One of the oddest things I find about “being a feminist” is the amount of difficulty and debate such a label tends to conjure up. There are thousands of variations, but three key problems seem to always rear their spiky heads:
1. Many women are reluctant to identify as feminists, even though if you ask them their thoughts on specific issues they’ll respond with feminist ideas. There’s a certain ugliness associated with the label that a lot of us grow up learning to be wary of. Take this Maxim “cure a feminist” feature as exhibit A. This article from Mama Mia a few days ago also captures some of the frustrations of this situation.
2.Some feminists believe there should be a core set of bullet-points that a person must subscribe to in order to call themselves feminists. A lot of us do this even subconsciously, because it’s hard to understand how someone who agrees with us on one point could offend us so much on another. We question whether Cosmopolitan should be allowed to call itself feminist, whether Melinda Tankard Reist should be allowed to call herself a feminist.
3. The flipside of the point above is that many women feel like they’re not allowed to be part of the discussion, because they don’t meet the criteria they believe has been set out.
My thoughts keep going back to something Julia Kristeva wrote about in Women’s Time. Okay, I know it might be a bit naff or maybe just pretentious to reference Kristeva, but listen for a minute: in Women’s Time, she makes a case for a new generation of feminism (where ‘generation’ refers not necessarily to a period in linear time, but rather a signifying mental, emotional and intellectual space) that focuses on the multiplicity of individual experience. That means not only accepting that everyone will have different views and ideas, but that within each person exist myriad possible identifications, some of which might seem contradictory.