I wound up having a conversation just now with a feminist I know on Twitter. Her point was that it was “narrow-minded” for people to reject feminism whole-cloth when there are so many different schools of it. My point is that lived experience generally trumps theory; when you are hurt by people who call themselves feminists, it is not then incumbent upon you to go and find MORE FEMINISTS who may or may not hurt you based on their interpretation of and development of feminist theories.
But, really, her point seemed to be that collaborations are more powerful than solo efforts. I don’t know how to get across to people of this mindset that a) folks are rejecting feminism because they experience exploitation and injury rather than collaboration and b) rejecting feminist label does not mean you are working alone in a vacuum to have a conversation about gender.
More and more, I wonder at the insistence of some feminists that feminism is the only context in which to have these discussions in a powerful way. I cannot dismiss the experiences and hurts of other people for the sake of a label — nor can I say that anyone not using the label is alone. There are so many people working in a genuinely intersectional framework. That framework doesn’t really have a name like “feminist,” not for everyone. But that doesn’t mean collaboration isn’t taking place.
Hell, it doesn’t even mean that collaboration with feminists isn’t taking place.
The anger and defensiveness of almost every feminist with whom I have had a discussion about the validity of people rejecting the label of feminist certainly does nothing to make me believe that the issues driving people away from feminism are being respected and addressed. Instead, it simply drives those who have been hurt by feminism further away.
So I went and looked because I don’t know why actually since it was just as ridiculous as I thought it would be and I could have spared myself the confirmation that once again some feminists are so busy defending their existence that they can’t see that no one is attacking them by walking away. You are a better one than me, because I would have asked exactly what she thought mainstream white middle class feminism was doing that is collaborative with well…anyone. I need receipts on her assertion that feminists are doing more than any other group for equality & by receipts I mean a chance to bludgeon her with facts and logic.
She was very insistent that she didn’t have time to talk about it anymore - I guess she didn’t expect argument?
It’s a position that seems very counter to what I think of as feminism actually theoretically being about - respecting the identities and experiences of all kinds of women (and I’d expand that to include people who do not identify as women as well since gender is not a binary). Like, yes, there is power in numbers. But I don’t think expecting people to stick around in feminism for the betterment of feminism at personal cost to themselves makes any damn sense at all.
And the idea that by not being part of feminism people are not part of a collaborating group at all just demonstrates a total ignorance of how people are already working together outside of the feminist movement.
The act of labeling oneself as a “feminist” should never be made an expectation or obligation. I will admit to having thought this way before, that taking on the title was like, a thing I HAD TO DO. But I didn’t - I waited, I learned, I became comfortable, and then it just happened. Maybe I’ll want to stop calling myself a feminist one day, maybe I’ll want to call myself something else, WHO CARES.
Trying to begrudge anyone the right to that process of finding their own foothold on feminism (or any form of identity for that matter) or scolding women for not doing it a “certain way” is just fucking counterintuitive and infuriating to me.
Let people find their own voice and create their own labels, that’s what I’m about.