Clearly, I am a feminist. I will tell anyone that I am a feminist. I will argue with anyone about why feminism is important and tell you why you are wrong if you are not a feminist (it is one of my more charming qualities). But I would rather rip out my own tongue than respond to the statement, ‘Explain feminism to me’. Every time I hear that phrase, I am judging you and no good thoughts are running through my head.
I almost always freeze up and think, ‘you want me to explain feminism? All of feminism? You do know that people study this topic their entire lives and that there are entire bookstores full of books on the topic. Yet, here you are demanding that I explain it to you right now. Here. On command as if you were holding a Milkbone in front of my nose.’ No. I refuse.
I wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I would spend so much of my time thinking about how to distill the main points of feminism into tiny accessible ideas for the masses. I would give what I thought to be a perfect summary and then, generously, I would include books that had inspired me and philosophers that I admired. I would offer this perfectly accessible explanation to the common man (it was usually a man) and he would look me in the eye and shit all over it. He would argue absurd points and true to ‘disprove’ my explanation to point out the flaws of feminism. It was remarkable. How did this person, who claimed to know nothing only 10 minutes ago, suddenly develop the ability to critique feminism in the vain of my feminist heroes? Well, they didn’t. Their points were almost always cited from sites like the Red Pill or other such MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) websites and most importantly, their arguments were pointless. So, instead of arguing such inane garbage, I would plead, ‘read the books!’ Then they would laugh and say, ‘No! Explain better, woman! Make the explanation better! Convince me, the misogynist, that I am wrong!’ Okay maybe they didn’t say that last part, but that was what I was hearing.
At this point you might be thinking, ‘Fuck those people but also, what about the person that does want to learn about feminism and they are asking a genuine question?’ Well, I don’t think that person exists… I’m serious. Feminism is not palatable to the masses and nor should it be. It literally challenges every foundation of society and seeks to destroy every structure of oppression. These structures are not only massive in their reach but they are also self-sustaining. As an example, white supremacy is evident in all aspects of society, ensures the continuation of racism, and is sustained by white fragility. Therefore, a white person may say, ‘racism is wrong’ but when confronted with Black pride movements, they may cry reverse racism. Although, logically this movement serves to empower racialized people and should therefore have no impact on white people, white fragility creates distress within white people when their power is questioned. This further perpetuates racism and maintains white supremacy. Also, it is important to note that this white distress manifests in verbal assault, emotional manipulation, protests, and violence against racialized people by/for the benefit of white people. These ideas are what we are up against so, I cannot believe that a random person would be open to me explaining these concepts in a casual setting.
I could explain these ideas forever and their brain would already be turning over a million feelings and finding reasons as to why what I was saying is wrong. All of my efforts would be in vain and they would continue thinking that all of their wrong ideas run as a perfect counter to mine. It gives them a great opportunity to think that they are open minded and listened to the foolish feminist but sadly, she did not convince me therefore feminism is a farce. I actually believe that it is much more fruitful to unpack someone’s idea or something that was said/done. I understand that call out culture is controversial (and that will very likely be discussed at some point) but the benefits are two-fold. One, I can attack the problematic idea head on and attempt to re-frame it or get them to see your side. Two, I have dismantled an oppressive action/idea and perhaps used my privilege in a positive way. Using privilege to speak for a marginalized group can be extremely problematic and self-serving (read: I am a very good white person, can I get all the cookies please?). Although, when I am in a group of likewise privileged people, it is a way to say, ‘sorry, you can’t pull that shit here just because no one is watching’. More importantly, I try to use your privilege to back up and create space for marginalized people to challenge people with privilege. Please note: I fuck up all the time and haven’t really figured everything out.
Basically, I probably won’t explain feminism to you if you ask me, but I will call you sexist. I will explain feminism but only on my own terms and with compensation (only if you are a cis- white guy because you owe me $.30 on the dollar anyway). Is there anyone out there who feels the same? Am I alone in feeling this way? Have you been able to explain feminism to people? More importantly, do you have fun feminist ways to tell people to fuck off (I always need more wit in my life)?