For Young Feminists, 2018 Must Be The Year of Rising to The Occasion
Posted by Reilly Wieland
December 5, 2017
To quote bell hooks, feminism is for everyone. This sentiment is, of course, something that I believe with every fiber of my being. Feminism is all affecting, vast and complex beyond what even great gender scholars can say. Feminism, also, benefits us all. It is the panacea for a better world.
But in this type of thinking in the modern age, an aspect of contemporary feminism has become clear: feminism is not radical anymore. While, yes, of course- feminism is still an objection to patriarchy, and that is a radical notion. But in my somewhat unasked for opinion, feminism is losing its original politics and defiance that made it revolutionary in the first place.
I specifically mean that feminism has become something that can be mass marketed- toned down and sold to many by way of “the future is female” t-shirts and marches. It is corporate, predominantly white and in turn, losing it’s intended rebellious nature.
In her essay “Consciousness-Raising”, bell hooks explains this phenomenon: “By the early ’80s the evocation of a politicized sisterhood, so crucial at the onset of the feminist movement, lost meaning as the terrain of radical feminist politics was overshadowed by a lifestyle-based feminism which suggested any woman could be a feminist no matter what her political beliefs. Needless to say, such thinking has undermined feminist theory and practice, feminist politics.”
The issue I am raising with contemporary feminism is not that it has become more widely accepted. Identifying as a feminist is, yes, the first step. But, feminism does not work in transitive property: to identify as a feminist and believe in feminist ideals is essential and powerful, but it is not equal to acting on these issues. I echo hooks with a much smaller platform and a less eloquent voice: feminism is for everyone, and we can all be feminists, but that does not mean that we inherently are. To believe that identifying with the cause is enough is not going to cut it anymore.
We are in an age of blatant and sweeping attacks on the personhood of women and other gender and sexual identity minorities. Because of this, I think feminism feels less radical and more accessible than the alternative. It feels like feminism is ration in comparison to identifying with the other side that has become so synonymous with intolerance.
The current draw to feminism is, in many ways, powerful and important. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how truly overwhelming it is that people have come together over a shared feeling of being, honestly, tired of this shit. But, I’d like to call on all these women who were moved enough to march, who saw what has happened in the political discourse throughout the 2016 election and who recognized the patriarchy acting in their own lives. I’d like to call on these people, particularly those with overwhelming privilege, to end the conversation in which feminism is for all and that we can all be feminists if we merely agree with the cause. Feminism requires action, particularly through active resistance. It requires that we stop just marching and posting Facebook statuses and calling our senators, and start seeking out means to understand our privilege and actively working to help the people who need feminist ideals to prevail even more than we do.
This is particularly interesting among white women and the rise of so-called “corporate feminism.” We’ve all admired Sheryl Sandberg and felt like we were leaning in, but I dare for the young feminists to go beyond that. Being a feminist as a well educated, upper-middle-class white woman who focuses on issues that predominantly affect other white women is, honestly, pretty damn easy. It is easy not to check our privilege and continue to feel like feminism starts and ends with academia and women in the workplace. Of course, these issues are relevant and important, but where does feminism extend beyond that? It extends into trans women of color being killed, immigrant rights, the prison-industrial complex, workers rights, accessible reproductive healthcare, rights of sex workers and beyond.
What I think I am trying to say is that we, as young feminists, have had enough time to feel sorry for the world around us. We have made the point that we are here and we are angry through marches and social media. We had 2017 to be angry, to feel like we were getting jipped.
And now, I think it’s time we made 2018 the year of active resistance.
I’d like to say that we should “Make Feminism Political Again,” but even that feels too tongue in cheek. What I think I am trying to say is that feminism is still inherently radical. We need to make sure we are actively pushing its bounds, particularly past what we feel comfortable with discussing. We need to move past Emma Watson #HeForShe and Sheryl Sandberg and talk about what makes us uncomfortable.
I hope we can see that there are people, particularly women and LGBTQ people, who are in positions where they don’t have the bandwidth to have discussions of these issues. I hope that we as young feminists can find 2018 to be the year of rising to the occasion.
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