Firstly, I just want to say, there comes a time in every blogger’s life when they start using photos of their microwave meals for one in their posts because they don’t have the energy to physically get up and take pictures of anything else. I am not an anomaly.
Anyway, I’ve only been there a month and already I’m realising that everyone does college differently- from the library fetishers to the partyholics. The kid I sat with at lunch had decided his college career shall consist of smoking as many joints as he can before his teachers notice his pupils are at least four times bigger than they should be. But for me, I wanted to join a society. Seeing as school only had PE or drama clubs which never favoured my lack of sporting or theatrical talent, I wanted to be part of something that actually involved commitment, somewhere I could dash off to in the middle of an exchange with my new college friends: “Genevieve, Pricilla, Ophelia I’m sorry darlings, I’d love to stay and chat but I have my extracurricular welding class every Thursday and I can’t be late.”
So when I saw the posters for Feminist Society I felt just like Mary when she was approached by angel Gabriel (except with more periods and less halos) because, and I hate to brag but, I’m like really great at being a feminist. I blog about feminism, I rant at people that catcall me, I’m practically fluent in the language of Laura Bates- that’s what a good feminist is right? Even regardless of how much you physically do, to be a feminist all you need is to believe in gender equality.
Or at least that’s what I thought. But no, when I got to FemSoc (as the people that can’t be bothered to type out ‘Feminist Society’ every time they want to refer to it call it) where the first topic was ‘intersectionality’, I discovered there was this huge social hierarchy within feminism itself, a hierarchy determined by whether you are a white feminist or not. Now I wasn’t completely crystal clear with the meaning of ‘white feminism’ however I think it’s pretty interchangeable with the concept of ‘western feminism’ (which I disregard quite a lot), there’s no actual dictionary definition for it- probably because, like all words in the past decade, it was invented on Tumblr- but it’s basically about only fighting for issues that affect white women. And then apparently shaming them for it. Because calling them- or should I say ‘us’ as I’m probably one of them- ‘white feminists’ implies that we’re not simply feminists, we’re an altered version of them. We are no longer gender equality; instead we’ve now been branched off into an inferior part of the tree. Which is hella awkward seeing as 98% of the FemSoc crowd were white.
“Oh no!” They then told us, “being white doesn’t make you a white feminist. A white feminist is someone that only considers white issues in their fight for equality.” Which is confusing in itself, because most people are going to prioritise their own problems, are they not? Of course they may be doing this because they believe that their problems are more important, however that’s a very ignorant view that very few feminists take, so it’s more likely that they rather don’t know about other women’s struggles, they don’t know how to help or they don’t want to pretend they know how they feel when they don’t. None of these involve disregarding the struggles or black/Asian/disabled/transgender/lesbian women, it’s just the acknowledgement that I am not one of them and therefore it would be disrespectful of me to pretend I am an expert in how they feel. I don’t understand why we’ve begun shaming some women for simply not understanding the inequalities of everyone.
Intersectionality was the idea presented at the first meeting: the idea that feminism should include more types of women than just white ones, ie. next time you talk about the wage gap instead of just putting a white woman’s wage against a white man’s wage, why not use a Latina woman’s wage (which will be considerably less than both). Next time you talk about catcalling consider how it might also be an issue for gay men expressing typically feminine traits.
We can all see that there is a huge underrepresentation of variation, so intersectionality helping to promote different groups of vaginas is a good idea, it’s not this I have a problem with. What I dislike is how we’re suddenly saying that supporting the #FreeTheNipple campaign makes you worse of a person than Laverne Cox promoting transgender feminism on a global scale. We already force women to constantly compete with each other (not for jobs or for accomplishments which I think can be a good thing but for the attention of men- shoutout to Chimamanda) but now we’re doing the same thing with feminists themselves. As long as you’re advocating for gender equality, empowering women, being part of a more open minded generation, I don’t understand why you should be made to feel inferior just because you’re part of a race that needs it less. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful that my college has a feminist society and so overwhelmingly happy at how popular it is- for teenboys and teengirls- but I can’t help thinking that wasn’t the best opening meeting. After all feminism is about inspiring women not making them feel unworthy of equality.