Can I and still be …
How many times have you caught yourself wondering if you can still be a feminist and engage with something you enjoy?
I know I have!
Last year I had the pleasure of seeing the fabulous Roxanne Gay while she was here in Sydney. Her Bad Feminist talk inspired so much within me. But the biggest thing that I came away with was the understanding that I am a woman who is a feminist. A feminist yes but a woman first. A woman who is just a person, a person who likes and needs things that others may consider unfeminist – by their standards & their standards don’t have to be mine!
The other thing I’ve learned over the last few months is that this “can I” question is nothing more than an imposed expectation that we justify ourselves and our choices.
I’m still up in the air about the idea of choice feminism. One the one hand, I’ve made choices about my life that directly create the way that I experience the world and I want them, and the millions of different choices that other women make to become a significant part of the overall feminist discourse. I think the way that women come to the decisions we make is important in both a personal and political level. We, as humans, are social creatures and we do look to others to find identity and validate who we are. I see the push to silence “choice” as nothing more than a case of imposing some imagined feminist hierarchy upon us; that tells us when, why, how and what we can claim and discuss as a part of feminism.
At the same time I understand that choice, for many, is a privilege and one that for so many doesn’t exist. I try to be mindful of the benefits that I have for being nothing more than me. I am, in many areas of my life, privileged. From having accessed an education that has allowed me to become literate to gaining tertiary qualifications that have enable to express myself articulately and with confidence. I am straight; so in my country that allowed me the privilege to marry the man I love. I have access to technology, the internet, private health insurance, healthy food and clean water. There is a lot that just exists for me that doesn’t for many; and truth be told some days I am totally blind to all that I really have!
So while I understand the hesitancy of the word choice being used in feminist discourse I believe that we need to start engaging with the, I guess you could call it social commentary, that revolves around the choices that are being made. In particular this incessant pestering women to discuss and justify the choices that they are making – in ways we don’t for men.
For me, having engaged with this both with the choices I have made and through the media (both traditional and social) constantly asking the ‘well can she’ questions, I’m coming to see this as nothing more than a carefully executed distraction technique. A way of controlling and containing the way that women are engaging with outward social spaces to discuss their experiences. It’s another way that the outside is able to define women rather than addressing the issues and expectations (that may not necessarily be being meet) of women.
It’s nothing more that incessant casual sexism.
It has nothing to do with me as an individual making the situations I live with as positive, meaningful and as healthy as possible with the resources at hand and within the applied limitations. It has nothing to do with asking women real questions in order to find real solutions to real problems. It’s got nothing to do with placing the experiences and expectations of women into the forefront of conversations and decisions about the experiences and expectations of women. It’s nothing more than a way to force women to justify themselves.
I’m not sure why this exists. Maybe there isn’t one particular reason for it. But having sat back and thought about the way that I am experiencing this I keep coming back to one of the most poignant elements of misogyny; the need to lump women into this monolithic caricature rather than seeing women as a collective of individuals – who identify with the gendered label of women.
Woman. It’s something that I love being. But what I am getting well sick and tired of having to exist within is this inability – or is it just straight up unwillingness to understand that women find genuine comfort, desire and satisfaction in an infinite number of ways.