The “F” Word in My Femininity: Feminism

 Charlottetown 1985

I was from “Away” and sought the social comfort of my high school drama guild.  It did not exist so, being the shy retiring type that I am, I started one at my high school (Colonel Gray), produced an evening of 3 one act plays, flogged it all over town and had a ripping good time.  My friend Jamie G. will remember this fondly.  We were so blessed that night.  Our families, friends, members of the Arts Council and the media were all present.  It seemed this had not been done before in what some now know as @Lucialand style.

PEI was about to elect Joe Ghiz.  It was a time of Madonna’s giant shoulder pads, my Annie Lenox inspired shaved head and the clear end of the 60’s 70’s hippie era as we became a mass consumer society the likes of which had not been seen since post WWII.  It was the International Year of the Youth and the Prime Minister had cut all of the arts funding for our Red Cross performers’ trip to Expo in Vancouver.  We were energized and disappointed at the same time.  During the same year I was approached by the Youth PC party to facilitate a seminar and Q&A on the post apocalyptic nuclear film “The Morning After” and present our collective findings on the youth perspective of cold war fear.

That year I was invited by one of my teachers to participate in a CBC radio interview one evening.  I believed it was because I was a local performer gaining notoriety.

I arrived at the UPEI location to find several other young women there.  I introduced myself and chatted with them finding I had little in common with them.  I was a light hearted writer/comedian driven by creative juices and unlimited potential for fun.  They were political science and pre-law majors and one was a local entrepreneur.  I assumed that the interview was going to profile different young women in town doing interesting things.  I was so naïve.

The woman interviewing us from CBC (name escapes me in 2011), welcomed us and gave a run down on the topic.  I’ll paraphrase here.  “You are all here because you are strong, motivated young feminists in Charlottetown leading the way at this time.”  

Whoooooooooa!  Wait a minute.  I was no feminist!  My sisters (more than 12 years my senior) were feminists.  Non-bra wearing in the 70’s, not married, no kids, multi-cultural dating, and untraditional, ranting, independent, heavy drinking feminists.  I had a very negative idea of feminists.  They were sometimes obnoxious, masculine, contrary, lonely, unfeminine people who seemed to believe that they were actually superior to men.  They were angry people.  Not me! No way!

I was asked what made me a strong young feminist in the 80’s and I balked, on radio, at the term.  On behalf of my generation I was embarrassed by the label, did not want the associations, and preferred to be called an equal opportunist.  I wanted everyone to be treated the same; all religions, colours, genders, ages, abilities and socio-political positions.  I still want this today.  I indicated that the greatness of Canada was that everyone could be equal and why did we need the archaic label “Feminist” in 1985?  Trudeau’s Winnipeg speech on multi-culturalism rang in my head.

Needless to say I was the only one with this opinion.  I didn’t want to be labelled or associated with this angry rhetoric.  Did I ruin the interview?  No, I got most of the air time as it turned out.  The woman doing the interview had not anticipated this perspective and had thought she was going to get a “go girls go” standard chat.  She was, as was my teacher, well and duly shocked that I would object to the terminology.  Apparently, in 1985, I should have been very proud to be considered a feminist.

I was, in fact, privileged to be asked to the interview; privileged to adopt this arrogant position taking for granted the 20 years of complete freedom that preceded the evening.  How privileged was I to have been too young to remember the socio-struggles that led my comfort and my ability to take for granted all the amazing women that paved the way for my opportunities.

We may have come a long way baby, but the trip is far from over.

Count your blessings and be grateful for all women accomplish; and never forget who got you here ladies.

March 8th  is International Women’s Day

Provocateur du jour:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/breakingnews/i-am-woman-hear-me—meow-few-women-senior-officers-at-big-companies-study-117310288.html

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/gender+growing/4375204/story.html

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4 Responses to The “F” Word in My Femininity: Feminism

  1. Julia says:

    Good story! I was about 10 years ahead of you, when I discovered feminism in 1974 and took it to Queen’s with me in 1975. I didn’t like the angry rhetoric either and I liked to wear nice clothes (I still love fashion, if not high heels) but I could see where the Feminists were coming from and I appreciated the work they had done on my behalf. Like you, I yearned for the idea of the “equal opportunist”, where all humans (and maybe even some animals) could be treated with equal dignity and respect. As you say, we’re still not there yet. But I remain optimistic.

  2. Fred says:

    For obvious reasons, I was never a feminist, but I was amazed how late the concept of equal rights for women managed to establish itself in the Toronto centered mass media industry. As a young reporter in the early 1970’s I was amazed that The Canadian Press still had a “women’s editor” which didn’t get changed to a “lifestyles” editor until well into the 1970s.

    I refused to join the Toronto Men’s Press Club until women were admitted to full membership. Ironically as soon as joined, I was asked to join the board of directors to replace the radio guy who had quit. The irony comes from the fact that his daughter is a well known long-time Toronto television personality.

    Good for you Lucia, for challenging the stereotype of certain female supporters of equality.

    • RealGrouchy says:

      What’s the obvious reason, Fred? That you’re a journalist and have to remain objective?

      If you’re talking about being a man (incidentally, I know a woman who goes by “Fred”), that’s no barrier to being a feminist.

      The word “Feminism”, at least as I’ve seen it used these days, is simply shorthand for the “equal opportunist” Lucia describes in her post. I’ve never had a problem identifying as one. The broader use it gets, the less it can be used as a slur to discredit feminism based on the most extreme examples (like the ones who want a world without men… do such people even really exist or are they just a bogeyman?).

      – RG>

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