Fontaine. 44. Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri. Currently: Hamburg, Germany. Gnostic, Raised Buddhist. Photography. Musician.
What does the concept/word “feminism” mean to you? What does the concept of equality mean to you?
Ironically, I think for a lot of people the word feminism carries a negative, which is a shame. It’s a shame that the word actually has to exist to be perfectly honest. It’s a shame that the word is even necessary. That’s how I feel about feminism.
What do you think is the most pressing struggle for women today? What is the most crucial aspect in your eyes?
Equality is the most pressing struggle. There are so many aspects of that. Wages maybe? I mean, it’s so present and it’s a thing that I talk about with my sister who is entering the job market after a while. She’s an extremely qualified person in her area, and quite frankly she’s underpaid. So I guess wages might be one of the most important things.
Is feminism a subject you think about? Have you ever read a book or seen a documentary about feminist issues?
I don’t think about feminism until somebody asks me about it. It’s strange. It’s like an activity. You believe that people have equal rights in everything and you treat them with that in mind (or not in mind) just because that’s the way it should be. If I see situations where I feel like a woman is being treated unjustly because she’s a woman, then yes, the feminist in me comes out. Then I start thinking about feminism because I see it actively, but it’s harder for me, being a man, to feel in my skin every day the way a woman would. It’s the same thing for someone trying to understand black civil rights – not everyone can fully grasp the struggle. I haven’t read anything recently but I read things about feminism in the 70’s during the Second Wave. That’s besides Susan B. Anthony of course.
Why do you identify as a feminist and how/when did you learn about it? What were you taught about women growing up?
I have two older sisters and my mother, so there were a lot of females in my family. I couldn’t say that feminism was learned or a learned behavior for me because I grew up with the mentality. If you have black friends, and those friends were saying that they were feeling mistreated or weren’t being treated with equality; you would try and defend or help them in some way to achieve that. Whether consciously or subconsciously, actively or passively – you would be doing something. Maybe you don’t identify as being pro-civil-rights or whatever, but you do it just because that’s the way you are. So I guess I naturally identify with feminism. It’s the same thing in the black community with people who are accused of reverse-racism: people push to one extreme so some people push against the other so hard. For example, recently in North America, the anti-fascist movements in California are acting like nothing but fascists. Acting like that isn’t going to solve the problem, all it does is just aggravate. I think a lot of the feminism constructed in the Second Wave, where things got more radical, carried a lot of antagonism. I think the negative stigma associated with the word is a result of people’s natural resistance and I know it’s also a thing that a lot of my friends are constantly being accused of: being sexist or being whatever. It’s like: What do you have to do to be that? What does that mean? Being called out is uncomfortable for a lot of people. Being faced with the reality that maybe what they’ve been doing has been treading on somebody else and they didn’t realize it is uncomfortable. It’s like people saying: “I’m not a sexist but women should stay home in the kitchen or I’m not gonna have her get paid as much as I make”. All of these types of things are unwanted, so when somebody comes and calls them out, they’re gonna get a bad reputation because the truth hurts. I think that’s why a lot of people have negative feelings when they get called out about something. How could it change? People just need to be more sensitive to what’s going on with other people and their situation. That will help. All these things are just a question of upbringing, schooling, education, being exposed to things. If you grew up in a situation or a house where there’s no respect for certain ethnic groups or the opposite sex or these type of things, that’s just going to be passed on. And if the school supports that, consciously or subconsciously, that’s just going to proliferate. There’s nothing you can do about it. You have to start in certain areas to change the thinking.
Is feminism empowering for men? If so, how? How does feminism differ for you?
I guess I never considered that feminism could be disempowering for men. Of course it’s empowering. I think any situation where like-minded people (be they women or men) can come together and work on something, means everybody benefits. Is that overly simplistic? It’s like if you find yourself in a situation where you’re working on a project (I’m not in the corporate world so I don’t know), but you’re just amplifying your resources, you’re getting different viewpoints, you have more to work with. I never really considered myself explicitly a feminist (although I think I am) and I suppose there are women out there that would not explicitly identify themselves as feminists but would carry on through life working for feminist rights, working for equality, because that’s the nature of who they are. Maybe they wouldn’t exactly consider themselves part of a movement or something like that. They just stand for what they believe in. So it’s hard to say. For me as a man, I certainly don’t feel threatened by feminists, not even in the slightest. But I know a lot of people are and I don’t really understand that because: what do you have to lose? I think there is a kind of man-hating that comes across from a lot of feminists unfortunately, but I think it’s a message that’s misleading. It’s true that with certain behaviors that men and women do equally, women get called aggressive for the same actions. People might see some of this “man-hating” as an exaggeration that wouldn’t be viewed the same if a man was stating his opinions. This is true. This is very true. I mean, being in the position of a white American male or a white male in general, they don’t really have much to fight for, do they? It doesn’t surprise me because they’re blessed with everything they need and want so they don’t understand what it’s like to not have that advantage. I don’t know, maybe because I’m black? That’s also something I don’t sit down and think about because it’s nothing I can change and it’s nothing I want to change. With feminism’s intersectionality, on every financial level, social level, whatever, there’s reason to fight for feminism.
What issues/reservations do you have with feminism today? What do you personally think needs change?
I was quite small when the Second Wave was going on in the 70’s – Angela and all these people were doing their thing. For me it was interesting because I think I was in this generation of people who saw that there were strong women that were doing certain things and fighting for equality even though they didn’t really know what equality was because really, growing up the way I did, there was no equality. There was equality within a family, but even there there’s a sort of gestalt. Do I have any reservations about feminism? I would say not. There were black women and also strong black figures, but I think the cultures were different, especially when I grew up because none of these things were really televised, none of these things were really seen. Black culture tends to already be more of a matriarchal society structure, so there’s this kind of built-in love and respect for the woman (in the U.S.), and even more outside of the country, in places like Africa where “Mom is Mom”, you know what I’m saying? It’s a different kind of equality and from a modern point of view it seems like: “Yeah this whole staying at home being a mother thing isn’t really…”, but there’s a lot of power in that. What was the question again? I don’t have any personal issues with feminism at all. As a matter of fact, I applaud any and every group of people who stand up and demand freedom of expression, equality, etc. on every level.
What do you teach your children about women or feminism?
Other than treating them equally and showing them that they are always 100% worth everything? The other thing I was going to mention when we were talking about Second Wave stuff is that we grew up in a society where people tended to underly false differences between young boys and young girls. There are biological differences. There are differences in nature that, I would say, need to be respected and they’re real differences and we need to acknowledge them. Then there are things that are not different, and different does not mean one is better than the other, it’s just different. There are differences and those are things people need to embrace. I was always like: “Well girls like to do this, and boys need to do that and this and this and that and that…”. It means that a lot of kids grow up with a distorted image of what they should actually be. With my kids, I didn’t consciously try to do anything, I just let them decide for themselves what they want. I mean, if my son wants to play with dolls, he should play with dolls. Let him walk around in a dress if that makes him happy. It’s like: “What do you wanna wear? Well that’s your sister’s dress. – I wanna wear it though. – Well you better ask her if it’s OK. If she says it’s OK then put it on.” People are like: “Oh my god, aren’t you afraid he’s going to turn gay or something?” I was like: “And if he did, so what? Why is that a problem? Are you people aliens or something? I mean come on, it’s 2000-whatever. Let’s be realistic.” There are just certain things that are beyond my comprehension – that we even have certain types of discussions at this point in human history. It’d be great if we didn’t have to use the word feminism, if we didn’t have to use pro-black, pro-anything – if we just didn’t need to be bothered with all these terms because we had evolved far enough beyond that to see that all it does is accentuate separatism. And that’s something that I personally have always tried to work against. So I guess that would be (if anything), my issue not necessarily only with feminism but with anything that tries to create a separatist mentality.
Don’t you think we need the terms to highlight what needs to be changed?
To a certain extent yes, and that’s kind of the catch-22 of it all. Because it needs to exist as long as people are not acting in the way of saying: “Ok well it’s just obvious that everybody’s equal”. Until that happens, of course it still needs to exist and people need to be reminded. At one point in evolution people will look back and say “I can’t even believe we used to think like that”. I think that’s a long way in the future unfortunately. Unfortunately. There are cultural things that need to just disintegrate over time. As long as people continue to hold on two-fisted to particular ways of thinking, then the change is going to be a long long haul. But what are you going to do?
This post was originally published on the author’s Tumblr and is republished here with her permission.
Photo credit: Deryne Keretic