Feminism Hindered by Mainstream Accessibility, Ignores Political Struggle

Sophie Kemp, Contributing Writer

When I was 14 years old, I adhered to an ultra-apologetic feminism. I was the kind of “feminist” that always explained to boys and skeptics that feminism was for everyone. I constantly reminded people that feminists aren’t just bra-burners and that misandry isn’t real.

My feminism at 14 was the kind of feminism that has become extremely prevalent in mainstream media. We now live in an age in which masses of people are declaring themselves feminists, and those who do not do so are often shunned. While I should be happy that more people, especially young women, are opening themselves up to the magic of feminism and gender empowerment, I find myself angry. I’m angry because this wave that we are in now is a wave populated by ultra-apologetic feminists like 14-year-old Sophie.

A lot of mainstream feminism focuses on the notion that feminism isn’t scary and should be accessible to everyone. It’s a feminism that is one size fits all, one which fits nicely into everyone’s projected agenda: You can be a cool dude and be all about gender equality while not necessarily being all about visibility for trans women. You can walk a slut walk while living under the guise that Muslim women who practice purdah are oppressing themselves.

With everyone jumping on the feminist bandwagon, it is easy to become extremely frustrated by the factions in the movement. People who want to get stuff done often get labeled as extremists. Saying you hate men is the antithesis of mainstream feminism because mainstream feminism believes in equality regardless of gender.

To hate men, though, is to hate the system of oppression women and people of all other genders face every day. Man-hating is about solidarity. Yet man-hating sounds horrifying. It does not mean that men are inherently evil. Not even in the slightest. What it does mean, and I will reiterate here, is that men are the patriarchy, and the patriarchy is the ultimate cause of oppression.

We have the right to hate our oppressors. If we adhere to a nice, comfortable feminism, we will not have our demands heard. Making feminism accessible is important, but feminism is an ideological and political movement. It’s about vocalizing our goals and trying to accomplish them through protest. Feminism prioritizes particular issues just like any other political movement. For instance, reducing stigma directed at girls with armpit hair may be important, but our agenda needs to focus on taking action in Congress to promote visibility for trans women. Feminism is about changing the fact that the state of Ohio only has eight abortion clinics, and it’s about changing the fact that the largest demographic of women who need abortions live at or below the poverty line. It’s about bringing an end to teenage girls getting shot in the head on school buses in Pakistan. Another major issue with the mainstream movement is that it erases the struggles of women of color and trans people. Feminism under this lens strives for “gender equality,” which is a language that connotes a sort of gender-blindness. The experiences women and men face are extremely different, and the experiences women of color and white women face are extremely different. Feminism should be about highlighting these differences and instead striving for visibility. To be ignorant to the struggles of other people is to take important information out of the equation.

It isn’t enough to post Upworthy videos of women professing their love for their pit hair on Facebook. That is only a tiny little fraction of a mostly Western-centric view of feminism. Nor is it enough to wear a Legalize Gay Marriage T-shirt or to buy TOMS shoes. This kind of mentality makes people feel good about themselves, but it essentially does nothing. Often, in fact, the corporations you’re supporting are damaging and exploitive. Companies like American Apparel and TOMS practice neoliberalism in every sense of the word.

My feminism isn’t here to make you feel nice and comfortable. It is here to scare you and to make you think. It is imperative that we stop trying to woo people over with GIFs of Zooey Deschanel proclaiming that she can “rock a lot of polka dots” (not that there is anything wrong with rocking a lot of dots: I am pretty into this myself ). Instead, we need to start getting stuff done. Feminism is more than girl power and pictures of glittery tampons. I’m ready to start treating feminism as something gritty and complex. We can’t be passive anymore.