To those who don’t read my bio religiously, I have begun a graduate degree in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. And amongst the wonder and glory I experience during every moment in which I am not panicking and punching my ego in the gut every for NOT EVER being smart enough/hard working enough/organized enough/awake enough, lies a deep frustration and sadness that has grown ever-stronger over the course of the term. WHY THE HELL DOESN’T ANYONE CALL THEMSELVES FEMINIST ANYMORE?!
“Hey peeps!” I want to say, “we’re in a FEMINIST THEORY class! If there were anywhere where it might be appropriate/acceptable/normal to label yourself ‘feminist’, it would be here”. But no. Instead what I hear is: “Well, I’ve never identified as feminist” and then tiny explosions start going off in my brain as I melt into a puddle of tears next to my Masculinities reader.
Often, the older generation of second wavers will blame the apparent slow-down of the feminist movement on a sort of apathetic flu that has struck our third wave generation. A prof of mine pointed to an article in the Globe and Mail written on the lagging third wave that quotes Maureen McTeer as saying that she would assume “that the younger generation would want equality. Certainly by their actions they don’t seem to want equality. They somehow think that the superficial is sufficient”. I don’t agree.
While on one hand I feel sad that so many women, particularly those who understand what feminism is about and therefore may not feel the same fear of negative stereotyping around being labeled/labeling oneself a ‘feminist’ (eek!) that others might, refuse to align themselves with a movement that is so important and dear to my heart; on the other I do not agree that we live amongst a generation that just doesn’t care about anything or thinks that everything is just super as is. There seem to be all sorts of folks taking off their clothes for PETA and walking for the cure (the breast cancer cure, that is). Why is it that we can band together for some issues but not feminism? A movement that affects, get this, EVERYONE?!
I do not wish to disregard the very real and very valid criticisms that have been made around the feminist movement. We have a history of exclusivity that caused many women to feel put off by the whole thing. Racism and classism have run amuck, so it’s no wonder so many women felt their priorities were not in line with the movement. I get that. But this aversion, the ‘well-I-just-don’t-really-get-it’ or, even worse, the ‘we’re-all-equal-now-so-there’s-no-need’, really throws me for a loop. Have we really bought all that? While mainstream media may be very good at convincing us that we are, in fact, gender blind, race blind, class blind, etc. I think it is glaringly obvious that we are not. Rape statistics alone tell us otherwise, nevermind the fact that poverty and violence clearly does not affect all of the population equally and women and minorities continue to get the short end of the stick in a way that, one could argue very easily, is growing ever more powerful AND visible. Who is getting poorer and who is getting richer in this world? Who is being trafficked? WHO is working 3 part time jobs in order to barely support a family? WHO? And please, don’t tell me these aren’t feminist issues. They are and they will continue to be. And back to my original point – you fellow graduate students, you who read all the theory, write all the papers, know all about how systematic oppression works and how representation works and how ridiculous the counter-arguments are, why o why the fear of the f word? What scares you? Or is McTeer right? Do we think that we’ve won and that we can all just ‘go home’?