New contributor Elle on contemporary feminism found all through social media.
Yesterday a thing on my Facebook News Feed pissed me off. The post in question was in regard to some recent trouble in the Elm Grove area of Brighton, where a man has been targeting women at night with a hammer. I saw that my friend had left a comment in a Facebook group for people living in Brighton or something, reminding people that it would be a good idea for women to take care and try to avoid walking alone through this area after dark.
My friend subsequently received a reply from a girl I can only describe as the embodiment of white privilege in feminism, who said that my friend had made a “dangerous” response to these attacks in telling women not to walk alone at night through Elm Grove.
Surely it’s more dangerous to walk by yourself through an actual danger zone where there’s a man, with a hammer, who wants to attack you…?
This girl wrote that “we have as much right as any man to travel around … how, as and when we choose”, and furthermore, “to ask/tell women not to is close to victim blaming”. This is an extremely affected conclusion and pretty fucking irritating.
She also links the fact that if us women are asked not to walk around by ourselves at night, as a consequence, we won’t leave our houses. What? Doesn’t this insinuate quite sexist ideas about women…? Hysterical, over reacting, unable to think for ourselves, just doing what we’re told, and so on… She goes on to say that shut away at home it is unlikely we will be attacked by a stranger, but it is very likely we will be “unhappier, less healthy, [our] mental health will suffer and [we] won’t reach [our] full potential”. Love, nobody is shutting anyone away at home. Fucking calm down.
There are so many problems in all of this, I don’t even know where to begin. Here is an out-dated, idealistic and self-entitled form of feminism that makes me balk, the kind where “women” sounds like “wimmin”, where shaving your legs equates to mindless compliance with the patriarchy, where Lily Allen is heralded as the epitome of women’s liberation.
My friend was not telling the females of Brighton to stay indoors and suffer in house-bound oppression, she was encouraging them to be careful. Is that not a feminist thing to do?
First of all, ok. Men and women should have equal rights, and we should both be able to exercise personal choices in where we go, at what time of day and with whom. Nobody should feel the need to stay at home for fear of their personal safety. However, if this is your argument, you need to wake up to the knowledge that this is idealistic bullshit. Through no fault of their own, millions of men have their safety at risk every day, as do millions of women, as a result of racial hate and prejudice, religious hate and prejudice, poverty, war, etc. We do not live in a utopian dream. Utopia does not and cannot exist.
The outcries of “but we should be able to walk anywhere regardless of our sex! we should not be blamed for, or restricted by, the violence of men! we are independent and strong!” exhibit some very problematic issues with feminism today. It reeks of privileged, white, middle-class, self-righteous women, who live in Western democracies that are themselves, built on white privilege, and who have relatively little to deal with.
Feminism is not about men vs. women. It is not about the greatness of women and the violence of men. It is not about white women in a city such as Brighton protesting that they can’t walk around in poorly lit areas of the city by themselves at night. Feminism shouldn’t be about these things.
Because what about the men and women and communities of people who live in this country and every other country in the world that these feminist arguments fail to make provision for? What would the Facebook girl have said if a xenophobic white British woman had been reported verbally abusing Muslim men? Or black women? Or another white woman who happens to be poorer than her and has four children and no job? Wait though, that probably wouldn’t have been in the news. Apparently, that is not exactly a feminist issue because it doesn’t involve an argument about the inequality between men and women. I believe that all of these are feminist issues, as they are all humanist issues, and feminism is a humanist movement. The very core of humanism “stresses the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasizes common human needs, and seeks solely rational ways of solving human problems”.
Of course victims are never to blame. Of course, it is sometimes frustrating as a Western woman to feel you can’t freely go for a strong, independent night walk without wondering about psychotic rapists potentially lurking in the darkened streets. Of course disparate inequality and violence against women is sickening. But shit, we are not the only people who are subject to stuff like this.
Ultimately, in this white-stained privilege of contemporary “feminism”, there is a failure to accommodate men and women of all races and religions, whether rich or poor, regardless of how they choose to express themselves or their sexuality, etc. These privileged feminists watch the video for Lilly Allen’s “Hard Out Here” and they don’t even acknowledge its incredibly problematic racial bias. They say it’s not a racial matter, because race doesn’t matter. Of course race doesn’t matter if you’re white. Yet by disregarding racial issues, you immediately position yourself in a place of white privilege, which in turn reinforces the need for a new kind of feminism.
In reality, very often we fail to acknowledge how good we’ve got it, because we’ve never had to cope with anything otherwise.
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