Monday, February 16, 2009

To Be or Not to Be... A Feminist

I think it's finally happened... my brain simply can't wrap its head around the conflicting ideals within the feminist "movements."*

I've been thinking a lot lately about the label "feminism." After the Fem2.0 Conference, there was a lot of talk in the blogosphere about what is considered a feminist blog (see here and here, for example). One of the first things that came to my mind when I saw Womanist Musings on there was, "wait... what's the criteria here?" Not that I don't think Womanist Musings is one of the best blogs out there, because I totally do. But... the name of her blog is Womanist Musings. And while womanism is historically considered part of feminism, it often isn't seen that way anymore. I also know Renee takes issue with a lot of aspects of the larger feminist "movements," as do many other WOC. BFP has publicly gone from a self-proclaimed feminist, to rejecting the label and considering taking "femi" out of her name. So finding her on a list of top feminist blogs... what exactly does that mean for feminism? And what does it mean for me?

Because, hey, guess what? I'M A WOC!! And I have the same problems that so many others have with the feminist "movements." I know there are countless people who call themselves feminists but still say/do racist, ableist, homophobic, etc. things. I simply cannot wrap my head around that. So I usually just say things like "that's not what I consider feminist..." and keep it moving. I am critical of the "movements" and those people, but I do not reject the label or the "movements."

But more and more I've started to ask myself... should I? I know that I don't need the label in order to keep believing what I do and acting the way I do. So what's the big deal?

I know what you're thinking... "But, Sally, I thought feminist was the only label you were proud of claiming?! What on earth is going on here?!" Honestly, I have no real answer to that.

I do not think I am ready to let go of the feminist label. To me, feminism is more than these "movements" or the individuals that claim to represent them. I've always said you do not need to identify as a feminist to be one.

I still believe that. But I also see merit in rejecting the labels. Is it fair for me to call Renee or BFP feminists simply because they meet my own definition of the term, even if they don't feel comfortable with that label? Is it fair for others to give them that label?

It seems to be the ultimate question of fighting the system from within vs. fighting the system from the outside. Is it time for me to really consider and internalize the reasons to reject the label?

Even now, this is so difficult for me to even write. I'm struggling to put down all the things I'm thinking and to summarize what's been running through my head for the past few weeks. I know that I have to start working through these things in order to have some sort of closure. I haven't had a real "feminist" post in weeks, not only because I haven't had time (though I really haven't, which sucks anyway), but also because I just don't know what to say.

I don't want to keep making excuses for these racist, homophobic, condescending people calling themselves feminists. But I also have great examples of people who still use the term, WOC or otherwise.

I know feminism is a process. I guess I never realized just how much of a personal process it would be.

*I intentionally put movement in quotes for several reasons. 1) There is no clear distinction between the Second, Third, even Fourth so-called waves of feminism. I'm not about to start splitting these up & trying to define them in this post. 2) I'm not entirely sure how a cause with so many factions can really be considered one, singular movement -- waves or no waves. 3) No matter how many waves, a lot of the problems I mention in this post are seen in some form throughout all of them, so distinctions don't really even matter.

(Originally posted at Jump off the Bridge)


MandyV said...

We seem to be on similar wavelengths today.

Jake Aryeh Marcus said...

Feminism is both a bundle of ideas and a bundle of movements. I think you can remain a feminist (as I do) and reject some feminists and some feminist movements. I can also embrace and celebrate what others choose to call themselves.

Skye said...

I try not to label other people as feminists if I know they are uncomfortable with the label. I wish the people making those lists would use a more inclusive term or set of terms, such as Feminism, Womanist, and Women's Issues blogs.

As for people (and organizations) who call themselves feminists but are also racist, homophobic, etc., I think they are really, really bad at feminism. How can it be feminism if it doesn't support ALL women? Anyone can call themselves anything, but if they do it so badly, then other people have the right to say "you're doing it wrong." Just because a lot of people show up under a banner and they happen to be idiots, that's not necessarily about the banner. There are just a lot of idiots in the world. There are tons of people who say they love America and the Constitution but they don't actually believe in such cornerstones of democracy as "innocent until proven guilty" or "free speech."

But if the jackassery goes on for long enough and most of the people under the banner act that way... well then eventually, it's time to say "nice idea, but you broke it, and I don't really want to be associated with the majority of you people." And in the case of feminism, if you come to believe that centering gender as the primary oppression creates and reinforces the jackassery - and I think a decent argument can be made for that, witness the latest Bitch magazine where Obama's win was explained as sexism on the part of young women which just proved Gloria Steinem was right (OMG are you paying NO attention to WOC bloggers?) - then you can't really be blamed for opting out and I think it's quite rude for people to say you're still in.

Okay, so that was long. I have feelings on this topic.

frau sally benz said...

Thanks for your comments!

I think I would lean more towards keeping myself attached to the label, just because it is something I've used to define myself for so long.

But my frustration at the feminists who aren't doing it right makes me wonder at what point I might end up drawing the line. I can continue to disassociate myself from their views, but there might come a time when the "movement" might just all be screwed up.

Skye, you also make me wonder if we just need a whole new label for those of us who don't want to make one oppression the only focus. Something more to think about...

Skye said...

I thought back to this post later, see the end:

Bj0rnborg said...

New label;

how about a gender liberation movement?

Inclusive to both sexes, all sexual identities, ethnicities etc.