I won’t address here the usual stereotypes about feminism (lesbian, angry…) but I will try to think about what it means to be a feminist in a broad way.
I came across a post by Shadow’s Crescent that made a very good point : being a woman and being in favor of equal rights is not enough to make you a feminist. And yet that’s a very common idea. Of course, it is quite practical to challenge the cliches I evoked right above. The idea here is to say that being a feminist doesn’t (necessarily) make you radical, hysterical or whatever feminists are still called today. Feminism is not a bad word, it just means that you believe in equality. Ok, that’s a pretty good point, hard to oppose. But unfortunately I think it’s more complicated than that. Feminism is deeply intersectional. It wouldn’t make sense otherwise.
To me, feminism should help women all over the world to be empowered and free in many different ways. Feminism should not reproduce the oppressions women have to face. Feminism should un-pressure women from what have been imposed on them because of their sex, sexual orientation, gender, class, race, age and so on. Feminism can’t be unique, because there is no unique woman. Feminism has to be inclusive to the point of including men. They are also concerned by more gender equality.
Shadow’s Crescent shows the limit of the “woman + equality” definition of feminism, because women are often defined by their sex and not gender. In other words, it excludes all the people identifying as women but who do not actually have female genitalia. And what about intersex people? Of course, it also leave men identifying as feminist on the side.
Here are my favorite passages of Shadow’s Crescent post :
"A racist woman is not a feminist; she doesn’t care about helping women, just the women who look like her and can buy the same things she can. A transphobic woman is not a feminist; she is overly concerned with policing the bodies and expressions of others. A woman against reproductive rights — to use bell hook’s own example, and an issue close to your heart — is not a feminist; she prioritizes her dogma or her disgust over the bodies of others. An ableist woman is not a feminist; she holds some Platonic ideal of what a physically or mentally “whole” person should be and tries to force the world to fit inside it. […] There are women of color, lesbians, trans* women, poor women, fat women, disabled women, neuroatypical women, asexual women, genderqueer women, genderfluid women…”
Sooo… what does it mean in the end? You can’t be feminist if you’re excluding some categories of women because they don’t match your criteria. That’s discrimination. Basically what feminism is fighting against.
The only space where your freedom is limitless is yourself. You can live and express your feminism the way you want as long as you don’t impose it on other people. I don’t think this intersectional dimension of feminism is too radical, I think it forms one of its fundamental principles. If you want to fight against inequality, you can’t choose to reproduce other kind of discrimination.
Everyone is welcome to complete this definition of feminism or give her/his/hir own !
The 57th UN Commission on the status of Women agreed on a final text. But it was not easy. Why? Ask Vatican, Iran and Russia. They wanted to erase paragraph #7 of the draft :
"The Commission urges States to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women”
to see the whole text here. Too progressive for you, religion? Too bad, it passed!
The Commission also promotes access to safe legal abortion for all women.
Anyway, let’s not dream too much about what it will mean in terms of change, but we’re on the right path, folks !
I hope the topic of this first post is only the beginning of progress towards more gender equality.