Mar 04, 2013 @ 8:59 am | By TheFeministGriote | 2 Comments
“My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit!”-Flavia Dzodan
There has been lots of murmuring among some feminists and those outside of feminism trying to redefine and reconfigure feminism. I and many other feminists felt no need to engage in this circular conversation because we still pledge allegiance to the definition of feminism that bell hooks articulated decades ago:
Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression. Its aim is not to benefit solely any specific group of women, any particular race or class of women. It does not privilege women over men. It has the power to transform in a meaningful way all of our lives. Most importantly, feminism is neither a lifestyle nor a ready-made identity or role that one can step into.
Many white-cis-gendered-middle income feminists have been dominating the blogosphere with their privileged arguments, with the expectation, that all feminists, will ban together behind whatever egregiously foolish thing they happen to be raging against that week. This very privileged elitist group of white feminist (some not ALL) represent a segment of feminism that I like to refer to as the “Eat, Pray, Love feminist sector.” I call them that because just like in the movie and book there is this notion of freedom and self agency that is being presented to feminist of color as if all women have the access to the same luxurious and can simply checkout of their life/oppression. As a Black woman with little economic means and even smaller social individual power, I have no time to eat, pray, love not in the capitalistic sense of the phrase. I am too busy trying to navigate this world in my Black female body, and handling all the bullshit that comes with that. The #eatpraylovefeminists have white privilege, class privilege, and have no issue with aligning themselves with patriarchy and racism. These same women often resemble female chauvinist pigs. What really signifies #eatpraylovefeminists is the fact that they assume that ALL women are oppressed like them, have access like them, interface with the same choices as them, and that feminists of color, lesbian feminists, queer feminists, trans feminists, differently-abled feminists have no agency of their own, and that we are always in dire need of a white savior/oppressor in a female body posing as an ally to speak for us!
The #eatpraylovefeminists seem to always get up in arms when celebrity women declare themselves to be non-feminists. Back in November 2012 Katy Perry who was honored by Billboard with the woman of the year award had this to say about feminism, ”I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” Then then there was Taylor Swift who when she was asked about whether or not she feels she is a feminist responded saying, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”
The situation got critically stupid among this group of feminists once Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter announced that her world tour would be named, “The Mrs. Carter World Tour.” Many feminist once again mainly white women felt that this was an act of insolence committed by Bey and that she was making a mockery of feminism. Unlike Swift and Perry Mrs. Carter does see herself as a quasi-feminist. In September 2011, Beyonce was interviewed by Harper Baazar UK and when she was asked what does she think of feminism and whether or not she identifies Beyonce responded:
I don’t really feel that it’s necessary to define it. It’s just something that’s kind of natural for me, and I feel like…you know…it’s, like, what I live for. ’I need to find a catchy new word for feminism, right? Like Bootylicious.
Upon reading this quote I did chuckle and cringe at the fact that Beyonce wanted to bedazzle feminism with a name change. I even wrote a blog post about it Dear Beyonce, don’t mess with my feminism. (Full disclosure I am a proud member of the Beyhive and have no problem critiquing Bey). As a person who advocates for feminism, I would never attempt to shame Beyonce for wanting to tour using her husband’s last name. I don’t understand why so many ardent feminists feel compelled to devote copious amounts of blog posts to shaming, and trolling women celebrities who don’t want to align with feminism. With that said, when The Onion tweeted on Oscar night calling Quevanzhanė Wallis a cunt this same group of feminists had nothing substantive to add to the discourse. Their reactions ranged from nothing, to defending The Onion, to policing the emotions of Black women who were outraged by the word cunt, and all of this amounted to some white feminists being okay with the erasure of Black female bodies. After all, the Black female form is always considered dangerous grounds within the white gaze. (If you want to read an in-depth analysis on The Onion tweet debacle and the lack of response by white feminists please read Tressie’s post which breaks it down like only a Black woman scholar could. Also feel free to read Jessica Luther’s response. Luther’s response is the only one by a white feminist that is worth reading that won’t run up your blood pressure).
It seems that some of my comrades in the struggle have lost their center or may be experiencing burn out and have forgotten what feminism is about. So here are some refresher points for us all:
- Feminism is a movement- Too many feminists are thirsty for celebrities to join the movement as if that will validate the movement. Feminism requires work. Feminism is all about praxis, having high profile celeb women identifying as feminists will not better the lot of women in the United States. In order for this sociopolitical movement to thrive those of us who labor in the vineyard of feminism must raise the consciousness of our circle of influence by engaging our lovers, families, young people, and friends. Feminism is all about the collective. One woman being able to break the glass ceiling doesn’t translate to liberation for all women. The same way trickle down economics does nothing for our economy, trickle down feminism does nothing for women globally or domestically.
- Feminism isn’t easy & may make you unpopular- I hate to be the bearer of bad news especially when it comes to feminism, because I understand fully that feminism needs better PR, but I am not going to lie about what it means to self-idenitfy and align oneself with feminism. You may lose friends, your dating pool may shrink, your entertainment consumption may change. The point I am driving at is that feminism come with lots of social stigma, and responsibility. There are people that I simply can’t date because of their politics. If I can’t get with your politics then we can’t get sexual. I am not in the business of entertaining patriarchal terrorists romantically or sexually. Being a feminist means I must call out all isms at all times when it happens. Grant it I pick my battles, if I am at the barbershop I may think four times before checking someone. Depending on how deeply you’ve integrated your politics in your life please expect to have hard conversations with people and expect to be ostracized, because unlearning and purging oneself of socialization makes one a threat to the status quo.
- Intersection or bust- I don’t know how many times that I have written, said, or read these words, “women are not a monolithic group.” Women come in a myriad of variations that include race, gender expression, political/religious affiliations, educational attainment, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and so on. I don’t ever want to suggest that there is an Oppression Olympics or hierarchy of oppression. But the truth is, I do know that the oppressions that plagues a transwoman of color is not the kind of oppression that a white woman of any class has to contend with.
- Men are NOT the enemy- I remember being at a high school and facilitating a queer group and somehow I was asked about feminism and this young gay Latin male said, “don’t feminist hate men?” Mind you the tone in which the question was asked was more rhetorical than exploratory. Feminism is not a movement that advocates hating men. Remember feminism is about ending sexist oppression, feminism is NOT about being equal to men because not all men have the same power and equality in our society. A black hetero man doesn’t not have the same privilege and equality that a white-hetero- cis-gendered man has in this society. Women can be misogynists, women can be chauvinists pigs, and women can and often do participate in patriarchy. Gender is not the enemy, socialization is. Men can advocate for feminism as well, but men must always be mindful of the space they take up within feminism and be forever cognizant and vigilant of their male privilege not overpowering feminist spaces.
- One chooses to advocate for feminism, there are no honorary feminists- There seems to be an overwhelming propensity to bestow the title of ‘feminism’ to anyone who believes that women are human beings. Umm…I am glad that some people think women are people that should have rights, but that type of thinking doesn’t deserve a cookie. Feminism is a political choice, one must choose to join this struggle. Feminism unfortunately, can’t be everything to everyone. That is why you have women who are pro-life who are dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade having no qualms about calling themselves feminists. That is why you have transphobic women claiming to be feminists. This type of thinking also allows white feminists who refuse to divest from racism and patriarchy, to continue to call themselves feminists. You can’t be drafted into feminism you must enlist.
If you’re not committed to dismantling all isms and actively working against unlearning your socialization and policing your privilege you can call yourself what you want, but the proof will always and forever be in the pudding!
Categories: Mind Over Chatter