For your reading pleasure, a conversation about feminist business between Jenn and me.
Jenn: This was published in Jezebel, talking about how “if you are not a feminist … you are a bad person,” and I’m conflicted. Part of me loves the idea that feminism really is this simple, and everyone should just jump on board! But there’s another part of me that knows that feminism— at least my feminism— is radical. My feminism cannot isolate the patriarchy from other forms of oppression. Patriarchy won’t disappear if we pay women the same wage as men because there’s still a racial gap, and all of this is still steeped in classism, homophobia, transphobia and oppression galore. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.
me: I mean, let’s be honest, it’s more like, really? What’s wrong with you? (I understand the associations with the word, and its less than beautiful history re: race, class), but I don’t understand not getting down with what feminism actually MEANS. Do a little fucking work, people. Get over your fear of hairy legs and lesbians and cats, or whatever you think feminism is about.
A while ago, I went to hear Julie Zeilinger read from her book, A Little F’ed Up: Why Feminism is Not a Dirty Word, and when she asked the audience what they thought of the word feminist, SOME DUDE said, ‘I don’t consider myself a feminist, I consider myself to be an equalist.” I wanted to attack him in the face, which is one of the many reasons I should not be allowed out of the house. Julie handled it like a rock star, pointing out that it’s vital that men be feminists too.
J: Feminism has a gross history, and I get why plenty of folks chose to not associate themselves with eugenics, racism, classism, transphobia, and rich white ladies who didn’t (and too often still don’t) listen to others.
me: It’s interesting to me that feminism is So! Now!
J: Where was all of this rah rah go feminism when I was trying to think about abortion and gender in high school? Would have been nice, world. But this conversation still feels like the one I had in high school. I feel like I’m not saying anything new or even interesting. Yes, feminism. Women. Gender. We got it. Or do we?
C: I am going with “ We do not have it.” I feel like I’m also always saying the same thing, but somehow, I manage to shock people with my scariness.
J: Why is it scary? I think it’s scary because it’s so different. Living my feminism means that every aspect of my life is different and I think of it differently. I don’t want to be pretty; I want to wear clothes that stare down the patriarchy. I don’t want to get married or value myself for having a boyfriend or those monogamous relationships we all need to validate ourselves.
C: Exactly. I think all the stuff about the not wanting to get married is destabilizing because once it’s out there, that it might be an option to not do it and see things and yourself differently, it’s like nothing is sacred. What if you didn’t have to get married? What if everything was optional? You’d have to reshape the whole world. You could reshape the whole world.
J: Right now it’s not really optional. No one is literally going to stone you if you’ve never been married at 36, but there’s obviously something wrong with you.
C: The pathology is so clear to me-you don’t want this things because you’re fucked up, not because you listened to yourself or thought about stuff differently or opted out, and that’s why I feel like there’s suddenly (?) this attempt to repackage feminism as ‘normal” and not threatening and for everybody. As long as feminism is pushing the envelope, which it always will be, it will never be normative, I hope. I don’t want radical to become mainstream. I want people to feel shook up when I talk about what feminism is to me, what it can be and what it can mean.