How Feminism Has Changed My Brain

My baby, 18 months old, has started saying NO. Actually, he says “Uh-uh-uh,” and he shakes his head. Sometimes, if he doesn’t feel like shaking his head, he shakes his butt instead. It’s adorable. And also a little infuriating because he says it to almost everything, and if you ignore his stated preference, he wails like you just dropped him off the roof. (That’s hyperbole. I’ve never dropped him off the roof, honest. But I’ve seen how he wails when he falls on his face and I can extrapolate!)

And you know, it’s hard. Harder than it used to be, when I was young and innocent, because I want very much to bring up people who know how to listen when somebody else says, “No, stop.” And who believe it’s worth saying, “No!” when it needs to be said. And that starts with listening to them, as often as I can, and respecting them, as often as I can. Which is, let me tell you, damn hard. Because no, you CAN NOT run into traffic. No matter how hilarious you think it is. And yes, because you think it’s hilarious to run into traffic, sometimes you have to hold my hand. Or your brother’s hand. But fine, no, you don’t have to wear a shirt.

I can’t help but think that tomorrow’s change starts today, you know?


I was exploring Google Image Search without Safe Search turned on yesterday, for Reasons. (And if discussion of naughty pictures bothers you, perhaps you will want to skim to the next topic.) I wandered into sexy anime art. And I noticed something I’ve vaguely noticed before: You get two girls on the screen and they’re posing sexily, sort of making out, and they’re looking at the camera. They’re touching each other, but they’re posing for you.

When you get two boys on the screen, they’re touching each other (or sometimes not quite) and often they’re looking at each other. There’s emotion there. A relationship is implied.

Unless you’re searching for named couples, good luck finding a heterosexual pair. It’s even rarer luck finding one that’s interacting as equals.

I’ve never been much interested in yaoi or slash. But if you want sexy imagery between equals with emotion behind it, there’s not much else out there. I used to find sexy pictures of women just as hot as sexy pictures of men. I usually don’t, anymore


I grew up being told that we had Now Achieved Equality. Women had the vote, guys! Women could hold any job they wanted, nobody could stop them. And women weren’t drafted but that was good– the draft was terrible! And there weren’t a lot of women in many professions but there was always one or two (except for men’s professional sports, of course. But y’know, there are differences between males and females. We just want to be fair.) The opportunities were there now.

And I had trouble finding fantasy novels where the girls equaled the boys in role or number. Which bothered me a little, and I’ve written about before.

But equal, guys! And comments on your looks as you walked down the street was a compliment.  I was the kind of girl who would totally tell the boys I was with that I didn’t care if they objectified women because, you know, compliments. Flattery. Right? (Alas, I didn’t get much objectification that I noticed, even then.)

And it took me years and years and lots of native, confused frustration and even some identity confusion to start getting past that. To start even noticing that boys and girls were still being treated differently in hugely fundamental ways and it wasn’t fair or right to claim it was just ‘nature’ because I was, actually, a girl. I counted. I mattered. Or at least I should.

Here’s the weird thing I discovered: I think sexy pictures about girls making out are pretty hot, too. When the girls are interested in each other. When more is going on than posing for a man.  I notice how girls and boys are treated differently in naughty pictures.

I think a second badass girl on the movie poster really adds to the overall appeal. I notice when it’s just one.

I think I’ve always had good women friends, and I wonder why so few women in the books I read seem to. I notice.

I notice, and I can’t unsee it.  I notice and I know it doesn’t have to be that way and that it’s better when it’s not that way. It’s better in every way but the most shallow, most unthinking, habituated-response gut-reaction way.  Think enough with your brain and you start to see it.  And that’s what feminism did to my brain. It helped it learn new ways of seeing and new ways of thinking. And it’s not always comfortable, it’s not always convenient. But neither is letting my baby run around without a shirt, spilling juice all over himself.

Gotta start somewhere.


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