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i aM A femiNist #14: Andrew, 24. Bronx, New York

Andrew. 24. Birthplace: Bronx, New York. Currently: Queens, New York. Not Religious, Raised Catholic. Video Art. News Video Producer.

What does the concept/word “feminism” mean to you? What does the concept of equality mean to you?

I think the word and the concept of feminism are one and the same. When I hear the word feminism (this is going to sound stupid), but it’s just like hearing the word Christmas. You hear Christmas and you’re like: “Oh I know what Christmas is”. When I hear feminism I know what feminism means. So I guess what feminism means to me is just the ability to understand regardless of someone being male or female, that we’re just people. And I don’t necessarily think that there are even wildly different scientific separations between who men and women are even though media and people who like to argue this on the internet seem to believe that one gender or the other gender are anchored in certain stereotypes. Feminism to me just means understanding that people are people just like a species is a species and that those people in the same species are entitled to the same rights and to share the same beliefs and ideas and to operate under the convention that whether or not you’re a male or a female, whatever you want to pursue is absolutely valid.

What do you think is the most pressing struggle for women today? What is the most crucial aspect in your eyes?

I think a gigantic struggle for women today is just leaving their house. What I mean to say is: existing outside, and being subject to the male gaze that’s heavily being perpetuated more and more every day. Not like there wasn’t already, but now that there’s this clear opposition to the idea of feminism, it’s caused a snowball effect where I feel like when I hear my women friends talk about their experiences in daily life – I’ve never once felt like I was in danger just for being out a little later than normal (unless the circumstances are being in the woods or something). But even in the woods, being scared is like being scared of a predator. And so, one and the same; I feel like men just cannot be trusted. The idea of men. Single men in single instances – I feel like anybody can deduce whether or not you can trust that person, but I feel like the overarching term, the overarching presence of men makes it hard for women to be comfortable outside. To the point where I have friends that will not do what they have to or want to do because they know that they’re going to be subject to actual danger because there are some really fucked up people in the world and most of those people are men and that is a constant looming danger.

It sucks that I have to sit here and say: “Oh, women just can’t leave their house anymore,” when it should be a problem already dealt with. Men need to just own up to their bullshit and understand that women are allowed to be who they are and that you shouldn’t impose a view or a desire on them just because you feel like it. So basically violence, violence against women. I walked around what it was and it’s absolutely violence. The biggest struggle is male violence. Male violence is the most prevalent problem for women because it’s one of those things where even someone you do trust can absolutely exact that on you. It’s scary because it’s completely changed how people in the mainstream talk to each other so you don’t even know who you’re dealing with at that point. It builds this distrust that’s just in the air where you have to be a certain type of person to not factor that in when you’re going into conversations, when you’re going into doing things with other people.

I think that male violence is definitely the biggest thing that faces women today and it’s one of those things where nobody is really doing anything to address the problem and it’s really fucked up and sad. Especially because I work in the news and every day I’m hearing stories about it and it sucks because it’s so fucking prevalent. I get those stories every day, sometimes five a day and I’m sitting there going “holy shit”, and then I have to sit there and turn it into a video, (or not me but somebody else will have to). And I wonder: “Where does it end?” It’s literally part of my job to tell the story and have people share that story on social media so I pseudo-do my part, what I can do, which is share a news story about it and even then nobody takes it as seriously as they should.

Is feminism a subject you think about? Have you ever read a book or seen a documentary about feminist issues?

I think about feminism pseudo-often, yes. It comes up a lot in conversation with me and my peers. Even yesterday we were talking about this whole “teacher bae” thing we were following. There’s this debate online where there’s a teacher who had her picture taken in a classroom and I hate commenting on her body but I have to to make the point for the story – she has a curvy body and she’s wearing form-fitting clothing and there’s pictures of the dress that she’s wearing on people who don’t share her body type and so there are two sides to this argument. The first side of the argument is: she shouldn’t be wearing that in a classroom because it’s inappropriate. The second argument is: look at the dress on the models wearing it, does that look inappropriate to you? She can’t help her body. I’m on that side of the argument. This came up yesterday and this has been coming up frequently at the office where some people just don’t (I’m not gonna say that because nobody in the office has publicly said anything about it), but I see things on social media where it’s kind of divided. Regardless, this is just to prove it’s a frequent thing in my life where I just happen to be friends with a lot of people who give a shit about feminism and so I think about it a lot, talk about it a lot, have conversations about it a lot and I would even go as far as saying on a weekly basis, if not more. That’s being broad but it happens a lot. We talk about it a lot, we’ll just share an article, like: “Look how fucked up this is, can you believe that? This is male gaze bullshit”. As for reading a book or watching a documentary, I honestly don’t think I have.

Why do you identify as a feminist and how/when did you learn about it? What were you taught about women growing up?

I learned about feminism on Tumblr which is very funny. There were a lot of article shares, so I didn’t read a book per se but I read subject matter, like well-written theses etc. So a lot of where I got it from was Tumblr and it was most of the people I followed on Tumblr. I feel like most of the people on Tumblr identify as female/women, and a lot of the content that those women share have to do with feminist values, so I was exposed to it in high school. I went to an all-boys school so I was one of those kids that felt like: “Oh feminism’s stupid, fuck girl power, guys rule” – I was this total fucking asshole about it just because. I didn’t think about it. I was this high school kid thinking: I’m just going to oppose this because. Not even thinking about it. And I feel like that’s the public thing now to do.

I remember thinking in that way and I never thought about it seriously, I just did it to fit in because I was going to a very jockey all-boys school and all these fucking jockey kids made fun of the geeky kids and it was fucked up. It was very detrimental. But I had a Tumblr in high school and during the second half of high school is when I started reading all of that stuff and realized: “Wow, I’ve been a fucking asshole this whole time, this is so stupid”. Of course, all I had to do was listen. All I had to do was read a thing, read an article, read a blog post and understand it. This is bigger than me just wanting to be a dickhead about something just to find something to oppose. So I learned from a lot of these blog posts that would have links at the bottom: here’s this and here’s this and here’s a story where this happened.

So you not only get to read information about the ideology itself, but you also get to experience it through the eyes of somebody who firmly believes in it and is trying to actually educate you, whoever you might be. It wasn’t my job to read every blog then but that’s where I got a lot of my exposure: just seeing random blog posts, following feminist Tumblrs and then meeting people in my life who were super feminist. Especially all throughout college, because I went through a very liberal school and feminism was very talked about, it was a huge ideology at SUNY Purchase. It was one of those things you couldn’t escape. I feel like I didn’t have a class where it didn’t come up at least once no matter what the subject matter was. It was good to experience those especially during a period of time where I was learning the most because I was more open to those ideas both from a “I’m thirsty for knowledge” standpoint, but also in a “Let me educate myself because video games and television and bullshit aren’t important right now. Let me actually learn something and teach myself something.” way. That’s where I got a lot of it from.

When I was a kid, my Mom and my Dad would both would get me to stop if I was acting feminine by saying: “Girls don’t like that, girls don’t like this” etc. Growing up I was taught that girls were this thing that I had to attract, girls were supposed to be this endgame for me, like something I need to achieve so I should shape myself and my actions accordingly to achieve “the prize” of a woman. It was very much put on a pedestal and not necessarily in a human way either.

As I grew up, that shit faded away for my Dad because he didn’t have the time; he worked two jobs and I didn’t ever hear from him. Whenever he was home I would just be in my room and he’d be in his room. But with my mom it was always: “Girls don’t like that”, “When are you gonna bring a girl home?”, “Don’t bring a girl like that home” etc. It became a controlling standpoint where I couldn’t even form an idea of women for myself because I was constantly being badgered with my mother’s perception of women and that was kind of detrimental because she doesn’t necessarily hold feminist values. She does more now, but when I was growing up it was almost never there. You’re making me realize right now that’s crazy. I think she only does now because as the Internet circulates and as the adults we know get more familiar with it, they’re learning about our world. Not my Dad but I feel like my Mom is more in tune with those values now because it gets publicized and circulated more, that’s why I think it becomes more important to her. That’s why it’s faded more recently, but growing up it was never there.

Is feminism empowering for men? If so, how? How does feminism differ for you?

I think that there’s a disparity where some men use feminism as a way to empower themselves by saying: “I know about a thing”. There is value in that because; yes, you taught yourself about feminism, that’s good, and you understand feminism, that’s good, but if you don’t apply that to the real world and you don’t use it in situations where it calls for a person to enact those feminist ideals, then you’re not really helping anybody. You’re just equating yourself with the ideology, essentially a version of bragging rights. I feel in that case it’s detrimental; you go out of your way to understand something to benefit yourself for the purpose of benefiting others with that information. To go to Thanksgiving and tell your uncle he’s being a fucking sexist prick, and tell him why he’s being a sexist prick – opening people’s eyes to it. I feel like that can be empowering: where you yourself can enact change no matter how small, even if it means making sure that next Thanksgiving your uncle’s not a fuckhead about women and how to treat them.

Many times I’ve been at Thanksgiving where they’re talking about women like a piece of meat. The day I said: “You guys really aren’t being fair. Every woman here is human. You have to understand that yes, I’m a dude telling you this, but it’s important for you to understand regardless of who’s telling you about it. You’re making people uncomfortable right now and you’re talking about women like nobody deserves to be talked about.” So it’s an empowering thing when you can use it to inspire other people to change their worldview or their lens and see things differently. It’s empowering when you yourself can defeat that misogynistic viewpoint in yourself because then you can empower yourself to be a better person. But when you use it just as a form of collecting, I feel like that’s where it can be a little detrimental.

Why do you think the word “feminist” is associated with a negative stigma? What do you think it connotes? How do you think it could change?

I’m going to use the royal term ‘Meninists’: men who assume that a woman feeling empowered is somehow encroaching on their ability to be comfortable. From my point of view, being a teenager and first hearing the word and understanding what the word was, I feel like it wasn’t fully discussed or understood because it immediately was taken as this word of opposition: “Oh, you’re a woman, you feel empowered, I don’t like that because up until this point you haven’t. And I’m keeping the status quo. I’m the man, I’m the do-er and you’re not and you’re gonna stay in that position because I don’t like what’s happening right now.” So I feel like this word took on a negative connotation because it was used every time a woman said: “No no no, I’m empowered, I have as much right as you to do anything and fucking accept that because it’s true.” And to have a dude like me in high school oppose it just because is horrible.

In any major ideology, there’s always going to be people who either have a clear reason to oppose something or just oppose it just because it encroaches on anything they might think it encroaches upon and so it becomes this ‘no-no-word’ for people who don’t understand it. Feminism just means that we’re equal. That women and men are equal. That’s it. That’s all it is. But to tell that to a person who already associates it with something that doesn’t mean that and is now not open to hearing what it actually means, that’s where the problem lies. I feel that’s why it gets looked at negatively; because there’s just these people that don’t want to fold on their own values just for the sake of not folding on their own values. And when they don’t understand that their values might be detrimental to themselves, they just brainwash themselves into believing they’re right. So no progress can be made. These are people that just don’t want their minds to be changed. So it can’t be changed, it’s a self-perpetuating bullshit endless cycle vicious circle.

What issues/reservations do you have with feminism today? What do you personally think needs change?

The only thing that I think needs to change in feminism is that I feel some feminists use it with a negative energy and I’m not saying that it’s bad or that they’re bad people. What I mean to say is that sometimes people use the umbrella term feminism to justify what they’re doing even though it’s not inherently feminist. I’ve seen viral videos where somebody described as a feminist is using feminism as a way to say: “I’m a feminist and this offends me” and it has nothing to do with them. I saw a video of this woman shaming a male Uber driver for having the Hawaiian dancing bobble – and yes, that’s bad but literally putting it online and saying: “Look at this asshole, look at this terrible terrible person”. When you can use that as an opportunity to actually teach and be like: “Hey man, I don’t know if you know but people kind of find that offensive and you should maybe not use it because it’s a stereotypical racist idol that has only been perpetuated by television, so I feel like you should take it off”. Instead of using this umbrella feminist term to justify actually publicly shaming the guy.

You have a duty as a feminist when the situation calls for it to use it as an opportunity to teach and to help somebody learn, versus saying: “You’re different and you just don’t get it, fuck you this is the problem, you’re the problem”. And of course, there are going to be times where that is the only way you can react because there’s just going to be some fucking asshole being some fucking asshole. But in the instances where there’s a teachable moment, always go for the teachable moment. Whenever I see those videos on the Internet, I feel like: “You could totally be using this opportunity to actually instruct somebody on what it means”. And also, it doesn’t help that you’re using your open-mindedness as a weapon against somebody who’s closed-minded.

There has to be a compromise on both sides – if somebody’s not hearing it then they’re just not hearing it. You also just have to learn to not give up on everybody but you have to give up on the people who just refuse to even hear you. That’s just it. You can’t change everybody’s mind, you really can’t, and that’s the world we live in. It’s one of those things where (I’m not saying pick your battles because that’s definitely not what it is), but it’s definitely: understand who you’re conversing with and who you’re dealing with and who you are choosing to engage with and understand the lengths at which they are willing to understand you and vice versa. That’s all.

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