It seems to be a common misconception—especially amongst men, although definitely not limited to them—that feminism is a monolith. There is this common idea that one branch of feminism is all branches of feminism, and every self-identified feminist will agree with every opinion, publication or discussion that takes place under the branch of feminism. This is despite the fact that the first six words on the Wiki page for Feminism (I know, I know, but it’s the first place most people look) are, “Feminism is a collection of movements…”
In my experience—and I really want to stress that—this idea is usually perpetuated by those who are anti-feminism, or in some cases, men’s right’s activists. It’s easy to take the most extreme, the most controversial, the most opposing viewpoint to your own, and lump everyone into that category as a way of dismissing an entire group or movement. And let’s face it, it has to be a lot easier to dismiss feminism out of hand than to examine the many, many complexities and contradictions within the feminist movement.
Identifying as a feminist doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with everything in the movement—or even most of it. For some people, “feminist” means nothing more than “I think men and women should be equal”. It’s not a political statement, or even something they think about most days. For others, it is their livelihood, their careers and their politics. For most, it falls somewhere in between.
Very few people will deny that there are a metric ton of problems within the feminist movement, both past and present. Racism, classism, cissexism, reclamation, sex-negativity, parenting, the concept of “choice” and many others continue to be contentious issues amongst feminists—and that’s before we bring in postfeminism. Using these problems as an excuse to dismiss feminist issues, however, is to deny a myriad of very real failures in achieving equality. Because at the end of the day, disagreements on whether or not the world “slut” can be reclaimed doesn’t take away from the fact that one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, or that less than 10% of reported rapes result in a conviction.
Feminism will never be a monolith—and nor should it be. Different groups—be that geographical groups, races, seuxalities, classes, whatever—will always have different goals and priorities. Yes, these goals will merge and diverge and various points, and this is a good thing. Of course we don’t all have the same goals. What the fight for equality means to me as a young, white, queer woman with terrible health is different to what it will mean to a Muslim woman in France today, which in its turn will be different to what it means to a poor Black woman in the United States, which will be different… you get the idea. None of these battles are any “more” or “less” feminist than any other, though they will be more or less relevant to the people involved. It’s important to remember the distinction, both from within the movement and outside of it.
This is my contribution to Save the Children’s Blog for Peace project. It was an odd tangent, I know, but this is where my brain went! Please follow the link for the full blogroll of participants 🙂