I've been thinking about the many imperfections of feminism, and how the term and movement mean so many different things to different people. I think the longer it exists as an activist identity, the more "feminism" is disjointed. We're to a point where it's incredibly hard to really understand what any one person means when they say, "I'm a feminist." That sentence itself is somewhat empty to me anymore. I need further discussion to really understand what someone claiming the identify even thinks or feels.
At its core, I'm talking about intersectionality and how we approach and handle feminists that perpetuate other forms of bigotry.
For example, here we have two posts I read recently on Tumblr. First up: is a post that is going all around which highlights a short interaction between two Tumblr users:
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With no context, I have no idea what point "thebootyfandom" was actually trying to make in opposing "euo's" original comment, but I had my own objections which can be nicely summarized by a the second post, as shared by another Tumblr user, "terrakion:"
bigoted feminism is feminism but it’s an extremely skewed and awful version of feminism that needs to be called out and critiqued and altered. there are huge problems within the feminist movement such as racism and transphobia and transmisogyny that need to be addressed, and writing off these sort of things as “not real feminism” ignores these issues and writes off the experiences of the affected people as unimportantThat's exactly the problem I have with the first post and the very rote response of saying the same thing again when questioned. If we just keep saying "racist people aren't real feminists!" or "transphobes aren't real feminists!" all we've done is attempt to distance ourselves from racists and transphobes, without engaging in a meaningful deconstruction of how their beliefs perpetuate oppression in the same way sexism does.
But beyond this, I think that white and cis feminists like myself need to be particularly careful when approaching these discussions and interactions. For example, if a black woman or a trans woman shares her complaints with mainstream feminism and the feelings of being excluded or actively attacked, and the response is, "Well real feminism isn't racist" or "Real feminism is trans inclusive" you've become nearly as bad as the folks you're trying to distance yourself from. These "real feminism" reactions are dismissive and silencing. They allow the person saying them to flippantly write off the concerns underlying the other person's perspective because they've created a dichotomy between feminists and bigots--a dichotomy which is clearly false as there are numerous examples of people with bigoted beliefs who identify as feminist. And through this false dichotomy, the people who claim to be "real" feminists seek to distance themselves from racism and transphobia but may not actively examine how these powerful forces might be influencing their own thoughts and behavior. It's a classic case of "but I'm not X because I said I'm not X."
It's a simple fact that people routinely can and do identify as feminists and hold anti-sexist views while still promoting other axis of the kyriarchy. This isn't OK and feminists concerned with a well rounded view of social justice should do something. Two options are demonstrated above: A) dismiss and distance or B) acknowledge, confront, and critique. Of course, they're not opposites and you could do A while still doing B, but if you're all A and no B, I suggest you take a moment to really examine this.
What is the effect? How are you moving the ball forward? Who are you helping?
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