"Be your own kind of feminist!"
This too-common phrase is one reason I don't identify with the F-word despite immense respect for those who suffered and sacrificed for me, and for those who give time and money to fight issues plaguing women in the 21st century.
After the U.S. election, I wanted to call myself a feminist. Especially as friends wept about the uncertain (and certain) future of a Trump America and strangers shared accounts of being physically attacked and threatened in their schools and communities. Still, I can't. Because feminism is hiding too many racists and bigots. People who hear "Be your own kind of feminist" and place emphasis on "your own kind."
Women were expected to vote overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump -- a man who wants to punish women for abortions. Even pro-life Republicans would surely vote against a man promising to deport women to countries where their gender is life-threatening, right? Wrong.
Everyone is a feminist these days. People announce support of women's rights as quickly as they assure you they're not racist.
Clinton received the popular vote, while 52 per cent of white women voted for Trump, four per cent of Americans voted third party, and 46 per cent percent of people didn't bother to vote at all. So where were all the Feminists?
Everyone is a feminist these days. People announce support of women's rights as quickly as they assure you they're not racist. Not just women, but men wearing "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like" T-shirts while happily, and silently, earning more than their female contemporaries. Feminism isn't just hip, it's required. Be one or be shunned!
Amy Schumer, today's feminist saviour, recently said, "anyone who isn't a feminist is an insane person." Funnily, Schumer is feminism's problem. She proves anyone can become a Girl Power icon. She did so by styling herself as a raunchy, one-night-stand Olympian with a drinking problem as if it were aspirational. She proudly proclaimed she could "catch a d**k" despite her (completely exaggerated) gigantic-ness, as if being an acceptable place for a penis is a feminist objective.
Schumer's insightful Inside Amy Schumer sketch about Bill Cosby and celebrity rape culture is neutralized by her joke about raping a teenage boy. Her feminist credibility is shattered by claiming to advocate for sexual assault victims in the same interview she justifies friendship with ISA writer, Kurt Metzger despite his deplorable rape "jokes" and commentary. Why? His valuable straight, white POV! Her allegiance to women struggling with body image ended with her taking offence at Glamour magazine's inclusion of her in a plus-sized issue, as if she hadn't branded herself that way.
Schumer insists she's not racist after joking that Latina women are Gone Girl-crazy and Latino men are rapists (like Donald Trump). "It is a joke and it is funny," she says. She knows "because people laugh." And we all know racists never laugh. Ask yourself if she's grown as you watch her and Goldie Hawn blonde it out in a recreation of the music video for Beyonce's "Formation" -- a power anthem for long-ignored, degraded and abused black women.
Schumer's predecessor, Lena Dunham, was crowned for timely comments about what white women care about most -- (the outside of) their bodies. Recently, her plus-sized racial blind spot grew when she told fans the reason black NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. didn't objectify (or speak to) her at the Met Gala was that he'd deemed her an unf*ckable "dog."
Actress and screenwriter Lena Dunham campaigns for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Eight Seven Central screen printers in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 9, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Brian C. Frank)
In her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, she calls herself a "sexual predator," outlining her exploitation and abuse of her younger sister. Thanks to fans and feminists who defended her with the same arguments that protect child molesters and rapists, the wrong Dunham became the victim. Who cares that if any man, woman of colour, or LGBTQ person had shared the same anecdotes, they would see the end of their career and find police at their door?
These women repeatedly prove their feminism extends only to their egos and bank accounts, followed by people who look like them, followed by those who share specific, arguably superficial burdens. Society ignores their double standards about sex crimes and empty promises to be less racist and, in turn, they teach that it's OK to ignore the plight of others to get ahead in life. This is reflected in the voter breakdown.
I don't accuse Schumer or Dunham of belonging to a secret feminist white supremacist group called White After Labour Day or of voting for Trump. I accuse feminism of letting celebrities turn it into a (dying) brand, ignoring that their own kind of feminism is White Feminism. Their. Own. Kind.
It must denounce celebrity posers... who think feminism is achieved in 140 characters while ignoring anyone who doesn't look like you.
Schumer and Dunham will be followed by another rich, white woman anointed the next feminist messiah. She will preach on issues minorities don't care about while their sons are buried and daughters physically assaulted over their hijabs. She will teach women that saying "I'm a feminist" makes you one. Justification by faith alone.
She won't teach the need for writing letters, protesting or listening to women of colour, LGBTQ people and those of us with disabilities. And everyone but minorities will be surprised when her fans don't try to improve these women's lives unless it helps their own.
For feminism to survive, to be effective, it must denounce celebrity posers and deprogram people who think feminism is achieved in 140 characters while ignoring anyone who doesn't look like you. Instead of being mean girls to women who don't identify as feminists, it needs to listen to our reasons why. It's needs to encourage white women to have uncomfortable conversations with themselves. It needs to hold the women it makes rich accountable when they claim to speak to and for us. It needs to stop teaching that feminism is individual.
You can't be your own kind of feminist any more than you can be your own kind of racist. Perpetuating such a notion is the reason white women blew through the intersection of racism and feminism on election night without a thought to the potential body count.
Tara K. Reed is the Toronto-born author of interactive novel Love Him Not. She uses her experience battling multiple debilitating illnesses to advocate for disability rights. www.Doorflower.com.
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