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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3 Responses to When feminism is a dirty word

  1. glad you wrote this impeus. I feel kind of honoured. That is probably ridiculous. But at least it shows someone listens to my crazed rants!

    I don’t disagree with the overall sense of what you write. I do though think you misunderstand (quite possibly as I don’t present it clearly enough) how I feel ‘feminism’ as an ‘ism’ is actually not liberating or helpful to anyone anymore. I know I will never convince committed feminists of this. I don’t really feel the need to try. But I do want to offer an alternative way of looking at gender politics, that does not rely on such sectarian ideologies. Feminism has an establishment, an elite. It is that which I am trying to destabilise. All on my own? Do you think I will manage it?

    I used to be a Marxist too by the way. And I argue the toss with dogmatic lefties as well. It’s just they can’t be arsed to argue back so much!

    • impeus says:

      Any elite is worth destabilising. And I think I expect feminism to stand in to stick up for any marginalised group, perhaps that is unrealistic. I expect feminism to highlight any uneven power structure, any injustice, any inequality. This is why it doesn’t quite measure up for me AS A WHOLE. I’d like to think it still had a place though. Maybe I’m being naive.

  2. not naiive but maybe overly optimistic, or nostalgic…?

    Feminism as I see it is the establishment: Radio 4 Woman’s hour, The Guardian, OBJECT, The Fawcett Society, BBC, Natasha Walters, Caitlin Moran (who is currently writing a book about feminism), Lynn Featherstone, Theresa May…

    These people/organisations are not trying to highlight justice and inequality but to hold onto their own power.

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