9 things that really do make you a better feminist than everybody else

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Why read Bustle, you might ask? Well, naturally, for hilarious listicles like one published yesterday, entitled, “9 things that don’t make you a better feminist than everybody else.” I’ll save you a few minutes better wasted staring at your pores or Instagramming your cat and summarize it for you: Everything you do is feminist and everyone is a feminist and also feminism is whatever you say it is #blessed.

Feel better? Oh good perfect. I’m looking forward to their next listicle, “11 things that don’t make Marx a better communist than you.” Do you own the means of production? So what. Don’t let anyone gatekeep your communism #communismisforeveryone. Born bougie but always felt more working class on the inside? No problem. Taking on a proletariat identity is a great way to subvert the class binary.

I digress. The bright side of Bustle’s listicle is that it inspired me to create one of my own. Here are nine actual things that really do make you a better feminist than everybody else:

1) Being a woman

You can be a very powerful ally to feminists even if you are male, but you’re never fully going to get the female experience. Because women are the group of humans who are oppressed under patriarchy, as a class, and men are the dominant group of humans in that system, women are the ones who must lead the movement towards their own liberation. Being a women is central to being a feminist because feminism is a movement that is by and for women. While men are also impacted negatively by patriarchy (masculinity sucks too), in the end it is men who have always benefited from it and women who have suffered under it (at the hands of men). The best way to support the feminist movement, as a man, is to challenge other men, male privilege, male entitlement, and male violence. In fact, this is a great help and saves us the time of having to constantly be explaining to every single man we meet why we are not actually sex toys. You can do all this without calling yourself a feminist. Show don’t tell, boys.

2) Understanding that feminism is not a feeling or an identity, but a political movement

Feminism is not about wearing a t-shirt that says you’re a feminist. It isn’t about saying you’re a feminist just for the sake of saying it, even if you have no interest in liberating women from patriarchal oppression. It’s ok to be new to feminism and to be learning — you don’t have to know everything about the movement in order to join, but you do have to understand that it is not a malleable word, a logo, or a marketable product. No one would ever say “Socialism is whatever you make of it! You do you, bro.” Because that is stupid and also factually incorrect.

If you think that objectifying women or street harassment or male entitlement or gender stereotypes or sexualizing violence against women is good and ok, you aren’t a feminist. Taking a selfie or getting married or wearing stilettos or making a bunch of money does not equate to feminism (yet feminists are allowed to do these things! See how that works?) because feminism isn’t about you as an individual feeling personally “good” or empowered in the moment. You can feel empowered, but that doesn’t necessary produce feminism. Similarly, feeling “good” does not equate to empowerment. Empowerment, in the context of feminism, means social empowerment for a group of marginalized people (in this case, women). This is why, for example, posing nude and feeling sexy in a fashion or porn magazine might feel good for the individual doing it (they will receive positive reinforcement, feel attractive, profit financially, etc.) but does not constitute “empowerment” as it does not lift up women as a class.

3) Cutting out this anti-intellectualist bullshit

OMG you guys! Thinking is not a bad thing. Of course you don’t need a degree to do feminism, sheesh. But, by the same token, all this “Fuck yer ivory tower ideology fuck theory fuck yeah” stuff is counterproductive and ignorant.

There is no activism without ideology. Ideology is the body of ideas that frames a political movement. We need that, otherwise how the fuck do we know what we’re doing? (What’s that? We’re just taking selfies and shouting intersectionality at each other on Twitter? Good then. Fuck ideology. Fuck movements. Fuck yeah.)

Likewise, understanding the history of this movement is a good thing. It ensures we don’t reinvent the wheel over and over again. It ensures we don’t rewrite history, effectively erasing the work and activism of thousands and thousands of women who fought for the rights we enjoy today.

Understanding how to think critically, understanding feminist ideology, understanding feminist history — these things are not for snobbish elites, these are things that are foundational. Otherwise we achieve nothing, and are left blindly screaming Slutpower! into the virtual abyss. Education and academia are not bad things, they are good things that have been made inaccessible to many people throughout the world and/or have left many of us with crippling debt. But education is not the problem, the system is. (Free post-secondary school is a feminist issue. Hashtag it.)

4) Understanding that feminism is not about being politically correct

Please don’t misunderstand me on this one — being a feminist means one must be thoughtful about one’s words and actions. Saying and doing whatever the fuck we want whenever we want is selfish, irresponsible, and juvenile. But our efforts to avoid being self-indulgent, offensive, teenagers need not lead to political correctness.

Being a feminist means you think critically about the world around you. You take nothing at face value and you question the status quo. You tell the truth, even if that truth makes people uncomfortable. Change makes people uncomfortable. Questioning dominant ideology makes people uncomfortable. Being politically correct means making sure you don’t piss anyone off and it means you toe the party line. That party line might well be a “progressive” or “liberal” party line. It might even be a party line that some have deemed “feminist,” but it’s still a party line. The moment you stop thinking for yourself, start repeating mantras your peers repeat without thinking about whether or not that mantra actually makes sense, stop being brave, stop questioning the ideology and messages behind popular discourse, is the moment you become not an agent of change, but a lemming.

So many feminists today are scared to say anything controversial and it’s depressing as fuck. Young feminists are afraid to speak out or question popular discourse lest they be labelled bigots or some version of “phobe.” Instead of pushing back, we’ve become pushovers. Dissent is a good thing. Your ability to think for yourself and to question ideas that are assumed to be correct is critical. Fuck being politically correct.

5) Not being ageist

At what point did ageism become acceptable in feminism? Oh right. The third wave… Ok, so we understand that rebellious teenagers want to “Your not my real mom!” *slams door* their elders, but we are not rebellious teenagers. We are adults. And if you are a feminist it is unacceptable to make “second wave” an insult. That is some woman-hating, anti-feminist, ageist garbage and if you want to pull that shit, congratulations, you’re doing patriarchy. Keep your ignorance and keep perpetuating sexist notions that women who are no longer youthful are silly, old-fashioned, prudish fuddy-duddies, clutching their pearls all the way to the old folks home, where they can stick to Bingo, but know that you’re no feminist. Older movement women know more than you do and we aren’t going anywhere without them.

6) Not accusing feminists of hating sex and men like it’s a bad thing

Women are allowed to hate men and sex. Hating men and sex is perfectly natural. Men and sex with men has been a source of trauma for countless women, over centuries. It is also perfectly natural to love particular men and to enjoy having sex. None of these realities are things that should be used by feminists to insult, attack, or dismiss other feminists. By accusing feminists who challenge male violence of “hating sex” or “hating men” you are reinforcing heteronormative garbage and feeding into stereotypes that say feminists are just angry because they aren’t getting fucked enough. These tropes are connected to rape culture — it is the idea that men can fuck women into passivity or fuck them straight. It is the idea that only fuckable women are “real” women. It is the idea that women need men in order to be whole beings and to matter — that they only exist in relation to men. These are anti-feminist ideas.

Whether or not a woman likes men or sex has no bearing on her worth or whether or not her life, ideas, words, or activism has meaning. What feminism fights against is the very idea that women’s relationships to men are what make them visible and valuable as humans. It’s similar to attacking a woman by saying she’s ugly. Women don’t exist to be looked at or to fuck men. They get to exist all on their own! Take your lesbophobic sexism back to the MRA forum. They’ll love you there.

7) Not being an MRA

Speaking of MRAs, you know what definitely makes you a better feminist than everyone else? Fighting for women’s rights, not men’s rights. And by that I mean, rather than fighting for the rights of men who want to pay for blow jobs, try fighting for women’s human rights, which include the ability to pay rent and feed themselves without having to provide men with blowjobs. An often overlooked, but pivotal, aspect of feminism is the idea that women are human. That’s right! We’re radical like that. And because we are human we deserve things like food and water and housing and we should have access to these things without having to fuck strange men or be subjected to abuse.

If you think men are entitled to sex, you’re doing it wrong. Nobody is entitled to sex. It is not a human right. Your fetish for Asian women, schoolgirl porn, anal, or calling women whores while you pull their hair and choke them is not some innate part of your kinky sexuality. It just means you’re turned on by dehumanizing women. Bye Felicia.

8) Understanding that objectification and nudity are not the same thing

Feminists do not hate women’s naked bodies. We love women’s bodies. We have them. We use them every day for things like eating and walking and snuggling with puppies. We’d love it if those bodies belonged to us, for our own use and enjoyment, rather than to the male population.

Our bodies don’t exist to be admired or sexualized or fucked. They exist for us to live in. Our culture has melded sex and sexuality to such an extent that we think they are one in the same. But they are not. Objectification can feel sexy because we’ve learned to sexualize objectification. We’ve learned to perform sexuality rather than to feel it. The reason why female nudity is so fraught is not because feminists are afraid of their own skin, but because female nudity is not allowed to exist without being pornified. This is why people freak the fuck out when women breastfeed in public. Because we think the only reason a boob should be out is so that men can ogle it. Stop turning our bodies into jack off material and maybe society’s “prudishness” will fall away.

Join the movement for only $200!
Join the movement for only $200!

9) For the love of god, stop trying to make feminism cool

Popularizing feminism doesn’t work. Not because I don’t think feminism should be popular, but because in order to sell it to today’s masses, it needs to be watered down to the point that it loses all meaning. (See: the original listicle). We don’t need to sell out. We shouldn’t have to sell out. We can keep our values and still bring women on board. If people don’t want to get on board with actual feminism because they don’t like actual feminism, maybe they need a little more time to think. Or maybe they’re just not feminists. I’m all for educating people, but lets educate them right. Making feminism sexy and digestible for people who don’t think patriarchy is a problem isn’t going to help feminism.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be cool and fun or even attractive, but actual feminism isn’t about being cool and fun and attractive. It’s just not really that cool or fun or attractive. Sorrynotsorry. I mean, what we’re fighting are things like domestic abuse, rape, sexual slavery, incest, pedophilia, and femicide. It’s not cool and fun and sexy. That’s not the point.  Feminism is not a fucking fashion trend.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, 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 is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.