Monthly Archives: September 2013

The point of feminism

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A few months ago I wrote a post presenting the opinion that giving up on the term ‘feminism’ might be useful if we really want to achieve gender equality. I officially rescind that opinion.

So here’s the thing. Apparently there’s a woman called Chanty Binx, who was caught on camera being downright acerbic in a few different situations. And since this woman identifies as a feminist and laid down her rants in the name of feminism, obviously, she must therefore be representative of all feminists everywhere. So the logic on the web goes. Like, what?

It is at this point where I suddenly and inexplicably felt a powerful urge to defend feminism. I guess I hadn’t given up on it as much as I’d thought – feminism is an established cause that can make a positive difference for everyone, but in order to do so it needs more rational people, not less. And so I, against all better judgement, stepped in on a youtube comments page. And this is how I discovered that there is no right way to present feminism to someone who doesn’t get it. Because there are things that EVERYONE knows about feminism, and no matter how many ways you rephrase your beliefs – including specifically stating that you do NOT believe what non-feminists are insisting on calling feminist ideology – these things that EVERYONE knows about feminism is all those people can see. I eventually gave up in disgust when points I’d explicitly refuted came back around time and time again. I do not hate men. I do not believe that women abusing men is ok. I recognise that men can be victims of domestic abuse and rape too, and that these things are problems no matter who experiences them. And so on and so forth, like if they’d just throw these things in my face for long enough I’d eventually turn into the man-hating, crazy harpy of a feminist they expected to see.

And then one of those people suggested that if I’m so rational, I should really be using a “qualifier” – say, ‘equity feminist’. Which to me is a bit like saying “I’m feminist – but not like THOSE feminists”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people identifying as feminist whose actions and opinions I don’t really agree with. But you know, there’s no test you have to pass to become a feminist. We’re not some exclusive club whose membership can be controlled – and anti-feminists are not required to designate their separation from the crazy woman-haters who go out of their way to find feminists to abuse. In that case, it’s apparently completely recognisable that that arsehole is fully separate from others who might just happen to overlap in a common view. (But of course, I rarely see said arsehole policed by non-feminists, as feminists are apparently expected to do with those within the movement who overstep the line).

But I digress. In my eyes, the very point of feminism is the drastic variation of perspectives within the movement. Feminism’s biggest selling point is the solid platform it offers for discussions about the social implications of gender. Even in this modern internet age people do still have a tendency to surround themselves with people and information that agrees with the values they already hold, which can go some way towards explaining why many people see feminism as some kind of unified, static entity, but the reality is that feminism is as diverse in its standpoints as say, democracy or christianity. Feminists have as much sharing of different ideas among themselves as they do with anyone else, and through this feminism as a movement is constantly evolving. Because really, we’re still just figuring this shit out. Social change is a ‘one step at a time’ kind of thing, and it starts from a vague sense that there’s a problem, and continues through discussion after discussion until people feel like they’ve figured out what the source of the problem actually is, and how to go about fixing it. So yes, sometimes feminists will go in the wrong direction, backtrack, restart, and mess up again. We’re all only people. When was the last time you were perfect? But the point is that we’re trying to make the world a better place. Just because it’s not all happening at once and immediately doesn’t make trying a waste of time, either.

There’s overlap in all social issues. Noone ticks the box marked ‘gender’ without ticking a whole lot of other boxes that make up a whole identity. But it’s kind of difficult to address ALL the issues, so feminism is just one part of the bigger picture, designed to tackle problems with one little cog in the social machine. There’s no reason why an individual can’t try to tackle several cogs at once, if that’s what they feel passionate about. Supporting feminism doesn’t mean you have to ignore issues of race, or disability discrimination, or environmental issues, and so on. You change what you can change, and let other people tackle the rest.