Feminism has a PR problem. What, to me, is clearly about empowering women to expect and demand equal treatment, some people weirdly think is about "hating men."
What, to me, is clearly about encouraging women to think for themselves and make their own choices -- whether that means breastfeeding or bottle feeding; pursuing a career in physics or fashion; filing charges against an attacker (regardless of what you were wearing) or just seeking support within your community -- some people think is about imposing conformity and restricting critical thinking.
Yes, I’m talking about “intersectionality”: the idea that, in order to be a “real feminist,” you have to believe in all the exact same social causes as I do – regardless of your own thoughts, knowledge or experience on the topic. According to Everyday Feminism, I am not a “real feminist,” because I’m not convinced that “medical fat shaming” is a problem in our healthcare system. Even though I am very vocal about my feminist viewpoints (as illustrated by posts like 10 Things to Remind Your Daughter to Do Every Day That Are More Important Than Brushing Her Hair;The REAL Reason Women "Spend So Much Time in the Restroom"; and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Gif All Women Need to See ASAP)… I’m not “intersectional enough.”
And, sure, I understand that the feminist LGBT community faces some unique challenges. I see the value of examining the challenges black women face that I don’t. Feminism is far from a simple cause.
But. It is harmful to conflate completely unrelated political issues with feminism. Especially when the “politically correct” viewpoint is toxic to both feminism and the women it’s trying to help.
The best example of this is the anti-Israel stance imposed upon so many normal feminists, by radical feminists, in the name of “intersectionality.”
In November 2015, the National Women’s Studies Association voted to endorse the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Even though Israel happens to be the most progressive nation in the Middle East. It is committed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women international treaty. It's guaranteed gender equality since the establishment of the state in 1948. Women in Israel actively participate in Israeli life. The Israeli Declaration of Independence declares: “The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Israel was the third country in the world to elect a female prime minister. Its parliament is 18% female -- which equals that of the US, and is well above the Arab world's average of 6%. (Also worth noting: Israel is considered to be more tolerant of sexual minorities than any other Middle Eastern country, and even recognizes gay marriage.)
Meanwhile, Palestine is plagued by spousal and child abuse, rape, incest, and "honor" killings of women.
For one, there is no “illegal occupation.” There is a lot of history that most people don't fully understand, or even necessarily know about. Chances are, if you think that everything Israel does is right/wrong, you have no idea what is going on in the Middle East.
In fact! A board member of the Michigan State University Hillel recently told me (anonymously), “I’m Jewish, and I’m generally pro-Israel. But it would be pretty ignorant and ridiculous of me to just blindly support everything Israel does, and I have plenty of problems with their policies.”
It’s wonderful to see someone who subscribes to independent thinking, rather than a more tribal/mob mentality.
(Also worth noting: the same board member also told me that the MSU Hillel no longer lists its board members online. “It’s possible to find out who we are, but we don’t make the information public anymore, because too many of us were being harassed and targeted.” But more on that later.)
For two, Palestinians attack Israel every day. Even the "small" matter of "kids throwing rocks" at Israeli citizens and soldiers is a serious consideration for Israel -- because "rocks" can mean anything from stones to bricks, and "throwing" can mean "slinging." People have died from "kids throwing rocks," which Palestinians tout as a "nonviolent" form of protest.
As it turns out, yes.
A Columbia University student group called No Red Tape (NRT), which aims to raise sexual assault awareness and end rape culture on campus, recently – in the name of “intersectionality” – adopted an official “anti-Israel stance.” Which means that NRT is
- No longer a “safe space” for all victims of sexual assault – if you’re Jewish, pro-Israel, or Israeli, how can you possibly feel comfortable attending NRT meetings?
- No longer survivor-centric. What the f@#$ does Israel have to do with college women in New York preventing sexual assault on campus?
Meanwhile... there's been no corresponding "intersectionality" or compassion from radical feminists for students who have suffered discrimination, harassment and other antisemitism on college campuses across the nation. For example, here is a (non-comprehensive) list of antisemitic incidents that took place on college campuses in 2015, as reported by the Anti-Defamation League:
- - In May at Drexel, a student came back to his residence hall to find a swastika and the word “JEW” taped next to his Israeli flag.
- - Several swastikas, along with personal slurs and epithets, were spray-painted on Stanford University’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in April.
- - In April, vandalism of a residence hall at the University of Missouri included a swastika, the Illuminati symbol, and the word “heil.” Later, another swastika and the words, “You’ve been warned,” were discovered in the same area.
- - A residence hall at Purchase College, SUNY was vandalized on March 18 with swastikas and other hateful graffiti.
- - Swastikas were spray-painted inside the house of a Jewish fraternity (Alpha Epsilon Pi) at Vanderbilt University on March 15.
- - In March at the UCLA, a student was asked, "Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?" during the Student Council's confirmation of the nomination of the student to the council's Judicial Board.
- - At the University of California, Berkeley, the phrase “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was found in a campus restroom in March and a swastika was found on a university owned building in February.
- - On February 22, University of Chicago students and staff reported anti-Semitic posts on a Facebook page called UChicago Secrets, such as “People are hypocrites. This is a fact. One example? The Jews at UChicago…” and “As a Person of Palestinian descent, I don’t think it is unreasonable or horrific for me to hate Jews…”
- - At the end of February, threatening anti-Semitic comments were posted on Yik Yak (an anonymous social media app that allows people to send and receive posts in a localized area) for the University of Chicago area. Some posts named specific students, while others expressed more general anti-Semitic sentiments such as, “Gas them, burn them and dismantle their power structure. Humanity cannot progress with the parasitic Jew.”
- - In February, three swastikas were drawn inside a George Washington University residence hall.
- - On January 31, two large swastikas were spray-painted on the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house at the University of California, Davis.
But it's not that weird. Because this kind of "intersectionality" isn't about empowering all women. It's not about fighting prejudice. It's about imposing conformity and restricting thought.
Let's look at another example of an extremely complicated issue that introduces a conflict between "intersectionality" and feminism:
Droves of young men from African and Arab nations are settling throughout Europe, fleeing violence and bad conditions in their home countries. These men come from very different cultures, where women are seen as property, exposed skin is seen as an invitation to do whatever you want, and violence against women frequently goes unpunished.
Naturally, this can -- and has! -- caused problems for women in Europe. For example, 2% of Germany's population now consists of recent immigrants... and on New Year's Eve, a group of over 400 (some sources say over 1,000) of these men assembled a mass attack against women. They formed coordinated rings around more than 600 different women in public places and robbed, groped, raped and assaulted.
This is horrifying enough... but almost equally disgusting is that the attacks were covered up for at least five days. According to The Daily Beast, the authorities and media were choosing between stirring racial tension and observing these women’s rights. By covering it up, they were effectively putting more women's lives in danger.
Germany is far from the only country that, fearful of "stigmatizing migrants as potential rapists," has put women in harm's way. (Just "stay at arm's length from male strangers," advised Henriette Reker, the mayor of Cologne.)
Before "intersectionality" became the atrocity that it is today, would you see leaders dancing on egg shells instead of protecting women? Probably not. Between 2009-2011, Norway experienced a series of rapes that was attributed to immigrants who were clueless about Western values. So Norway responded. By 2011, it established voluntary educational programs that teach cultural norms to immigrants and seek to prevent sexual and other violence.
Even then, it was controversial to "suggest that all brown men were potential rapists." Forget common sense! Forget that these particular brown men come from an extremely conservative society that is largely segregated! Forget that they have never seen public displays of affection. Forget that (as per the New York Times) “people from some parts of the world have never seen a girl in a miniskirt, only in a burqa.”
Forget that, before any student ever does any kind of study abroad program -- even one that only lasts a week or two! -- they are inundated with orientations, information and workshops to teach them what to expect and how to stay safe in the new culture. (I studied abroad in Australia and Oxford -- two places full of white people who speak English, and I still benefitted from such orientations.) It is a bizarre double standard to say, "Yeah, it's fine to tell American students who are going to Morocco for two weeks how the culture works, how gender roles are different, and even how to dress in public -- but it's totally not okay to tell African/Arab people who are going to Europe for the rest of their life what to expect and how to transition more smoothly."
And, again, sure! It is important to look at feminism as it affects people of different races and sexualities. But right now, we have this weird situation where feminist values and "cultural tolerance" are in direct contradiction with one another. Paralyzed by fear of "intersectional" feminists and "political correctness," politicians and the media are pushing the conflict under a rug. Which, again, is toxic to everyone. It means measures are not being taken to fight misogyny and protect women. And it means that people who could truly benefit from a program like Norway's are, instead, left to their own devices.
There is no good reason programs like this should:
a) Be considered "controversial"
b) Not be happening everywhere.
Except that everyone's scared of looking "racist." Everyone's scared of not being "intersectional" enough. But I think I can pretty objectively say, if the New Year's rapes in Germany didn't shock you to your core -- if they didn't make you seriously think about the "intersection" of immigration and women's safety -- then you're not thinking. You're blindly following dangerous and counterproductive dogma.
The TL;DR is that "intersectionality" is out of control. It selectively promotes tolerance of some...while isolating and excluding those who don’t agree.
Why did feminism stop being about choice? When did it go from uniting a diverse group of people to support one cause… to forcing a diverse group to agree on every cause, or be condemned?
I’m not a real feminist, anymore, because I support freedom of speech on college campuses.
I’m not a real feminist anymore, because I haven’t decided how comfortable I am sharing a locker room with people with penises. That doesn’t make me a bigot – it makes me a modest girl who has had more than her fair share of encounters with dangerous creeps, and who is undecided about what is clearly a very complicated issue that affects women of different nationalities, religions and backgrounds differently.
I’m not a real feminist, anymore, because I eat burritos and Chinese food without fully understanding and appreciating the culture, history and colonization of these foods. (To make matters worse, I’ve also attended a few yoga classes. SO MUCH APPROPRIATION!)
You know who else isn’t a real feminist? Taylor Swift. In spite of being the most powerful woman in the music industry – in spite of philanthropic efforts, and in spite of standing firm in her belief that her talent, not her sexiness or sexuality, will bring her success. In spite of bombass quotes like these:
She’s not a real feminist because she’s “not real friends” with her background dancers – a very racially diverse group of talented women. The women of color who dance with her are, allegedly, “token minorities.”
And she’s not a real feminist because she failed to rewrite history in a recent music video set in Africa… and instead donated all her proceeds to the African Parks Foundation of America.
Writing this article, I've realized something. The problem isn't that I'm not "intersectional" enough. It's that this brand of "intersectionality" is the opposite of feminism. If you truly can't accept that some of my ideas are different from yours -- and that I don't necessarily have to agree that your pet cause "should" be at the forefront of feminism -- then you are the one who is not a real feminist.
As I wrote in The Top Happy Talent Posts of 2015... and What's Next in 2016:
"If I write something you disagree with... don't unfollow me! Don't unfriend me. Just leave a comment (unlike some publishers, I will not delete it unless you are spamming or bullying). OR! Contact me about writing your own guest post. I'm looking forward to growing as a civil, open-minded adult, and I hope you are, too."