If you've been around feminism for a while, You've probably noticed that several ideas seem to come up over and over again. Questions which people answer over and over again and which cause some who have been in feminism for a very long time to roll their eyes and groan audibly as they leave the room to go get an unhealthy snack.
Here is a list of some common feminist thought experiments and why they are bullshit. Hopefully we can all move past these issues and on to more helpful discourse. Here we go!
Where X = any of the following (as well as several things I have not listed/forgotten):
- mothers or childfree people
- vegetarians or meat eaters
- monogamy or non-monogamy
- dressing sexy or dressing modestly
- changing last names for marriage or not changing
- getting married or not getting married
- plastic surgery or no plastic surgery
-etc., etc., ad nauseam
Here's why it's bullshit:
Did you notice that every point above has an opposite listed? Everyone is judging everyone for everything. It's all entirely arbitrary and we need to stop asking why and start just not judging people for arbitrary things. Don't ask why certain people are judged. Others will quickly remind you that the opposite judgement of whatever you are saying is also true and they will be right to do so. People just like to judge people who are different from themselves. It makes them feel better about their own choices. This is a human nature problem and we don't have to keep asking why. The answer is basically because people are awful. Just stop judging altogether. Judging people for judging others opens a sort of infinite feedback loop and I'm afraid someone is gonna tear a hole in the space-time continuum one of these days and then where will we be?
When you write a post asking why people judge others for [X], you are implicitly saying people don't judge others for the opposite. Sometimes the post itself isn't asking the question but in fact just judging others all on it's own. The comments get messed up and feelings get hurt, people feel awful about it. Llamas get drunk and roam wildly all over town and it's just a bad time. Not to mention the property damage. Just don't.
Where X = any of the following (as well as many things I have not listed):
- short skirts
- pube shaving
- short hair
- basically anything that is traditionally gendered by the patriarchy
Here's why this is bullshit:
Aside from the fact that prescribing choices to women in order to be 'good feminists' is in itself an act of keeping women under control, the bigger problem is why these questions get asked. There are several reasons this is bullshit.
1) It's heteronormative as fuck. To the point where some of these conversations get straight up homophobic. Listen, lgbt people know that patriarchal gender roles are bullshit. The only reason 'is short hair on a woman more feminist' is even a question is because the person asking is assuming a male gaze. They are assuming a heterosexual situation in which a woman is intentionally making herself less 'traditionally beautiful' from a heterosexual man's perspective as an act of defiance. Obviously, this only works if you are a heterosexual woman. What about a femme lesbian? Are they less feminist? What about a butch lesbian, are they more feminist? This question assumes lesbians don't exist and therefore aren't 'women' or aren't 'feminists' or both. Obviously, this doesn't apply to butch lesbians anyway, as the general tenor of feminism will have you believe, they aren't really women. They are seen as closer to trans men, who (it has been argued to me personally) apparently do not belong in feminism. Not the feminist role models butches should rightly be - if having short hair and the like were more feminist choices (they aren't).
2) It props up the patriarchy. I mean, really, if you are making a choice based on being the opposite of the rules you abhor, you allow those same rules to dictate what is 'against' them - you let the rules dictate your actions. You are working within the same system you say you dislike. It's a bit like when people make fun of 'non-conforming' teens who all choose not to conform in the same way. You are being that teen. People who truly don't care about the rules, ignore them when they make personal choices. Period.
2a) It props up the patriarchal gender roles. Dude, you are seriously enforcing gender roles here. When you suggest that women should dress/act a certain way to be more feminist, you are no better than someone who says the exact same thing to enforce the opposite. Again, you are actively operating under patriarchy, legitimizing it and propping it up.
Everyone should just do what makes them the most comfortable. No it's not ridiculous to ask people to stop trying to prescribe gender presentation to others. So I'm asking you now, please stop prescribing gender presentation to others.
I feel like this one is another of those 'Hey, stop judging people' problems, but it deserves it's own area since it comes up so often and it has it's own special issues. Is sex work good or bad? Are women being exploited and objectified as a matter of course or is it possible for porn to be 'feminist'?
This questioning is bullshit because we all know that, yes, women can be objectified in porn and yes, women can be exploited by sex work. This is not always the case though. Lets be real, heterosexual women enjoy being found attractive by those they are attracted too. I mean, everyone is, but this is another one of those 'heteronormative' conversations, so lets focus on male gaze in heterosexual situations since that's what people are really describing here anyway - the problematic ways in which patriarchal men access and use porn and sex workers as well the effects this has on heterosexual women.
Anyway, back to the point: you are fooling yourself if you don't think women in general are dressing/acting in such a way in part to appear attractive. Straight women try to appear attractive to straight men, lesbians try to appear attractive to other lesbians and bisexual people desire to be attractive to both or whichever individual they are after at the time. People are trying to be attractive, we all are. If we weren't, people would not be asking things like we covered in the second header of this post: is it more feminist for straight women to become less traditionally attractive to men? But we've already realized hopefully, that women can make choices about how they attract or how attractive they desire to be and that has nothing to do with their feminism. Women can be sexually aggressive and being so can be empowering and anti-patriarchal. It can also be very patriarchal. The same is true for sexually submissive women. The point is: IT DOESN'T MATTER. We can certainly discuss the problematic aspects of male gaze without putting the onus to fix it on women's sexual choices. Why are we always trying to fix the problems with men by controlling women's behavior anyway? Huh?
Porn can definitely be exploitative and sometimes clearly is. No one in their right mind would argue otherwise. I've seen some porn that is really not cool and I've seen some that's totally hot. But both exist and one can't make sweeping judgments about this topic.
While porn and sex work can be very empowering for some women, the opposite is also true. No one is repressed if they don't watch porn, for fucks sake. People have varying sex drives and varying turn ons and for the love of god, none of these personal quirks are more or less feminist than any others. None of this has anything to do with a person's feminism. Stop judging women if you're so feminist, dammit!
There is no way that I have covered everything here. Perhaps one day we will have to write a part 2. Regardless, I know I'm not alone in a desire to stop discussing these topics that we should be past by now and which only serve to hurt feelings. Please list any other things you think feminism needs to get past in the comments but for the love of dog, do not get judgey about other women! If you haven't noticed, nearly all of these issues involve being judgmental towards other women's choices. So please, stop doing that.
I can't think of everything though. I had help with this post (which was entirely my stupid idea to actually write and all help was actively solicited by me so please direct all ire towards intheweeds: it wouldn't be the first time). Shout out to all those that participated in the brainstorming for this post:
lovelylipstick, EdithGrove, DangerTits, PandaPartyPantsNow_, jennyapples, FlowerGirlXyl0c41n3, zap rowsdower, LiloSaysWhut, JannaBanana, Agent P, Lucky Kittah, Josie Grossie, Jane Of The Slums and NYCyclist.