there’s a deeply problematic trend right now amongst young women in the West: the trend of identifying in explicit opposition to feminism in spite of the fact that we take for granted the rights, privileges, and realities created by the work of the feminist movement. the “anti-feminist movement” is a force which grabs a lot of note in the media and which has a decent thrall over the blogosphere, too. it’s not exactly a bunch of extremists advocating anti-feminism but instead this has become something that seems to be worthy of debate, and i’m really curious when the basic humanity and equality of women became a matter that people believe should be subject to debate. yet this is what’s happening, from the modern American uterus police and their obsessive war on reproductive rights to the media’s portrayal of feminist women, there’s a war afoot against feminism in Western culture.
i know feminism is imperfect, especially when it comes to the fact that it’s a movement which has centered the experiences of white women for most of its history. the problem, however, is that the anti-feminist movement has nothing to do with criticisms of feminism’s troubled history when it comes to queers, trans women, disabled women, and women of color, especially Latinas; these criticisms are certainly something feminism must be accountable to and accountable for. a good example of a movement in response to the failings of feminism is Womanism, which centers the Black female experience in Western society; it’s a fine example of a movement which isn’t defined as feminist but is dedicated to uplifting women. the thing is that Womanism isn’t anti-feminism. anti-feminism is literally being against the goals and desires of feminism…anti-feminism is targeted at the very idea that women deserve to be independent entities with the same right to our own things, rights, desires, and feelings that men take for granted. the message of anti-feminism is quite plain: women deserve to be lesser.
i am a feminist because i believe that my gender doesn’t change my value as a person. i don’t believe that anyone’s gender should change their value as a person, so i don’t think anyone deserves to be lesser because of their gender. yes, there are deeply transphobic ideologues in the feminist movement, people like Cathy Brennan and Janice Raymond, both of whom center a very patriarchally defined Caucasian version of feminism to start with. now, as much as allegory may be overused, i want to ask you a question…what’s so different about feminism that lets it be judged by a few loud, hateful ideologues? there are deeply transphobic Black folk and LGB types out there, but nobody expects me to stop being Black or gay because of those transphobes, and yet i see feminism used, repeatedly, get bashed by other trans women. why not form rational criticisms of transphobic feminisms and speak to the problems of those transphobes rather than unloading on how you’re not a feminist? i don’t understand what causes this extreme discomfort within a certain group of trans women, especially when i always find it ironic to see a woman complaining about feminism when she does things like own stuff and vote. guess what brought you that right? um, you got it, feminism.
but the problem goes much farther than just trans women. the problem seems to affect a cross-section of women and i agree with the assertion that this is a creation of the increasingly conservative Western media attempting to position feminism as a relic of the past and that feminist women are somehow deficient and that feminism failed when the ERA wasn’t ratified in the US. this is full of fertilizer for a number of reasons, from that there’s a big, big world that isn’t the US on down to the reality that there is no one feminist archetype…didn’t Third Wave feminism address this? i don’t think there’s much question that media shapes perception, whether it’s the perception of trans women or the perception of Black working-class families, and given the nature of social shame aimed at women for speaking up and asserting our independence, it’s very easy to play games with how women are depicted in the media. when was the last time you saw a media story that positively portrayed a disabled single woman? i’ll sit here and wait while you look…you’re gonna be busy for a while.
this rewards a system where women who parrot the current social mentality are rewarded, especially if they espouse values which reassure the kyriarchy. think about who you see demonized when the media wants you to look unfavorably upon the poor: the racist, sexist myth of the “welfare queen”, a myth that has been expanded lately in the UK and the US to demonize disabled people. generally, the people you see portrayed as scroungers are people of color and women. one of the reasons media portrayal becomes so odious goes beyond that: the once-a-week story you see in American media of a woman going into a male-dominated field and succeeding. it often correctly identifies what it’s like to be in that position, but it looks upon this woman as an oddity and not a woman doing her damn job. it treats the success of a woman as an oddity and not as something that’s supposed to be everyday.
i will be the first person to admit to you that feminism isn’t perfect, but plenty of things aren’t perfect; this does not mean they should be disregarded over a few bad apples. i am unabashedly and unashamedly a feminist and i don’t really want to ponder what my life would be like (or if i’d even exist) without the advances the feminist movement has made for women in the United States. i will criticize when feminism fails women of color, and i will speak up when disabled women and trans women are demonized by certain fringe elements of the movement, but i will never, ever accept the idea that the kyriarchy thinks it knows what’s best for me.