As a person who does more talking than doing when it comes to social justice, I’ve historically hesitated to refer to myself as a “feminist.” Some people think a feminist is just anyone who supports the equality of the genders, but I’ve always thought it weird that one particular movement gets to claim ownership over “not being a bigot.” I am definitely an ally to feminists, however, and I think it’s important for people involved in any kind of group of movement to be introspective and cognizant of where improvements are possible.
To this effect, I have often criticized mainstream feminism in videos and on social media. I think that some people took this as me opposing or disliking feminism, but in actuality I wanted to provide constructive criticism to a movement that I think is important. And I do think feminism has an image problem that is a big reason why more and more people are hesitant to identify with the label. What I knew internally at the time, but only recently was able to put into words, however, was that I was criticizing a specific aspect of feminism, and not the general idea of feminism.
What most people seem to think of when they hear the word “feminism” is what has commonly become known as “pop feminism.” Things like Jezebel, or #banbossy, or Lena Dunham. An easily unpacked, simplified version of feminism that has the general idea of “women are equal to men” but often lacks important nuance. This decontextualized version of feminism often leads to ideas being improperly presented and sometimes completely misrepresented in the name of the feminist agenda. Pop feminism is responsible for silly ideas like Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines being somehow pro-rape or wage gap statistics being misrepresented. And these kinds of ideas are worth criticizing and correcting. However, there are a couple issues I have with this recent anti-feminist movement devoted to correcting and criticizing feminists 24/7, as I outline in today’s video.
Firstly, while it’s fine to point out when someone is doing or saying something incorrect or ridiculous, we have to have some perspective here. The Blurred Lines fiasco happened 3 years ago, and notice that it’s basically never brought up again. It didn’t ruin Robin Thicke’s, or anyone’s life. It was just a bunch of people yammering about something on the internet. That kind of thing does not warrant an organized widespread backlash.
Secondly, as I’ve implied, we’re talking about an oversimplified version of feminism here, and I think if we’re being intellectually honest, we need to point this out. I don’t think I’ve always been good about doing this myself. Feminism is a robust, complex concept which has many facets and many intertwining schools of thought. To look at a bunch of people spouting buzzwords on the internet and say, “that’s feminism” is simply absurd.
So ultimately, if you want to spend your time criticizing pop feminism, that’s perfectly fine–a lot of it needs to be criticized. But be sure to indicate the context and the scope of what you’re criticizing.