Affordable and safe reproductive health/access.
Body hair and body policing.
Deconstructing slut shaming and valuing sex positivity.
Marriage equality and queerness as part of institutionalization.
Reclaiming terms/language: bitch, whore, slut, cunt, etc…
ETA: Westernize view of woman and feminism.
People of Color/Mixed feminist issues:
Access to everything, deconstructing white privilege and resulting oppression.
Social justice/Solidarity with other communities—queer, trans, immigrants, etc. (ETA: Not that these are inherently separate).
Having our bodies allowed agency in the conversation of sexuality and sexualization.
Intersectionality of class, race, gender, ethnicity, ability, age, spirituality, sexuality.
Maintaining and honoring cultural traditions/values and creating new ones.
ETA: Localized and global contexts built on heritage.
I’m not advocating these lines should or shouldn’t exist or that there isn’t cross over but this is what appears in my life and on my dash 24/7 and it’s getting exhausting. Not offering a solution just an observation. It’s hard to feel like a fourth wave is coming when these separations still exist. Thoughts? I will add more to this later when I am not overwhelmed with things on my plate.
Ready to engage with this properly now.
I find the situation with regards to feminism exhausting also. I see a lot of it on my dash, some of it in real life, though I am avoiding actual feminist groups like the plaque because, to a large extent, that is what they are - when I was in one, we would talk about how we could be “more inclusive” and “include more women” from this long laundry list of variously euphemistic terms for people with not a lot of money, people with a bunch more melanin than us, people with all different kinds of religion, people who like to fuck other people every which way and people with children. But we never once asked ourselves “how are our actions so important that these folks might want to come to our meetings? all we do is read women’s magazines, drink tea, talk about our lack of husbands and our dads, and the chicks who do feminist crochet representations of vaginas are actually getting more fun than we do, even though they eat vegan sushi, and really, isn’t this just a pretext for some girl-on-girl hatefuck and we just want a few minority interests in there so we can get a power-related thrill out of marginalising them?” well, you can see from that I’ve narrowed down your list of “white feminist interests” somewhat. But, to us, we were activism (in the way that Judge Dredd is the law). People did bring up this problem, that we were the feminist group with the mentions in the Guardian and so on when there’d been women’s rights campaigners in town for decades and decades, how awful that was, but… there were allegiances in place (“allydom” can be spoken or unspoken and the two are usually different and the unspoken is much, much stronger) with people in zines and in the press, and you did well not to challenge those or endanger them (otherwise you were “critical of feminism”). And, really, the question “how can we be more inclusive?” without asking the question “what do we have to offer? why are we so damned important anyway?” really starkly reflects that.
A lot of what I see in any media under the guise of feminism, I’m actively hostile towards, and I’ve been known to use “feminist” and “anti-feminist” interchangeably. Of course, I am a feminist. I’m from a very European tradition of feminism that places “the feminine” as a social construct, as a psychoanalytical term, as a vector for denial of personhood, at the centre of its analysis. The fundamental thing there is that “the feminine” does not necessarily relate to women, even though it relates to them most immediately perhaps. It’s a feminism that comes from Simone de Beauvoir (mind you, she mentioned even after writing the Second Sex that she was trying to avoid “falling into the trap of feminism”), that is based on the work of philosophers such as Hegel, Heidegger, Adorno (Frankfurt School generally), that has its roots, in practical terms in the far left and anti-colonial politics. I would say that Betty Friedan is very much the American equivalent to this tradition.
I like mainstream feminism. I think it’s an excellent thing: equal access to health, universal suffrage, access to reproductive healthcare, equal rights in the workplace, labour rights… those are all excellent fights and I wholeheartedly support them. They have nothing to do with media feminism for the excellent reason that getting media attention would be more of a hindrance than a help in those causes, mostly they get on with the work and go celebrated only by such unimportant entities as the people they affect and the legal framework that integrates them.
Media feminism is a different thing altogether, and is centred mainly around representation and identity, angrily claiming lack of identification with certain popular culture where ”it doesn’t speak to me” actually means “if it speaks to you you’re not a real woman” and complaining about not being targetted effectively-enough by tampax adverts (subtext, “I could do the job better than those bitches on the advertising boards”). In effect, it’s preserving a certain kind of femininity, and passing sanctions on anyone who doesn’t fit. Of course, it’s impossible to fit, and the women involved end up fucking each other up and, if no one else is around, fucking themselves up. In fact, it’s probably a pretty good indictment of the idea that the individual self actually exists because it’s impossible to enact that kind of fuckedupness in any other forms than big mushroom clouds of no-touching hatefuck.
A lot of this kind of feminism, at more cell-based level, in small feminist groups who, in practice, are a worse experience to be part of but who I’m vastly more sympathetic to than their huge media counterparts in that they tend to really believe it (the worse, the more bigotted and nasty they are, the more that tends to be the case), involves discussing, well, exactly, how we can be better allies, how difficult this is, how we can’t relate… well, exactly like that chick I reblogged from Zuky yesterday who didn’t want to read African American literature cause she can’t relate. This isn’t a straight up “we don’t want to because we can’t relate”, more like “we’d love to but we can’t relate and, no, it would be disrespectful to try, really, well maybe we can just diss on other white feminists for not even caring enough to wring their hands instead”. But, it all relates to protecting this certain kind of femininity, to actively avoiding analysing the feminine because it’s so disturbing - I mean, we can build effigies of it and shoot those but they’re just decoys to preserve the real thing intact and (dare I say) virginal. That is why this kind of feminism is so co-optive (it calls itself “feminism” after all while being actively hostile to, well, feminism) and why it’s so racist, homophobic and, well, bourgeois. After all, for all the fact that no one is ever going to fit that feminine ideal, that it’s radioactive to anyone that goes near it, it’s also being actively protected from, well, women who are seen to maybe endanger it, a lot of whom are going to be in the euphemistic categories mentioned above. Plus, a lot of media feminists like to keep an eye on those folks they want to “include”, much like they want to see feminism itself in safe hands (i.e. theirs), so they can dispose of them.
Personally - you mention queer integration and institutionalisation and so on - and this was the catalyst for me, that I set off all these people’s gaydars like nothing else, so they wanted to “help me” by “getting me into queer culture” or imply I couldn’t possibly be queer until I got into this same culture. Of course, most of it was very white, middle-class and anglo-centric and besides I was reading Colette when I was eight. But, I would centre a lot of the “white feminist” struggles you mention in that kind of tradition, reclaiming words is another good one, I would say creating new words for ways folks have slapped you is another.
I think from this it’s perfectly obvious why such a division, between white middle-class feminists and basically everyone else, exists. I’m not much less middle-class than many of the women I’ve encountered in person in the feminist movement, but there are other factors that don’t even have anything to do with degree of oppression, but, when they were all hand-wringing about “we can’t ever possibly relate to women of colour, we’re not worthy, we’re too white and middle class, it’s like oil and water…”, I can’t lie about the fact that encountering the (mostly white and middle class end of the) feminist blogosphere for the first time almost made me physically sick, I found it very fucked up, a lot of it abhorrent, the majority of it indefensible. But, reading people we supposedly are too white (er, special?) to relate to, such as for instance Blackamazon, or Ms Radically Hott (Brownfemipower at the time), or Lisa Factora-Borchers, actually I found them a lot more relatable. Mainly, I think, because we’re on the same side in terms of that “femininity” deal. I mean, fuck it, panafrican and post-colonialist literature and politics have been hugely formative for me, pre- fucking internet, as has liberation theology and, perhaps more personally, having chicks telling me how to dress properly and behave more feminine, which actually means primary school through to high school but feminism was kind of a redux of that.
In fact, I think the division you’re looking to solve is, in part, use of media, because it is an industry, so it commodifies everything it touches. Identity and representation are forms of commodification, but, beyond that, it commodifies politics, geography and ontology by converting them into identity and representation. But, there’s something else, it severs a link between people and their access to literature. Or rather, it co-opts that link. It takes credit for introducing people to ideas when public libraries, communities and families already exist. I learned a lot more about feminism in the library, I got to read so many books there in my lunch break or during my commute or whatever, or I used to print out stuff from marxists.org and archive websites like that. After I googled feminism though it was a huge turning point because all I got introduced to a whole world of crap that I have no respect for: Mary Daly, media feminist pamphlets with pink covers, basically stuff that you had to have read because “this is who you are” and, somehow, more solidarity was owed to Mary Daly, even though she is officially indefensible, than to someone whose position and method you actually respect.
So, you factor in that “safe space” politics, well, it’s mainly about keeping out anything that threatens that precious femininity: geography (safe spaces are trying incredibly hard to be nowhere), ontology (leave your personhood at the door, bring only your femininity), sex (unless it’s the gigantic penis the whole thing is built around).
I think the key to resolving the division you have noticed is to analyse the feminine itself, I don’t think building bridges or talking about “being allies” or “having common causes” will help, because those things mean something completely different on either side of the divide.
And this^ is why I do love tumblr. Read this commentary!