Feminism is an isolating experience. I don’t know whether this is by necessity or by circumstance. Cynically I might call it a function of Patriarchy to isolate feminist ideas from support and sunlight so that they die.
I am learning to admit that my feminism has gotten more aggressive over the last couple of years, and by aggressive I mean “visible and unapologetic” but also deeper, as well. And that doing so can present some problems. … That is, problems for interacting with the world at large that doesn’t accept as a basic premise that feminism is important, I suppose. I loved my theory class from the past semester, I would love to do moremoremore of this theorizing business, but it’s generally a very… ahem, stuffy and high-minded position, at times.
I have been thinking a lot—obsessing to unhealthy lengths, really, recently about what Radical Feminism means, what it means for me and for a forward-looking feminist movement. Whether there is any place for me in Radical Feminism at all (whether radical feminism can ever be trans*, gender and sexuality inclusive) and what it means to consider theories intriguing and thought provoking without subscribing to them whole-heartedly.
Feminism is an isolating experience. In part, because feminism is not an “inclusive” movement. Is “movement” really the word here? I might say, instead, “discipline.” Bitter acrimonious fighting goes on between different sects of feminist theories, as well as with other philosophically related leftist branches, and sometimes it’s anachrofeminism versus socialist feminism as much as anarchist theory versus Marxist theory. Academic feminism has a lot of value, in my opinion, but it’s also a very rough terrain. It’s often a harsh mistress for newcomers trying to get a handle on these debates, without yet having an in-depth background in a long list of “major” feminist writers (although I question the hierarchical authority inherent to the idea of “major” feminist writers.)
Other parts of the isolation come from the ways in which I can no longer, or find it much harder, to move through the mainstream world—a world which is built on sexism, misogyny and racism—without constantly making compromises as to whether it’s useful to point out these foundations or brush them aside. As much as I find the pressure against women to be “friendly, tame, accommodating, don’t rock the boat” annoying and distasteful, there’s a reality where having relationships fundamentally means making accommodations for other peoples feelings. Otherwise… isolation.
Clashing with friends and lovers (or ex-lovers and ex-friends) over politics is never easy, but I find that there’s another layer added whenever it becomes “about feminism.” More accurately, it’s about “women things.” … I cannot begin to satisfactorily express my annoyance at the circumscribing of “feminism” as just “women things,” alas.
As an aside: I find the notion of “the women’s movement has little interest in attending to men” equally frustrating—and pervasive in radical feminism. As if writing off the other half of the population (that regularly writes off us, for the record) AND the percentage of women for whom simply writing off or ignoring their relationships with men in their lives is wholly impractical, will somehow produce something which could be said to be productive. I find this hard to fathom, and likewise the notion that this is a failing on my part to adequately reorient myself as “woman-identified” and deprogram myself of internalized patriarchy rather… patronizing.
But anyway, back to clashing with friends over “women things.” I could be over-generalizing based on a limited sample of clear-cut cases where I came to a head with someone, but that would be ignoring the constant subtext in everyday interactions, that I think a lot of women are familiar with, that says, “Don’t bring up feminist things. Don’t talk about sexism. You can talk about ‘equality’ in gender neutral language, maybe…” I suspect that POCs find this kind of silencing in a white supremacist society also, when the word “race” is viewed so dangerously by white people. “Stop making this about race!” And it doesn’t automatically get better in “feminist spaces,” either, because I cannot assume that “feminist” is synonymous with “shares my politics,” or is even friendly to them.
The truth, I think, is that self-identifying as a feminist woman, therefore outing yourself as an “outspoken woman” with politics on her/hir mind (even if you’re not actually all that “outspoken” or “loud” or “uppity” or whatever to fit into this stereotype, you know…) means dealing with a lot of shit. And frankly, I can’t blame a lot of women for not wanting to deal with that shit. Even though the shit is based on a caricature of “feminist” or “uppity woman” or whatever.
It’s a lot of shit, and it’s isolating, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to do either of those things. Because sometimes it really wears me down too.