I think it's finally happened... my brain simply can't wrap its head around the conflicting ideals within the feminist "movements."*

I've been thinking a lot lately about the label "feminism." After the Fem2.0 Conference, there was a lot of talk in the blogosphere about what is considered a feminist blog (see here and here, for example). One of the first things that came to my mind when I saw Womanist Musings on there was, "wait... what's the criteria here?" Not that I don't think Womanist Musings is one of the best blogs out there, because I totally do. But... the name of her blog is Womanist Musings. And while womanism is historically considered part of feminism, it often isn't seen that way anymore. I also know Renee takes issue with a lot of aspects of the larger feminist "movements," as do many other WOC. BFP has publicly gone from a self-proclaimed feminist, to rejecting the label and considering taking "femi" out of her name. So finding her on a list of top feminist blogs... what exactly does that mean for feminism? And what does it mean for me?

Because, hey, guess what? I'M A WOC!! And I have the same problems that so many others have with the feminist "movements." I know there are countless people who call themselves feminists but still say/do racist, ableist, homophobic, etc. things. I simply cannot wrap my head around that. So I usually just say things like "that's not what I consider feminist..." and keep it moving. I am critical of the "movements" and those people, but I do not reject the label or the "movements."

But more and more I've started to ask myself... should I? I know that I don't need the label in order to keep believing what I do and acting the way I do. So what's the big deal?

I know what you're thinking... "But, Sally, I thought feminist was the only label you were proud of claiming?! What on earth is going on here?!" Honestly, I have no real answer to that.

I do not think I am ready to let go of the feminist label. To me, feminism is more than these "movements" or the individuals that claim to represent them. I've always said you do not need to identify as a feminist to be one.

I still believe that. But I also see merit in rejecting the labels. Is it fair for me to call Renee or BFP feminists simply because they meet my own definition of the term, even if they don't feel comfortable with that label? Is it fair for others to give them that label? 

It seems to be the ultimate question of fighting the system from within vs. fighting the system from the outside. Is it time for me to really consider and internalize the reasons to reject the label?

Even now, this is so difficult for me to even write. I'm struggling to put down all the things I'm thinking and to summarize what's been running through my head for the past few weeks. I know that I have to start working through these things in order to have some sort of closure. I haven't had a real "feminist" post in weeks, not only because I haven't had time (though I really haven't, which sucks anyway), but also because I just don't know what to say.

I don't want to keep making excuses for these racist, homophobic, condescending people calling themselves feminists. But I also have great examples of people who still use the term, WOC or otherwise. 

I know feminism is a process. I guess I never realized just how much of a personal process it would be.

*I intentionally put movement in quotes for several reasons. 1) There is no clear distinction between the Second, Third, even Fourth so-called waves of feminism. I'm not about to start splitting these up & trying to define them in this post. 2) I'm not entirely sure how a cause with so many factions can really be considered one, singular movement -- waves or no waves. 3) No matter how many waves, a lot of the problems I mention in this post are seen in some form throughout all of them, so distinctions don't really even matter.


At Sat Feb 14, 10:32:00 AM mzbitca said...

I think I follow what you're saying. I think for me some of the blogging drama that I've seen taken on by some "well-known" white feminist bloggers is the biggest turn off. That's part of the reason I love Renee's place, or BFPs or Ren's. You don't feel like you're watching a dialogue for 3 or 4 other people who are letting you into their world, you are actually participating in their world. Also, denying the label or claiming the lable, actions and what you put out there are what matter and I think tha'ts why Renee's website is so popular. It's not what she's identifying as, it's what she's putting out there, and people that are serious about this understand that's what's important. I also feel, with the exception of Feministe. I get more dialogue and deeper discussion at smaller blogs than at the main ones.

At Sat Feb 14, 12:19:00 PM frau sally benz said...

I definitely agree with you on the difference in community. I've always felt that the smaller blogs (indy fem blogs is what I usually call them), there is more dialogue, more openness, etc. Bigger blogs get wrapped up in labeling you a troll for having a different opinion and don't really listen as much. There's no dialogue.

I actually haven't commented on feminist threads in a long time either. I almost feel it's not worth the effort to say anything if other people are just going to pounce on it.

At Sat Feb 14, 01:08:00 PM mzbitca said...

To be honest, I have felt that since the election comment sections have just not been as productive as before. I'm not sure what happened but I've noticed that the progressiveness of commentors (especially at feministing) has really devolved.

At Sat Feb 14, 02:59:00 PM frau sally benz said...

I think it started even before that. Ever since Obama won the nomination, I'd say, possibly even earlier. I guess it was the first big moment where politics met feminism, and differing opinions caused a power struggle of sorts. People felt they had to defend themselves and their decision no matter what side they were on. But definitely after the election season was over, it's almost like the level-headed voices took a step back and everyone else took over.

Mind you, this is all happening while I'm already questioning feminism, so it certainly hasn't helped a darn thing.

At Sun Feb 15, 05:01:00 PM mzbitca said...

I think this past election was the first time many feminists had to do more with their privilege than just give it acknowledgment or yell at others. There were tensions going around that definitely dealt with privilege and oppression olympics and I think as part of that, instead of becoming more integrated the feminist/womanist/woc blogosphere became way more divided

At Mon Feb 16, 03:34:00 PM DaisyDeadhead said...

I haven't had a real "feminist" post in weeks, not only because I haven't had time (though I really haven't, which sucks anyway), but also because I just don't know what to say.

If I write about ____, it's a feminist thing. Period. If someone wants to argue about that, they can bring it on. Do not get upset you don't have "feminist content"--because of course you do! You view the world through a feminist lens.

I call myself "feminist" since I was there at the beginning, back in the Medieval Feminist Era, so I feel that feminism "belongs" to me in some particular way. But if I did not feel that way, I might be inclined to let the title go. As it is (like "deadhead")--I can't quite bring myself to do that, it is an integral part of my identity. If you find this is also true for you, then keep the label, and explain why these other women are not true to what YOU believe the label means.

It's a dirty job, but!... etc.

Good reading!

At Tue Feb 17, 04:37:00 PM frau sally benz said...

If I write about ____, it's a feminist thing. Period.

It's funny, because I used to approach blogging that way and suddenly stopped. Thanks for the kick in the ass on that one! haha

At Wed Feb 18, 12:26:00 AM Feminist in the City said...

I agree with DaisyDeadhead! As feminists we look through the world with a different lens and as feminist bloggers we can't help but have these ideas serve as undertones in our writing.

Personally, I am proud of my self-proclaimed feminist label. If I weren’t a feminist I wouldn’t be the same person nor would I look at the world in the same way. I’m thankful that I’m a feminist b\c it allows me to examine the world in a different way.

As feminists however, I don’t think we can be held responsible for the racist or homophobic things other feminists say. Of course it would be ideal for feminists not to say racist or homophobic things but we don’t live in an ideal world.

If it’s part of who you are and how you look at the world and react to it then I think it’s important to hold onto your feminist label. Why deny something that you are? What would happen to the movement if we all denied our feminist label?


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