I went to a wonderful talk this weekend put on by Guardian Live entitled: “Women’s Rights: Are We Slipping Back into the Dark Ages?” In the era of Trump, and scandal after scandal both in the U.S. and in the U.K., it sure can feel like it.
The panel was lively and hilarious, as feminist women tend as a matter of necessity to be. It was refreshing to hear the voices of women acknowledging the subtle misogyny that seems to have bubbled back to the surface.
I am not on board for any version of feminism that doesn’t place women’s issues front and center.
During the Q&A, one audience member asked a question: “how can we make men understand how patriarchy hurts them, too?” Now, it’s a valid and pragmatic question, and I know I’m overreacting, but so help me God if I hear another concern in women’s spaces about men’s feelings…
What I mean to say is that I’m of two minds: on the one hand, women are expected to center and protect men from their own emotions on a daily basis. Just once I want to see them take responsibility their own mental health and emotional well-being. On the other hand, there is surely value in making a pragmatic argument to men about the benefits of feminism.
The whole thing tastes to me a bit like the liberal hand-wringing in the wake of the 2016 US election: how do we broaden our appeal to the “white working class”? Well, first let’s acknowledge that it was never (just) about the economy. And if satisfying the WWC means abandoning “identity politics” (i.e. the things that matter to you if you are not white, or straight, or male, or middle class) then get me the fuck out of there.
So let’s go ahead and make an economic argument for feminism: the case for gender equity is already clear. So if all these “rational” men want to make the economically prudent choice, they can ally the fuck up. I am not on board for any version of feminism that doesn’t place women’s issues front and center.
That doesn’t mean we don’t need sisters in this fight who are willing to engage both men and women and educate them. But I personally try to be mindful about the language I use when talking about feminism, what its goals are and what we hope to accomplish as feminists.
My feminism centers women in a way that is unapologetically intersectional: I don’t believe we can dismantle patriarchal structures unless we stand with all women, celebrating and centering diversity in the women’s movement. It’s easy for people living in white middle-class bubbles, like the one I grew up in, to believe they are post-racial and free of class bias. But gender power dynamics pervade every single facet of societies (with the possible exception of certain prisons and military units) and so feminist critique is a powerful tool to talk to all kinds of people about all kinds of privilege and power dynamics.
A feminist movement takes all kinds: from the lesbian separatist womyn, to those women (bless them) that patiently explain to their male partners, for the umpteenth time, that the pay gap is real and a problem.
So yes, feminism can be for everyone. But my feminism acknowledges that the most expedient route to raise us all up, is to empower women of all classes, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds.