Despite what Katy Perry says, I find feminism is losing its taboo as a word, and it’s making a comeback among both women and men.
Unfortunately this is from necessity – threats from rich old white men to take away the right to self-determination from poor young minority women, a whole “misandry” movement in response to systemic sexism being exposed – but I find it refreshing and invigorating to see so much being written and hear so many things being said on the topic. It comes from all sorts of directions and contexts and carries with it determination to shine light on other prejudices and privileges as well.
I’m selective in what I read, of course, so I know my Twitter feed is not a representative sample. Yet it’s filled with strong women and strong men who say things like “maybe we should listen and take other people’s problems seriously” or “sex is gratifying when both people want it” or “she has a full central nervous system that enables her to think and feel so she probably knows more about her own mind and body than other people do”. Those aren’t exact quotes, but the sentiment is clear. Many people, both men and women, saying these things also share how they used to be ignorant to feminism’s underlying purpose and they exhibited sexist behaviour without (or only partially) knowing it. I think listening to those who do identify as feminists would change Katy Perry’s mind on identifying with the label.
I am privileged by class, race, age, family status, and nationality. I’m only invisibly disadvantaged because of disability. If it weren’t for those favourable factors both institutional and interpersonal sexism would be compoundedly worse for me. Gathering behind family planning access from the perspective of feminism opens eyes and dialogue on how these other statuses are affected in more ways by a “women’s issue”. Calling out “artistic” representations of women and their relationship to men in various forms of culture and storytelling benefits unrealistic expectations of both genders – AND the characters’ races, AND the characters’ socioeconomic statuses/origins, AND [insert other bases of social disadvantages ad nauseum] – and the pandemic of delusions they come from.
Many writers, professional and otherwise, are bringing these ignored barriers to light when specific examples arise. That many of the feminists I follow are involved in geek culture leads me to an abundance of dialogue related to the sexism therein – bodily proportions in comic books, convention behaviour, “fake geek girls”, objectification in science fiction, and more. The past two years have seen more backlash against slut-shaming than I ever recall seeing in my life. Abortion contributed to many losses for Republicans in the US election. Women are starting to call out on previous and current attitudes of feminists that judge anyone who chooses to follow gender norms and exhibit gendered behaviour – wearing makeup, being a homemaker, and trying to look sexy are just as much individual choices as their opposites and they’re equally dignified with no loss of respect. I think what that last point is a reaction to is why people like Katy Perry are reluctant to identify with the word, along with its hand-in-hand stereotype of feminist man-hating. But feminism’s comeback is shattering the stigma. We should all take a step back, listen to what feminist perspectives are saying, and contemplate why so many tiptoe around its label. There are more of us with an Inner Feminist than we thought.