This morning, a few tweets with the hashtag #IAmNotAProperFeminist popped up in my timeline. The initial tweets satirised the exclusivity and policing of women that, unfortunately, the feminist movement engages in all too often. I fired off a few tweets, basically saying that I don’t agree that Caitlin Moran is a feminist Messiah, that I don’t care what anyone does with their body hair and that I don’t regard pop stars with a raunchy image like Rihanna as a bad influence. Other tweeters expressed similar sentiments.
Other people tweeted stuff along the lines of “I wear make-up, heels, etc.,” “I bake”, “I don’t hate men, LOL”. At this point, it was becoming hard to tell discern whether or not the satirical element was becoming lost in a sea of stereotypes, or if the sentiment was genuine frustration at feminist hypocrisy or actively anti-feminist sentiments. Wearing make-up or heels are, in my view, meaningless signifiers with regard to someone’s feminism or lack thereof. Whether you shave or don’t shave, wear make-up on a daily basis or hardly ever is immaterial. Yes, beauty standards as set down by the mainstream fashion and magazine industry are ridiculously narrow, but policing women’s genuine choice and preferences seems incredibly patriarchal.
On the flip side, other feminist tweeters took issue with the fact that the hashtag existed at all. Any criticism of feminism at all seemed to be anathema to them, unwittingly pinpointing the reasoning behind the hashtag in the first place. Mainstream Guardianista type feminists, predominantly white middle class women have all too often acted as gatekeepers of “proper feminism”, with trans* women, women of colour, women with disabilities and women in sex work often ending up under the bus in these discussions.
There is not just one type of feminism, there are various feminismS; some of them problematic, or even actively oppressive (see trans* exclusionary radical feminism, or Radfem2013). The feminism I favour, and the one I believe to be most effective does not police women’s lives, values the differing views and lived experiences of women, and does not throw women under the bus when it is expedient to do so. Yes, all women suffer under patriarchy to varying degrees, but patriarchal oppression links to other systems of oppression. To deny that some women have varying degrees of privilege is oppressive and NOT what feminism should be about.
#IamNotAProperFeminist, to me, is not a mockery or denigration of feminism per se, but a critique of how an ostensibly progressive movement can also be exclusionary and reactionary.