May 5 2014 04:53 PM

On feminism and who gets to define my brand of it

BW 5-7-14

"So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations!
You're a feminist." 

— Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be a Woman

"Oh, we all know that guy," my friend Heather said to me on the phone. "He's the dude who took a women's-studies course in college and knew it all. He wore a 'Free Tibet' T-shirt and monopolized every conversation." 

Heather and I were talking about a non-vagina-having, self-important troll named Randy Dotinga who told me via Twitter that I'm no feminist. This bloviating nitwit, who likes to police me when I criticize other women, apparently suffered apoplectic seizures after reading part of one sentence in my last column. The offending 13 words referencing a pair of local meteorologists and their painted-on clothing had him stomping his feet. It was pretty darned cute.

"A feminist who depicts women as bimbos is no feminist," he fired off, with the back-patting superiority of a third-grade know-it-all.

Of course, I didn't depict any women as bimbos or even use such language. Nor did I "dehumanize women on tv" as he put it, which is impossible since that's totally redundant. Kudos, though, to him for taking up the banner on behalf of the poor, demeaned television ladies among us. I wonder if he's actively fighting for them to get pay equal to that of men doing the same jobs. You know, since we women still earn less than our male counterparts, and women of color make even less than white women. But there I go again, bringing race into an otherwise pleasant conversation. You can just go ahead and discount me now.

To be clear, what I did do was point out what anyone without an Inspector Javert complex can plainly see is the on-trend über-sexualization of women in media, Rhodes Scholar Rachel Maddow being the refreshing exception. 

To be clearer, being a feminist does not mean women aren't allowed to be critical of each other. And as an equalist, I have a long history of blasting men. Combine that with the fact that I've had sex with women and I should be guaranteed a lifetime membership in the Man Hating Lesbo Feminists Club—or, at the very least, one year of free dry cleaning so I can have all the collars on my button-down shirts permanently starched into an upright position. 

It doesn't seem right to have my feminist card revoked by a dough-faced dude who fancies himself a hero to local women celebrities simply because I correctly point out the prancing, and hip swiveling, and coy smiling, and gentle head tilting so the always-long, Breck Girl hair spills over shoulders and onto barely covered breasts. Oh, how the patriarchy churns.

Does one fella get to be the decider about me? There are so many other reasons that my detractor might claim I'm not a feminist, if only he cared to know me better.

Obviously, I wear high heels—though less frequently as I'm getting older. I wear lingerie from time to time. I get my nails done, wear makeup, color my hair and have shared my personal evolution with regard to bikini waxing. 

I don't run in a tutu, which has been a whole big controversy of late. But I do run while wearing Lady Danger lipstick and—horrors!—listening to early-'90s hip-hop. It turns out that running to Bonnie Raitt's "Nick of Time" is mileage-friendly only if you're running straight into a lake with small boulders in your pockets. Jay-Z's provocative "Bounce," on the other hand, will burn the tread off your new purple-and-pink shoes and any dust off your pussy. Can a feminist say such a thing? Can she wear purple and pink? Indeed she can. 

Oh, my playlist—filled as it is with Tupac, Snoop, Dre, Biggie, Public Enemy and Jurassic 5, Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Lil' Kim—it would give my critic the vapors. But I digress. 

I do let my daughter listen to certain strains of hip-hop and discuss with her the problems inherent in it. I also let her play with dolls to which women in the media seem to be bearing an ever-more-frightening resemblance. And we discuss the problems inherent in that, too. 

Feminism, as I see it, is all about choices and range. Write the unpopular opinion. Run that marathon in a skirt made of tulle. Chisel your nose or get a set of new boobs. Be darling in front of a green screen filled with low-pressure arrows. Be a pilot, a stripper, a driver in a monster-truck exhibition, a stay-at-home mother, a lone voice or part of a chorus. Do you have a vagina and want to be in control of it? Then you are a feminist, and no insecure dipwad dude can define you.

I think it's just peachy when (particularly white) men act, through the entitlement granted by nothing more than the penis between their legs—no matter how small it might be—to frame conversations and define terms and boundaries for women. It's so precious when they try to shout us down, talk in circles, make rhetorical arguments, assume expertise, tsk-tsk us and attempt to shame us into silence.  

To my Twitter troll and all guys like him who should've shut the fuck up during women's studies, I respectfully say: Get over yourselves.

Email Aaryn Belfer. Aaryn blogs at and you can follow her on Twitter @aarynb.


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