Do you have a question for a feminist? Please send 'em to email@example.com. For more on why I'm doing this, scroll to the bottom of the post.
Just read your column [on explaining feminism to clueless men]: 💯 🔥 .
Though it did leave me with a follow-up question. How do you talk to LADIES who don't get it? (Aside from shaking them, equivalent to table-flipping at a dude.)
A Lady Scientist in Corvallis
Dear Lady Scientist,
Ugh, I get it. Every time I see Tomi Lahren shouting garbage about flags and #AllLivesMatter, I want nothing more than to righteously call for her to be fired, the way vainglorious internet trolls sometimes do to me when I talk about anything. When Megyn Kelly writes in her memoir with smug self-satisfaction that she's never publicly taken a position on abortion, I want to be like, "MEGYN. GET IT TOGETHER. THAT IS NOT A THING TO BE PROUD OF."
The antifeminist woman is certainly a challenge, I think because if you are a feminist, it seems hugely counterproductive to advocate AGAINST your own rights. This is something I saw come up a lot in postmortems of the presidential election, with people wondering out loud why so many white ladies voted for Trump, as if it were some great mystery. Enough performative handwringing: The answer is so obvious! It is... dun dun dun... INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY!
Internalized misogyny of the unsavory "I don't know what it is, I just don't like her" varietal is a powerful force of evil, and none of us are fully free from its influence. This is the Kool-Aid the ladies who don't get it are drinking, but it's also a useful explanation for why we get so frustrated with them. When we're faced with ladies who disavow feminism, our antagonistic response is ALSO rooted in our own internalized misogyny. At least we know what to call it, though, because that means we can do something about it.
First, an important clarification: Being aware of internalized misogyny doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't criticize other women for their terrible politics, it just means we probably shouldn't shake anyone or call them any epithet that would be at home in a Trump tweet. Because yeah, it is definitely unfortunate that some women are content to personally benefit from feminism while upholding a broken, unjust system that perpetuates its opposite.
Ivanka Trump is a classic example of this: By all accounts, she's a smart, capable businesswoman who probably would like her daughter to have the same rights as her sons. But she's also perfectly content to profit off her connection with her father, a man who hates women personally and wants to punish them systemically. It's probably no exaggeration to say that she's one of the only women who will benefit from his "presidency."
Avoiding doing the right thing Ivanka-style—because the stakes aren't personally high enough—is something men do all the time, but perhaps it stings less because we expect it from them.
And yet. Women who share Ivanka Trump's complacency still have to exist in the world as women, which means they too are faced with a dizzying array of bullshit whenever they walk out the door. Kellyanne Conway is routinely mocked for her looks. I'm sure Tomi Lahren knows how shitty it feels to be street-harassed. At one point in time, Megyn Kelly had a stalker, and was one of the women at Fox News who Roger Ailes sexually harassed (actually, what she describes in her book sounds akin to sexual assault, but it's not for me to say what another woman should call her own experience, and I have a lot of respect for the fact that she spoke out at all).
My point is that even women with detestable political views need feminism, because they need the protections it affords them and the language it provides for things like sexual harassment, whether they acknowledge this publicly or not. The hypocrisy in that can be infuriating to those of us who DO stand for feminism, because it seems like they get to have it both ways while we do the dirty work. But you know what? Feminism isn't just for women we like and agree with. And in all honesty, I think there's actually quite a personal price to pay for this lazy behavior. Ladies who don't get it don't really have it both ways. They have basic protections that feminists have made possible, but they don't understand—or don't want to understand—that their own survival is bound up in other people's, and I'm sorry for that, because one of the most comforting things feminism has to offer is the knowledge that you're not alone. This doesn't make me mad at ladies who don't get it. It makes me feel sad for them.
So when it comes to ladies who don't get it, attack their hateful views, but don't attack them as people. And believe in their ability as human adults to grow beyond their shortsighted opinions. I've met plenty of smart feminists who grew up in conservative environments and had a lot of unlearning and personal work to do before they could get comfortable even using that word. Do I think Tomi Lahren is going to pick up bell hooks and realize the error of her ways? I do not. But I can still hope for it.
With kindness, encouragement, and infinite patience,
A note on why this column is written by a white/straight/cis person: I believe it is the responsibility of white, straight, cisgender people to "collect their friends" when they're being racist and/or exclusionary of trans, nonbinary, and LGBTQ-identifying people or are just generally being deeply clueless and need to have basic concepts explained to them. Attending to our own ignorance, white guilt, and white fragility should not be the responsibility of people of color, and if you think it is, we need to talk. So I'm offering up a space for you to get your shit together and pose whatever burning questions you have about intersectional feminism to a fellow ignorant white person with her own implicit bias who is trying to do better. I'll do my very best to answer them, or find someone else who can.
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