Let's Talk About Feminism

Those of you who know me will know that I'm a feminist. A pretty crappy, isolated one, to be sure, but a feminist nonetheless and therefore one of those hairy, ugly, man-hating destroyers of the family.

Okay, let's get the stereotypes over with: feminists come in all shapes and sizes and their looks (gasp!) don't actually have any bearing on the validity of their points - which vary wildly, sometimes to the point of contradicting each other. And, well...I got thinking about this because of a post by a fellow feminist, talking about how she initially thought that she could talk about feminism to people and have a logical conversation.

As anyone who's ever tried to have a logical conversation about their pet cause will know, it really doesn't work that way. Whether that's because we're all biased or because other people are too set in their ways to have rational discussions about things, most of the time it ends up with people yelling and thinking their opponents are incredibly idiotic. But with feminism, I think we come up against two obstacles: firstly, prejudice (which by definition is undeserved) against feminism, and secondly, our own very real shortcomings as feminists.

Prejudice against feminism is the topic that'll get me accolades from the feminists and glares from everyone else - and increasingly, I no longer give a fuck. It exists. The same MRAs and antifems whose praises are sung in some quarters would call me a "man-hating witch" for being a feminist. Even in mainstream circles there's a feeling that feminism's gone too far; it's irrelevant in today's equal society (which isn't really equal - stubborn gender pay gap and misogynistic attitudes, anyone?). Victims are blamed for what has happened to them, beauty is a measure of a woman's value, people of all genders and none try and break themselves physically and mentally to do what the kyriarchy tells them, and science (or pop science) is sometimes used to perpetuate sexism: women have evolved for a nurturing role and therefore they should stay in the kitchen and make babies. Something like that. It's all bullshit anyway.

And that's just a small selection. I haven't even gone onto what feminists get called, which is mostly hairy, ugly, man-hating lesbians who want to destroy the nuclear family. How dare they refuse to adhere to the standards of the kyriarchy?! Going into the logical fails involved in this stereotype is a tired exercise and somewhat irrelevant for this post.

The upshot of all this prejudice is that us feminists have to be veeery fucking careful about what we say, because someone, somewhere, is going to use anything we say as evidence that all feminists are horrible, evil, and want to destroy the family/atheism/liberty/critical thinking/whatever your cherished idea is. You probably don't like that I said this. I don't like that I have to say it, especially because not only do I understand where people come from but also that the onus should be on people to not cherry-pick rather than on people to guard against cherry-picking, but it's what we have to work with. We have to work to change it, yes, but that starts with not being sitting ducks in the name of keeping the moral high ground.

That also starts with being on the moral high ground in the first place - which brings me to us feminists needing to admit our failings and fix them, quickly. This is the bit that people don't want me to talk about, because some of them get angry that I've criticised their cherished concepts and others wonder why I don't just denounce feminism completely instead of picking out the flaws.

Depending on the kind of feminist, I've seen racist feminists. I've seen ableist feminists. I've seen transphobic feminists (and I think I may have seen a biphobic feminist at one point). I've seen feminists unwittingly marginalise other issues and groups by looking at things from an explicitly feminist perspective, rather than a genuinely humanist one, and not acknowledging other points of view.

In short, I've seen a lot of shit under feminism's big tent and I'm sick to holy hell of it. If any feminist wants credence, cleaning out our hive is something we need to work on. It's sickening to hear about just how bad our movement can be, but shutting our ears to it only perpetuates oppression - you know, the thing we were supposed to be fighting, type of oppression be damned. Or was that just me? And it's not just a few bad apples either; some of it is rooted in history, some in the philosophy of a movement. Other times it's endemic (though I would hesitate to say inherent). It's not pleasant to wake up to, but goddammit, we can't afford to ignore it in the hope that it goes away. That has never helped, anywhere, and it never will.

So what can we do? Individually, we can educate ourselves and take the time to think over what privilege and prejudices we might have, and work on being better people. It's all we can do. Collectively, well...I don't really work in groups (for various reasons) and I'm not particularly bright. I'm also quite privileged, so any suggestions I make might be stupid, offensive or just plain fucking obvious; if they are, please, please rip me a new one in the comments. I would definitely suggest making meeting places accessible for obvious reasons and I would also suggest encouraging an open-minded, non-judgemental spirit so that people can swap ideas without fear of being excluded for having a "wrong" thought but can also rely on people understanding them if they do need to talk. You know...just trying to be compassionate and thoughtful, at root, and fixing things as best we can when we go wrong.