Beware Of The Feminist PoliceNovember 4, 2011 2 Comments
When I first started to have my eyes opened to the wonders of feminism in my second year of university, I identified older students in class that I wanted to be like. The girl in the front with the glasses and short hair. The one wearing those Doc Martens. The one who’s always making class announcements for some kind of event or another. The one wearing Converse sneakers.
Then I would go home and look at myself in the mirror and realize that I looked like the most boring feminist ever. I looked like a completely cisgendered woman — long hair, makeup, pretty clothes with matching jewellery. Where was the nose piercing? Where were my Converse sneakers? Where was the short hair?
As if policing in mainstream culture wasn’t enough for a young woman like me (Smile. Sit straight. Be more confident. Exercise three times a week. Don’t eat cake. Skinny jeans are in. Get a manicure but not a French manicure because those are reserved for special occasions. Watch Sex and the City. Have girlfriends that remind you of Sex and the City.), I was beginning to discover the policing that goes on in feminist communities was equally stringent if not, worse.
Maybe the pressure I felt was partly due to my own insecurity hanging out with a new group of friends. Two years on, I chopped my hair short, got a nose piercing and now own at least two pairs of Converse sneakers. I had gone through a feminist makeover!
The question of being the “right kind of feminist” will always plague me. I don’t have that ideal “feminist activist” job, I don’t shop at thrift stores and I’m not vegetarian. Among my more “mainstream” friends, I am the “feminist” one and among my feminist friends, I sometimes consider myself more “mainstream.”
The pressure that some new feminists feel — to look, act, dress and talk a certain way — is unfortunate but not inevitable. Feminism is not about prescribing what feminists should think, look like, dress, act or talk. Us third-wavers keep paying lip service to the importance of “diversity” in the feminist movement but are we truly looking at our own actions?
Even as a woman of colour, I sometimes feel like “safe feminist spaces” are not safe at all. Especially when I know I am going to say something that the white feminists in the room might not agree with.
Feminists need to start listening — and I mean really listening — to each other. Refrain yourself from ranting the next time you see someone wear a feather on their head or say something you find offensive. Ranting about what you think is wrong with the world or with X person while policing what other feminists wear only tells everyone around you that feminism is an angry and yes, bitchy movement.
I’ll keep working on my feminist checklist but someday, I hope no such checklist exists.
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