How to do feminism right?
I read Loki’s piece on Bella Caledonia this morning and it spurred me to write down some thoughts. This isn’t about him personally or the main thrust of his argument, parts of which I agreed with. It’s about a notion I’ve been hearing more and more of recently, and took away from aspects of Loki’s article.
‘How Women are Doing Feminism Wrong and How Men Can Help.’
It’s not a new or original whine, but one that Feminists have long heard. For as long as there has been a women’s movement there have been men telling them that if they don’t modify their tactics they will alienate/anger/provoke the very men they need on side. Any woman with a social media account knows that when it comes to Feminism, we’re never actually doing the right thing at the right time.
Women shouldn’t have tried to convince the Sun to stop using topless models on Page 3 because if we really cared about women we’d be talking about FGM instead. Campaigns for gender balance in Parliament/media is failing to talk about ‘The Stuff That Really Matters’ because we all know that it is impossible to care about more than one issue at a time. For as sure as we all are that James Kelly is no gonnae sit doon, we are sure that some men, sometimes are going to be offended by Feminism. No matter how well we are doing it.
The dismantling of power structures and the discussion of male violence cannot, by definition be universally appealing to all men. Some groups will feel picked on, marginalized, or held up for higher scrutiny. And in the case of the right-wing media, some – like Muslim men – occasionally are. We’re told if only we did X – then men would get on side and be our knights in shining armor against inequality.
Sorry – but I’m calling bullshit on that one. I do believe men can be Feminists and I know plenty who are motivated to try and help us change things. Those men aren’t the ones popping up in my notifications to remind me ‘not all men’ when I’m discussing literally any topic. They aren’t the ones chirping up during discussions about male violence with ‘What about Rose West?’ They are the ones that understand that maybe women have a unique perspective when it comes to gender inequality and that their tips aren’t necessary. Plus, we’ve heard them all before, on loop.
Pointers on how we can better conduct ourselves in this movement normally boil down to two things.
1. Don’t make fuss.
2. Try and see things from the man’s point of view.
My thinking is that Feminism should be centered around women, and that the men who care about women’s rights are going to look at the bigger picture, rather than pick away at perceived flaws in strategy. Women, just like men, are complicated, flawed, angry, kind, clever, stupid and reactive human beings. It’s easy, from an outside perspective to say ”if you want people on board, then you are going to have to make your delivery a bit sweeter” but it’s not actually as easy as that.
When I’m out walking with my baby daughter in her pram and some creep in a white van shouts ”I’d go right fuckin’ through you” to me, it makes me angry. I couldn’t give a monkey’s teeth that he shouted it with a working class accent. I don’t look at the experience from his point of view. I don’t write it from his point of view. Does that make me unreasonable? Closed-minded? Perhaps. But it doesn’t make me a bad or counter-productive Feminist.
I don’t wake up in the morning and ask myself how I am going to get more men on board with women’s struggles. Feminism isn’t a dodgy pyramid scheme with robots programmed to recruit. We react to things like everybody else in a way that is honest and real to us and rooted in our individual experiences as women. We don’t always have the end goal in sight, sometimes we just want to vent or campaign or talk amongst ourselves.
There are women in Scotland collectively and singularly to try and effect change. Women for Independence, Women 50:50, Zero Tolerance all are constructive and effective bases for activism. So often that is overlooked or dismissed amidst the debate over semantics & need to find flaws. It is disruptive and derailing. In a movement where women are living the inequality they are shouting about it is imperative that they have the loudest voice. I don’t know much about PR, but that’s where I’d start.
*not all men