I will be honest: I struggle with my feminist identity. For anyone who knows me well, this may come as a surprise. As I struggle with my feminism, I am also aware that it is one of the most salient aspects of my identity. It is the one to which I feel the most aligned, most committed, and most proud. I am also not shy about my feminism. I have posts, blogs, and bumper stickers. I talk about it in class, with my friends, and with my family. It is the source of both bonding and fissure in my relationships.
So when Joss Whedon, a feminist ally whose movies and shows have provided a different script for women in the media, denounced the word feminism, I paused. It is a critique that I hear so often, and each time I ask myself: are they right? Do we need the word “feminism?” Would my life be easier if I was simply a "genderist?" I could go into a post about where Joss Whedon went wrong, but Noah Berlatsky already summed that up so well here. I could also talk about how disappointing it was that a white, heterosexual male ally, whose fanbase surrounding shows like Buffy and Firefly are very much feminist-oriented, used his privilege and fame to flippantly denounce an entire history and movement of women working towards equal rights.
I could also talk about why I think the word “feminism” is important. How you cannot tiptoe around privilege and patriarchy with a word like “feminism” the way that you can “genderist.” How the word “feminism” is so vehemently disliked because it acknowledges the oppression of women, and words like “genderist” and “humanist” and “equalist” fail to communicate that specific kind of oppression. How “feminist” is more than an adjective—it is a word entrenched with history of the movement, the centuries of hardship and work that went into gaining the rights that we have today. It is a word that embodies an ongoing commitment to working for equal rights for women and all people.
But these arguments do not get to the heart of why I call myself a feminist—The real reason why I push through the awkward conversations with friends and family members; The reason why I spend time negotiating my love of pop culture with my feminist identity; The reason why I make myself vulnerable by confronting the status quo .
I call myself a feminist because I want to give women (and men) who have been marginalized by the dominant systems a voice. I call myself a feminist because I want to work to create stronger feminist communities—not fractured, divided ones. I call myself a feminist because I believe in the power of groups when people feel they are connected, appreciated, and supported.
So I invite all you humanists, equalists, genderists, activists, and overall awesome human beings: you do not have to call yourself a feminist. As long as we are working towards the same goals of reducing systematic oppression of marginalized groups of people, we are on the same team. And although there is a time and place for self-critique, the time that we spend denouncing or disparaging our movements is just time spent not addressing the real social justice issues we should be talking about.
So while we were all debating if a feminist, by any other name, would smell as sweet, here were some other important things that were happening in the world:
· Women are still enduring genital cutting, as well as high rates of sexual harassment, in Egypt.
· Violence against women is a highly prevalent issue in Iraq, over a decade after the U.S. Invasion in Iraq.
· In a recent Gallup poll, male bosses are still favored over female bosses.
· Poorer women with a breast lump may wait to see doctor,
· Vagisil continues to make women and girls self-conscious with their new advertisement.
· Woman are less likely to orgasm during casual sex.
· Another Gallup poll found that the majority of people think women should start having children at age 25. (No pressure)
· Despite all the fuss about women earning more money, businesses do not actually know how to market to women.
· Lululemon shames women’s bodies by blaming their weight for fabric wear.
· Denying women’s contraceptive access is what brought the pilgrims to America.
· Why hasn’t the U.S. elected a woman president yet?
· Women with disabilities are even more vulnerable to experience violence throughout their lives.
· Women and the fight for comprehensive immigration reform
· Women and minorities still underrepresented in science careers.
It was Joss Whedon himself who said, “It was only when I got to college that I realized that the rest of the world didn’t run the way my world was run and that there was a need for feminism. I’d thought it was all solved.” Me too, Joss. Me too.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.