A Guest Post by Sarah Moon
In my last post, I started talking about the trend, particularly in privileged feminism, to pressure people into identifying as feminists. They will say things like “if you think women are human beings, then you ARE a feminist! End of story.” or “You don’t identify as a feminist? Don’t you think women are human? What’s wrong with you?”
Yesterday, I told you that I’m not comfortable with this rhetoric because feminism isn’t perfect. Some marginalized people don’t want to put up with feminism because it “literally could not give a shit about” their issues, or worse. Sometimes feminisms work to actively oppress other marginalized groups. Feminism needs to be more concerned about fixing internal problems than about shaming people who have been hurt by feminism into identifying with feminists.
But there’s another reason why I don’t care for this movement to get everyone to call themselves feminists. Let’s talk about that today.
2. Feminism should have some higher standards, dammit
When I hear things like, “Do you think women are human? Then you’re a feminist!” I think of a blogger that I wrote about awhile back. The blogger in question wrote a couple of posts stating that he didn’t believe in equality, didn’t think women truly had anything to complain about, but was still a feminist because he loved his wife.
Yeah. I don’t think so.
I mean, this ends up getting into No True Scottsman territory. I can’t really tell this blogger and the dozens of other benevolent sexist men who I’ve heard use this argument that they’re NOT feminists. Sometimes people write off the harms done in the name of feminism as “oh, they aren’t really feminists,” and that helps no one.But at the same time, I’m not going to go around telling people that all it takes to be a feminist is to not actively hate women.
That’s why I don’t like the “If you think women are human, you’re a feminist!” line. LOTS of people think women are human–humans who are exaggerating about being oppressed and who need to learn to submit to loving male leadership more often, sure, but human nonetheless.
I don’t think the definition of feminism should be that simple.
Feminism should have a definition that prevents people from using it so flippantly. I DO NOT think that there should be one way to do activism as a feminist, or one way to live in day-to-day life as a feminist. But that doesn’t mean we should leave the door so open that men who don’t even believe women are oppressed can call themselves feminists because they don’t hate women.
I don’t want benevolent sexists calling themselves feminists, so I’m not going to tell them they should call themselves feminists.
It’s not only benevolent sexists I don’t want using the term. I’m reminded of a fellow feminist who said some awful things about trans* women on social media. When people got upset, her response was to go on about how she doesn’t want to be a feminist anymore because feminists can’t take a joke and don’t have a sense of humor.
And really? I wanted to reply with Grumpy Cat:
Again, we feminists can’t fix our internal problems by simply saying “That person isn’t really a feminist!” But if people are unconcerned about the problems different groups of women face to the point that they’d rather leave feminism than check their privilege, I’m not going to beg them to stay.
I’m not going to tell anyone they’re not a feminist, but I’m not going to send out Hogwarts School of Feminism acceptance letters to men who think “I don’t hate women” is all the anti-sexism work they need to do. I prefer the days when benevolent sexist men were honest about who they were. I’m not going to send out acceptance letters to other women who explicitly refuse to give any shits about intersectionality. I don’t want a bullshit feminism.
I know that telling sexist, racist, ableist, transphobic, and homophobic people that they can’t be feminists isn’t going to fix any of the structural problems in feminism. I’m not suggesting we do that. But stop with the “all you have to do to be a feminist is not hate women” crap.
Let’s have some higher standards than that, okay?