Everyone says that feminist in-fighting is a bad thing. Honestly, I wish more people could admit that it can be rather fun. Let’s face it, familiarity breeds contempt. And after the tenth person who tells you to “read more Dworkin,” you must turn said contempt into a farce, or else your head explodes, utterly ruining some innocent bystander’s expensive high-heeled sho… I mean, some innocent bystander’s totally practical Birkenstocks.
I also think that it’s human nature to savour the moment of tearing into another creature, especially a similar creature. I suppose I could spin some grand theory regarding some physical or metaphysical love of self-destruction, the attack on a mirror image, those two Madonnas dueling in that “Die Another Day Video” in days of yore (freshman year, for me). But… I’m just going to say that if you look at us closely, the human race can be quite creepy. Feminists are no different. We’re not gentle unicorns with ribbons in our luxurious manes, treading softly on rainbows.
“But Natalia!” You’re saying. “Not unicorns? You’re so dour.” Well yes, this is rather dour. But it also helps me be a better feminist, or so I’ve decided.
My feminism is not a superhero costume. And it cannot be summed up with politics alone. Rather, it’s part of the way in which I understand and relate to my own humanity, and the humanity of all the women I know.
I see a fascinating paradox in the way that feminists relate to one another, particularly in the way they argue with (or at, as it is often the case) with one another: on one hand, the existence of certain party lines within feminism is detestable to all of us, on the other hand, we draw and re-draw these very same lines.
I’ve had an interesting troll in the comments section here in the last few days. I elected not to publish his comments, but they did make me think – though perhaps not in the way they were intended to.
Anyway, the troll described himself as a male feminist. He wrote out a detailed, creepy, and disturbingly sincere history of a relationship he had with some woman who, according to him, “could not rise above her oppression.” The entire thing was peppered with the sort of personal anecdotes which were far too revealing to be published on someone else’s blog. I have to say I am glad the relationship is, apparently, over – if I ever run into this woman, I’d be sure to tell her that she dodged a massive, lead-tipped bullet there.
Besides the obvious sexism and general creep-tastic nature of this episode, I also returned to thinking about the Soviet style of social policing that inevitably crops up when we start talking about whether or not someone has “risen above her oppression.” In the Soviet system, often satirized and subtly criticized in movies like Eldar Ryazanov’s “Sluzhebnyy Roman”, one ideally did not have any secrets from the collective. And, if the collective deemed it necessary, it would discuss one’s personal life. That’s the basic reason as to why my father lost his job when he met my mother, for example – she was found to be an “unsuitable” candidate for a wife by his bosses. When he rebelled, his colleagues closed ranks against him. It didn’t happen a whole lot in the USSR, but it wasn’t unheard of either.
Now, the USSR was not some vast and grim land populated solely by automatons and the occasional blonde hottie (lest you get the wrong idea, dear reader), but it was a system doomed to failure and I don’t like it when I recognize the spiritual twins of said system in movements I believe to be progressive.
But, while I don’t like it, I police people as much as anyone. Yes. Like I said above, it’s weirdly fun, is it not? What I don’t do is attempt to excommunicate them from the movement. If I don’t like your feminism, I won’t necessarily put you in quotation marks. Well, unless you’re Phyllis Schafly or a reincarnation thereof.
So I feel all noble and aggrieved and slightly martyr-like when I treat others the way I want to be treated, and said others turn around and treat me the way I don’t like at all. Perhaps if I was a more spiritual person, I’d see some cosmic messages in all of this, and pipe music would issue forth from the skies, and I’d sit down and write a self-help book and earn millions. As it stands, I just get ticked off.
And that’s another part of the journey of being a feminist human being – you enjoy the anger of others, and others enjoy your anger.
It’s part of the reason why I’m trying reeeally hard to at least not publish trolls such as Mr. “Rise Above Your Own Oppression.” Something that feels this good, couldn’t possibly be good for you, could it?