Feminism is enjoying some very nice mainstream visibility lately. I say this as someone who is well aware that my opining can be perceived as bias because of my close ties and involvement in the movement. Yet, it’s hard to not see feminists everywhere, providing teachable moments to the same ass-backwards misogyny that seems to defy time, space and of course, logic (I’m looking at you, Robin Thicke, Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters, Terry Richardson, Dov Charney, etc, etc). We are mothers, daughters, sisters, CEOs, organizers, politicians, activists, teachers, friends, pundits, leaders, writers, creators, artists and more. We are many and we are ubiquitous.
We exist to counter an oppressive culture whose immorality has been embedded to the point of normalization and not so much ironically but frightfully, our opponents exist because we do, creating a birth order of oppression, then equality movements, then the counter-response to those movements, mostly occupied by those whose privilege is slowly being eroded by a society that is growing impatient with the establishment and (dis)order of things.
No matter how well we try to shield ourselves from associating with corruption, the fact of the matter is that we coexist with these people and systems. It is a duality- we live among (but not really with) each other. By definition in this scenario, coexistence is not harmonious- rather, it is a threat to our own existence as free and liberated bodies when we live amongst others who benefit from social inequity and refuse to be participants in the fight to end it. This is not to say that men are the enemy and misandry is the answer. For, when we begin to otherize people, even if those people are the ones who perpetuate our own oppression, we threaten to plague our own movement with the very disdain that the other side uses as a catapult for its success (although I will admit, the pooling together of MRAs is a real and imminent threat). The real enemy is, therefore, not the individual bodies of people but is the transfer of the intangible existence of the ideological that floats between us like oxygen, omnipotent and taking so many shapes and forms it’s nearly impossible to count the ways in which it impacts us. Much like breathing, we need oxygen to survive, the difference here being that some of us have an unlimited supply of clean air and others are inhaling the gender and racial inequity equivalents of a toxic waste dump.
So what do we do?
Recently, a friend told me that I was radical. At first, I wasn’t certain I totally agreed, but I looked back at the things I’ve written and thought, okay. Perhaps I am. What I struggled with in being called a ‘radical’ was the notion that people who resist are given titles, mostly ones that carry a social stigma or that incite curiosity (not the good kind) while those who conform are not. There are qualities (read: stereotypes) that society en masse anticipates or expects feminists to embody- the most obvious and worthy of an eye-roll is that we are all angry misandrists who want to turn men into our subordinates so we can exist in a braless domination. False! Most of us don’t hate men (I expect there are feminists who do, and that’s their prerogative but I must say, I find that position unwise) but we are angry- justifiably so. I believe oppressed populations are allowed to be angry about systems that were created to work for everyone but them. Systems that were curated with only white, heteronormative men in mind. Systems that have a stake in the patriarchy maintaining themselves while stomping on everyone else. Yeah, we can be mad about that.
What I believe to be true is that in this situation, anger is a better emotion than complacency, for that which we do not summon the energy to scrutinize is left unfettered and able to manifest into something even stronger and more unethically potent than what we are currently up against. I’m not talking about violence, here. I do not believe that is the answer or key to anything at all. The anger that I am talking about is one that can be channeled smartly and creatively to develop teachings and hypotheses that can help frame our world differently so as we look towards the future, we can see the horizon and appreciate that there will be a more equal tomorrow. I know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar but the patriarchy hasn’t sweetened the deal for us- why should we go easy on them? Deconstruction of these systems is long overdue.
I hope there is a time when the world stops being afraid of radical women who stand on the premise that we deserve equal space, protection and respect in all corners of society. I also hope there is a time when our anger is seen as justified. So, if you are called an angry feminist or a radical- embrace it. Use your emotions wisely to build something better than what we have now. And if you are ever in doubt, know that you are standing on the right side of history.