Hey guys! Today we have a guest post from Luna Cooler. As with all posts on here, this is just personal opinion, however feel free to discuss (calmly) in the comments! Here we go:
What happens when social justice movements become the face of pop culture?
We live in a time when social justice movements are doing exactly that. Take feminism. While society still has its fair share of people who think the ideology of feminism is built on a vision of female supremacy, more and more people are willing to adopt feminism, including celebrities. Benedict Cumberbatch and Taylor Swift are two examples of celebrity feminists, and the Feministas blog you’re reading right now wouldn’t exist had Emma Watson not endorsed the UN movement HeForShe. There’s also a saying, “Feminism is for everyone.” I think this level of support for a cause is amazing.
However, I find there is still so much we can do to ensure that feminism truly is for everyone.
When we talk about why people should adopt feminism, usually the conversation is geared towards those who think feminism’s against men or those who believe feminism to be obsolete. What we usually don’t try to address are the people who do recognize the problem of inequality everywhere and feel that feminism in its current state is an insufficient remedy; a movement that perhaps means well but fails to reflect their needs.
In any marginalized group, not everyone is at the same level of power; the people with the most privilege within the marginalized group are the ones whose voices are amplified the most. Their issues (which might not be everyone’s issues) are often prioritized. So when it comes to mainstream feminism, the ones who benefit the most are straight White Western able-bodied women. They’re oppressed in the sense that they’re women, but they’re endowed with systemic privileges in all other aspects–such as ability, gender orientation, and race.
This is causing feminism to drive away people who don’t fit this mold.
Mainstream feminism has a habit of doing things that unintentionally (sometimes intentionally) oppress others. First-wave feminism had White suffragettes marching for the vote and pushing women of color to the back. During second-wave feminism, there was this idea of sisterhood in which everyone could relate to each other because they experienced the same kind of oppression (when women of color were not oppressed the same way as White women), which caused Alice Walker to create womanism for Black women’s struggles. There’s little to no discussion on disability; Caitlin Moran uses the word r*tard, an offensive term for disabled people, in her book How to Be a Woman. One could point out Taylor Swift’s colonialist “Wildest Dreams” video and culturally appropriative “Shake it Off” music video. Miley Cyrus, another problematic mainstream feminist, appropriates Black culture when she twerks and wears cornrows. Mainstream feminism loves to make bastardizations of cultures into fashion trends for White folks while ignoring the oppression faced by people of those cultures for participating in them, defending White celebrities “because choice!!!!!1!!!11!!!” Well, it’s not choice if it hinders another person’s freedom.
And then there’s the more complex side of LGBTQIA+ ignored. Mainstream feminism today is definitely working on gay and lesbian rights, waving around their rainbows and all the colorful attire. But again, the gays represented are systemically privileged in every aspect except their sexuality: white, cisgender, able-bodied, and usually male. Most of the conversation around LGBTQIA+ issues is something along the lines of “It makes me so mad when people say they’re not for same-sex marriage. They’re not for equal rights.” How many times do you hear about a queer person criticizing the argument behind same-sex marriage (with reasons different from those put forth by conservatives)? Not that much. If you observe on a day-to-day basis, how many times do you see a nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid, intersex, or ace/aro (that’s the A in LGBTQIA+) person speaking up compared to the number of times a gay or lesbian speaks up? Not that much either. Even HeForShe needs improvement here; while it features more people of color from different countries other than those in the West, no one’s doing work for those who don’t identify as he or she.
Many times, social justice accomplished a lot of things, but it also tended to go the way it shouldn’t go: assimilation. As social justice assimilates more and more into societal norms instead of dismantling them, its version of equality only benefits a certain group, leading to the replication of the same oppressive structures. This is what has been going on in mainstream feminism for a long time: all feminists are equal, but some feminists are more equal than others. As a second-generation Filipina on the ace spectrum, I hardly ever see people like me represented in the feminist movement. We can never achieve true equality if we don’t make women, along with nonbinary/intersex/etc. folks equal to each other as well; if we only represent one group’s struggles. We need a broader, more intersectional vision for our diverse world.
Luna Cooler is a biromantic second-generation Filipina on the ace spectrum, born and raised in Southern California. She likes drawing, writing, and playing the violin; she also has a memory that creeps people out. Luna mainly blogs at Luna’s Imagination Igloo, and her feminist blog is Notes from the Female Odyssey.