Feminists, Please Stop Trying To Make Me Renounce Feminism
By Morgan Shanahan on June 27, 2012
I was nineteen the first time I decided that feminism was a load of crap. I was a co-president of NYU's Women in Film association, had nearly completed my minor in Women's Studies, was one of only nine women in my class at Tisch's prestigious Kanbar Institute for Film and TV, and I decided that the whole thing was kind of a giant crock that I wanted nothing to do with.
Maybe it's because I grew up with a Mother who raised herself, or a paternal Grandmother who survived divorce and single-parenthood in the 1950's, but I never really bought in to the idea that women couldn't do things just because we're women. (Except possibly for peeing standing up. That never goes well for me.)
In college, the deeper I dug into the culture of "womyn with a Y" the less I wanted to do with it. As Cine Chica and the girls of Womyn's Center tried to work together, it became clear that our philosophy of celebrating the triumphs of Women in Film and their philosophy of raging against the machine were not going to jive. An adjunct professor came over from Sydney who had an incredible reputation in the world of feminist films and documentary. Sara and I petitioned to take her class. But on the first day, rather than writing down vigorously the wisdom Professor "Penny" had to impart, I was passing snarky notes to Sara musing on the homogenized nature of our white/privileged/female/agro classmates "...and to think I almost wore a bandana in my hair today."
I graduated from college and my "female driven" thesis film hit the festival circuit. (For the uninitiated, "female driven" just means there's a woman in the lead role.) With an all-girl crew from Camera to Costumes if there was an "excellence in female film making" award or commendation to be given, we got it. The Director's Guild nominated me for their student award for Best Female Director. Sara was given the Nestor Almendros Commendation for Female Cinematographers. Emma and Tara, our producers were touted for achieving such high production values...as women.
At the risk of seeming ungrateful, I was 21 and incredibly disenfranchised by feminism. I left my Women's Studies degree off of my diploma. I wanted to enter the professional world on an even playing field and I was sick of being singled out for having a vagina. I felt like all feminism had ever done for me was remind everybody that I was different from the boys. I didn't think I was different. And therefore, I didn't want to be identified as a feminist.
But as I grew from a girl into a woman, something changed. As I took meetings with folks who weren't afraid to admit "when I asked you to come in, I just assumed 'Morgan' was a male" and learned to laugh off what some might call sexual harassment, but we in the film business call "camaraderie" I realized that like it or not, I WAS different. As I heard stories of female studio heads swearing off female writers, and worked as hard as my male writer friends only to be the last un-produced scribe standing, I found myself forced to question my hard-and-fast denial of all things feminist and wonder if in fact there was something to this gender inequality business.
And slowly but surely, I came around. Eventually, I came to see feminism as a buffet. I love that the women before me burned their undergarments in protest, but I also love the way my boobs look in a wonder bra. I love that my husband would never describe me as "fairer" but will open a door for me anyway because it's chivalrous, and it's okay to want to kick ass in business but be treated like a lady at home. I love that when I tried to go back to pitching movies after two weeks of maternity leave, a producer who I'd long admired asked me to lunch to make sure someone told me that the business wouldn't forget about me if I took a few weeks to recover from childbirth and bond with my baby.
And as the mother to a young girl, I love modeling for her every day that Mommy works hard and has dreams, and I can't wait for her to root me on from the sidelines as I make them come true.