How did we go from Tomato Nation’s “Yes, You Are” to this?

Saturday, September 20th, 2008 · 38 Comments »

Five years ago, Tomato Nation published a post that rapidly became legend. It was emailed, re-posted, printed out, probably even framed somewhere. Maybe you remember it. It was called “Yes, You Are.”

Here it is:


Yes, You Are

feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests — feminist n or adjfeministic adj

Above, the dictionary definition of feminism — the entire dictionary definition of feminism. It is quite straightforward and concise. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not ask for two forms of photo ID. It does not care what you look like. It does not care what color skin you have, or whether that skin is clear, or how much you weigh, or what you do with your hair. You can bite your nails, or you can get them done once a week. You can spend two hours on your makeup, or five minutes, or the time it takes to find a Chapstick without any lint sticking to it. You can rock a cord mini, or khakis, or a sari, and you can layer all three. The definition of feminism does not include a mandatory leg-hair check; wax on, wax off, whatever you want. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not mention a membership fee or a graduated tax or "…unless you got your phone turned off by mistake." Rockefellers, the homeless, bad credit, no credit, no problem. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not require a diploma or other proof of graduation. It is not reserved for those who teach women's studies classes, or to those who majored in women's studies, or to those who graduated from college, or to those who graduated from high school, or to those who graduated from Brownie to Girl Scout. It doesn't care if you went to Princeton or the school of hard knocks. You can have a PhD, or a GED, or a degree in mixology, or a library card, or all of the above, or none of the above. You don't have to write a twenty-page paper on Valerie Solanas's use of satire in The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, and if you do write it, you don't have to get better than a C-plus on it. You can really believe math is hard, or you can teach math. You don't have to take a test to get in. You don't have to speak English. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism is not an insurance policy; it doesn't exclude anyone based on age. It doesn't have a "you must be this tall to ride the ride" sign on it anywhere. It doesn't specify how you get from place to place, so whether you use or a walker or a stroller or a skateboard or a carpool, if you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not tell you how to vote or what to think. You can vote Republican or Libertarian or Socialist or "I like that guy's hair." You can bag voting entirely. You can believe whatever you like about child-care subsidies, drafting women, fiscal accountability, Anita Hill, environmental law, property taxes, Ann Coulter, interventionist politics, soft money, gay marriage, tort reform, decriminalization of marijuana, gun control, affirmative action, and why that pothole at the end of the street still isn't fixed. You can exist wherever on the choice continuum you feel comfortable. You can feel ambivalent about Hillary Clinton. You can like the ERA in theory, but dread getting drafted in practice. The definition does not stipulate any of that. The definition does not stipulate anything at all, except itself. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

The definition of feminism does not judge your lifestyle. You like girls, you like boys, doesn't matter. You eat meat, you don't eat meat, you don't eat meat or dairy, you don't eat fast food, doesn't matter. You can get married, and you can change your name or keep the one your parents gave you, doesn't matter. You can have kids, you can stay home with them or not, you can hate kids, doesn't matter. You can stay a virgin or you can boink everyone in sight, doesn't matter. It's not in the definition. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

Yes. You are. You are a feminist. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. Period. It's more complicated than that — of course it is. And yet…it's exactly that simple. It has nothing to do with your sexual preference or your sense of humor or your fashion sense or your charitable donations, or what pronouns you use in official correspondence, or whether you think Andrea Dworkin is full of crap, or how often you read Bust or Ms. — or, actually, whether you've got a vagina. In the end, it's not about that. It is about political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, and it is about claiming that definition on its own terms, instead of qualifying it because you don't want anyone to think that you don't shave your pits. It is about saying that you are a feminist and just letting the statement sit there, instead of feeling a compulsion to modify it immediately with "but not, you know, that kind of feminist" because you don't want to come off all Angry Girl. It is about understanding that liking Oprah and Chanel doesn't make you a "bad" feminist — that only "liking" the wage gap makes you a "bad" feminist, because "bad" does not enter into the definition of feminism. It is about knowing that, if folks can't grab a dictionary and see for themselves that the entry for "feminism" doesn't say anything about hating men or chick flicks or any of that crap, it's their problem.

It is about knowing that a woman is the equal of a man in art, at work, and under the law, whether you say it out loud or not — but for God's sake start saying it out loud already. You are a feminist.

I am a feminist too. Look it up.

September 30, 2003


Five years ago, almost to the day.

What the hell happened?

Filed under: Second Wave Squared · Tags:

38 Responses to “How did we go from Tomato Nation’s “Yes, You Are” to this?”

  1. myiq2xu says:

    2008 – The year the left lost its collective mind

  2. Sis says:

    Naw. Not the year the left lost its mind. The year we finally got it. The year we were forced to acknowledge the left was as anti-woman as the right.

  3. RKMK says:

    “The year we finally got it. The year we were forced to acknowledge the left was as anti-woman as the right.”

    I thought that was 1964. The times, they never change.

  4. RKMK says:

    Sorry! Having keyboard issues. I was trying to quote Sis above me.

  5. kenoshaMarge says:

    I never saw the Tomato Nation piece and thank you for posting about it and linking to it.

    This is what I have been trying to say in my own poor way. The articulate, witty, person that created it does Feminism Proud.

  6. Janis says:

    I’m a little uncertain about this — I’m seeing a real easy, fatal progression from “yes you are” to what you complained about below: Anything a woman does is feminist because a woman is doing it. And you sliced and diced that attitude — correctly, I think.

    I think we got too hung up in are you or aren’t you, frankly. It got too theoretical and turned into the death of a thousand papercuts. Personally, I think all that matters is getting as many women as possible into positions of political power, and then we just let everything fall out however it will. (If we reply that we fear that things will not get better, than feminism is inherently a dead end.)

    I’ve become a big believer in what Riverdaughter blogged about — the 30% solution. That’s what I am, and that’s what it’s going to take. Period. Everything else is distracting detail that will bog us down. I know it’s complicated, I know there’s a lot of crap in the details, I’m not stupid. I’m just sick of allowing that to paralyze us in stupid discussions about sparkly gel vibrators, fashion magazines, and underwire bras for chrissakes.

    30% — we get there FIRST. Then, we see what happens. We need to stage this problem. Set concrete, easily obtainable goals and action items. First, we do X. Then we do Y. Instead we ended up wearing a bare patch in our mental carpets pacing back and forth about “am not ARE SO!”

    I think lots of things ended up (or are ending up) like that. Environmentalism is a big one. Almsot the whole effing things boils down to flying time and gasoline spend, and we’re getting lost in the microscopic cul de sacs of plastic freaking bags and lights until we have people driving SUVs and using swirl bulbs so they can call themselves environmentalists.

  7. donna darko says:

    If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

    Janis, there’s no contradiction between the two posts. The definition of a feminist above does not include the women who spend most of their time criticizing and hating women.

  8. Elise says:

    I cried. Thank you.

  9. Janis says:

    donna, it does seem to me that this is easy to misinterpret. People will see “yes you are” and I can guarantee you they will think “yes I am no matter what.” I can guarantee it. As a result, it’s useless to worry about “what” we are.

    We have to stop worrying about what we ARE and think instead of what we DO. Elect women. The rest is gravy.

    BTW, that’s ANY AND ALL WOMEN, PERIOD. No, you don’t have to care about their positions on anything. I’m serious.

    The 30% doctrine is brilliant in its simplicity. It’s like playing a shell game — there are guaranteed ways to win no matter what.

    Okay — rules for a shell game are that you are shown three items and asked to choose one. They are shuffled, and one is turned over and revealed to you. You are then given the chance to change your choice — “You sure you don’t want to change your pick?”

    Change it.

    In all circumstances.

    You don’t have to even THINK — change it. The math demands that you do it, every single time. It’s brainless — no matter WHAT the revealed item (often a playing card) shows you, you change your choice.

    You are GUARANTEED a win over the long term. Effing GUARANTEED.

    But what about if it’s an ace? I can’t change my choice then! Maybe it’s a deuce!

    CHANGE IT. DO NOT BE DISTRACTED. CHANGE IT.

    This is the same — is she pro-choice? Anti? Libertarian? Susan B. Anthony or Margaret Thatcher?

    IT DOESN’T MATTER. CHOOSE HER.

    It’s been demonstrated (just as with the shell game) that when a government is 30% women, things improve drastically for women — no matter the political opinions of the women themselves.

    So all this crap about who thinks what, who’s opinions are what, am I a *gasp!* feminist! if I vote for her, is she a feminist, does she have kids, does she not, has she had an abortion, what about her hair, what about her husband, how about her stance on taxes, does she drive a hybrid, does she have highlights, how did she make her money, did her husband cheat, do I like her scarves, how does she feel about urban renewal, do we like her smell … ALL that shit is quite literally beside the point.

    VOTE FOR HER.

    Sure, we’ll be voting for some shitheads. But once we hit that 30% number, things change. For the better. For ALL WOMEN. Inherently.

    We know what we need to do. It’s simple (not EASY, just simple), and it’s immediate and guaranteed in its results. We either do it, or we sit in our own shit and cry.

    Yes, it really really really is that simple. All this distracting JUNK about trying to decide what values each variable has and what the definitions are is crap that will fall out naturally once we hit that 30% figure. It’s like trying to play a piano by going, “Just show me where to put each of my fingers every second and I’ll be fine.”

    No, you won’t. If you step back, concentrate on the big, broad strokes, and don’t worry about exactly where your fingers are going, they will go to the right places automatically. We need to step back to the 80,000 ft level, and we’re at the 1 cm level here with all this distracting junk about what word we use.

    We hit that 30% figure and in the meantime, SCREW the definitions of who’s what or even what we call ourselves. It’ll come out in the wash.

    I can guarantee that if and when we finally start doing that, the shit will stop in a heartbeat. Once it becomes clear that we are just taking the direct path, things will change. Immediately.

    Sure, we’ll elect a few assholes. But once that 30% figure is hit, it will no longer be necessary for a woman to be an asshole to get elected. That’s what we’re aiming for — that’s the whole goal we champion!

    We have to stop getting bogged down in the bullshit of are we or aren’t we, or what labels we slap on ourselves. We know where we want to go, we know how to get there. We either drop the brick on the accelerator, or we admit we don’t really want it that bad and STFU.

  10. donna darko says:

    Totally agree, Janis. The federal legislature is 17% women. We need 13% more and women’s issues will be taken care of.

    What the hell happened?

    It became cool to hate women.

    Violet, you said in the other post a few women are doing feminism right. Who are they? I like Jaclyn Friedman’s new siteThis is what women want.

    Let’s make a list of misogynists. I’ll start.

    The women of Jezebel
    The women of Slate

  11. Infidel says:

    Thank God Bush can’t do a thing without consulting Nancy Pelosi.

  12. Infidel says:

    Can you imagine Mcain consulting Palin if he doesn’t have to.

  13. valentine bonnaire says:

    Violet. I don’t know what the hell happened. As I watched Hillary be shredded, I remembered back to the 70′s and Jr. High. Our group were feminists in the era of the Vietnam War protests, it seems to me.

    Riverdaughter has a disturbing video up where they are savaging Sarah Palin. Literally. The forty somethings. This isn’t the SISTERHOOD.

    I never even knew who Dworkin was until I was in a writer’s group here in web. I had one Women’s Studies class in Univ. in the 80′s — it was a fledgling field, then. But? Perhaps a rebirth of the values of the movement is in order via Second Wave. Because? That video RD has? Scary.

    You know, I’m going to vote for Palin and I don’t give a damn if her values don’t match mine. It’s because of the savagery I’ve seen towards Hillary and now her. IT MATTERS.

    Thank you for all of the great reads of late.

    That lever of yours?

    Yeah.

  14. Janis says:

    We need 13% more and women’s issues will be taken care of.

    At least, we will have the foundation we need to actually DO the shit we want to do now, without nearly the muscle we have to come anywhere close to achieving any of it.

    We’re thinking in terms of steps 3, 4, and 5, and we still have to take step 0.

    Rule zero: GET IN POWER.

    All subsequent rules: Do stuff.

  15. Sis says:

    Why give them publicity, naming them or linking them. Tell us where to go, not where to stay away from.

    Women’s Space/The Margins org phpbb2
    Witchy Woo dot wordpress dot com
    genderberg dot com
    one angry girl dot net
    charliegrrl dot wordpress dot com
    rageagainstthemanchine dot com

  16. tinfoil hattie says:

    Isn’t limiting your list of misogynists to women misogynists a bit … circular? The best you can do is start with women?

    Also, it didn’t become fashionable to hate women. It’s never been fashionable not to hate us, a blip in the 1970s notwithstanding. It’s called patriarchy.

  17. flyingsongster says:

    Thank you Dr. Socks!

    Yes, I am!

  18. donna darko says:

    tinfoil hattie,

    Someone already said it’s to be expected from men on the left but not expected from women on the left.

  19. Suzie Kidnap says:

    It became cool to hate women.

    It’s always been cool to hate women. What became cool this year is to be more upfront about it.

  20. Violet says:

    I’m a little uncertain about this — I’m seeing a real easy, fatal progression from “yes you are” to what you complained about below: Anything a woman does is feminist because a woman is doing it. And you sliced and diced that attitude — correctly, I think.

    Janis, I know exactly what you mean. I thought of that myself. But that progression would be a false progression.

    Here’s the thing: I have no problem with all kinds of women calling themselves feminists. (Men too). All my life I’ve used a very simple definition of feminism, which is no doubt why I’ve always loved the Tomato Nation piece.

    By the same token, Tomato Nation says feminism isn’t a club for women who live in big cities, eschew Christianity, vote Democrat, or any other litmus tests. And if you look at how the current crop of feminists are attacking Sarah Palin, it’s all because she’s not the right kind of woman. They’re failing the basic Tomato Nation test.

  21. donna darko says:

    tinfoil hattie, it was you yesterday morning on the last thread:

    I wasn’t shocked by the misogyny from the MEN on the left against Hillary Clinton. I am shocked at so-called feminists on the left resorting to such hatefulness.

  22. Janis says:

    But that progression would be a false progression.

    Agreed, completely. But … if you know that the misinterpretation is likely, it probably isn’t the best play to use.

    And I still think that the definitions are the wrong tack to take entirely. We’re behaving as if we’re at step 4 or something. We need to just get in power; as a culture or a people, we’re not even at the point where we can contemplate being feminist. Not yet. We have a long row to how before we can even consider whether ANYONE is feminist much less what the word means.

  23. kenoshaMarge says:

    I am definitely on board with the 30% solution. Granted it isn’t the be-all and end-all. But once it is achieved, and that will not be easy, then we can go from there.

    Unless someone has a plan that solves everything in one brilliant move, we first need to get to the 30% before we can do anything.

  24. tinfoil hattie says:

    Yes, Donna, I am and was shocked. But there’s no reason to include only blogs that are written by women! For crying out loud! Women did not start this shit, and we participate in it because of PATRIARCHY.

    Put the blame where it belongs. If women hate other women, it’s because patriarchy has convinced us we should.

  25. donna darko says:

    You’re right, we should list misogynist feminists, male and female.

  26. Sis says:

    It’s sometimes hard to know who the misogynistic feminists are. They seem to be feminists, equal pay for work of equal value, equal representation, equal access; but they hate anything that is female, that can only be done by females. Child birth, child rearing. They hate it too, when women take power our culture normally saves only for men: killing, ruling, governing. They especially hate it, when a woman tries to do both.

    “Who Do You Think You Are?” is not only the title of a Booker short-listed novel by Alice Munro.

    Where’s blondie. I have a series of blog posts she wants to read, beginning with: http://www.womensspace.org/phpBB2/2008/09/21/palin-and-the-wolf-kills/

  27. donna darko says:

    If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

    I can think of many “feminists” who don’t fit this definition.

  28. betsyfromtexas says:

    I agree tinfoil—isn’t a bit like the Stockholm syndrome?

  29. MountainSage says:

    Could someone point me to the origin of the 30% solution? I mentioned it on my blog and had questions about it and I haven’t been able to find much information.

    Thanks in advance.

    MountainSage

  30. donna darko says:

    If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. If it doesn’t hurt the menz. What about the menz? Bros before hos.

    That’s my definition of the Third Wave.

  31. donna darko says:

    And everything is white women’s, not white men’s, fault.

  32. TheOtherDelphyne says:

    Mountain Sage – Riverdaughter’s site, article by madamab:

    The Thirty Percent Solution

  33. samanthasmom says:

    We got here because we allowed ourselves to be defined by our differences instead of by our similarities. We believed it when we were told that the protecting the interests of a stay-at-home mom would hurt the interests of the single career woman. We believed it when feminism was reduced to reproductive rights and that pro-choice women are the enemy of pro-life women and vice versa. I was one of the first women at an all male college in the early seventies. There were 20 or so of “us” and over 2000 of “them”. A few weeks into the experience we realized that the only way we were going to survive was by adopting the “All for one, and one for all” stance. Not all of the women bought into it, but enough of us did to plow our way through. Women have the means to change things, but we have to concentrate on the goals we have in common and save arguing about our differences for after the battle is won. We have ceded control of our destinies to others by allowing ourselves to be turned into combatants instead of companions.

  34. InsightAnalytical-GRL says:

    This will strike a chord…

    The Sisterhood of Shared Indignities (A Double Post by kenosha Marge and InsightAnalytical-GRL)

    “We’ve teamed up to reflect on our early experiences with–and without–baseball gloves and how our sensibilites about being a woman have developed from there…and where we are now during this political season.”

    kenosha Marge and InsightAnalytical-GRL
    “Sisters” and “Indignities”

    With a hat tip to Reclusive Leftist….

  35. Anna Belle says:

    Crimeny, samanthasmom, you nailed it! In a very rational, non-confrontational way, I might add. Nicely done.

    I’ve been coming back to this thread because I’ve been curious about the response. As a Gen-xer, I totally identify with the inclination toward frustration with third wavers. Cultural feminism is often hard to stomach because it is so often at odds with my somewhere-between-first-wave-and-second-wave values. But, I also understand audience as a writer, and I don’t think it’s helpful to vent our frustrations about third wavers so aggressively. We want them to join the building wave, do we not? We certainly don’t want to dismiss them, because that reinforces the lessons they learned from the backlash, namely that it’s okay to dismiss other women because sexism and double standards aren’t real, or are valid. Much as I hate to say it, we are going to have to be the grown ups here, and hold our resentments in check, if we hope to build the next effective wave.

    Anyway, my two cents.

  36. donna darko says:

    My frustration level is very high. Feministing, Feministe and Pandagon which I consider Third Wave have a lot of influence and because they endorsed Obama did not speak out on the sexism against Clinton. For many months, only Second Wavers Tennessee Guerilla Women and Reclusive Leftist opposed the sexism. Now that Clinton is out the Third Wave is willing to speak out on the sexism against Palin who is only the VP on the other side. I think the apologism and blaming of white women’s racism lead to the derailing of the only woman who can be President for the next twenty years, the unelectable Obama, the Fourth Wave, the selection of Palin and the McCain-Palin victory in 2008.

  37. sam says:

    “We certainly don’t want to dismiss them, because that reinforces the lessons they learned from the backlash, namely that it’s okay to dismiss other women because sexism and double standards aren’t real, or are valid.”

    Us dismissing them is not where my concerns lie.

    Today I came across an ad for this series of sex industry events and I’m thinking the Third Wave movement can die now and take the rape culture they enthusiastically support with them into the light.

    Hustler Magazine and BUST Magazine are teaming up to bring America “Tease-o-Rama”, some of the best titty-bouncing bimbos* in the world.

    http://www.teaseorama.com/

    *Note the dates booked in San Francisco’s Bimbo 365 club.

  38. Violet says:

    But, I also understand audience as a writer, and I don’t think it’s helpful to vent our frustrations about third wavers so aggressively. We want them to join the building wave, do we not? We certainly don’t want to dismiss them, because that reinforces the lessons they learned from the backlash, namely that it’s okay to dismiss other women because sexism and double standards aren’t real, or are valid. Much as I hate to say it, we are going to have to be the grown ups here, and hold our resentments in check, if we hope to build the next effective wave.

    Anna Belle, I missed this comment when you posted it so I’m just now responding.

    I do agree absolutely that we don’t want to fall into more woman-blaming. But speaking for myself, that’s not what I’m doing here. What I’m doing, very deliberately, is administering what you might characterize as a hard paw-cuff to the cubs.

    Most public feminists my age and older have been bent over backwards to be non-critical of the Third Wave and to be publicly supportive of the young’uns, no matter how badly they behave (contrary to what people like Jessica Valenti claim). I think it’s time to stop that. The kids are fucking out of control. They don’t even know what feminism IS anymore.

    I don’t blame them; I blame patriarchy. Patriarchy won the round with the Third Wave. That’s why it’s time for the elders to reassert ourselves.