Ten years of feminism #femfest

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

I've just been writing a post, soon to be published on Threads, about the negative stereotypes and misconceptions people hold about feminism and how they can generally be debunked. I chose to do this as a response to the awkward silences that often happen when feminism is mentioned and outright dismissive attitudes towards gender equality from within the church. Don't get me wrong, I know it's of great concern to a lot of people, but in this respect the church often mirrors society with its fear of the bogeymen (women? Womyn?) of man-haters, female supremacists, and power-hungry women with an agenda.

I'm choosing to focus on the positives of my feelings about feminism today because at times when I was feeling alone in my worries and my concerns, I discovered that feminists were my people. They were my people when I was a student, experiencing misogyny and miserable about my body image and eating habits. They were my people five years later when I was wrestling with whatever the hell "Biblical Womanhood" meant, and how I was supposed to model it. They've been my people this past year as I've given birth, taken time off work, and (as of last week!) returned to the office.

My feminism grew out of anger and hurt at injustice. Feminists are always described as "angry"or "raging", because we know those are terrible insults when aimed at a woman, and people think that treating us as unseemly and unladylike might shut us up. As the anti-feminist propaganda used to say much more often and as you sometimes still hear: "Why can't they just be happy with being women? Why do they want to be like men?" People expect us to have sanitised, uncontroversial opinions about the experiences of our sisters, in case we upset anyone.

If you spoke in a nicer tone of voice...

If you could just sound less emotional...

If these harpies didn't give feminists a bad name...

The very first feminist blogs I read were radical feminist ones, most of them now defunct, some long gone thanks to attacks and continued conflict. In other words, the angry kind. Here were women describing how I felt, feeling anger like my own, talking about things that made me upset because my friends saw them as no big deal and looked faintly embarrassed that I was being like that again.

Ten years after I first encountered feminism, the anger and hurt is still there but so is a sense of community, of positivity, of achievement. Feminism found me when I was in a bad place and helped me to understand why I felt the way I did. It helped me to understand oppression. It helped me to like other women and develop a supportive and compassionate attitude towards them rather than one of suspicion, jealousy, and competition. It helped me to understand the perspectives of others and recognise my privilege as something to learn from rather than something to get defensive about. It introduced me to activism, to marches and conferences and networks, to new friends.

Yes, our anger needs to be righteous, with a point. It needs to make a better way. But the idea that feeling angry, or hurt, or emotional about gender equality is somehow wrong and marks us out as lesser beings is just another way of telling women that their opinions don't count. Through working towards justice and equality for women, it can actually be productive. And it needs to be, because there is still so far to go. It's abundantly clear from recent conversations on Christian blogs that a lot of people still need to look past the stereotypes and listen to those who do.

This is Day 1 of Feminisms Fest. Today we are linking up at J.R. Goudeau’s blog, loveiswhatyoudo.com to write about these questions: What is your experience with feminism? What’s a story or a memory or a person that you associate with that word? Why does it have negative or positive connotations for you? How do you define the term, either academically or personally? What writers have you read whose definitions you want to bring out? Or, if you don’t have a definition, what are some big questions you have? Be sure to use the hashtag #femfest when sharing your posts.


J.R. Goudeau said...

This: "I chose to do this as a response to the awkward silences that often happen when feminism is mentioned and outright dismissive attitudes towards gender equality from within the church." I've seen both the angry and the community-building sides of feminism and I so identify with this post. Lovely.

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