Monday, December 3, 2012

I AM A Feminist - In My Head

I would say I hate to get ranty, but that would be a lie. This particular rant however has been boiling for a while, and due to a deluge of infuriating comments in the press lately (paging Carla Bruni, among others) I can no longer hold back.

When I see women in positions of power that wouldn't have been available to them without feminism say publicly that they're "not feminist", I want to kick them in the ovaries.

Not very PC, not very understanding, I know. I try to be tolerant, I really do. But when I hear people say things like, "We don't need feminism anymore", or ""I'm not REALLY a feminist," I want to kick them so hard their stupid eyes pop OUT OF THEIR STUPID HEADS.

*takes a deep breath*

Alright, now I've got that out of my system, I'll try and be reasonable.

The original soundbite that started what is now a frothing volcano of rage was from the newly appointed  Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer. When she was appointed to such a rich, influential company, obviously this was big news. Hoorah for feminism, some people said! We worked so hard, and now there is at least one woman in a position of economic power! Sure, there should be more, but hey, it's one, and that's awesome. Naturally, people asked Mayer about her opinion of the political movement that created an environment in which her appointment was actually possible. She said;

"I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions, but I don't, I think have, sort of, the militant drive and the sort of, the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it's too bad, but I do think that feminism has become in many ways a more negative word. You know, there are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there is more good that comes out of positive energy around that than comes out of negative energy."

I just...I have so many problems with this. 
Firstly, being so dismissive of the efforts of all the feminists before her that made her current position possible reeks to me of the dropkick partner who gets you to support them through university, then dumps you as soon as they graduate. It's a shitty, shitty thing to do. 
Now, let's try and wrap our heads around this logical fallacy here - "I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions". So, you think women should have the same rights as men, and are just as capable as men, but you're not a feminist?
Mayer is hardly alone in her bizarre doublethink experiments though. Katy Perry proudly declared, ""I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women," while receiving an award for Woman of the Year. 
Just let that sink in for a minute. She said this ridiculous thing that totally dismisses the entire women's rights movement, while receiving an award. For Woman of the Year.
Here's a little shock for you both....YOU ARE  FEMINISTS.You think women are strong? You think women are capable? You think women should have the same opportunities as men? To quote Caitlin Moran, "What do you think feminism IS, ladies?"

Mayer's (and others) dismissal of the entirety of feminism because there are parts of it she doesn't agree with is an attitude I've come across all too often, and it infuriates me beyond belief. I understand why some people are unhappy with aspects of present-day feminism, I really do. There are a lot of problems. There are transphobic elements, which I find awful. There is a lot of dismissal of issues relating to women of colour, and poor women, all sorts of women who aren't white and middle class. And I absolutely agree this sucks. It sucks big sweaty donkey balls, and I don't agree with the people who support these opinions. But as someone who identifies as both poly and queer, hating the people who are supposed to be on "my side" is a dilemma I am familiar with. 
The poly and queer movements are enormously diverse, despite both being built on a relatively simple premise. Queer people like playing with people who may or may not be the same gender as them (or any specific gender at all) and poly people like playing with more than one person as a time. Simple. Only it's not. There are people who try and preach that anyone who is monogamous is "unenlightened" or just not as "evolved" as poly folk, and I find this attitude so self centered and patronizing it makes me sick. There are queer people who have called all bisexual women "vectors" (as in vectors for disease) to my face. I'm sure you can imagine how sick this made me feel.There are poly people who insist if you have any rules at all in your relationships, you're "chaining" people's souls, and I think this is a wholly unreasonable expectation to place on people. There are queer people who think being attracted to someone of the opposite gender is a betrayal of your identity and your fellow queers, and I think this is nonsense.

But I'm still poly. I believe in having the opportunity to pursue more than one romantic partner if I choose to. I'm still queer. I still really like playing with women, and it's important to me to have the opportunity to do so.
So what do *I* do, when faced with a cause I believe in that happens to have attracted some people I really don't agree with? Unfortunately, in the case of these two groups, I backed out. I stopped going to any poly or queer events, and I more or less removed myself from the whole community. But you know what? This was the wrong thing to do, and I was wrong to do it. And if you do the same with feminism, you're wrong too. Yes, there are people in the feminism movement who believe that all heterosexual sex is rape - I do not. There are those that believe all men should be killed off - given that I am currently living with a man, it's pretty clear I don't agree with this either. But feminism is too important to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you don't agree, speak up. If what you see being portrayed as feminism isn't something you want to be a part of, MAKE it something you want to be a part of. If you don't like the negative connotations that "feminism" as a word has, goddamit, take it back! If people use "feminist" as an insult around you, tell them bloody well not to. If you don't feel like feminism is diverse enough, or that your kind of feminism isn't being represented, wade on in, plant your feet, and be a part of it. Nothing will get done if we all worm away from the core idea - that women deserve the same rights, power, and influence as men - because we don't like every little part of what everyone in the movement says or believes. It's just too fucking important.

We can't let this word be taken away from us. Words have power, words shape actions and thoughts, and if we have no word for feminism, it will have no form. It will have no voice. And it will be forgotten.


  1. I've never really thought of myself as a feminist, but then again I've never really looked at it from this perspective. I agree that feminism today gets a bad rap, which is unfortunate because without the feminist movement we (women) certainly wouldn't be where we are today. You've given me something to chew on, and now I'm going to have to revisit whether I really am a feminist or not! Great perspective and good post!


  2. You're welcome :) I can certainly understand never having really thought about it before - since I come from such a left wing, activist background I know I question my motivations for EVERYTHING in a lot more detail than most people. I even understand women who's point of view is that women AREN'T equal - I don't agree, but I can at least respect the logical follow through. What boggles me is the doublethink required to say, "I think women should be equal, but I'm not a feminist."

  3. Many women are champions for equality but do not want to assume the label "feminist" because feminism has hurt them in some way or excludes them. Women who shirk the label because they don't know what feminism IS or haven't really taken the time to sit and examine misogyny and patriarchy (despite being affected by both) ... that's totally different.

    1. As I said in the post, I do understand that some people have very legitimate reasons for being angry with particular aspects of, or practitioners of feminism as a whole. But I feel very strongly that social change is like a horror movie - if we split up, we'll get killed off.


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