It came to my attention during my blogging break, courtesy of Emily Heroy – Founder of the Gender Across Borders blog and fellow Equality 101 writer – and Liza Donnelly – Cartoonist Extraordinaire – (If you’re not at least following these ladies on Twitter or reading their work, you should be. Now!) that maybe saying “I am a feminist” is maybe not the exact correct thing to be saying. It’s no secret that feminists throughout history have worked extremely hard towards equal rights for women. But it’s also no secret that they haven’t historically worked very hard towards equal rights for all women. bell hooks noted this (I can’t remember the exact essay in which she noted this, so forgive my lack of citation. If anyone knows, feel free to drop a comment.), especially in the way feminism tended to be for the white, upper-middle class women, not for poor women or women of color.
Today, we see people claiming to be feminists and actively working against women – see anything written about Sarah Palin in the past month. We see women actively excluding other human beings from the fight for equal rights (Emily didn’t exclude other people in this post, but I refuse to link to the post that did). We see women telling other women how to be feminists. Apparently, my feminist card was taken away from me when I chose to get married and have a big wedding. It’s going to be torn up into little pieces when I write later about the crisis we’re seeing with boys and education and how we need to work to catch them up. Or when I blog about how my future husband and I are going to share money.
I can’t remember the last time I was so disillusioned with a community of people. If you read through some of my earlier archives, you’ll see how enchanted I was with this blogging community; I even chose to write my Master’s thesis about it! It was so wonderful to finally be surrounded by women who supported one another. And now it seems like these women supporting one another are just doing it in the same way as they did in high school – they’ve formed little Twitter-cliques and feminist groups, only worried about who is tweeting whose links or who is saying things that can be attacked or disagreed with or about who to criticize next for voicing opinions. This isn’t activism. This is cattiness masquerading as activism, which, in my opinion, makes it even worse than just plain old nastiness.
It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty disappointed with this community for a while. But I don’t think I’m disappointed with feminism in general. In fact, there are some really great women out there writing some really great things, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to highlight some of those posts (let’s start with Sophia’s blatant sarcasm regarding the Rules of Feminism). I’m honored that these people even give this blog the time of day, but I’m not so much honored to call myself a feminist anymore. Saying “I am a feminist” makes being a feminist all that I am, and makes it tough to do anything that anyone might consider “not feminist.” So, like bell hooks, I’m no longer going to say I am a feminist, but more simply that I advocate feminism. I advocate lots of things: human rights in general, better treatment of teachers, equity in education…. and the list goes on. These things aren’t wholly what I am – although they can be all-consuming. They are simply things I stand for. I’ll stand for feminism, or for a feminism that is inclusive and intersectional. But I won’t let it become all of me.