I am a feminist. Go ahead, you can run for the hills, screaming. I’ll wait. It’s definitely an understandable response. Hell, a lot of people who either claim to be feminists, or actually are feminists, drive me up the damn wall. I get it. So, let’s get down to brass tacks here, and start unpacking a very, very messy suitcase.
What is feminism? Well, you can ask 100 different people, and probably get at least 70 different answers. Some people will likely tell you that it’s a pro-woman movement, while other’s will liken it to egalitarianism. Initially, feminism was very much about the advocacy of, for, and by (white) women, based on equality of the sexes. Much like most things, feminism has evolved multiple times, and had many “waves” of change. And, much like most things, there are about as many schools of opinion and thought on what feminism actually is, as there are people in this world. Maybe not quite that many, but I’m sure you get my point.
I consider myself to be an intersectional feminist. That basically means there is little room for exclusion, here. This means I have to support and fight for the rights, equality, and equity of black women, trans women, anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum, black men, any other person of color, or marginalized group, etcetera. I have to recognize that white, heterosexual, cishet women aren’t the only people that need fighting for. To be clear, I will forever believe that being a woman or a black person or an LGBTQ person does not preclude them being an asshole. People can be bad people, no matter who they are. But I do believe that they should have the same inalienable human rights, regardless.
So, let’s talk about those feminists, or concepts of feminism, that are just a damn nightmare. The kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes, grit my teeth, and sometimes, go on an all out rant. I’ll break down some of them for you. Mind you, this will not be an inclusive list, but it’s a place to start.
“White” feminists (note: this is not about feminists who happen to be white, so take a deep breath and read on)
- Fails to recognize the struggles specific to women of color
- Fails to recognize the struggles specific to people on the LGBTQ spectrum
- Fails to recognize the struggles specific to women who aren’t Christian
- Fails to recognize that men can be feminists, too
- Fails to recognize the specific struggles of poor women
- Hasn’t really evolved from first-wave feminism
- Need to be the “face” of any and all social progress movements (i.e. Stonewall)
Insomniactivists (a term I’ve coined to describe those who are too “woke”, or “woker”-than-thou)
- Fails to remember that no one is born socially conscious
- Fails to take opportunities for learning and use them to help someone
- Fails to stop talking long enough to listen
- Fails to recognize the room in their own life for growth and evolution
- This woman is often seen degrading or putting other women down to elevate herself, particularly her status among men
- “I’m not like other women.”
- “I hang out with men more than women. Women are just too much drama.”
- Those who “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk” also fall under this category
- Pro-life feminists (I’ll get into this more in another section)
“White Knights” and other unhelpful “allies”
- Men who claim to be feminists, yet always swoop in and “save” a woman who doesn’t need saving
- They’re often seen on the internet, mansplaining things for women, to other men, because, well, obviously, women are unable to communicate their thoughts and opinions
- Those who refuse to listen to a marginalized person explain why they feel marginalized, and instead try to explain for them, or completely erase the validity of their situation and experiences
- Those who center themselves in conversations clearly not meant for, or about, them
Exclusivity in feminism
- Excluding women from the blanket of what feminism fights for because they don’t agree with you
- Pro-life women deserve the same rights, equality, and equity as every other women, regardless of what they believe. When they were excluded from the Women’s March on Washington, that reeked of exclusivity.
- Excluding men from being feminist or believing in feminist ideals
- Side note: we don’t need men in feminist spaces telling us how to be feminist, but we do need more feminist men making their spaces more feminist
- Excluding people for not being an activist in the “right” way, or for not being as active as you think they should be in the fight
- Those who battle to prove that their struggle is worse than someone else’s, with the sole aim of showing how “bad” they have it
- Those who minimize the struggle of others, often with very minimal struggles of their own
- “Black people are the real racists because they call white people racists!”
Again, I stress that this list does not contain every single instance of someone who flies the feminist flag under false pretenses, but hopefully it is enough to start a conversation.