6 things you don’t understand about feminism that you should probably learn before writing about feminism

I’m pre-apologizing for wasting everyone’s time but I had to suffer through reading Bustle’s moronic “6 Things That Don’t Make You a Bad Feminist (No Matter What Anyone Says)” and am taking you all down with me.

Why oh why do so many American liberal media platforms insist on publishing articles about feminism by people who are totally clueless about feminism? There are so, so many feminists who know what feminism is, it seems unnecessary. There are also hundreds of books and resources that you could simply, you know, read if you were interested in writing about feminism with any accuracy whatsoever. But why bother learning about what you are writing about when you can just make it up as you go along! Especially when you know your fellow American liberals are eager to take in any and all ideas that support their lazy disinterest in challenging the status quo or memememeME! worldview.

A couple of things first:

1) There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” feminist. That’s not how it works. Feminism isn’t about individual perfection or pretending as though we aren’t all impacted and shaped by the culture that surrounds us. So, yes, you can be a feminist and wear heels and makeup and listen to rap music (why on earth rap music is singled out here, I don’t know) and marry men and watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but those things are not feminist acts.

2) Beyoncé doesn’t define feminism. Go back to class.

Ok, now with those basics out of the way, let’s look at this list of things that don’t make us “bad feminists,” according to somebody who just heard feminism was a thing because Beyoncé.

Changing your last name when you get married

The author writes:

“I’ll never change my last name. Not because of any feminist reason, just because I like it, it suits me, and it’s mine. I think Beyoncé’s officially made it ‘okay’ for feminists to desire marriage.”

What?? Ok so for starters, you can change your last name if you feel like it, but know that that choice is not just about you making a personal choice for yourself outside of the context and history of patriarchy and that it is actually representative of something more. When you take on your husband’s name in marriage that is symbolic — the practice of  doing this comes from a tradition wherein women were treated as chattel. Like, they were literally the property of men and so when women got married they changed their names in order to signify that they were no longer the property of their fathers, but were now the property of their husbands. They didn’t have a choice in the matter. There is absolutely no reason why women need to take on their husbands’ names in marriage anymore because they are no longer chattel (right? I hope?). That women continue to do this baffles me, but hey, so much of what we understand to be “romantic” is rooted in notions of female subordination and male domination, so I guess it’s not all that surprising.

Beyoncéism. Not necessarily feminism.
Beyoncéism. Not necessarily feminism.

Also, as mentioned earlier, what Beyoncé does does not necessarily equal “feminism.” Things that Beyoncé does might indeed be “feminist” if they are, in fact, “feminist,” but to say that anything she does is automatically feminist is ridiculous. Every single thing anyone does is not necessarily feminist. Ugh. This argument just makes me think Americans are stupid (sorry American readers, I know there are some good’uns out there, I just wish you were better represented is all…).

 

Letting a man pay for you

Like he said.
Like he said.

I’m fine with this, actually. If a man makes more money than me (which pretty much all of the men I date do, because my income is a joke and rent in Vancouver is too damn high), he is free to pay. In general, I pay for my own shit when I can, and sometimes when me and my boyfriend go out, he pays if he can afford to. I don’t expect him to, but he’s a nice guy and he knows when I’m broke and when I’m not. I think of it as communism more than anything else. I tell him he is supporting the movement by buying me shots of Jameson at the bar. This is how feminism works, right guys?

That said, being totally financially dependent on a man is a bad plan because it impacts your autonomy. Women often can’t — or feel they can’t — leave abusive relationships because they are financially dependent on their husbands or boyfriends. Also, men who are controlling assholes will use financial dependance to hurt or control women. Sometimes men who pay think they are owed certain things in return (sex, a slave, babies, etc.). This is a bad thing and this is why we talk about men paying for women within the context of patriarchy and male power.

Caring about your looks

Ugh. Please oversimplify more.

The author writes:

“Being a feminist is about choice. If you choose to exercise, follow fashion, have you hair and nails done, shave/wax, and care about what you eat, you can STILL fight for/believe in/advocate/scream about feminism. You are still a feminist, so long as you’re choosing to do those things because you want to. I remember once watching Germaine Greer tell Cheryl Cole that she couldn’t be a feminist because she was ‘too thin’ and screaming at the television set. You don’t have to be a hairy, unwashed vegan in order to promote feminist belief. That’s the wonderful thing about feminism: Anyone can do it! And if you ask me, the most un-feminist thing a “feminist” can do is exclude another woman from being a feminist based on her looks. That’s in complete opposition to what feminism actually represents.”

No. No no no no nope no. Being a feminist is not about choice. It is about, 1) believing that patriarchy is a thing that exists, 2) desiring and working towards an end to patriarchy. You can be a feminist and “care about your looks,” like, obviously. But that is beside the point. The point is that women in a patriarchal society (i.e. our society) learn that their primary value is in their looks and their ability to attract men. “Choosing to do” things like “exercise, follow fashion, have you hair and nails done, shave/wax, and care about what you eat” happens within a particular context — capitalism and patriarchy. I seriously doubt any feminist would argue that you shouldn’t “care about your looks” because, at the end of the day, most people “care about [their] looks.” It’s just that there is inordinate pressure on women to be young, thin, and objectifiable and we are sent the message that our only source of power comes from our attractiveness or sexualization. Care about your looks as much as you want but know that there is a reason women are expected to be hairless and men aren’t and that there is a reason why so many women and girls suffer from eating disorders. Dieting isn’t “feminist” but, at the same time, we aren’t going to take away your feminist card just because you diet — just please don’t go around promoting diets to women and girls (and I’d personally recommend you cut it out for yourself as well because diets are a waste of your time and energy).

Listening to rap music

Please stop. Just stop. Rap music is not the only genre of music that contains misogyny. I have been a huge hip hop fan for 20 odd years now and go to tons of rap shows. And guess what! Still a feminist. I try not to support virulent misogynists and mostly am into underground hip hop as opposed to mainstream hip hop, and would never go to a Tyler the Creator show or, like, a Diplo show, but no feminist is expected to stop listening to hip hop point-blank because some of it is sexist. Like, then stop listening to rock or punk or metal or any pop music. Also stop watching movies and TV.

Enjoying domestic chores

Here is a true fact and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong and bad: chores suck and I think that people who like cleaning are nuts.

That said, there is a history to this whole women doing domestic chores thing that is completely ignored by the author in order to, again, oversimplify the conversation because it is convenient for her. She writes:

“I love cleaning. I love cleaning. I love cleaning. I just love it. I am Monica Geller. Cleaning. I love just typing the word. Clean. Cleaner. Cleaning. I love cooking too. I love making delicious meals. I love the process, I love the outcome, I love the way people feel when they eat food I’ve made for them. I work from home and I love having dinner ready when my boyfriend gets back from work. I love his excitement. I love that I was the cause of his excitement. I love caring for him and putting in effort to make our tiny apartment a lovely, warm, comfortable place to be. It makes me so happy. I also believe women should have equal pay, be free from the fear of rape, and have easy and free access to birth control. THESE THINGS ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

Homemaking and caring for the person you’re making that home with and feminism are not only allowed to co-exist, they easily go hand-in-hand. You’re allowed to be a domestic Goddess living in co-habitated bliss while still fighting the good fight. You’re just fighting it from the luxury of a freshly bleached bathroom floor and a lovingly prepared 8-hour stew. In fact, part of independence is being able to take care of yourself and your environment. A career woman who can roast a perfect chicken too? Now you’re talking. If you ask me, that makes you even better equipped to deal with gender-based challenges when out in the world.”

Ok you like cleaning. Good for you. I hate it. My mom hates it too. When I was a kid my dad did all the cooking and cleaning. No one’s telling you you can’t be a feminist and enjoy cooking and cleaning, though. What we’re saying is that cooking and cleaning for your husband and kids has traditionally been expected of women and that women are still doing double-duty: going to work, then coming home and doing the bulk of the childcare, cooking, and cleaning. You don’t have to stop enjoying cooking in order to understand and acknowledge that there is a bigger conversation here than simply “I happen to like ______.”

Disagreeing with something “feminist” someone said

The author writes:

“This actually makes you a better feminist. Thinking critically and investigating ideas serves to make you better at having any opinion. Just because you have strong philosophical ideals doesn’t mean you have to adhere dogmatically to each and every other person in that school’s take on it. If you believe in equality between the sexes, you are a feminist. Whatever you attach to that is up to you, and can be as nuanced as suits you. For instance, if someone tells you ‘all heterosexual sex is rape’ (an actual feminist theory), you’re allowed to disagree with that. It doesn’t diminish your feminism, it just means that you have different opinions on some of the details, and that’s just fine.”

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP REPEATING THE DEBUNKED-100-TIMES-OVER MYTH THAT ANYONE EVER SAID “ALL HETEROSEXUAL SEX IS RAPE.”

No one said that. Not Andrea Dworkin. Not anyone. Learn to read, then read the works you’re misrepresenting. If you are completely opposed to reading, learn Google. Also don’t link to anti-feminist, libertarian websites as “proof” that the thing you just made up about feminism is real.

Like, holy shit. If you want to disagree with Andrea Dworkin then read Andrea Dworkin. You are free to disagree with whoever you like, in fact! But you have to disagree with the actual words they said and arguments they actually made, instead of something you made up because you are lazy.

Ok, I’m dead now. I died of stupid. Thanks America.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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