I identified as a feminist because I believed in “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes” (Oxford dictionary). I read. Without, I hope, stooping to dualism I felt a kinship with other women, especially mothers once I joined those ranks.
Then I joined Twitter and I bonded with anti-feminists, Honey Badgers and other critics with whom I enjoyed insightful, progressive discussions about the movement. They were all ultimately respectful of my decision to defend my label but at some point I began to feel that I was spending a massive amount of time explaining who I was and where I sat- on the periphery of the movement- to the detriment of the amount of time I had to spend talking about things that really matter. At the same time I was contributing to feminist discussion on there and finding that as a voice consistent with the dictionary definition of feminism I was a heretical voice within the movement. Not only this, but, for my trouble, I was constantly insulted and slandered- I’ve been called a rape apologist, a victim blamer, my competency as a mother has been questioned and I’ve been instructed to ‘hand in [my] feminist card on the way out’. I can hear a
chorus of voices raised “That’s just a minority of rad fems, you can’t define the movement by them!”. Well, I would dispute that it’s a minority- lack of grace in discourse aside, the theories those women were defending were mainstream… But, anyway, even if my criticisms did only apply to a minority, it is absolutely my decision who I choose to identify with. I can hold views consistent (certainly with the dictionary definition of) Feminism but reject the label and while I will happily see Feminism reinvigorated and detoxified it’s my right to refuse to do it. I am not a woman against every feminist and I continue to come across free thinking admirable creatures that wear that badge. We’re often brought together through their outrage at our hashtag but a little discussion can reveal much concurrence and we develop mutual respect which is a credit to all involved.
In response to all of the banal quotes feminists bandy around about how ungrateful and sacrilegious #WomenAgainstFeminism are, consider: only wealthy, property owning men had the right to vote in Britain till the Chartists fought for it, I’m yet to meet a man who continues to identify with them. Alexander Fleming invented antibiotics that have saved and will continue to save countless lives, we are not all ‘Flemingos’. Douglas Adams in explaining our reaction to technologies (politics being like social technology) said that “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.” Political movements don’t have a right to exist based on past performance. We should make the changes we need to make then move on.
Not to say that there is no progress to be made in the lives of any women- another reason I tired of the movement was that I wanted to talk about rape as a weapon of war, I wanted to talk about the situation in Islamic countries and the effects of Capitalism (as we know it) on women across the world- but my peers were too busy language policing Guardian journalists and attacking obtuse misrepresentations of their messages. In my community there is still work to do- particularly nurturing healthy attitudes to sex, in women and their partners, but the work that is coming from within the feminist movement is largely counter productive. The cult of victimhood, objection to the truth (that poster ‘1 in 3 rapes happens when the victim is drunk’: yes we need to explicitly tell everyone that getting drunk does not make you morally culpable for becoming a victim of rape but we also have the right to know statistics like that so we can make decisions based on full possession of the facts.), whorephobia… None of this is helping.
One surprising aspect of contributing to this movement has been the fact that I now find myself standing virtually shoulder to shoulder with Christians and conservatives. Now… I’m an Atheist, I’m permissive, I’d sooner be in prison than wed (whether or not it’s true they have play stations), I believe in rehabilitation for criminals, I loathe borders, hell- I even think we should be working towards a cashless society (in favour of a Resource Based Economy, not contactless bloody payment cards)… In short I’m pretty sure that my brethren and I would disagree about quite a few issues. However I am so fucking pleased and proud to be counted with them because I am constantly advocating for freedom of speech and respectful discourse (the antithesis of what is available in any feminist hash tag) and they have bestowed upon me the honour of proving myself. White Christians and conservatives are, like men, fair game in our society. They hold so much reputed ‘privilege’ that the consensus is that they don’t deserve the same respect as everybody else. Bullshit. I think anything’s an appropriate subject for humour (it’s a Scouse thing, my great nan always said “If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry about it”) but I hate hypocrisy, it’s not funny if you would see your arse if the tables were turned, and the mockery cannot preclude respect. Every human being must be free to speak and be heard… And, yeah, (feminists) every human being is free to insult and ninety-nine-times-out-of-a-hundred-all-out-slander each other. But. If you’re doing that you’re only making a dick out of yourself.
One last thing, I apologise to Matthew for not getting back to his comments regarding this on Facebook- I was in the throes of the same debates on Twitter, I didn’t find the time but I hope this goes some way to answering your concerns.