Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The F-word

There's been an ongoing discussion over the past couple days, spawned by the lovely Sarah about the big F-word. Feminism.

International Women's Day seems to have gotten more than a few of us thinking about feminism: where it's going, where it's been, and if we agree. I've already blabbered on enough both in Sarah's comments and on the 20-Something Bloggers' discussion board.

To sum things up: yeah, I'm a feminist. I think that all women are, deep down. Feminism, to me, is not about refusing to shave your legs, or burning your bras -- I would fail miserably if that were the case. It's about wanting the best for all women (and even men). It's about standing up and supporting other women around you. It's about the desire not necessarily to be treated exactly the same as men, but to be given the same consideration, respect and opportunity. It's about being able to make your own choices and be confident in those decisions. It's about being able to walk down the street with your head held high because yes, you can do anything you set your mind to.

All this talk about the F-word has taken me back to my undergrad days. I minored in philosophy, because I'm somewhat of a nerd and I found that a lot of my electives quickly became philosophy courses. Those philosophy courses included women's studies and feminist philosophy and both enraged and thrilled me (which is probably why I kept enrolling in them).

One of the best things I took from my first year women's studies course was this poem:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Maya Angelou


Kyla Roma said...

Beautiful post - The F-word is really misunderstood in popular culture I think, but this is a beautiful way to sum it up. Empowerment is a lovely thing. = )

Sarah said...

I was really nervous about my post and about starting the discussion about it on 20sb, because I've been so disappointed in the past with the response I've gotten, sometimes from people I like and respect, but the brilliant and thoughtful responses (like this post) have given me an amazing amount of hope that not everyone buys into the misconceptions surrounding the word and the ideals it stands for.

That said, I suspected you would be someone unafraid to use the f-word and I'm so glad I was right! Wonderful post!

Elle Bee said...

Aw, miss. Thanks. It was a good, meaningful discussion... which seems to be lacking sometimes on 20SB. I'm glad you started it.

Kaye Bee said...

I love this poem. Love it!

Hillary said...

It drives me nutty when women say they aren't feminists. Oh so you WANT to be paid less than men? You DON'T WANT the right to vote? Etc etc.
The F word has been successfully villain-ized and it makes me so sad.

daria said...

Ah yes, this poem (and maya angelou) are amazing!! Hooray for feminism! :)


golublog said...

I wish more women would call themselves feminists. I think they just have a perception that feminists is correlated with the stereotype of femi-natzis. Theres many ways to be a feminist. I hate when other girls can't find a reason to relate to eachother. That poem is great by the way.