It seems like we’ve all become apologists for a brand of feminism that stands for anything as long as it also stands in opposition to such contentious issues as anger, militancy, bra-burning, hairy legs, lesbianism, etc etc. In this game, any expression of aggression or force is immediately put in a box marked ‘crazy militant feminist, run for your life’. When what I say can be seen as ‘in that box’, my opinion is necessarily invalid. It seems to me that people in the small ‘l’ liberal, middle-class circles that I inhabit believe vaguely in the equality of men and women, but any real attempt to address said equality in a feminist rather than broadly egalitarian framework is somehow identified with crazy militant feminism. It is therefore ignored.
I’ve done it myself, my oh-so-rebelliously unshaven bodily hair covered over by leggings, a little skirt, and lipstick (all in the correct places; clearly I don’t wear lipstick on those lips, that would be in absolute [but hilarious?] contravention of correct femininity). Someone will say something not overtly sexist but just a bit ignorant and anti-feminist. Suppressing the urge to vomit/lash out/shout ‘WHY DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!?!’ and so forth, most of my arguments in response to said slightly anti-feminist comment focus on making feminism seem as friendly and palatable and unthreatening as possible. There is definitely a beautiful, fluffy, moderate feminism that fits this description, and I agree with it, and I try to sell it to as many people as enter into debate with me.
The thing is, even though I try to restrain myself, and even though I try to push this kind of very moderate, liberal, mainstream-friendly feminism, I am inevitably relegated to ‘aggressive militant’ status any time I express an opinion any more forcefully than a sponge. I’d like to take the opportunity to come out here and say that I am an angry, militant, hairy legged queer feminist, and I think it’s ok to be those things (I’ve not yet burned a bra but it’s looking more and more appealing). OBVIOUSLY I am not saying that every feminist has to be or should be those things, I don’t think it would make sense for every feminist to be anything. The beauty of feminism is only enhanced by its diversity and plurality. The point I’m trying to make is this: at the moment it seems like the only way we can even try to convince people that feminism is sensible, relevant and really logically necessary in order to not to be a bigoted idiot is by conforming to traditional female beauty and behaviour norms to the utmost extent (wax your cunt, sister, it’s for your own good) and heterosexism. It seems like we have to disavow any connection with anger, with strength, and with forcefulness, because otherwise our unladylike strong voices fall on deaf ears. I do it myself, and I’ve seen most of my feminist friends do the same at some time or other. The implicit assumption seems to be that if we make ourselves seem more acceptable in one way, we can surreptitiously slide in a feminist viewpoint before the other person has noticed.
Let’s face it, this isn’t going to work. Feminism isn’t just about enticing non-feminists into agreement with us. Using this tactic, by the time we get everyone else to agree, we will have conceded so much that we won’t be pushing anything apart from the tired old status-quo.
We need to be able to own these socially negative stereotypes as parts of feminism, parts that are just as valid as the right to choice and the right to be heterosexual and somewhat heteronormative. It’s only when we can self-define as angry.forthright.militant.opinionated womyn, myn and queers without fear of repercussion and without fear of ridicule, derision and dismay that feminism will really have succeeded.
Again, let me make myself clear, for I fear marginalisation/being accused of stereotype reinforcement. I’m not saying we all have to be bra-burners to be ‘real feminists’. I’m just saying that some of us we should be able to be without being disowned by the others, and without being constantly, unalterably hushed up in public forums. That’s not because feminism advocates militant radicalism, it’s because feminism advocates social acceptance for all those who deviate from traditional gender norms, including sometimes vocal lezzers.
Sorry if I’m a bit incoherent, it’s just that I’m angry. And my armpit hair has fallen in my face.