I was about to write "it's a tough time to be a feminist" as the opening line to this post and then I realized where I am, WHO I am, what year it is and I gave my head a good shake. In the past few months and weeks it has become very apparent to me what it means to wear the moniker of 'feminist' and truly embrace what this means in our modern society. And to be perfectly honest, it is not an easy road, or a pretty one, and more often than not, my heart and my mind hurt from the things that I read about or see in my daily life. It is enough that some days, I just have to turn off my phone/internet and remove myself from the hate that exists towards women and retreat back to my easy, pretty, and yes, fully-acknowledged, privileged, bubble of a life.
My bigger problem though is that I am a born 'fixer'. Not on the scale of say, an Oliva Pope mind you, but ask around and you'll know that in a crisis or in the face of problems, I am the level-head, the straight talker, the reality-checker and the one looking for a solution, having the tough conversations and trying to find actionable items that move everyone forward. So when I see a problem, big or small, and when I think I can somehow make a difference, I will more often then not try to fix it.
This explains why I get very invested in causes and peoples stories that may or may not have anything to do with where I live (ex: American politics), what colour my skin is (racism in North America) or whom I choose to love (equal rights for same sex couples). These issues may not be as prominent (or publicized) in my privileged middle class backyard here in Canada, but they are issues that in some way, shape or form, affect the greater world that I live in. Standing idle while these marginalized groups fight for rights so many of us take for granted just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like I am working at making this world a better one for my children and it doesn't feel right to be an example of complacency in the face of injustice.
I tell my kids all the time that if someone is doing something that they know is wrong or mean, to step up and say, "Hey, that's not nice, please stop doing that'. I also tell them that more often than not, they can accomplish much more when they are working together, than when they are fighting over the semantics of whose turn it is to do this or that.
Which brings me back to feminism.
I've said it before; having children was the turning point for my acknowledgment of my own feminism and the realization that yes, by golly, I am a FEMINIST. But I do understand that for a lot of women, young and old, even saying that out loud can be a tough thing to do. A quick google image search of the word feminist and you come up with four subcategories, Women, Angry, Stereotypes and Anti-Feminist, as well as image after image of protest signs, angry women and memes of "Man-hating, ball-breaking, hairy-legged feminists." I can see how that can be a hard pill for some to swallow. Feminism isn't portrayed as being all that pretty and of course, as we all know, girls and women are supposed to be pretty and feminine and sugar and spice and all that NICE bullshit... RIGHT?
According to who? (That may be the bigger question here.)
Since the beginning of time, women have been portrayed in writing (and therefore in media) as the lesser of the sexes. I mean geez, according to some theologies, GOD even got it wrong the first time and had to replace Lilith (created from the earth as Adam's equal) with Eve, who was then created FROM Adam. And then Eve went and used her brain to question her surroundings and supposedly effed up that perfect utopia for all of us! Seriously ladies, our struggle for equality goes back way farther than we can even imagine!
And we continue to struggle. Only lately, there is something about feminism, especially within the online community that has me concerned. I have seen it before with the dreaded "mommy wars" and the "Breastfeeding vs. Formula-feeding" battles that erupt online and in the media. These so-called (and much baited) wars and battles serve only one purpose. They take attention away from the REAL problems in our society, they deflect any kind of blame or responsibility from the corporate or political culprits who in turn only benefit from this continued in-fighting. These word battles within our communities that are often fraught with emotion and personal investment rarely further any kind of real conversation about the issues at hand and become fodder for trolling and contribute to divisiveness amongst those that are seeking to make positive changes for the good of all.
We all come to our feminism through different paths and from different backgrounds, just as we do to all aspects of our lives. I can not, nor would I presume to understand the journey of a woman of colour on her feminist path, nor would I think I could know the thoughts of a lesbian or trans* woman on her path, nor for that matter, even the journey of the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual woman down the street from me. We are all different people, with different lives, loves and histories. I won't presume to say who has it rougher than anyone else. I also won't dismiss our differences, our histories, nor the inherent privilege that exists on my own journey.
What I also can't dismiss anymore is the fighting that is happening within the feminist movement. Especially within the online feminist community. I appreciate different points of view and I appreciate the education that I have received in the past few weeks, especially from and about WOC and feminism (Please go and read, Audre Lorde's essay, Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference, RIGHT NOW!). I have a backlog of blog posts and articles that I am reading every day and I while I have read some very awful, racist, anti-feminist writing, I have read even more incredibly insightful and beautiful posts, by some of the internet's best feminist writers. I have to say that I have also seen a little too much of the "Bitch Please!" kind of post where the point of our battle is lost in the mire of checking or unchecking one's privilege or lack thereof or lamenting how someone is not doing feminism 'right'. Isn't the point of intersectionality to acknowledge our differences and not judge them?
Late last year, my friend Zita had a line in a wonderful post that I feel once again, fits this situation to a T.
The greatest trick patriarchy ever pulled was convincing women that we are each other’s enemies.
Maybe I am naive in my activism. Maybe I myself am not doing feminism "right" and I'm too idealistic. The thing is, I am not sure we are winning anything right now. Audre Lorde's essay was written in 1980 (have you read it yet?) and it may as well have been written last week. In America, women's rights to bodily autonomy are being revoked in a dangerous state by state game of falling dominos. In the UK, a woman received death and rape threats because she successfully campaigned to have a woman's face on a banknote, in a country that has a QUEEN as head of state. There is a brutal and appalling thing called 'corrective rape' that happens to girls in Africa who are gay and in my own city, we have a men's rights group, with members who truly think that feminists are "the monster that has had so much power and say in our laws, government, and culture."
We have to stop fighting each other. As you can see from the examples above, there are so many other things we have to combat. We have to embrace our differences and stand together. Black, white, asian, Latina, bi-racial, lesbian, gay, queer, trans, straight, and whatever else you want to add to that list... We are all in this together and our voices have more meaning and more impact when they are raised in unison and not against each other. Look at what happened when Wendy Davis stood up (literally) not just for the women of Texas, but for ALL OF US. Never in all my time on the internet did I feel so much a part of such a powerful, positive, and inspiring movement as I did that night! THAT is the kind of feeling and rallying and unity that is going to affect change in our world. If I could have bottled that feeling of hope and solidarity from that night and mass produced it, I would have!
Feminism is not going anywhere anytime soon. We still have a lot of work to do. I will continue to use my own 'fixer' skills as best I can from my end. I will stand up for the women in my community and beyond. I will do everything in my power to see that this world is a better one for my daughter and my son. I will work harder to see feminism from all its myriad of differences and perspectives. For as Audre Lorde said more than 30 years ago:
"The future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference."
Honouring our differences and in solidarity with all,