"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

my own personal brand of feminism.

Now Playing: Bad Blood by Taylor Swift (you know it used to be mad love, so take a look at what you've done 'cause baby, now we've got bad blood)

A couple of weeks ago I had the audacity to say, in passing, that I don't personally subscribe to Beyonce's brand of feminism and a group of feminists lost their shit.

I've always felt deeply uncomfortable with affiliating with any kind of organization; I joined student politics in my fresher year and, whilst I met many interesting, colourful characters, I could not, in good faith, sell a cause and sell my self in the name of something I could not sincerely endorse and did not fully believe in. Since then I have lived on the periphery of the various collectives for women, women of colour, atheists, feminists, leftists and queer folks. I have a reputation as a controversial but generally respected figure, but I really struggle to be actively involved. On the rare occasions that I do make it to a meeting, or an event, or to speak at conferences, I always feel unsettled and on edge.

For me, feminism is not really a safe space. Nothing about feminism is safe; it is an open invitation to ridicule, threats, and hostility; and not all that hostility comes externally. Within the community there is a huge amount of conflict and discord and, ironically, I think it is caused by our unwillingness to accept and embrace difference and debate.

Feminists are highly intelligent, extremely opinionated people. There are going to be fights and disagreements; but that is one of feminism's strengths, rather than a weakness. Part of the joy of being a public feminist is that people don't know what I'm going to say, what I'm going to think, or how I'm going to justify myself. I am not your average cookie cutter Asian girl; I'm a wild card. I think we should all embrace that, instead of forcing fellow feminists to adopt our own personal brand of feminism.

I have, of course, my own personal brand of feminism. It hovers cautiously at the centre-left of politics, heavily influenced by little-l liberalism. It is, of course, inseparable from my race politics and my identity as a queer woman of colour. It is decidedly sex positive and pro choice and comes with the disclaimer that I am young and still sorting shit out. I like Iggy Azalea. I don't really like Beyonce. Shoot me.

As a part of my own personal brand of feminism, there is a lot that I object to in the feminist community. I can't stand the notion that women cannot have sex with men without it being exploitative and disrespecting oneself. I can't stand the notion that equal representation for women will somehow sideline all these brilliant perfect flawless men in favour of incompetent stupid women who are just there to fill quotas and tick boxes. I can't stand the mumsy white feminism championed by Mia Freedman and other white middle class 'feminists', who slut shame and victim blame until the cows come home. I can't stand the queerphobia and racism that is rampant in the movement.

There are decidedly wrong ways to be feminist. Racism, queerphobia, trans-exclusion, a refusal to understand and accept the intersection between privilege and oppression in our own lives, is failing to understand the heart of feminism, or how to be a decent person. But, at the same time, there's nothing mandatory about feminism; there's no checklist. Liking Beyonce does not make you a feminist. Not liking Beyonce doesn't suddenly cancel your membership card. There aren't any membership cards; just the millions of different ways to be a good or shit person.

I don't think of feminism as anything special. As a feminist I have to work bloody hard, to improve myself and to fight for society; but whilst it is hard to be a feminist, it is not particularly hard to identify as one. It is synonymous to being a decent human being, and I think we over-complicate it with weird rules or strange notions about a homogeneous sisterhood.

When feminists first enter the scene, we are taught that there are two ways of doing things; the way things are now, which is wrong, and the way you yourself want it to be because you have a uterus, which is right. Which is a load of bullshit. There are thousands of wrong ways and thousands of right ways to do anything; there are thousands of 'wrong' and 'right' ways to be a feminist, and thousands of 'wrong' and 'right' ways to be a woman. My feminism works for me; and I don't mean that in a self-serving way. My feminism not only allows me to work towards the life I want, but also provides me with a suitable platform from which to serve my fellow women and society at large. The day that feminism becomes homogeneous, the day when someone can say with absolute clarity what feminism is and how all feminists think, is the end of feminism; when feminism has failed us. Feminism, at its heart, is about refusing to be put in a box; don't make feminism itself into another one of those boxes.

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