I have recently been engaged in a conversation with a colluder. What you may ask, is a colluder. A colluder is a woman that disavows feminism for men’s rights. Believe it of not, there are are a lot of those women out there. They feel that feminism has reached all of its goals, and that the women that are complaining today aren’t interested in equality…oh no, we are interested in ruling men. Since females in roles of power are counter gender norms, this simply cannot be tolerated.
I identify as a womanist, and as such I favor a woman centered agenda. This is a fact that I proudly claim. I consider womanism as falling under the umbrella of feminism, but having its own unique branch so to speak. The fissures in feminism have largely been a private affair. In fact until the recent presidential bid of HRC, most people were unaware that feminism even came in waves. You see, post structural feminists have hidden in academia arguing over language, and accessibility, though few can understand them, DIY, have been busy doing, and largely ignored by the mainstream, and anti-racists have been silenced, while quietly being ushered off of the stage. This has allowed white second, and third wave feminists to largely frame the debate within the media.
When someone says they are against feminism, my first response is, really what kind of feminism do you have a problem with. This usually draws blank stares. Feminism in the public discourse means one thing, despite the fact that no monolithic woman exists. I then do the rundown of the different kinds of feminism, as I watch the eyes of listener roll. No they insist, feminism is all about privileging women over men. Women have the vote, and equality before the law so all of the problems have been solved.
It occurs to me that feminism suffers from the same image problem that POC do. We are expected to speak with one specific voice, and yet we all know that life experience causes different needs, and desires. A WOC living in Canada (me) will have very different needs than say a black South African woman, yet we are both black. Similarly a white suburban, mini van driving, soccer mom will have a completely different focus, than an urban 20 something New York socialite. I have found that no matter how many times I point out that women have different experiences, the response I get back is usually framed within the idea that vagina equals one large collective brain. The hive sort of mentality that is attributed to feminism is harmful. My feminism speaks to who I am as a person, it speaks to my needs, and desires, and it is certainly not representative of women at large.
Many have been upset that the fissures in feminism have been made public. The idea that an anti-racist feminist, would critique a Marxist feminist of ignoring the impact of race is something that the public at large simple cannot comprehend. Even the volley that is passed between sex positive feminists, and radical feminists in reference to sex work is kept under wraps, and only discussed within feminist circles. To admit that there are differences some contend is diluting the movement, and counter to the progression of womens issues. In actuality a diversity of voices is only counter to those that believe that they have the right to represent feminism to the world. I am tired of a small minority of women representing feminism, and asserting an authority that they were never granted. Not only are they not capable of speaking for me, they are not even remotely capable of understanding what my life experience is like. It is time for those of us who identify beyond the second/third wave to step onto the stage. Whether you are an eco, socialist, sex positive, queer,DIY, anti-racist, etc, make your voice heard. You have just as much right to represent feminism as the squeaky wheels that are currently doing to the talk show, and book signing circuit.
Perhaps if more people where to understand the diversity of feminism we wouldn’t have the backlash that we do today. We must admit when there are colluding women that refuse to identify as feminist yet regularly spout the preciosities of feminist theories within their daily lives, that there are identity issues that need to be addressed. They believe in equal rights for women but declare that they are not feminists. They believe in equal pay for equal work but declare that they are not feminists. These denials can only be because what is understood as feminism is non representative of a multitude of women. The only way to advance feminism is to admit our differences. Instead of seeing the fractures as airing dirty laundry, we should view it as opportunity to create a movement where more women will be comfortable identifying themselves. The more women that are dedicated to advancing the cause of feminism, the greater the possibility that something new, and inspiring will be achieved. So the next time you run into a colluder, ask her, what kind of feminism do you have a problem with.