A general feel of the so-called feminism I find on social networks (and I know that isn’t the best source) is limited to either white issues or addressing some selective sense of racism meted out to non males of African origin (“blacks”). There are issues like fatness, consent, body size, shape and (quite limitedly) colour. A woman’s actual appearance. A woman’s sexual habits (only, of course, related to their right to “sleep around” or problems related to sexual harassment) are largely used to represent the larger issue.
Every time I look at these pages, where they post pictures of women in bras and knickers being proud of an overflowing tummy and large breasts in push-up bras, their bodies evenly coloured, I think of my own insecurities. What happens to those of us with flat chests and tummies, a line of hair running from below our breasts right till it is hidden into our knickers. What if it meets a tuff of hair we haven’t managed to conceal behind our knickers? What about the spots and scars on our bodies? The various colour tones to our bodies? Do we need to whitewash ourselves? The so-called women’s movements when relating it to bodies and freedom to embody this perfectly hairless physical structure without feeling ashamed is far from what our struggle should be. I feel threatened and left out by such claims of feminism.
That being said, just as a woman should have the right to put her fat (hairless) body into a bikini, should others not have the right to blend out? Or to cover herself as she will and not feel individually oppressed? Our stress on who has the right to be sexual is justified from the largely white debate on using our bodies for sexual pleasure. This concern is either based on slut-shamming or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) (of course a concern) in “those oppressed countries of the Global South”. There is a lack of critique of a person’s sexual freedom, moving instead towards deductions of women being as sexual as men. What if women aren’t? What if we don’t want to be sexual and just do not enjoy sex? Must we even be so engaged in validating our existence through our position on our sexual activities? Foucault would have something to say.
I was recently invited to be a part of a Feminism society at a University Union level. As a Masters student, we are already excluded from these exclusive University solidarities. Their concerns are framed around the representation of “women”. The group members were largely white princesses (and I mean this to imply those who deck themselves up at all times – I wouldn’t question their dedication to the movement, but I would wonder if they understand or sympathise with the plights of those who either cannot afford makeup, high-end clothes, razors and hairbleach at the same time or those of us who refuse to comply with such expectations). Of course, there are the rebels who are still white and/or aren’t skinny. The odd penisperson feminists (welcomes, yes, but please contribute to the movement, not the Facebook page only?) make themselves heard.
These spaces are threatening in that they do not allow for the chance to know, to find out and have someone explain the problem. Instead, it seems like an area where people shout (paraphrased) “I was at so-and-so protest and a person called me a lesbian – we face harassment at these.” to which a response is provided “I’d rather be called a lesbian than support rape.” And a whole stream of privileged comments ensued. If you haven’t identified my problem with the above-mentioned, it is the fact that said “feminist”(since it was part of the group) believes that being a lesbian is comparable to being a rapist. How those two compare is beyond me, and how someone thinks to consider it a negative comment is also odd.
To confront the population that can be categorized through Bourdieu’s sentence: “Male domination is so rooted in our collective unconscious that we no longer even see it”, one does not need to form exclusive groups or societies. One must inter-mingle and understand. Educate the ignorant, I would think.
I am beginning to question more and more the problem we seek to address here. There seems to be a dislocation. Identity Politics is real, and we don’t acknowledge it “to divide the movement”. We acknowledge it to ensure that we do not, in fact, oppress the way we are oppressed as individuals in our given geographies, with our differing relaities. It isn’t to reject a common movement, but rather to acknowledge that there is diversity in what we do, what we fight for. The best way to move forward accordingly is not by joining one big happy “all represented group” which maintains an extent of authority. Which exercises some sense of control in that we think we have understood difference, leading to our having, as Young hoped, “transcended intersubjectivity”. It is almost possible to understand why penispeople fail to understand the need for feminism. I sometimes wonder about the criteria to label yourself thus too.
Please note that none of the words used are with prejudice except perhaps “white”. This term implies a middle class behaviourism.