘stylish’?
When will a fifty-year-old woman dating a twenty-five-year-old man stop being criticized as pathetic, while a fifty-year-old man dating a twenty-five-year-old woman is just ‘normal’?
When will a successful woman stop being accused of sleeping her way up, while a successful man is plainly bright and ‘achieved’?
When will a single forty-year-old woman stop being depicted as a distressed spinster, while a single forty-year-old man is portrayed as an ‘eligible bachelor’?
When will a woman who sexually harasses a man stop being estimated crazy, while a man sexually harassing a woman is merely ‘provoked’ and ‘tempted’?
When will a woman checking out a man’s ass stop being described as obsessed, while a man checking out a woman’s ass is described as an ‘admirer of beauty’?
When will women in most countries stop needing condescending quotas to be part of the political scene, while men can aim at any position without having to worry about their gender?”
Yes, as American women, we definitely need to F.U.C.K. better, and all the while using more tools and objects to enhance it. Let’s F.U.C.K. with more dedication, perseverance, and imagination. If not, we will increasingly be subjected to the other kind and without any respect.
Special thanks to Joumana Haddad.
Louisa Lamb studies at Salisbury University in Maryland. She is reachable c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.