This year, we have seen an increasing surge in women identifying themselves as feminists and, perhaps worryingly, it seems that there are those out there who think that this is a bad thing. There are some who believe the current resurgence of feminism and celebrities identifying themselves as feminists will result in the movement become too ‘trendy’, rendering the movement obsolete, which would be an overwhelmingly demonstrable slap in the face to ‘real’ feminists everywhere. There have been celebrities, models and normal people taking to social media to express their worry at feminism being this season’s ‘hot accessory’ and deeming it a phase that people are going through, but is this really a bad thing? All I can see happening within the movement now is a hierarchy developing, which to me, seems to be more dangerous to feminism than the increasing volume of misogynists, or the ‘women against feminism’ movement – it feels to me that a feminist hierarchy would only perpetuate certain stereotypes placed on women and feminists throughout history, thus creating a dangerous environment for women to be a part of – feminism is becoming increasingly like a bad teen movie set in a high school, rather than an empowering and important movement to identify oneself with.
After I posted my response to Chloe Hamilton’s article on Zoella, I spoke to Brain who told me that articles like that are why people don’t take feminism seriously. I’m paraphrasing here, because it was ages ago and I thought he was trying to attack my article, but it’s something that resonated with me quite deeply (thus why I’m regurgitating it now): He said something along the lines of ‘one woman says something bad about another woman, because she’s not being the right type of feminist, and then there are you are, posting something else, which could be misconstrued by another feminist, creating a cycle of what the right kind of feminism should be’ (he said this way less articulately than I have, but that’s what I’m here for, to make him sound good!). I can’t help but agree, though, and it’s unfortunate that a really important lesson in feminism has come from someone who often (in jest) calls me a ‘dick hating feminist’ to get on my nerves. He is someone who has no real interest in feminism, other than me I guess, and he has said something that I find the most appropriate statement regarding feminism that I’ve heard in the past year. Something which I feel resonates quite deeply with the notion of there being a feminist hierarchy.
Earlier in the year, I wrote that I had become a little disenfranchised by the notion of feminism and questioned whether there was room for a feminist like me within the movement and it’s something that I’ve questioned time and time again. The sheer fact that I referred to there being a room for a ‘feminist like me’ is exactly the point I’m trying to make; there is a feminist hierarchy and it seems to me like I’m pretty low down in the ranks. Personally, I feel that unless you’re a feminist standing on the front lines, preparing for war, there isn’t really a huge deal of room for you in the dizzying heights of the feminist hierarchy; that’s the type of feminist you’re supposed to aspire to be, you become that after many years of patriarchy smashing. You have to earn your stripes before you can become a proper feminist. Simply identifying as a feminist isn’t enough; you can’t be a feminist for your own private reasons, or because you’re a woman who believes in equality any more – you have to be constantly fighting. You can’t be a feminist just because you’re a woman, you have to have a reason: I don’t want to be cat-called in the street, I don’t want to fear rape if I wear a short skirt or get drunk, I don’t want to go to work and be treated differently because I didn’t have the sheer luck of being born with a cock and balls. These feminists, the women who simply are feminists are the lowest ranking members in the supposed feminism hierarchy; you can’t make jokes about being a pussy and then complain when you’re stuck in the middle with misogynists, so to speak.
Admittedly, I feel a little bit like the girl near the end of Mean Girls, who just wants everyone to get along, paint rainbows on their faces, eat cookies and snuggle whilst reading extracts from The Feminine Mystique or How to be a Woman to one another, but I think, the way some women are reacting to feminism right now, it’s not too bad an idea. When I write about feminism, or write about anything to do with the movement, it’s not men whose reaction I fear – its fellow women’s. And that’s not right. I feel that, the way things are going, the movement will become vitriolic to new members; to the youth of tomorrow. Feminism isn’t some high school game we should be partaking in to find the new Regina George of feminism; it was a movement that began in order to find gender equality in all walks of life, to achieve the vote, to be able to go to work and receive equal pay. To be the type of woman who can write about feminism or gender inequality or being mistreated due to gender on a blog without fearing the censorship of the patriarchy; as feminists, we need to support one another regardless of how ‘real’ their brand of feminism really is. Because, to me, the hierarchy that is evident, particularly within social media circles, is exactly the reason why feminism isn’t taken seriously and why people can call it a ‘trend’. The vitriol present within the movement will be the source of its demise and we have to be careful.
In order to counteract movements such as ‘Women Against Feminism’ and the recent ‘Meninist’ movement, we need to acknowledge and welcome supporters AND critics of feminism, regardless of gender. Yes, by all means, strap on your Doc Marten’s and smash the patriarchy until it’s bloody and battered, after all, that is your choice, but it’s also my choice not to. And that’s something that people need to start reiterating: Feminism is a choice and does not have a strict set of rules you need to adhere to, to be a ‘proper’ feminist. You’re a woman, you control your body, you have a voice and an opinion that deserves to be heard. That is what we need to be supporting here, that feminism is a choice and that your opinions are worthy of our time; the sooner people realise that, the sooner we can forget about silly trends and childish hierarchies.