Monday, August 6, 2012

All Objections to Feminism are not Equal

I've been thinking about this blog for a while and a conversion I had last night crystallized my intentions to write it. I write a lot about accepting the term "feminist." It is a very important goal of mine to make sure that the movement is better understood and to dispel the many stereotypes that exist about feminists. I want people who believe in gender equality and the end of sexist oppression to understand that they all have a place within the movement.

So when I encounter someone who is for equality but against feminism, I bristle. My first concern is that they've been indoctrinated to believe the sexist stereotypes that feminism has been associated with. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that I need to remember that all objections to feminism are not equal. I mean this specifically about women of color who do not identify with the movement because of its history of racism and ongoing incidents of racism in the white feminist community.

Let me provide a little context for this. I joined Tumblr about a year ago and in my time tumbling, I've stumbled across many corners of the web which have taught me a thing or two. I was able to much better understand fat acceptance through Tumblr, for example. Likewise, I have been able to read much more about anti-racism and white privilege.

So often, a story would pop into my dashboard which expressed a woman of color's disdain for feminism. Now, I was an academic "yeah I read about that in school" kind of way, that women of color have long felt marginalized by the feminist movement. However, the women of color that I would interact with on a daily basis identify as feminists and we really didn't/don't talk about that marginalization. But here I was, reading account after account of real life objections to feminism from women of color. (Here is a great example.)

This post is, at its core, about me checking my privilege, so I'm going to be honest. When I first encountered this type of criticism, I sort of brushed it off. I thought of it as a "that doesn't apply to me" situation and moved on. But then, about a month ago, I read another such post and I found myself thinking, annoyed, "Why do I keep reading these objections to feminism? Who are they talking about? The feminist stuff I read is anti-racist!"

As I was having these thoughts, I realized that I was doing exactly what this is all about. I was taking my view of the situation (as a white woman) and ignoring their concerns. I was taking my privileged perspective as default and invalidating someone else's experience. I was being exactly what I stand against. In my zest for the movement and the good that I hope it can do, I was failing to acknowledge real people telling me how they are oppressed by it. In other words, I was fucking up.

Like I said, I've been thinking about this a lot and reflecting that reaction. I want to do better. As I write here frequently, I subscribe to Flavia Dzodan's idea that my feminism must be intersectional or it is bullshit. As I am committed to anti-racism, the first and most important place that I can continue to work on that commitment is inside my own head.

I also think that listening (or in this case reading) is absolutely critical. But I can't just listen to someone when they're talking about how a conservative was racist simply because that fits in with my expectations. I've also to go listen when someone is talking about a racist experience with feminism or a feminist. When I encounter such an objection to feminism, I'm not going to brush off. I'm going to actually listen and think about what is being said and learn from it.

There is an immeasurably vast difference between someone who doesn't like feminism because "feminists are angry bitches" and someone who doesn't identify with the movement because they have been oppressed and marginalized by it. The former is someone who I can brush off and the latter is someone who I will be better by reading.


  1. Agreed and great summary of the situation - I can absolutely respect someone who doesn't identify with the movement because they have given it a try and have been marginalized. That isn't a reflection on them - it's a reflection on us white feminists who haven't done a good enough job listening or practicing what we preach.

    It is definitely different than those saying they're not a feminist because they're having a knee-jerk reaction to a negative stereotype.

    Thanks for writing this!

  2. Very much agree! The very power of privilege is its invisibility to those who hold it - something we forget at EVERYBODY'S peril. Thanks for pointing out that it's something everyone needs to watch rather than just something The Bigots cling to.

  3. Great read! This is definitely something that I've been thinking about lately. My university coursework involves both Latino Studies and Women's Studies and as a white feminist, I am trying to be more aware of the ways in which privilege operates in my life. I contributed to Michele Norris' Race Card project and my 6 words were: "WHITE feminism. I live with contradiction."


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