Wednesday, 9 March 2016

feminism and 'responsibility'

As much as I wish I could say that I was disputing gender roles from my pram and questioning patriarchal values in the playground, I'll admit that I only started thinking about these concerns in the past few years. The internet made me a feminist - something I'm sure I have in common with others of my generation. I read incredible, moving pieces on tumblr, I realised some of my former favs were problematic, I cried at Emma Watson's UN speech.

Even more recently, the internet challenged me to consider intersectionality. It's changed the way I see the world, the way I read history and the way I address others. It's made me realise that other women experience sexism in vastly different, and increasingly troubling, ways. Most of all, it's made me acknowledge just how lucky I am.

art by jamie kapp

I live in a developed country, I'm from a (lower) middle class family, I'm white. This means I have it better than a lot of people! Accepting your privilege is important, but it also sets up various conundrums, especially online. What right do I have to complain about a builder cat-calling me on the street when girls across the world are being denied education, forced to become child brides or enduring FGM? Should I even attempt to discuss these things if I (or nobody I'm acquainted with, for that matter) have never, and will never experience them, or will I simply sound ignorant? DO I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING ON TWITTER IF I CLAIM TO BE AN INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST?

Which leads me on to another reason I consider myself pretty lucky: although I'm sure it's has its perks, I'm glad I'm not a famous person with an online following...especially one that calls themselves a feminist. When the lovely Felicia Day spoke out about discrimination in the gaming community in 2014, she received an onslaught of abuse and threats. On the other side of the spectrum, Taylor Swift was recently called out for not vocalising her support for fellow musician Kesha in her trial against her abusive producer Dr Luke - despite the fact that she privately donated $250,000 to her. (We're not going into the other problems I have with TSwift right now.) Is social media now so important that any other show of solidarity is irrelevant? Do celebrities have a responsibility to address social issues rather than to promote themselves?

Freedom of speech and expression is a basic human right, but it can also be dangerous. (Exhibit A = Donald Trump.) We live in a curious state of limbo where we can post anything we want online, but censorship is still a major part of our everyday lives. Consequently when people -namely celebrities- exercise their right, but say/post something that's slightly out of line, there will always be others who freak out.

yeah!! topless mila kunis!! u cant see her nipples though. nipples are gross

Only two days ago, Kim Kardashian tweeted a (95%) nude photo online, provoking responses from fellow celebrities like Chloe Moretz and Pink that barely disguised their internalised misogyny. I was heartened to see most of my timeline defending Kim. (Again, the quarrels I have with the Kardashians surrounding their cultural appropriation etc are not being discussed today.) The negative comments I did happen across seemed to center around the fact that she 'has children', 'is a mother', 'has a responsibility.' Sorry, remind me what year it is? Is it really so difficult to believe that a woman can be a mother and take pride in her body? If I'm being honest, I can't put it better than Kim herself:


Kim's motives aside, I think the message here is important: allow people, and allow women, to speak for themselves. Although I agree that 'self-proclaimed feminists' need to be vocal to a certain extent, we shouldn't bully and victimise well-intending people for not immediately speaking out about an issue. Maybe their phone just ran out of battery. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you can call people out on their bullshit, but give them an equal chance to explain their side or understand the problem. Who knows, maybe you'll even teach them something - being considerate really goes a long way. As my mother used to tell me, manners cost nothing.

PS. Yeah, I'm back. It's been a while.

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