When feminism is a dirty word

Labels have uses. How else would I know which lever arch file to put my cash audits in every week? Which button on my telephone calls HR, and which calls the FD?

Labels for people certainly also have uses, but arguably not for those being labelled.

To take some obvious examples, you have your common or garden extroverts, your pensioners, your racists and your blondes.

Some labels are subjective. Some are difficult to escape from (male, female, child, old giffer). Are these useful? With aspects of discrimination due to many of these theoretically forbidden by law, it makes sense to question what they mean, if anything, and thus why legal protection may be required.

The kind of bullshit prejudice we should be fighting is engrained in society. The outrageous pink prettifying that girls are subjected to growing up. The profiling in security and policing which mean some poor asian and black kids are routinely pulled over. The way we talk to aging grandparents in the same sing-song, babying tone usually reserved for children under 3. Biological determinism and evolutionary psychology trying to tell us who we inevitably are.

This is why I actually feel a little hurt and disappointed by recent vitriol against feminists by someone who until recently identified as one herself, and whose views and constant calling people on their careless use of language and dismissal of many issues around sexuality I always find refreshing and important.

Elly has always been one to shout out on behalf of trans people, sex workers, perverts and men. I feel like now I should make some half-arsed, inarticulate attempt to shout out on behalf of feminism.

The problem is, everything Elly cites as vile behaviour by these feminists is, indeed, vile. Julie Bindel’s desire to shoot and kill researchers working with sex workers and. Bidisha’s “girls’ team” to take two current examples. Feminism is as broad a category of people as any race, gender or occupation though, encompassing huge variation. Feminists are people too, and yes, many people suck.

Let’s call out bullshit when we hear it, and try to highlight hurtful and hateful behaviour when it inevitably rears its ugly head. But let’s not dismiss feminism as a whole just because some of them behave in a narrowminded and nasty way sometimes. People from all walks of life do. Including me and you. It’s just that we tend to react a little more measured when we’re called on it. Right?

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