Thursday, September 28, 2006

Great Hera! Can I Read Maxim and Still Be a Feminist?

As long as I can remember, I have considered myself a feminist. I believe in much of the basic values that put me in that category, and I have always walked the walk instead of just talking the talk. On the other hand though, I have always firmly felt that much of the natural power of the universe rests in a female’s hand. We have the gift of childbirth and nurturing, and in many instances, we hold the key to sexual power.

My question is this: Where is the line drawn in feminism?

Let me explain. Last night, I was sitting down, looking at a stack of magazines in my living room. Among the pile were issues of Maxim and Stuff. I had purchased and heartily read these magazines, and hadn’t once thought about the implications of it. As an avid reader, it isn’t odd to find men’s magazines in our house. I read a vast array, ranging from Vogue and Vanity Fair- glossy, picture-filled affairs, to news and fitness magazines. There isn’t a “taste” or “favorite” I seem to hold.

When I look at Maxim magazine, I glance at the cover featuring a scantily clad female. I don’t usually dwell too long, unless I am really hypnotized by the amount of air brushing that has been done. I usually am quite eager to peruse the articles, which vary a great deal. I will start with the monthly reviews and releases and work my way through page by page. I have learned everything from how to keep a nice lawn to how to install 5.1 speakers for my DVD. I have also read hard hitting articles that explore true crime and mystery, but I also like the funny articles that help fellas snag a lady, or play a prank. The actual interviews with aforementioned scantily clad celeb usually amuse me, as I can hardly believe how hard these babes are trying to sell their new projects. Part of me if filled with admiration at their ability to market themselves, but then I become ashamed because this kind of selling isn’t part of my basic feminist doctrine.

But I digress.

I have another shameful secret. I love “R” rated schlock comedies. From an early age, I remember watching Animal House with my dad and thinking it was the funniest movie I had ever seen. To this day I can still watch it over and over and get a laugh. I have pretty much memorized the dialogue, and my favorite part is when the guys head over to the women’s college and pull of a prank of the highest order. The problem is this: the movie features female nudity and male humiliation. I know that it is not cool to objectify women and make them appear to be the lesser sex, but I have always felt a sense of power in the fact that in many respects, the man in question has had to embarrass or objectify himself in a sense to make said female nudity happen. When John Belushi spies on the sorority women changing, my thought is that he is the pathetic one. My mind never dwelt on the fact that he was getting an eyeful; I have always loved the fact that he gets his in the end, by falling off the ladder.

Other movies I enjoy are Sorority Boys, EuroTrip, Booty Call, and Wedding Crashers. I love movies that are low brow. I can’t help it. I am not sure if it is a love of the genre as much as I appreciate not having to over think my entertainment.

What this boils down to, is that I have many characteristics that make me a feminist, while exhibiting suspicious traits that may say otherwise. Are there any of you other ladies out there that know what I mean?

Let’s simplify this to a list of traits that do and don’t make the cut.


1. I believe in equal pay for equal work.

2.I think that women can do anything they put their minds to, through hard work and talent.

3. I can take care of myself without having to rely on someone else for support.

4. I can change a flat tire and check my car’s oil and filters.

5. I really hate the fact that there are men out there that are physically abusive and that at this moment yet another woman is being raped. It makes me mad as hell, and I want to castrate the men that are like that.

6. It makes me uncomfortable and upset to see men recklessly devalue our femininity through glorification of the sex kitten image or by literal means.

7. I think that women are the “better” and “fairer” sex.

8. I have an equal or greater say in my financial decisions then my husband.

9. I have no problem speaking my mind, whether it be a delicate matter at work, or a frank discussion with my husband, family, or friends.

10. I am happy to see a more equal ratio of female comic book readers, and love the fact that there are so many different, but unique women out there with blogs.


1. I read magazines like Stuff and Maxim without a second thought.

2. I watch “R” rated movies with no thought of consequence.

3. I really like it when my husband hugs me and holds me, making me feel more secure.

4. Sometimes I don’t want to make the decisions. I just want my husband to take the lead, or my father to advise me. I appreciate their input, especially in figuring out where to go eat!

5. I read Lost Girls and forgot it was, indeed, porn. I think it is an incredibly important piece of work.

6. I have no problem letting my husband win an argument. Next time it will be my turn. Some things aren’t worth going to bed mad. But watch out next time!

7. I prefer male company to female company for the most part. I was raised in a predominantly male environment and feel comfortable in that setting.

8. I like to go to the restroom with other women and have an awesome gossip session, only to return and leave the men at the table guessing.

9. I really like the art of Jim Balent, Frank Cho, and Adam Hughes.


I like to think that I am a free-thinking, self-reliant woman. I truly believe in a woman’s power. I know that if we wanted to, someday we could rule the world; we have just been too busy raising the next generation of men to do so. In my mind this and many other qualities make me a feminist.

What do you ladies out there think? Do any of you have qualities that make you second guess yourself? Do you revel in your true self, or sometimes question the basic nature of things? I am interested in thoughts from all of you.


Anonymous said...

To me, being a feminist means believing in equal opportunities. I believe women and men should have the same chances to achieve their dreams. I don't think either should have to fill a role defined for them if they prefer something else. So a man can be a househusband if he can find someone willing to bring in a living wage. It also means a woman can be a housewife if that's what she truly wants.

It does not mean dumbing down standards to help more women get into a field. It does mean making sure the standards aren't set higher than they should be to keep women out.

It's about being fair.

BTW, I've read a few Playboys in my time. ;)

Heidi Meeley said...

Shelly- I really appreciate what you say about women and men having the same chances to achieve their dreams. Your example is a perfect one. I especially appreciate that standards should be the same regardless of sex.

Fairness and a belief in equality are indeed traits a feminist should carry.

Thank you also for letting me feel okay about reading men's magazines. It is just for the articles, I swear!! :)

I actually learned a great deal about lawn care in an early issue of Stuff. I still use the tips I got to this day!

Thank you for saying it perfectly.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, Heidi. :)

Feminism is the same to me as equal rights for minorities. Fair treatment. I don't think it's right to ask for more than that.

And I swear I've read Playboy for the articles. Great interviews! Oh, and I like their cartoons, too. heh

Richard said...

I really strongly urge you to read this post and the comments thereupon -- including, he noted immodestly, one from myself -- as a spur to consideration of the word "feminism."

In my personal opinion -- speaking as a male, yes, but a male who read Ms. Magazine from the very first issue, partly because it had a picture of a comic book character on the cover -- of all the things you listed as supposedly "non-feminist traits" not one of them is actually non-feminist.

Do you believe women should have the right to vote, own property, and work outside the home? Do you believe that if a woman does the exact same work as a man holding the same job position, and the only difference is their gender, both should be paid the same wage? Do you believe that it would be wrong to refuse to promote a woman on the grounds that "who knows, she might decide to run off and have a baby someday"? It really is that simple. Being a feminist has nothing to do with feeling more secure when your significant other holds you. Hey, I feel that way when my girlfriend hugs me...and that doesn't make me less of a man. It also has absolutely nothing to do with watching "R" rated movies, he said while scratching his head in bafflement.

The idea that being feminist makes anyone less of a woman -- or less of a man! -- is, simply put, a lie that has been spread for all these decades in hopes of putting young people off the whole idea of recognizing sexism and standing up against it.

Heidi Meeley said...

RAB- wow, I really missed out- that link you gave me was golden. It was nice to see a calm, well-thought-out discussion on the issue.

He made a good point in that there are so many individual definitions of feminism that making a concensus is definitely easier said then done. I know that on a normal day, I would never doubt the fact that I am in many ways a feminist. The thing that nagged at me is that I don't seem to look at sexy pictures or male-geared product as problematic the way some of my peers do. It made me wonder- was I as avowed as I had always thought?

I appreciate the questions you asked- they solidify my thought process. I am a firm believer in equal treatment. I think it stinks when a man is treated poorly or teased because he is a house husband. I think it is admirable that anyone would stay home and raise their children while maintaining a healthy, safe, and clean environment to do so. I think that staying at home and being the caregiver is one of the hardest jobs there is.

In talking in terms of reproduction, I think it is horrible that a woman who MAY get pregnant, or PLAN to have a family is treated unfairly at a job she is well qualified for. In my mind, she is carrying out a sacred duty, and the rest of us need to appreciate and help her so that she can nurture the next generation to inhabit our planet. Having worked in a corporate environment for so long, and watching certain men complain about a pregnant co-worker irritates me to no end.

Thank you for letting me know that enjoying a nice hug is okay. I treasure the moments I have with my husband and we can have a hug or cuddle. I think all people have a need to be loved. Being able to express that with a hug is the ultimate to me. It is nice to know guys enjoy a hug and feel like I do.

As for the "R" rated movies, I was mostly referring to the nudity involved, and the pranks of a sexual nature. I know that most of the time, the nudity is female body parts, and I was wondering if it was a bit odd that it never really bothered me. In the infamous scene in Animal House, I have always felt that it was Bluto who was being degraded, not the women. Porky's is another example of this- I don't know how many times Pee-Wee was completely humiliated at the expense of his friends, and usually when he was in the buff. That is why I never really had a problem with that movie either.

Your comment is brilliant: "The idea that being feminist makes anyone less of a woman -- or less of a man! -- is, simply put, a lie that has been spread for all these decades in hopes of putting young people off the whole idea of recognizing sexism and standing up against it."

Amen. I love this statement and agree wholeheartedly.

Thank you so much for your insight, and for providing the link. It is very helpful and gives me more conviction that if I am true to myself, labels become secondary.

Richard said...

You've done me a good turn by pointing me in the right direction not too long ago, so I'm glad if I was able to do the same!

Marionette said...

Can you read Maxim and still be a feminist?

No. Please return your membership card so it can be ceremonially trampled and go put on an apron.

Heidi Meeley said...

Cute response.

Ladies and Gentleman: My first no vote!

Ragnell said...

Mari -- Wait, she can save her membership if she's stealing it. :)

Heidi Meeley said...

Fact: we are receiving Maxim as a Christmas gift from Jim's friend.

Where does that leave me?

Heidi Meeley said...

Oh yeah, I think he mostly got us Maxim as a gift so he can come over and read it. My hubby never looks at it, and I usually read it every month. Said friend didn't want his lady friend to get pissed at him for getting it, which could take us into a whole 'nother issue!

It is okay if you don't think I am a feminist. That is the greatness of this country- we all get our own opinions.

I am signing off to watch The Office on DVD for the duration. Have a great evening!

Ragnell said...

Heidi -- I have no idea. I usually buy my own anti-feminist guilty pleasures.

I wonder if I stole them or got them as gifts, maybe they wouldn't be guilty pleasures.

Heidi Meeley said...

Ragnell, I hadn't thought of it that way, but that could be.

Kind of like when I go to the store and buy chocolate when I know I am supposed to be dieting? If I just took a few brownies off a tray at work, maybe it would be more of guilt free endeavor because someone else provided it?

Interesting thought.

Heidi Meeley said...

In retrospect, I probably should have been more specific about that comment. Part of what I was referring to is a woman's ability to bear children and nurture. We have a more gentle, "fairer" nature for the most part. Men are raised to be harder and less emotional.

I think we can learn from each other in that respect.

If my point came off as sexist, I apologise. It wasn't my intention. My intention was to be a mirror to myself and test my values against the truth.

Ferrous Buller said...

It made me wonder- was I as avowed as I had always thought?

"Well I'm a million times humbler than thou art!"
- Weird Al, "Amish Paradise"

I wouldn't get too worked up about the differences between you and other self-described feminists. Any social movement is gonna have its internal disagreements. Such dissent is healthy, because it leads to debate. It only becomes problematice when dealing with narrow-minded ideologues, who insist theirs is the One True Faith.

I fail to see how your "non-feminist traits" are, well, non-feminist.

I usually buy my own anti-feminist guilty pleasures.

Could you perhaps give an example and explain why it's "anti-feminist," Ragnell?

Heidi Meeley said...

It has been interesting to see the differing views in the comments. I do think that not everyone has to have the same opinion, hence if there are some people out there who don't think I am a feminist, that is their perogative.

As for guilty pleasures, well, that could be just about anything. My guilty pleasure is reading Vertigo titles and not caring what anyone else thinks about it!