Every now and then, someone asks me if I'm a feminist. I say "yes", and they look at me with wary validation, a sort of combined "I thought so" and "Gee, she's one of those; must watch out".
Personally, I fail to understand how any woman can not be a feminist. Listen: it doesn't automatically mean that you hate men, that you are politically radioactive, perenially angry, or eternally suffering the angst of gender victimization. What it basically means is that you believe in every person's right to be recognized and treated as a sentient individual, with individual strengths and weaknesses.
Some woman are physically formidable, some are not. Some women drive abysmally, some superbly. Some are emotionally fragile, some are rocks you could dash yourself upon before they break. And the same goes for men, to a greater or lesser degree. We are all unique people; and assuming that a woman is, by default, "sweet" and "tender" is as offensive as assuming that every black man is a criminal, or that every Asian is 'inscrutable'.
Feminism is simply the formalized idea that roughly half the population deserves the same rights and respect as the other half. It has nothing to do with having doors held open for you or chairs pulled back for you to sit down on; it has everything to do with combating the notion that your intrinsic worth rests solely upon your ability to please, nurture, and give birth.
Why is this still so revolutionary? Why, to this day, do we have an actual woman spouting off lines like "Man is the genius. Woman, an angel"; "Man has supremacy. Woman, the preference"; "Man is strong because of reason. Woman is invincible because of tears"; and "Man is the conqueror of nations. Woman, the conqueror of kings' hearts and emperors' souls"?! Why do we continue to define men by what they accomplish, and women by what they facilitate?
Listen. I am (apart from this) a very happy wife and mother. And yes, I nurture and support my husband; and I am very much aware that we each--partially as a consequence of gender--contribute different things to our household and relationship. The majority of my friends are men, and we get along quite happily--notwithstanding their occasional lapses into societally-ingrained sexism--and I adore every testosterone-driven one of them.
None of this prevents me from being a feminist: from having "supremacy" as well as "preference"; from choosing "reason" over "tears"; from being a "genius" instead of an "angel" if I damn well decide to be. Because the whole point we feminists are getting at in "the eternal debate over gender" is not that men and women are the same; it is that we are equal. We are individuals--different in many ways, yet equivalent in the fundamental fact of our humanity and right to self-determination. Regardless of chromosomes, we deserve the freedom to choose who, what, and how we want to be. Before we are men, women, wives, husbands, parents, children, geniuses, or angels, we are persons.
And if we female persons cannot grasp and uphold that simple, simple concept, then fuck it all, who will?