Am I a Feminist?

More than one friend has read my blog and asked, "when did you become such a feminist?" The assumption is, of course, that all feminists must be bra-burning and man-hating lesbians. Having never observed me actually burn a bra, universally hate men, or, well, "swing the other way" (much to some people's disappointment), you can see their confusion.

Out of the 100 or so RSS feeds I read, Feministing and Feministe are two of the more interesting ones. Feminists are not man-hating - they're pro-equality. They're not anti-sex - they're believe in each person making their own choice. They are women and men. If I had to generalize about the actual beliefs of feminism, I'd say that they don't believe in generalization. They believe in the individual.

They believe that pharmacists should not be able to deny contraception to women.

In Indiana, the state senate passed a measure that would allow pharmacists to refuse to do their jobs. If a woman wants contraception (including emergency contraception), pharmacists would be within their rights to refuse to fill her prescription. The bill’s sponsor initially said that it wouldn’t apply to contraception, only emergency contraception — a statement he later had to backtrack on, probably when someone informed him that emergency contraception is the exact same thing as standard birth control pills, just in a higher dose. Plus, you know, it’s contraception. And yet, “he claimed this week that it would not apply to birth control pills.”.

They believe that it's wrong that teen girls in the media are either sexualized or picked on for being ugly (think: Chelsea Clinton in the 90s vs. the Olson twins)

So there it is: ugly and worthless, or live bait/freak magnet. Those are the choices patriarchy offers to our girls. Picking on young girls for being awkward is cruel; so is sexualizing them. Men should just leave them alone until they’re grown up. But apparently that’s too much to ask.

They believe that women should not have to live in fear in Iraq.

The images in the Basra police file are nauseating: Page after page of women killed in brutal fashion — some strangled to death, their faces disfigured; others beheaded. All bear signs of torture.

The women are killed, police say, because they failed to wear a headscarf or because they ignored other “rules” that secretive fundamentalist groups want to enforce.

They support Clinton and Obama's views on reproductive rights - they do not support McCain's. They do not believe that you should support Clinton because she is female - in fact, many even support Obama.

They believe that abortion saves lives - literally and figuratively.

I have been an abortion provider since 1972. Why do I do abortions, and why do I continue to do abortions, despite two murder attempts?

The first time I started to think about abortion was in 1960, when I was in secondyear medical school. I was assigned the case of a young woman who had died of a septic abortion. She had aborted herself using slippery elm bark.

They believe that teens should have comprehensive sex education. Abstinence-only programs don't work.

And Republicans have… outlawing abortion and telling people to keep their legs closed until they’re married. The very things that never work. And they oppose the measures that have been proven to decrease the abortion rate. Because they’re pro-life like that.

They believe same-sex marriages should have the same rights as heterosexual marriages.

They oppose the harassment of abortion doctors.

They’re going after Dr. Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, for approximately the 340,986th time. Dr. Tiller is a favorite of theirs because he’s one of the last abortion providers in Kansas, and he provides late-term abortions. One of their followers shot him in both arms a few years ago, his clinic has been vandalized on numerous occasions, his workers are regularly harassed, and he’s Target #1 for a “pro-life” movement that murders doctors. Tiller’s home address, family members’ information, and pictures are all posted on “pro-life” websites. For protection, he lives in a gated community, has a high-level security system surrounding his home, and wears a bullet-proof vest to work every day.

They know that rape and assault happen to women everyday, and is often covered up. They believe that it must change.

Jamie Leigh Jones was raped by her American co-workers in Baghdad. She was then imprisoned in an effort to cover up her assault.

They believe that sexism is rampant in this presidential election.

Using overtly sexist language, he has referred to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as a "she devil" and compared her to a "strip-teaser." He has called her "witchy" and likened her voice to "fingernails on a blackboard." He has referred to men who support her as "castratos in the eunuch chorus." He has suggested Clinton is not "a convincing mom" and said "modern women" like Clinton are unacceptable to "Midwest guys." He has called her "Madame Defarge" and "Nurse Ratched."

They believe that domestic violence is very real in the US - and it affects both men and women.

The CDC said 23.6 percent of women and 11.5 percent of men reported being a victim of what it called "intimate partner violence" at some time in their lives.

The CDC defined this as threatened, attempted or completed physical or sexual violence or emotional abuse by a spouse, former spouse, current or former boyfriend or girlfriend or a dating partner. The CDC estimates that 1,200 women are killed and 2 million injured in domestic violence annually.

They believe that calling teens who are having sex "sluts" does not solve the problem. Shame does not effectively discourage sex - it discourages teens from getting help.

A state lawmaker used a derogatory term Wednesday to describe unmarried teen parents as sexually promiscuous and complained that society condones premarital sex.

"In my parents' day and age, (unmarried teen parents) were sent away, they were shunned, they were called what they are," Republican Rep. Larry Liston said during a GOP legislative caucus meeting in Denver. "There was at least a sense of shame."

Liston continued: "There's no sense of shame today. Society condones it ... I think it's wrong. They're sluts. And I don't mean just the women. I mean the men, too."

They believe that sexism is alive and well in the US - even in children.

Men presidents only

I think that having a woman president would be a bad idea for our country. Women are not meant to rule countries and be in charge. They are meant to make decisions but not confirm them.

Our president deals with some countries that don't respect or allow women in leadership positions. I wonder if the United States would have more terrorist attacks because we would be seen as weak with a woman leader. I agree that women can do many things, but leave the ruling of the countries to the men.

BRITTANY BAYLES, 13, Kennewick

They believe that "gray rape" is a myth and it condones rape.

Rape can be confusing, it doesn't make it "gray." Feminists have long fought to dispel the myth that initially consenting to one form of intimacy does not make it okay for someone to force another kind on you. In this case, the young woman was hooking up with her eventual-attacker when he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

They believe there are tough decisions in gender equality. Should you segregate buses by gender in Mexico to make them safe?

They believe that women's rights are changing each and every day.

Feminists believe in equality for men, women and transgendered individuals. They are pro-choice. They believe that teens should receive comprehensive sex education. They do not believe in shaming women on the grounds of their sexual decisions. They believe that sexual violence is a very real problem in the US and beyond. They believe that sexism - and many forms of prejudice - permeate the world.

So am I a feminist? Well, aren't you?

DISCLAIMER: No group can speak for the views of all its members. Opinions vary. Not all feminists are pro-choice, etc.