|"Straw Feminists" |
Copyright Kate Beaton via Hark a Vagrant
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A friend once told me that my feminism is limiting.
We were.discussing an article I had shared with him about a show we both loved that analyzed the way in which the protagonists were actually made to be the butt of most of the jokes, rather than the heroes of their story. I admitted that in recognizing that I agreed with the article's thesis, I had forever coloured the way I saw the show, and significantly reduced my ability to enjoy it.
"Why must there be something wrong with everything?!" He cried, ever frustrated with the way feminism pervaded my life, and by extension, our friendship.
I understood his point, and honestly I can see how a constant feminist lecture about the oppression of the patriarchy can be just as irritating as a constant vegan lecture about the ethics of eating eggs, but the thing is, you can't unsee prejudice and inequality. Once you recognize that it exists, you DO see it everywhere because it IS everywhere.
Seeing the world through the prism of feminism doesn't limit you. I think it's quite the opposite in fact. It opens your eyes to the realities of the world. Admittedly, that reality is far less ideal than the fantasy we like to pretend we live in, but there's no way we can change our reality to match the fantasy if we refuse to acknowledge its existence altogether.
The thing is, feminism isn't convenient. It isn't supposed to be. In fact I think it should be about making things as inconvenient as possible until things change. If we all only concerned ourselves with injustice when it affected us, things would be much worse. As Martin Niemoller said,
Does it suck that a show I once loved is now uncomfortable for me to watch now that I see the real way that the power dynamics play out? Yes. Am I a better person for recognizing that it should make me uncomfortable, and that we should be looking for representations of fringe cultures in mass media that don't present them as something to be ridiculed? HELL yes! And now that I recognize this fact, I can do something about it."...Then they came for me,and there was no one left to speak for me."
The thing is, feminism isn't just a movement. It's a way of life. You either are a feminist or you aren't. There really isn't that much grey area. The details and the ideologies many vary individually, but the basics are the same: EQUALITY. That's it.
And being a feminist means taking issue with the things that hurt us on a societal level. It means not being complacent because complacency is easy. It means being willing to acknowledge that you are complicit when you accept sexism, racism, and all of the -isms as problems to be tolerated rather than fixed. Because if you think the -isms are "okay sometimes" you're not a feminist.
Should you pick your battles? Absolutely. No one can be expected to be in a constant state of outrage (although, I must admit, I get pretty close!), but a feminist who only has an issue with inequality when it directly affects them is a straw feminist, and straw feminists hurt the cause by giving anti-feminists fodder with which to derail the conversation. Not cool.
The thing is, feminism isn't just about women. It's about combating systemic inequality in all its forms: from better representation of minorities in mass media to acknowledging the spectrum of gender, to reproductive rights, all the way down to better support services for rape victims, female AND male. Intersectionality is the future of feminism. And that means that no matter who you are, there's a place in the feminist movement for you if you want it.
This was originally going to be a long drawn out post explaining lots of things and declaring my feminism, but the truth is, I don't have to justify my feminism. You have to justify why you're not a feminist. Because you should be.
In any case, the point is that feminism isn't about picking and choosing which injustices don't matter. They all matter, and they all contribute to the problematic culture we live in. Some issues may be more pressing than others, but that doesn't make those others any less important. So I'll continue to analyze everything I come in contact with through the prism of feminism. Whether it's television, music or random arguments on facebook, it all matters. (Well, maybe not the arguments on facebook...) Am I willing to give up a few television shows if it means furthering the feminist cause? YOU BETTER FUCKING BELIEVE I AM.
How about you? Do you find it hard to enjoy television shows that have an anti-feminist slant?