Absolutely unbelievable. I had a good day, I listened to my cool guy friend give a cool lecture about the possibilities of doing gender studies within studies of Islam and then BAM! Facebook strikes.
I’m tagged in a status that reads ‘Is Feminism Still Relevant?’ Why am I tagged? Guess why, go ahead, just guess.
You know what? I am so sick of having to ‘answer for’ the existence of feminism(s). Why are we still asking this question? Why is it my responsibility to have to defend my position when I am already the one who is not in a (relative) position of power. Surely, said many an enlightened scholar, it is the people who are already in a ‘normative’ position of power–one which allows them to wield control over other people’s lives–who should have to justify their decisions… who should have to explain why they, they who are also just as human, are so special as to be in the position to make decisions for all human beings everywhere.
But so it is, we ask the rape victims to describe what they were wearing. We wonder what she was doing out so late at night. ‘Go ahead, feminist, tell me why you think you have a right to exist’. As if it’s a pejorative term; one which should silence and kill, all at the same time.
Fine. I’ve had enough. Let me tell you why my feminism is still relevant. But wait, are you paying attention? I said my feminism, didn’t I? You think this is just a semantic game? Think again.
Feminism with a capital ‘F’ is a myth. Feminism, race, religion, sexuality, ability and class have always, always been intertwined and every woman in history who has struggled with that realisation has had a black woman, a poor woman, a disabled woman, a Christian, Jewish or Muslim woman there to correct her. If those contentions have fallen on closed ears it has been to the detriment of every woman but it does not mean that feminisms have ceased to exist; to thrive. If I have anyone to answer to it is to those women who are in positions of less privilege; who cautiously but carefully scrutinize my use of the word feminisms; who expect me to be aware and responsible for the (unearned) privilege my whiteness, my able-bodiedness, my sexuality, and my class has afforded me. I hope that my feminism is not so exclusive that I am not always already aware of the marked privilege I enjoy, but I am constantly ready to check myself, to ask myself if I am only able to speak in the way that I do because I occupy the position I am in without having done anything to make that so. Yes, my feminism is what matters to me, but I must always already be aware of how it matters to others.
There is no Feminism like there is no Truth. We have arrived at a point in history where we are prepared to hear the magical tales of change in every field of study from human evolution to medicine. We are perfectly happy to admit that the word ‘love’ can have a thousand different meanings and we insipidly compare it to ‘the hundreds of words Inuits (supposedly) have for snow’. We laugh when we realize that we cannot say the word ‘jumper’ in the US and have it mean the same thing as in the UK. Words, oh how wonderful! They change, they are contextual, they escape our power to fix them.
But not Feminism. Feminism: every time it is pronounced the Darth Vader theme issues out of the air-waves like a mist. This. This is the stagnant, atemporal, frozen word for which we refuse admittance into the swanky, privileged club of evolution. How utterly ridiculous.
My feminism means that women are human beings too. It means that human difference is not the polar opposite of human equality; they do not negate one another. It means never settling; never believing that the struggle is over; never thinking that I have all the answers or that the debate is won. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and I am wrong so much of the time but that does not make my life worth less, it does not warrant silencing my speech, it does not make my ability to reason or feel any less potent.
Are feminisms still relevant?
Political commentator Zerlina Maxwell, on Fox News, suggested that women should not be held responsible for rape. Rather than capitulate to the suggestion that women should carry guns to protect themselves against rape, Maxwell asserted that perhaps the onus should lie with rapists themselves. The response? See for yourself.
Do we still need feminisms?
Women who are educated at a university level (and therefore, says cultural dogma, are not party to the same economic trends as the ‘uneducated’) are still paid thousands of pounds less than their male counterparts for the same jobs.
A recent study, conducted by students, for all students, found that ‘lad culture’ is alive and well in UK institutions and that its impact on not just female students, but on all students, is harmful, undermining and undeniably violent.
In the US, a female student is facing expulsion for fighting back against a system which would protect her rapist. In the UK, police officers are encouraging women to withdraw their claims of violence and rape.
Are feminisms like mine relevant?
At the Oscars, that bastion of entertainment-glory, filled with princes and princesses, where talent is rewarded and bravery in film is lauded *eye roll* host Seth MacFarlane sang an entire song about boobs which included a celebration of getting a glimpse of Jody Foster’s breasts in a film-scene in which she was being gang-raped. 77% of the voting Oscars board are men. A 9 year old girl was called a cunt.
According to some estimates, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor.
In the UK, a national newspaper, distributed openly in public, still prints full pages of topless women.
Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
Made in Dagenham is not just a film. These women, still alive today, fought for equal pay and it still does not exist.
Being a mother is costly.
Iranian women waste away in jail, on hunger strike, and no one knows.
Violence against women in South Africa did not start with Oscar Pistorious, it is endemic.
What an amazingly privileged question, ‘is feminism still relevant?’ Maybe it isn’t for some. Although I don’t actually know women for whom feminism, in some shape or form, is not relevant. I believe in women’s rights to redraw the boundaries of Feminism so that it becomes feminisms. I believe whole-heartedly in dissenting voices who say that One Woman cannot speak to the multitude of women’s experiences. I know that white feminisms are not impervious, they cannot be salvific, they are not the sum of women’s struggles for human rights. But you know what? That does not mean that feminisms–black feminism, UK feminism, American feminism, feminist activism, Marxist feminism, Queer feminism, feminist men, South American feminism, Christian feminism, Islamic feminism, theological feminism–are not relevant.
Every moment we spend hand-wringing or navel-gazing, every time we engage this question we allow those who would not wish for dialogue, but only for monologue, to speak on our behalves; declaring that perhaps for the good of all things, some differences should simply be preserved.
My feminism means passion. And yes, it is absolutely still relevant.