During my first stint at university, I worked over my summer and winter breaks at a pulp mill in my hometown. I was a heavy duty labourer, a heavy duty equipment operator, and overall grunt. I can’t start to explain some of the messes I found myself in – black liquor, lime dust, hog, wood chips. I was on the business end of a shovel often, and usually in a place disgusting and dirty. The smell of fart was impossible to wash out of my clothes. I was generally surrounded by men, usually my father’s age (hey, it is my father’s workplace – he got me the job). In that time (4 summers and winter breaks, and 6 months after my university convocation), I heard a lot of colourful, descriptive language. Like, a lot a lot. Used in all kinds of circumstances. Examples include such fun (and non-fictional) times like:
- Standing over a frozen chain as wide as a tire on a truck with a dude with an awesome handlebar moustache and a crazy temper, each of us holding crow bars trying to get it back on track, in -40 degrees Celsius.
- Standing tank watch – 12 hours of staring at a hole in a tank. No newspaper, no one to talk to, minus the dudes doing the work in the empty tank. Which echoed. We weren’t allowed to look INTO the hole. Just at the hole.
- Watching a man tip over a forklift into cable spools each worth thousands of dollars. Each.
- Helping a fellow student and friend undress, so we could brush the lime dust off of him before it got wet (potential helpful life tool – lime is caustic when you add water).
- Helping a man get kneepads and Vaseline for a job I didn’t understand (and was quickly given an insane excuse for the use of said knee pads and lubricant).
- Sitting in a darkened room, watching millions of dollars’ worth of equipment shut down immediately, for no noticeable reason (someone pulled a cord in a different department – it took us 5 hours to figure that out).
- Being sent into “The Tunnel” with another student and a shovel, with someone hiding under a fast-moving, unprotected conveyor belt, waiting to scare us.
- Being stuck in a forklift, and having to be rescued by a 16 tonne front end loader. At midnight. With only a teeny horn to get anyone’s attention.
- Having a book I was reading torn in half in the lunchroom (it was my friend’s deceased father’s copy, to boot) because it was the Devil’s work and I should be ashamed of myself
I have heard things I never wanted to hear. Swear words. Sexual expressions. And yet, with all of these curse words, these creative slurs used to describe chains and people and wives and tools, there is a dirtier word. Imagine that – the dirtiest word I know, I learned outside of my heavy duty labour background. Even worse, I identify with that word now, more than I ever have before in my life.
I am a feminist.
There. I said it. The dirtiest F-word in North America. Maybe even the world.
The longer I sit on this post (draft 1 happened in July 2015), the more I feel like I should be ashamed of this. I have friends who I respect who disagree with me, who will engage with me about equality and reverse feminism, and I find myself saying “I’m sorry – I’m not trying to offend you. It’s not misandry.” I have been told that “I don’t understand” and that my feelings are wrong. That “Yes, your life is so hard cause you r female give me a break.” So, here’s a non-exhaustive list as to why I’m a feminist.
I’m a feminist because when a woman is raped, we ask what she was wearing, or asked why we didn’t close our knees.
Because the United States Republican frontrunner for president wants to punish women for abortions, and he’s still in the running for the presidential nomination.
Because last week, (my formerly beloved) radio show host Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted on four counts of sexual assault. So, not enough evidence to be guilty, but not innocent either. The women who testified were torn apart for speaking to him afterwards, for not remembering every single detail of the attacks (a decade later), for telling parts of their stories. This article sums up my full feelings on this trial.
Because earlier this year, a pop star was told that she couldn’t break her contact with a man who is accused of drugging and raping her – she can’t do her job, because their mutual success is more important than her sexual and mental well-being.
Because men are often ridiculed for reporting domestic violence and rape – after all, men want it all the time, right? How can you rape the willing?
Because I don’t feel safe walking down Whyte Avenue alone from about twilight on – even though I have two black belts.
Because there is huge controversy about LGBTQ policies in Alberta schools, and I honestly don’t get why anyone would disagree with such a policy. Really? Not supporting every kid just blows my little mind.
Because I think that sex education should be sex positive – that both sexes should be taught that consent is absolutely mandatory and that sex should feel good for EVERYONE INVOLVED and that kink is normal and nothing something to be mocked.
Because I think that we shouldn’t ridicule women for enjoying sex however they want to enjoy it, but somehow if you’re female and like sex, you’re a slut. Case in point (I won’t link to anything about this story because it bothers me so much) is Alexis Frulling – the woman who was filming having public group sex at Stampede last year. She lost her job and her home as fallout from that video being released and then going viral, and then had to turn to sex work (i.e. stripping) because no one else would hire her. To the best of my knowledge (and research skills), the men in the video suffered none of the same fallout. Which, to me, is utter and complete bullshit.
Because this year, in the wake of one of the most anticipated films since The Avengers, Disney decided not to release a Rey action figure initially (don’t worry – massive outcry changed their tune quickly). That said – they didn’t release a Black Widow action figure for Avengers: The Age of Ultron, either. Because you know. Girls don’t count.
Because in 2015, news broke that Alberta has the largest wage gap in Canada. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen – women make (on average) 42% less than men do.
Listen, I could make a list all day – hell, I could likely list reasons as to why I’m a feminist for a full time job. I’m not great at feminism – I don’t understand intersectionality or gender fluidity, and I’m still learning in a major way. It’s the dirtiest word in my vocabulary – and I urge you to look into it. A fun starter (fact check it. I dare you.)
Oh, and also – I’m not arguing any of these points with anyone. Cool, you’re not a feminist. If you don’t want to believe in equality (and fighting for it), that’s your battle. I’m not nearly as skilled at verbal discourse in this subject as I’d like to be.