When I first found feminism, I was critical of its value. I understood the importance of fighting for equality, and I had definitely experienced sexism myself, but I felt like people were just getting angry over nothing.
I mean, we’re allowed to vote now, right? There are laws saying we shouldn’t be discriminated against for being women, too… right?
Then I took a class called “Reading Politics: Gender and Sexuality.” By gender and sexuality it really meant feminist literature, which focused a lot on philosophical readings by the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft and bell hooks. I learned a LOT in that class. (Yes, we have several rights that we didn’t have before, but we have a long way to go!)
But a lot of the time we didn't talk about intersectionality enough, and I had a hard time relating. It was great that we had a couple bell hooks papers to read, but a lot was left out when I learned about the history of feminism. Where were indigenous perspectives? Asian perspectives? Trans perspectives? Differently-abled perspectives?
I also wanted to learn more specifically about sexuality, but we never talked about it. I was just beginning to understand my own queer sexuality at the time, so the fact that we never discussed it in a class labelled “Gender and Sexuality” made me feel a little left out. And when I asked any questions or didn’t understand anything, I felt shunned. I wasn't allowed to make mistakes.
I felt inferior for not already knowing the answers.
And people were so mad about things. Like, everything. All the readings were full of anger, and many of the people in the class were too. Almost every class turned into ranting about various ideas more than discussions about each reading. One time, we were discussing some ideas regarding trans people — I can’t remember which in particular — and my professor mentioned that even with parental permission, minors aren’t able to begin transitioning. I pointed out that I know someone who began transitioning at fourteen or fifteen, and she implied that I was making it up, saying she was sure that it wasn’t possible. She basically looked me in the eye and said she didn’t believe me! By the time I finished the class I was pretty done with feminism. I was sick of all the anger, and of being made to feel like a fool.
Three years later, in my last year of university, I found a class about the representation of sex on the screen and discovered that it had a lot to do with sexism, so we talked often about feminism.
And I realized I did care about it.
A year later I had begun reading about feminism on my own time, and started my blog, which is literally ALL about feminism.
Feminism needs to be accessible.
I was pushed away from feminism because I had questions, and because I didn’t agree with everything everyone was saying. It seemed like I was always "wrong" and then shunned for it instead of being encouraged to learn more, so I decided to create a resource for people curious about feminism, a safe place to ask questions without judgment. I wanted to make feminism less angry.
The funny thing? I am angry as hell.
It is true, at least in my experience, that feminism can be elitist and can really push people away. All the academic language distances a lot of the people feminism is meant to help, making it feel really classist. Not everyone has access to a post-secondary education. Not everyone can even read! And elitism is completely against what feminism is about.
In fact, even now that I’m all about feminism I find it’s very elitist. Recently I posted one of my blog posts in a feminist group on Facebook and was told that it was being transphobic. I tried to apologize and ask if anyone would be willing to share any feedback or just discuss with me, and was told that I shouldn’t expect help — even though I had politely asked if people were willing, and didn’t demand. They were sarcastic and rude to me instead of acknowledging my efforts to learn from my mistake. I was told I should “educate myself." How could I possibly not know how foolish I was being?! Apparently, once again, I was not allowed to make a mistake. I’m supposed to be perfect and know everything already.
If I hadn’t already had a firm grasp on what feminism is and why I believe in it, I could easily have been turned off of it and hated everything about it.
It’s those kind of feminists that make people stay away from feminism.
People who don’t know everything about feminism are excluded and left out because they feel inferior. They’re left with a bad taste in their mouth and then they never come back.
But feminists should be angry.
We have a lot to to be pissed off about.
Despite some of the changes thus far, our society hasn’t really adapted to them. There are still sexist expectations everywhere you look, telling minorities to be quiet and passive and to accept the status quo. If we’re angry, we’re overemotional. And if we happen to be black, we fit the stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman” who is represented as irrational and always angry.
But are you kidding me?! We absolutely have reason to be angry all the time. We’re dealing with racism and sexism ALL the time, among other forms of discrimination, too. It’s not something that happens once or twice in our lives, it’s happening on a daily basis. It surrounds everything we do.
Anger is what creates change. If we just ask politely for the men of the government to allow women to choose what to do with their bodies, would anything happen? If women hadn’t literally fought for the right to vote, would we have that right? Nope.
So, absolutely, anger is important.
The thing is, anger isn’t always the answer for every instance of frustration.
We shouldn’t HAVE to spell everything out for people to understand but the reality is we are being incredibly hypocritical if we expect everyone to just agree with and know everything that we know.
No, it’s not the job of the oppressed to educate those who don't know they are wrong or hurtful. I know that those who have privilege should take responsibility and educate themselves.
But just... WHAT IF at a given time, we really are dealing with someone who is completely clueless? What if they have literally just learned that what they’re doing is a problem, or whatever the issue may be?
If we just respond with anger and don’t actually listen, we will shun them and they will feel totally justified in being angry at feminists.
If we beat down someone for saying something we don’t agree with, and just call them an ass, we are not helping our cause.
It's completely fair to believe that we shouldn't have to fight so much for equality. I'm the first to admit that I get pissed off about it! We DO have reason to be mad. People should just notice that everything is messed up and do something about it.
But the thing is, they won't.
So I’m an angry feminist not just because I am so beyond frustrated with the misogyny and racism people have to face, but also because to a completely innocent random person trying to learn about feminism, feminism often seems unwelcoming.
I'm an angry feminist because many people who are privileged to be educated about feminism hypocritically mock others for their misinformed ideas.
I’m an angry feminist because I'm tired of the microscopic analysis of every single thing I say about feminism, telling me I can't make a single freaking mistake without being told I'm totally worthless.
Anger is important in feminism. But let’s not forget to be critical of it.
Rebekah L. Markillie
a PDX based creative who enjoys reading books, contemplating the oxford comma and rolling for initiative.
What's Up Radical Feminist