Has Feminism Become Sidetracked in its Mission?
As with any large group, it’s hard to get its followers on one united front, I know that. But lately it feels as though feminism has sidetracked a bit. We know that the definition of feminism rests upon the fight for social, economical & political equality, but this encompasses so much that it can become hard to focus on everything at once. So, naturally, we form smaller groups to tackle it. But recently I have felt overwhelmed with the divisions in the group; whilst I’ve attended amazing protests, rallies & events this past year where the focus has been strong, I’ve also noticed that focus in the media has been on topics like ‘gender-neutral snowmen’. This is not to demean identity politics and its place within the movement, but rather to say that this issue perhaps doesn’t carry as much weight as, say, equal pay?
It got me thinking… does the problem lie within the movement, or the media who represents it?
2018 has been a monumental year for feminism- the rise of #metoo & #timesup, the opening of honest conversations both in social groups & political sectors, the decriminalisation of abortion in Ireland, and much more have meant that feminists have been rather busy. One could say that feminism hasn’t been this prominent since the Second Wave, and that the popularisation of it has meant that our army has doubled in size. All great, right? Sure. But what about the division within the movement? How does the word ‘feminist’ on a t-shirt help the movement? How are we teaching the next generation to fight for equality? What about ‘white feminists’? And the 52% of white women who voted for Trump? How can we promote identity politics when there are ‘terfs’ in the movement? Can we argue for gender-neutral snowmen & gingerbread men and still be taken seriously by those who don’t associate with the movement?
There’s so much going on that it’s necessary for feminists to divert into different groups. There is such a pressure, as a feminist, to be good at and know everything. To not fail. To always say the right things. To fight on every front there is. But, let me tell you, this is a fruitless battle. You will only give yourself a breakdown because it is impossible to be good at everything. Cue famous podcast ‘The Guilty Feminist’ for similar musings. The movement and its aims are so vast and complex, and the opposition so judgemental, that it becomes only natural we make mistakes.
There are feminists out there who are causing real ripples in the fight for equality, and I see them and am reminded that there are people who truly care. But then I see distraction elsewhere. Take Britain, for instance; you may moan when you hear and read about Brexit (I know I do), but it’s still important we stay vigilant with what’s happening - like ensuring jobs are secured, women’s rights remain intact, and that anti-immigration doesn’t play a leading role in the outcome. So when I saw Twitter blow up over whether or not Corbyn called May a ‘Stupid Woman’, I had to think… is this really happening? Shouldn’t we be kicking up a fuss over something, say, slightly more important? Because let’s face it, whether he said ‘Stupid Woman’ or ‘Stupid People’, he isn’t exactly wrong…
MP Thelma Walker tweeted this extremely relevant point:
This is the kind of thing that needs to be headline news. This is what we should be furious at. We have a government full of self-serving politicians, intent on making their paychecks bigger whilst making others smaller. What are we doing about it? What can we do about it? It seems like a big task, and it is, but my question is this:
What are we putting our energy into? Is it arguing with a bloke down the pub because he thinks that catcalling is a compliment, or is it ignoring those ignorant twats in order to put our time and effort into something much more worthwhile?
What should we be making newspaper headlines about? Genderless gingerbread men or period poverty? Making Santa a woman or ensuring immigrants and asylum seekers find peace and comfort in our arms?
If you can do both, then go for it. But please don’t let it become headline news - because that’s not what feminism is about. This is not to say that identity politics isn’t important. I truly believe it is. But we’ve (myself included) become sidetracked by other people’s deliberate attempts to rile us up. Ignore them. Fight on.
Article by VERVE Operative & blogger Helena Burton-Jones