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Feminism needs to stop denying its failings

Disavowal_cissexismFeminists have a really bad habit of disavowing anything in their movement that makes it look bad, whether it be racism, ableism, cissexism or another –ism. It’s time to stop making excuses and address the issues, writes Kinsey Hope.

12 September 2010

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that feminism as a movement (and sometimes even as an ideology) has some troubles.

A movement plagued by prescriptive nonsense on a fairly regular basis, it has been guilty of body policing, life choice policing and attacking those women who choose options or exhibit traits that it deems to be part of the sexism-aligned axis of kyriarchy.

Thin women are attacked with body policing with catchphrases like, “real women have curves” and “eat a sandwich”. Women who choose to work in porn or in sex work are attacked in some really awful ways, as their self-determination is stripped from them by the women who claim to protect the self-determination of us all.

Feminism is also well known for truly abhorrent cissexism and transphobia from its second wave and radical feminism zones (trigger warning on the comments) and hasn’t exactly solved the problem of cissexism in the third wave either.

This can include treating trans men like “men lite” (something that is endemic all over feminism) and especially shows itself in degendering and even levying misogynistic attacks on trans women – often with the claim that since we transitioned, we deserve it because we “chose to be women” (a pretty foolish conclusion built on a lack of comprehension and willful ignorance).

And it has certainly been utterly awful to women of color and women with disabilities as well. The fact that womanism was built specifically to escape the racism of feminism and the fact that an entire community blog (FWD) tore away from all the major feminist blogs due to their ableism should be indicator enough that there’s some serious problems here.

So with feminism’s issues being so distinct and so serious, one would think that feminist “allies” would quickly acknowledge and work to fix the problems. Right?

As it turns out, no, not really. (You’ll notice she deleted the post in question after a long and drawn out argument about it. Another waste of my day to try to educate cis feminists)

Feminists have this really bad habit of disavowing anything in their movement that makes it look bad. Whether it be racism, ableism, cissexism or another -ism; body policing, prescriptivism, or other attacks on self determination, the fact remains that a significant number of feminists’ response to their movement being called out for these things is, “Not all of us are like that, it’s not my feminism/true feminism/actual feminism/real feminism”.

What this comes down to, in the end, is reputation. Something a professed ally should not be prioritizing under any circumstances.

Since I’m tired of dealing with this argument every time I talk about feminism’s issues, I’m going to make this article address all of them so I can link bomb instead of wasting my life on these people.

1: Dissociating Reputation Save: “But not all of us are like that!”

I hate this one the most because it is a giant fallacious load of garbage to even say it. Of course not all of you are like that. I never said all of you were. If it isn’t about your actions, don’t make it about you. No, it isn’t my job to reassure you that you are an ally of repute.

The fact that you couldn’t even put the effort into thinking about what I said really shows how concerned you are with fixing the problems in your movement. The fact that you immediately made it about how you look really shows what your priorities are.

2: Unique Snowflake Feminism: “But that’s not MY feminism.”

Funny story: Feminism is a movement, a group, a united common ideology fueled alliance of women. Not a fingerprint, snowflake, particle trail, personal taste in pizza toppings or individual viewpoint about modern art.

I thought this was common knowledge, that feminists are part of a group and movement called feminism and not an army of one. You might as well call it Carrie-ism, Stephanie-ism, Zoe-ism, etcetera instead of feminism if it’s just your personal philosophy, taken totally apart from any other feminist out there.

This once again comes down to reputation. Only this time it is not just the reputation of the individual feminist at stake, it is the reputation of the Voltron combination of feminism and one single very upset feminist who very much dislikes how us mean minority type people dare to claim her symbiotic companion (and by proxy, herself) could dare to have anything wrong with them.

This one is more silly than irritating and I have to admit, I laugh when I hear it. At least in the beginning, before this argument goes on for hours and makes me want to claw my eyes out.

3: No True Scotsman. “That’s not REAL feminism”

Circular logic can make an argument go on for days. And there’s nothing more circular than claiming that feminists, who are part of the movement, engage in activism, follow the base ideology of feminism (gender equality) as they interpret it aren’t actually feminists when they do something that establishes that feminism has people who do bigoted things.

As shitty as it is, transphobia, racism, ableism, body policing and so on were all parts of feminism since its early days.

Many of the greats of feminism, like Mary Daly, were transphobic as shit (and likely racist and ableist too) and these elements were hard-coded into second wave.

Third wave still hasn’t recovered from that damage. You can claim that the feminists who do that stuff are bad feminists, are doing it wrong, are failing at the spirit of the philosophy of feminism, but claiming that what they follow isn’t feminism? No. That’s just silly.

They’ve got the base philosophy, which they do follow, based on their interpretation. That’s the problem with simple philosophies. Interpretation leaves holes for bigotry. Might be wise to be mindful of that.

It’s tiring dealing with this shit.

But the really funny part is since you’re spending your time trying to protect your reputation as an ally or prove feminism doesn’t have bigotry and bullshit instead of actually fighting the issues, you’re actually proving that you’re a bad ally and that you’re part of feminism’s problem.

It’s a bit counterproductive for everyone. And really ironic.

Kinsey Hope (KH for short) is a snazzy sarcasm machine, made of wit, rage, awesome and silliness. She's also a mid 20s aged pagan, queer, polyamorous, Irish-Italian American woman of the trans variety, who has some disabilities and is a bit financially screwed at the moment (something that will hopefully be temporary if she manages to finish school).

Of course, Kinsey isn't her real name. But unfortunately, revealing that you're trans, poly or disabled (as her disabilities, transness and polyness aren't abundantly visible) can very badly impact your life.

She blogs on
Genderbitch: Musings of a Trans Chick and can be found in many interesting places like Tumblr and Twitter. She has written a few guest posts for Deeply Problematic and Questioning Transphobia and currently is a part-time writer for the community trans blog The Spectrum Café.

She can also be reached by email at recursiveparadox[at]live[dot]com and will reach you when she has time between being mildly homeless, searching for work, finishing her thesis and writing blog posts. Kinsey finds terrible B movie thrillers and sci fi to be hilarious, is shamelessly in love with Doctor Who, remembers everything about pokemon, dislikes long walks on the beach (sand in the shoes) and is a fiery temperamental redhead who is unbelievably neurotic and occasionally very shy.



-2 #1 goddessboi 2010-09-17 17:46
Ok sistha my sistha I get you are freaking over all feminist! Yes of course there are ISSUES in all group think and hell if it was perfect we be loving each other caring for each other and making sure justice prevailed for all! Unfortunitly it's not true in any group be it lgbt or what ever group working for social justice.we are affected by the patriarchal constructs of race, class, gender,ability privilege alive and well in all of us right here right now. And yes i said patriarchal and all of us have the potential to up hold these systems of oppression regardless of our gender, race, class, ability, ETC.So whats your solution?I consider myself a feminist in the spirit of Audre Lorde cuz she Made sense of the world for me when i could not! Big love to you! Don't let us?them get you down!Dare to be powerfull!

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