I’m writing this little screed because I’ve been hearing from younger women and girls, with increasing frequency, that they do not want to “identify as feminists”.
The major point I am making here, and which I will continue to make elsewhere, is pretty simple.
My identity is under attack.
My label, my brand, the descriptor that is used simply to categorize myself by my beliefs, is being made into a dirty word which is associated with negative actions and attitudes. And meanwhile, the “good parts” of my message and beliefs–equality, important gains in human rights–are being appropriated, and stolen from my label by the Enemy, so that the many achievements of feminism can co-opted by others, severed from the ongoing efforts of modern feminists to achieve real and critically important change or to prevent the roll-back of what has already been achieved…or just plain belittled in order to diminish the value of feminism and its message in the eyes of others.
I am, to put it bluntly, calling bullshit on that. And my reasons why are below.
“Feminist” is just yet another word that the Privileged Right has managed to pathologize and make “shameful” through constant repetition of Talking Points.
“Feminists are loud!” (Because they actually insist on being heard.)
“Feminists are obnoxious!” (Because they insist on being seen in public. And when told to sit down and shut up or go away, they do not.)
“Feminists are aggressive!” (Because they refuse to submit to aggression. Because they study self-defense techniques that actually work against physical, verbal, and legislative aggression. And because even when they are successfully attacked, they press charges, testify in court, or fight for legal change.)
“Feminists are psychotic!” (Because they are crazy enough to believe that women have human rights. And crazy enough to refuse to bow to gendered terrorism like rape.)
“Feminists are the cause of the problems they’re trying to solve!” (Because voicing a problem that others didn’t know about, or would prefer to deny, means you CREATED the problem.)
“Everyone was happy before the feminists came along!” (Because no one who was unhappy had the power to voice their unhappiness, and had to learn to live with it or quietly die of it.)
These same people did this same trick with the word “Liberal” throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. The real meaning of the word “Liberal” is “a person who believes in individual freedom and dignity”.
They are working hard now to achieve the same results with a new label, “Social Justice Warrior”. In reality, the people called “Social Justice Warriors” are really just those who are willing to fight for the equality and dignity of other human beings in public. But the Right has learned that if you repeat a label enough times with enough derision and loathing dripping from your tone, that people will learn to think it’s a bad thing to believe in equality, justice, or human rights.
Turning the identity label of a non-violent movement for equality and justice into a Badge of Shame by claiming that any challenge to the Privilege of the Privileged is about “anger”, “aggression” and “attacking” is a trick as old as time. It is one of the tactics that the Right has learned to use over and over, because it will ALWAYS work on some people.
I am not one of those people. I never, EVER, will be one of those people. It is not a crime to be female, and feminism is the assertion that females have equal rights and equal worth to men. That’s the full meaning of the word. Full stop.
How that equality is asserted by individual people and groups, and how angry and hostile those people get when their human rights are denied, is up to them. By way of example? Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. were Civil Rights Activists. These men and their associated groups did not have the same motives, manners or methods, they just had the same agenda: CIVIL RIGHTS.
Some feminists are peaceful and groovy. Some feminists get pissed off as hell. As with any other identity label (“Man”, “Woman”, “Canadian”, “Christian”, “Intellectual”, “Music Lover”), there is no single way to “do it right”. That doesn’t mean the word has no meaning at all, it just means that some labels are BY DEFINITION broad and inclusive. And you do not have to promise to agree with, or be a clone of, every other person who bears that label in order for it to have meaning to you, and in order to be valid.
So far as anger and aggression go, however…this is an issue which does make me genuinely angry AND aggressive. Because I have done my share of forensic anthropology, and I know who the real victims of anger and aggression in this world are most likely to be–and they are, overwhelmingly, women and children, who have a tendency to be violated, hurt and killed by boys and men.
I think anyone who believes that feminists are the PROBLEM in this world needs to look a little closer at the statistics of rape and violence against women.
We are NOT the problem. We are the desperately needed solution.
And if our non-violent insistence on women being heard, being recognized, being equal, and receiving humane and just treatment is all the “anger” and “aggression” that our persecutors have to face?
They should be grateful that we are thus proving to be their moral superiors. In every. Damn. Way.
P.S. Not every feminist has a vagina.
Want to know whether you too might be a feminist? Check this handy link.