On Feminism and ‘Looks’
Why is it so important what feminists “look like”? Why is this an issue at all? It’s an issue because the mental image conjured by the word “feminist” is first and foremost an image of a woman — and that can’t be good.
Under patriarchy, of course, associations with “woman” and women themselves both individually and as a class are really, really bad — that’s kind of the whole point, and why we need feminism in the first place. Women are undermined so completely under patriarchy that anything even remotely associated with “woman” lacks credibility, is inherently unpleasant and fundamentally flawed, and these negative associations are often automatic and unconscious making them insidious.
Secondly, women who are feminists — the real kind, women who are radical feminists — are not fully patriarchy-compliant by definition, and this noncompliance originates at the level of thought. Radical feminists’ thoughts and minds are not colonized or fully colonized by men, and we might demonstrate this noncompliance outwardly. Radical feminists might eschew intercourse and male-centric romantic partnerships, and reject the male-pleasing that entails. Radical feminists might be lesbians — the real kind, women who value women, and seek to please and be pleased by women — not the male-pleasing kind. And under patriarchy, anything that is not overtly and deliberately pleasing to men is ugly, and ultimately and generically “unpleasant” because it is only men’s perspective that counts. Again, this is the problem.
Underlying attempts to debunk these “stereotypes” of feminists and radical feminists is, firstly, the assumption that if one is a woman, that is a bad thing to be — and by extension, that women are wrong, and what women say matters to them does not matter to them or to anyone (or to anyone important — and women aren’t). And more importantly, there is also the assumption that what women and feminists are saying is inaccurate, because if you are be-ing wrong and living wrong, what you are saying cannot possibly be true. In the process of assimilating these images and making these automatic, unconscious associations, wrong and inaccurate are made to be synonyms, even though they really aren’t.
One cannot escape the conclusion that men who use this “this is what a feminist looks like” debunking tool and apply the “feminist” label to themselves to add credibility to feminism and feminists are demonstrating that they personally believe that women are liars and not to believed — and that men are not liars and men are to be believed. This does not help women or feminism but it does help men, and anti-feminism, a great deal.
And underlying attempts to debunk the “stereotype” of the ball-busting or lesbian feminist is the assumption that being either ball-busting or a lesbian or both are bad things to be. To radical feminists, these are not bad things to be, and any energy spent towards debunking that “stereotype” does not help us, and only hurts us. It is no coincidence that there is, in fact, a lot of energy being used this way.
Attempting to disabuse oneself or one’s audience of their notions of feminists as being patriarchy noncompliant is dishonest and inaccurate. Feminists — the real kind — actually are patriarchy noncompliant. To say or to intimate otherwise is a lie.
Radical feminists are “wrong” under patriarchy, and we cannot be made right. We do not and cannot care about that. Our being “wrong” does not, however, make what we say or do inaccurate. Radical feminists have a credibility problem, but this is by design. What we say is correct.