As much as I hate myself for meta-blogging – this post makes me want to jump up and shout, “you are absolutely not alone!”
To clarify, even though I’m bouncing all over the place right now (without caffeine buzzing through my veins, even), I see myself as complicit in a lot of the stupid crap that turns feminism into a pointless pissing contest. I also believe that this pissing contest is responsible for why the word “‘feminism” rarely enters into a lot of the challenges we face in this world today. In the BBC article on maternal mortality rates in South Asia that I linked to earlier, the word wasn’t mentioned by women who are actively working to cut down on thousands of these largely preventable deaths. Why? Well, if I were to take a guess, I would say that this is because so much of what passes for mainstream “feminism” has become divisive and abstract. Because it’s being treated as a blanket that so many people, many of them well-meaning in their own right, are pulling in different directions – trying to get warm ahead of the rest, some even going as far as suggesting that they’re really trying to keep everyone warm – and their efforts are simply not being appreciated.
Both online and offline, there is vehement criticism of people who prefer to identify as “humanist” rather than “feminist” (people such as Marjane Satrapi, creator of “Persepolis”, for example). I can’t speak for everyone in the “humanist” camp – but, personally, I started gravitating toward the label because I viewed it as more sensible. I don’t believe that the world can be changed for the better without the active participation of half of the world population (please note that I don’t believe that the entire Earth will one day unite as one big happy family in a Glorious Revolution). Neither do I believe in adopting the tactics that certain groups of men have adopted against women – namely, relegating them to mere supporting roles, if any roles at all.
Here is something that La Lubu didn’t touch on – but it is a something that frustrates me to no end: the schizophrenic attitude toward gender. On one hand, it’s all a construct. On the other hand, the “what about the menz?” line (used mostly against someone who is seen as capitulating, usually followed by self-righteous snickering) seems to suggest that gender, nevertheless, is SUPER IMPORTANT and will continue to be so until Teh Great Feminist Revolution. Now, many people have negotiated that philosophy for themselves – because, and I’ll never get tired of saying it, feminism is not a monolith – nevertheless, I find myself consciously avoiding most discussions that deal with the matter. Why? The reasons are endless, really – starting with my religious views and ending with what I perceive to be the bad treatment of transgender folk, I suppose.
La Lubu has said a lot of good and interesting things, as have the commenters. If I were to add anything, or expand on anything, here goes (I’m not suggesting that “all feminists are like this,” so if you’re going to accuse me of that, don’t waste your time):
* – I find a lot of feminist discussion of art to be reductive. My honours thesis stood at a crossroads of feminism and fairy tale, for example, and while I researched it and talked to different people on the subject, I had to keep the vomit down. A lot. Because the SLEEPING BEAUTY WAS A RAPE VICTIM AND YOU ARE A SELF-HATING @$$HOLE IF YOU DON’T WRITE THAT IN is dumb from both a scholarly and artistic point of view.
* – I find that we don’t research history enough. Too often we present feminism as a “and so men were oppressing everyone for as long as the human race existed, and no woman was allowed to think for herself or have a decent life or any agency at all, and, until, in the 19th Century in the West feminism was born.” Or else, “there used to be, all over the world, a pure and sacred and benign matriarchy, which capitalism raped and destroyed.” This is simplistic and intellectually dishonest.
* – The half-baked pseudo-Marxist $hit many are propagating? Count me out. I prefer other goals. Universal healthcare for example (La Lubu wrote a great post on that one too) – now, to clarify, I don’t believe that the pseudo-Marxism is somehow agains universal healthcare. I do believe that it offers little tangible, practical ways to get there.
* – The idea that we’re all “working toward the same goal.” We’re not. Doesn’t mean we can’t join our efforts for worthy causes, or speak to each other with respect.
* – Respect brings me to my next and final point: I am tired of the tone of so many of these discussions, whether on the Internet or in person. Getting defensive at both fellow feminists, fellow progressives, or, for that matter, most people, is not strengthening anyone, and it’s not helping people learn. If you want to cultivate empowerment and agency – how about learning to convey your ideas? I’m bad at this myself, but am, hopefully, learning.