I answered some questions today regarding my perspective on feminism. I thought it was appropriate to post them here post interview :)
1.) How do you define yourself as a feminist? (i.e. what makes you a feminist different from all other feminists)
I don't know if i'd say that my feminism is different from all other feminists but what makes me identify with the feminist movement is it's focus on equality. I believe in social, political and economic equality for ALL people.
2.) When did you first decide you were a feminist?
I realized it is where i belonged in my first women's studies lecture in college. I was a sophomore and really confused about my political views, having come to college with an indoctrinated sense of right wing conservatism, i knew feminism was something my parents would despise so it intrigued me even more. I knew i belonged when finally, everything clicked and i actually agreed with what i was learning as
apposed to pretending to understand/agree when my dad talked about what he heard that morning on his conservative radio shows.
3.) How did becoming a feminist change your relationships?
As much as i would love to say that becoming a feminist made me treat everyone equal and created nothing but harmony in my life, this is not at all true. Feminism to this day mediates my relationships through every social interaction. At first, it pissed my friends off and they treated me like i was the PC police. Once i realized that wasn't the way to get my views across i tried other tactics, all even more
futile. I quickly realized i can't change people and can't convert everyone over to my side. As far as romantic relationships, feminism continues to inspire me to strive for an egalitarian relationship which is an incredibly difficult one to achieve. D and I split up responsibilities based on skill, interest, and time. Although we try to be as equal as possible, it varies weekly with schedules. However, being in a relationship with someone who also considers themselves a feminist has put us on the same page and allowed us to strive for similar goals both romantically and politically. Oh, and feminists are better partners :)
4.) Does feminism have any impact on your identity as a Jew?
Not at first. For a while the two groups of people i felt most comfortable around were Jews and feminists. However, the more i started to think about religious patriarchy the less i started to identify as a Jew, at least a practicing one. The beauty about Judaism is that secular Jews are everywhere. Many people don't "practice" but still connect to God in a Jewish way on a spiritual level. With this i identify. With Orthodox and/or Conservative Judaism, not so much, especially not anymore.
Fundamentally, the Judeo-Christian ethic is sexist from its roots. The story of creation first indicates that Eve is created from Adam's rib, then turns her into a villain for eating from the tree of knowledge, seducing Adam, and getting them both kicked out of the Garden forever. Aside from the Old Testament, Judaism is sexist in practice as well. A concept present in various religions, women's sexuality is
represented by her clothes and thus she must cover up in various ways. Although we are most familiar with this concept through Muslim women in burkas, Orthodox Jewish women are asked to cover up in many ways as well, so not to seduce men with their sexuality. This idea, once i started to think about it, really bugged me. Why do WE have to cover up?! Why can't the men just NOT LOOK. This not only takes the
responsibility away from men but also oppresses women's sexual expression. This is a case where women are asked to deflect the attention of men when in fact it should be men who are educated not to view women as sexual objects, but as equals. This not only victimizes the woman, indicating that she is responsible for the attention she
receives from men (similar to victimizing rape survivors) but also is an unfair statement towards men. Basically, asking women to cover up as to divert the male gaze isn't giving men enough credit. I know many a man who is able to control himself and NOT give inappropriate attention to women.
Anyway you slice it though, Judaism and most other religions i have thought about were build on patriarchy, by men, placing women in second-class roles whether to "protect and cherish" them or to blatantly indicate them as inferior. This is how and why feminism has greatly impacted my role as a Jew and has made me think more about religious patriarchy within Judaism. Oh and i also hate the fact that
Judaism is one of many religions opposed to same sex marriage.
5.) What is the current state of feminism as you see it?
I see that feminism has come a very long way since the first wave, with still much further to go. For instance, many inequalities still remain such as the wage gap, gay rights, international women's rights, women in male dominated fields, violence against women, etc. Also, feminism is still very much stigmatized. More to come on the stigma of feminism soon.