There is no ‘we’. There is no homogenous feminist voice from which voices can be excluded, because feminism is about inequality that women live with. Real women. Complicated women. It doesn’t take a genius to understand what that means and why there can never be a homogenous ‘we’ that all views sit with, and why that cannot be policed by privileged young women at elite universities and in media organisations.
First of all, if you have the power to contribute to media narratives, that is an extraordinary power. An extraordinary power in a world shaped by those narratives. You do not get to play oppression top trumps when you have that power. Ever.
Secondly, people discussing inequality in their own lives do not have to audition to you because you have that power. Lets look at hypotheticals based on women I know. You may have been forced into marriage at 14, you may have gone on to have four sons, and run a business with your husband as well as being responsible for ALL the household labour and having been entirely responsible for raising those children. You may shoulder that burden in a family where your gender has meant you didn’t own your own life for one minute, ever. If you are that woman you have the right to discuss the inequality that has shaped you. You may also believe that girls who were sexually exploited by young asian males were asking for it and you may believe that homosexuality is wrong and your religious beliefs may include the belief that much of the inequality you have faced, was gods will. You do not have to consider the current academic debates being had by students you don’t know and media organisations you dont have any relationship with, to discuss it. It is feminism if you do. You are a feminist if you do.
You may head your own household, and have done so since 16, you may have lived with poverty for years as a result of early motherhood that capped your chances. You may be being evicted from your home, even though you work, because there is no way to make the rent and your housing benefit doesnt cover it. You may also believe that immigration is one of the countries biggest problems, you might believe trans women are not women, you still have the right to discuss inequality you face and it is feminism. It is feminism when you succeed at college and work, despite these obstacles and you don’t have to audition to students well versed in gender theory who have never ever experienced inequality and never will.
You may be a trans woman, living in poverty who has been abused for repeatedly because of this, you may struggle getting decent healthcare that treats you as a human being and you may find that you are marginalised, and yet you still may be islamophobic and hate religions and cultures you know create risk to you, you may believe all muslims are terrorists. When you talk about inequality you face THAT is feminism.
Feminism is about gender inequality, how we live it, how we experience it, and there are things that bind us and things that divide us, but that gender inequality still shapes us, and noone has to audition to anyone to discuss it.
Any feminism that sees itself as a ‘we’ who polices who can be ‘in’ feminism, is not a feminist. Period. That is about you wanting to control other women. Women who experience inequality they may discuss in ANY way they choose. When they discuss it, when they address it, when they succeed, when they fail, when they are hurt, it is feminism. It is not for you to decide EVER whether someone else, especially someone without the privilege of a cushy university and a media platform, is a feminist or whether they should be allowed to discuss inequality they face in the way they want to discuss it.
You are not the arbiter of what views can be ‘in’ feminism. Women who live with inequality learning to deal with it and challenge it are feminists. The women who head households and make you shudder with what you perceive as ignorance, the women who shoulder the burden of things you can’t imagine, THEY decide how they discuss that. They decide what feminism is. Personal is political.
When you recreate misogynist abuse, when you organise to silence women, when you spit vitriol and venom at women for not being who you think they should be, YOU are a misogynist not a feminist. When you declare yourself arbiter of what views are welcome in feminism, you are a misogynist. Not a feminist. Regardless of how uncomrfotable the views of women you dont know make you feel.
You dont have to be in the same social network as women you do not like., You do not have to spend time with people you believe are bigoted. But you do not get to declare that they can only discuss inequality they face in ways YOU think are appropriate. Certainly not when that understanding comes entirely from academic privilege that most women can’t access.
Understanding intersecting inequality requires understanding there is no hierarchy. There is no ‘uniform’ we. There is no elite cabal auditionining who can be considered feminist or not.
There are different facets of our lives and identities and they intertwine with gender inequality in a million ways. It is not your role, whoever you are, to decide how and if another woman can challenge that inequality. Not ever.
It is not 2nd wave feminism that is dying. It is the feminism where the very privileged appointed themselves gatekeepers to discussion of inequality. There is no requirement that women being allowed to discuss inequality in their own lives, like each other. There is no requirement that they share values, attitudes or any aspect of your identity.
Feminism is not a noun, it is not an identity. It is something that is lived and learned from inequality that shapes real lives. If it is to have meaning it is a verb. Something that is done. That is lived. Unless you learned it at your very posh university and its just the basis of your right to create media narratives that don’t affect you.