Post College Feminism

July 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

Welcome back!

After graduation, I decided to take a hiatus on MyFeminisms. I wanted space from thinking critically about my identity, and needed time to think about what optional feminist critique would look like (the earlier posts were for an independent study course I designed and were required). I’ve realized in that time, however, that I often think about how I would analyze some situation on MyFeminisms and tend to think about how I would deal with some thought or moment in writing. It’s time to come back, and I’m excited to get going again.

As I begin to practically plan for my first big jump after college, I wanted to reenter the discussion on feminism in the real world. I recently came across Furry Girl’s article Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s on her website http://www.feminisnt.com/. (Furry Girl operates http://www.swaay.org/, an amazing organization that advocates for sex worker rights and unites allies and sex workers.) As both someone in their early 20s and someone who identifies as some sort of feminist, I found myself laughing out-loud at how scarily accurate Furry Girl’s observations were. At one point she writes about feminism/early 20s relationships:

You tried to fit yourself into his pre-existing framework, rather than finding someone who didn’t require that you shuffle any part of yourself the first place.

I deeply understand and in many ways relate to her frustration with feminism. During my time writing my thesis on sex work, I began to feel defensive of feminism and qualify my support for certain types of feminisms and particular feminists. As I learned about how certain (and so many) “feminists” saw sex workers as victims and/or threats to society, I tried to find ways to shape my feminism as separate from theirs. When I learned about how women of color had been left out of the fight for equality under the guise of feminism (and by many of my former feminist heroes), I felt I had to explain why this was the exception and not the rule. Yet my most significant problem with feminism has been one that I’ve only recently discovered. Over the past year and through this blog, I established an understanding of feminism that went beyond the academic-industrial complex, that valued different experiences over traditional “knowledge,” and a feminism that prized intersectionality and a multiplicity of realities over all else. Yet no matter how good this sounded on paper (or when I was still in the safe arms of academic feminism), I’ve found myself doubting my own realities and experiences after I’ve left college. I instinctively find myself doubting my own ideas to those that are published or feeling unqualified to make a judgement without knowing some theory or theorist. Feminisms ties to a certain kind of privilege or complicated past cannot be erased simply because it’s feminism; work needs to be done to make feminism the idea it needs to be. But how?

Having feminism as a community or safety net or an identity as I enter the real world is an idea I have–and continue to–rely upon. But what if it’s not good enough? What if feminism is something that I’ll make excuses for in my early 20s and then be forced to abandon? What would feminists without feminism look like? And while I agree with Furry Girl that feminism shouldn’t be something we try to shape ourselves into, but then what are we striking towards?

Expanding Borders

March 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

International Women's Day rally of the Nationa...

Image via Wikipedia

When I started writing my thesis, I thought I would learn about women in the developing world. When I finished my thesis, I realized that I had learned just the opposite. The prospect of grouping billions of women together and learning about their lives is so deeply ridiculous; I can sit in a classroom at my small liberal-arts college and acknowledge that I can’t speak for anyone more than myself, yet I couldn’t see the problem with grouping together women across countless borders and boundaries.

The idea of the “third-world woman” is often made into a brand of an exotic caged animal that needs liberation, and incredibly often western feminists maintain and perpetuate that discourse. There’s a strong feeling among certain types and waves of feminists that they’ve changed the conversation from patriarchal ethnocentrism to one that respects the lives of women in the developing world. Yet these conversations about who “third-world women” are, how western feminists can help them, and how people should understand third-world woman’s life is still presented in oppressive frameworks.

I’ve spent the past four years examining my feminisms and how they relate to women in America and Western norms. I like to think that I’ve garnered some sort of understanding about the complexities and subtleties regarding my feminisms and Western feminist theory. It took me until this year, however, to realize how I haven’t translated the complexity of that thinking to my understanding of global women. Post-colonial feminisms have created space for women outside of the Global North to explain how Western feminists have denied the “third-world woman” the space to speak their voice and define their identities on their own terms (or even in their own language). If Western feminists have the privilege to struggle, question and mold their identities and then re-question those identities all over again, non-Western women should be afforded the same right. Jaded16, a blogger who writes about Post-Colonial feminism, explains in ‘Skin Deep’ in Whose Skin? (http://jaded16.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/skin-deep-in-whose-skin/):

While there are quite a few theorists, bloggers, activists and people (who may or may not be acquainted with technical jargon of écriture féminin) who understand the problems with privilege and consciously work at divorcing it from their lives, there is an acute lack of Colonial critique or even acknowledgment that actions of mainstream feminism are, in fact, Colonial in more instances than countable.

Western feminists to ignore and deny the voices of Post-Colonial Feminists by using limited guidelines to understand feminisms, assuming one idea of what women want, and have a narrow idea of who’s worth listening to maintains Colonialism within feminisms. I couldn’t believe how powerful Jaded16’s blog was, and how clearly it stated what feminists were doing wrong and what she, as a Post-Colonial Feminist, needed. For her blog, see http://jaded16.wordpress.com/.

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