How Can I Use Feminism To My Advantage?Commentary • Opinion • women • prejudice • Gender And Politics • ISSUE 43•19 ISSUE 39•49 • Dec 17, 2003 By Megan Heller Megan Heller Knowledge is power. In this competitive, male-dominated world, a woman must take advantage of all the resources at her disposal. Luckily, I found a way to take the idea that men and women should be socially, politically, and economically equal, and make it work for me. Now I'm subverting the dominant paradigm—and raking in the benefits!I learned about feminism at least 10 years ago, but at that point, I still didn't know how valuable it was. Of course, I believed that every woman had a right to an education, proper healthcare, political representation, and equal career opportunities, but I never saw the point in spending my valuable time working for the empowerment of all women.All that changed when I started school at Macalester College and met Erica. Everyone in the dorm was afraid of Erica, because she attacked the racist and sexist welcome-week party. By the fourth day of classes, Erica was a dorm-wide celebrity. I heard girls talking about her in the bathroom, boys talking about her in the dining hall. Nobody even knew I existed.What was the difference between Erica and me? You guessed it: feminism. Well, not for long, sister.Once we became closer, Erica told me that she didn't care about the stupid luau anyway. She had bigger things to worry about, like defending women against the so-called Right's war against reproductive liberties. Her work at the Campus Coalition For Women sounded thrilling. I wanted to cash in on the centuries-long subjugation of my gender, too!Many modern women are afraid to call themselves feminists. I often remind these weak, confused women of the words of Gloria Steinem: "In my heart, I think a woman has two choices: Either she's a feminist or a masochist." When I first read Steinem, she awoke ambitions I never knew I had. I wanted to be just like her—powerful, famous, and financially well off.Since my awakening, I've memorized quotations from feminists of all stripes, from Betty Friedan to Susan Faludi. Decades of activists have left persuasive arguments in support of my campus group's private study lounge in the student union. Hey, whatever works. Take that, International Students Club! Have fun studying in the library, with all the other losers who don't have a dedicated study lounge.Not all feminists have this attitude, and I'm relieved. If they did, feminism wouldn't work half as well as it does. Most of the women in the network are fully committed to eradicating harmful gender stereotypes and redefining sexual archetypes. I am, too, whenever it places me in a favorable social position.In high school, I was the head cheerleader, but when I got to college, that didn't count anymore. Thank God I met Erica! She and her friends have taught me the fundament of feminist dialoguing: Nobody wants to be labeled a misogynist. Fewer still want to engage in a heated debate about whether The Matrix Revolutions' Trinity subverts her meanings to those of the authorized males Morpheus and Nemo—but that didn't stop me from doing so, loudly, while waiting in line to see Sylvia. And was Erica impressed! The more I educate my peers about the origins of sexist no(men)clature, the higher my position rises.I'm a real leader in the women's-studies program and have assumed authority over many women who actually care about universal contraceptive access and gender bias in textbooks. Case in point: I landed a coveted work-study position at the Women's Health Action & Mobilization office. Meanwhile, my old high-school cheerleading teammate Kelly is working at the deli in the student union, where she's forced to wear a hairnet. Kelly and I have nothing in common anymore. Can you believe that she's actually in a sorority? I don't even talk to her, except for that time I asked her how it feels to be a member of the campus date-rape club. She didn't have an answer for that. She just handed me my pita sandwich, dumbstruck.I'm dating Dylan, a woman who volunteers at the Coalition For Gay, Lesbian And Bi Rights For The Homeless. Sure, I'm not really a lesbian, but showing up at Take Back The Night with Dylan captured a lot of attention. When I was in the bathroom stall the other day, I heard two girls I didn't even know talking about me. See, this feminism stuff works.The thing that really surprised me, given the fundament of feminist dialoguing, is how easy it is to use feminism against fellow feminists. Last night at the student council meeting, I accused Angie Hopilite of being an "enemy of all women." She said creating a lighted safe-walk on Campus Drive was a bad idea, because of the traffic. She said the funds should go to displaced, battered women at—surprise, surprise—the shelter where she volunteers. To gain the upper hand, I had to use a little bit of jargon. I accused Angie of supporting the coercionary practices of establishment feminism and noted that Jung said attempting social engineering through politics only results in reality being driven into the unconscious. The vote came down 11 to 1 in my favor. Take that, Angie. We'll see who gets to take the all-expenses-paid trip to the WHAM national conference in D.C. this year.