Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shedding Labels

There has been a lot of buzz around the feminist blogosphere lately about the divisions within the feminist movement, and how that is creating a rift among feminist bloggers as well.

I've considered myself a feminist for as long as I can remember, and I've been a proud, active member of the feminist blogosphere for a couple of years now. But for the past year or so, a lot of negativity has started to fester. The election season created an "us vs. them" mentality between supporters of the various candidates. A couple of very popular women of color (WOC) faced racism and felt isolated from the rest of the mainstream (mostly white) bloggers. These and several other episodes have left many, including myself, feeling uneasy and, to some extent, even unwelcome.

More than anything, what this has done for me is make me seriously question the label "feminist." While I recognize that you do not need the label in order to take action and fight for the causes important to you, there is a sense of community - however broken it might be - and togetherness. It's good to know that in an endless fight like women's rights, there are people behind you who share a common goal.

But what happens when the people around you who are supposed to be providing support also end up saying and doing things that you consider racist, homophobic, ableist, etc.? At what point do you say enough is enough and find a new crew or just fly solo?

I still feel deeply connected to the label "feminist," even with everything that's been going on. It has long been the only label I willingly use to describe myself and the only pigeonhole I've accepted regardless of the negative stereotypes associated with it. Can I really let go of something that has defined me for so long? It feels like cutting off my arm or denying an identity I've claimed my whole life.

What are some labels you've left behind and how did you feel once you let it go?

1 comment:

Kekla Magoon said...

I'm not fully up to speed on the turmoil in the feminist blogosphere, so feel free to take this with a good shake of salt.

It seems to me that there's always been a division between white feminists and WOC feminists, dating back to suffrage or maybe even further. The us vs. them mentality underlies everything because so many issues are interpreted as binary when they're really more complicated: man vs. woman, white vs. not, gay vs. straight, poor vs. not, liberal vs. conservative, whatever.

I say this with all sympathy for your connection to the label "feminist," because I also consider myself a feminist. But at the same time, I haven't ever been able to get really engaged with it from an activist perspective. Kind of sad, right? But I think one of the reasons that I've had trouble really embracing the feminist community in some ways has to do with this feeling that it entails a fixed and finite set of values that excludes some of my concerns, and doesn't always allow room for differences of opinion or gray areas. Just a feeling.

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