Recently I was listening to a Podcast with Jameela Jamil on not being a “double agent of the patriarchy” and her own views of feminism. It was circulating my Facebook feed for days, so I had to actually check it out. I liked it, for the most part, but there was a point when she pointed out to people like Lena Dunham as being prominent feminist role models in Hollywood (this is paraphrased and my own interpretation of the conversation) that I had to take pause. Modern feminism is powerful, but all the more conflicting.
I grew up in a strong female-led household. My Mum has nothing but sisters, I have nothing but sisters and I went to an all-girl high school. I was always given the impression that girls can do anything and everything. When I questioned my Dad why I couldn’t play rugby union, it wasn’t because I was girl, it was because he was afraid of the likelihood of a head injury after his own experience. Being a girl never stood in my way of achieving anything and I lived in this bubble for so long. As I got older and I met a wider net of people, my views were constantly challenged. I met others, men and boys in particular, that challenged everything I stood for.
No, you can’t do that, you’re a girl.
Of course she was asking it, just look at what she was wearing.
She’s a bitch, I don’t blame him for hitting her.
And on it went. A lot more of it is subtle and I battle against it a lot. It has caused many heated arguments and all the more heart breaking when I am arguing with another woman. But I am a Modern Feminist and I will continue to have these talks.
The Modern Feminist Movement, includes the #MeToo movement, increased conversation and awareness of intersectionality and the ways in which traditional forms of feminism of the past proved to only benefit predominately white middle-class women. The biggest issue I have with feminist “icons” like Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and those of that ilk is that I find them Lazy Feminists. It is a struggle to to conflate their outwardly pro-feminist attitude with the reality that they cannot get past their privilege. Take Dunham special brand of hipster-racism, as pointed out by former Lenny Letter writer Zinzi Clemmons or Rose McGowen’s gaffs with the transgender community. Incidents and issues like these take away from the core message of Feminism of equality and progress across all intersections. It is lazy for these icons to assume that they can somehow represent all types of women. It is not enough to “give a voice” to those less privileged, because people of colour, the LGBTQI+ community, indigenous peoples, the disabled and all other oppressed groups already have and own their voices. Those privileged in the Feminist Community need to shout and give others the space to share their own experience and equalities on all platforms.
The Modern Feminism movement needs to recognise that calling out on other women’s transgressions or ignorance to issues that effect the oppressed does not take away from their own achievements in calling out the patriarchy. Rose McGowen is still brave for calling Harvey Weinstein but criticising her does not make me anti-feminist or against women in any way shape or form. Speaking up and pointing out privilege and how to better use it and give a platform to others is important in forming a cohesive feminist movement that can benefit everyone. Men still get raped, transgender women are still murdered for just existing and being a woman of colour in this world still leaves you at a disadvantage to your white counterpart. Now is not the time to fall back on the assumption that everyone is currently represented equally.
I am privileged in the fact I pass off as white. My mother is a woman of colour, my sisters cannot pass as white as easily as me, and our experiences in life are marked differently and with different sets of micro and macro-aggressions. If I can recognise this, as someone who does not have massive following, who is not in the lifestyle of Hollywood and use it to have conversation with those around me and make changes to my personal community, then the Lazy Feminists can certainly do the same for their wider community and take on board the criticism without seeing it as an attack, but something to grow on.
Ways to Change the World: Jameela Jamil is a really good listen and I encourage everyone to listen to it because she does speak about representation and issues within Hollywood and her own experiences.