Hugo wrote a post recently about his desire to present the United States in a positive light when traveling overseas. That got me thinking about my own upbringing in other countries. Even as a young child, I was always very conscious of the fact that, in the eyes of many people I met, I was representing the United States. My behavior, I thought, could go some way towards chipping away at stereotypes people held of graceless, rude, or ignorant Americans. My discussions of my own country could help people understand the positive aspects of the U.S. and our culture and political system.
In light of those memories of being a sort of child ambassador for my country, I began to think about what I am doing here in the blogosphere. Mrs. B once asked me why I comment so frequently at Biblical Womanhood Online (which is dedicated in part to "confronting the lies of modern feminism"). And that’s an excellent question because, you know, I don’t expect to “convert” anyone to feminism. I don’t expect to see Christian traditionalists like Zan and Mrs. B or cranky skeptics like Richard marching on Washington wearing t-shirts that say “This is What a Feminist Looks Like.” (I mean "cranky skeptic" affectionately, of course.) But I nonetheless love having conversations with them and with any and all other non-feminist or anti-feminist readers of this site or other sites.
And I think it’s because I relish the “ambassador” role. I like putting a face on a movement that is so often stereotyped and dismissed. I like explaining where feminism is coming from and why it’s still important. I like showing that there is legitimacy to this social movement that has been such a boon to my life and the lives of so many people, and that it is neither dead nor irrelevant. I would be happy if my blog would simply lead readers to perhaps listen to feminists a little more closely, rather than just dismissing us as crazed, power-hungry ideologues. You can all certainly make up your own minds. You can even agree with feminist goals in certain areas and not others. But I just hope that you consider the issues with an open mind and at least think about societal and personal issues from the perspective of furthering women’s dignity, autonomy, equality, and opportunity for full participation in society.
Now I have to be careful, of course. I see pitfalls in the blogging role I have adopted for myself. One pitfall I worry about is the possibility of compromising too much in order to ingratiate myself with my non-feminist cyberfriends. I certainly want to engage the issues in a thoughtful way that takes into account legitimate or rational concerns some people may have about feminism, but I don’t want to be so measured that the passion I feel about many feminist issues is lost.
Another pitfall is described quite effectively in a post I just loved a while back at Mind the Gap. I don’t want this blog to be about the fact that I’m NOT one of those angry, hairy, lesbian feminists. Because certainly feminists often have good cause to be angry. And, there is nothing wrong with being either hairy or lesbian. I am well aware that, as a type, I may have an appeal to a broad spectrum of people who may be more likely to dismiss the opinions of traditionally despised groups. It’s pretty obvious from how I have presented myself here that I am a white, American, capitalist, college-educated, white-collar, straight, married, make-up wearing, leg-waxing, man-appreciating, girl-next-door type. And because I’ve made those facts about me obvious, I question whether I am playing too much into the role of, “Hey, I’m not one of those hairy, angry, lesbians!” In other words, am I implying in some way that feminism, or social liberalism, is okay up to a point, as long as you lead a fairly conventional lifestyle, as I do? Because I certainly don’t want to disavow other lifestyle choices or traditionally scorned groups. On the other hand, I could also be playing into negative stereotypes about feminists because, except in age, I fit the demographic of those old-time, second-wave feminist establishment women who run NOW and other similar groups, and who are often hated for allegedly being elitists completely out of touch with the concerns of ordinary women.
After turning these ideas over in my mind for a few weeks, I’ve ultimately decided that (in the words of Popeye) “I yam what I yam,” and I may as well let the chips fall where they may while I have a ball conversing with all the different people who find their way to this site. Jenn at Reappropriate said it best when she described how the blogosphere taught her that feminism isn’t about being “fervently pro-woman, anti-man.” I look forward to doing exactly what she advised: “And we, as feminists of all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds should take it upon ourselves to spread the understanding that you don’t have to be anyone but yourself to be a feminist: it is not some exclusive club or secret cult, but a simple stand that anyone, regardless of lifestyle or personal choices, CEO or housewife, can take and embody.”