I don’t always agree with everyone’s opinions about feminism. I also don’t agree with everyone’s opinions on politics, television or whether or not carrots are delicious (they are not). Hell, I don’t really agree with some of the ideas Past Me had about feminism.
But sometimes I feel like, by expressing those differing opinions, I’m not entering into a discussion but opening myself to ridicule. There’s been more than one occasion where a pitying look or condescending sentence have made me feel terrible about voicing a view and on a lot of those occasions, feminist ideals played a part. Some days the debate feels like a fire – if I get too close I’ll probably get burned by all that passion and anger. I’m probably better off to stand on the periphery and eat my marshmallow untoasted. Better not to risk it.
I shouldn’t be made to feel like a pretty shit feminist. I’m not. I don’t think there is such thing as “good” feminism and “bad” feminism. I think there are people who genuinely believe that we should be doing things differently. End list.
I don’t, to give a random example, really agree that the 12th Doctor should be a woman. I wouldn’t mind if it was but I happen to think there’s a decent amount of (valid) reasons why it shouldn’t be (more on this next week). That’s an opinion that I feel uncomfortable expressing. Despite the fact that it is based on my position within the Who community. Despite the fact that it’s informed by my (almost) degree in cultural studies and my many hours spent analysing the media we consume. Despite the hours and hours and hours of discussion and debate that are behind it.
I shouldn’t be made to feel that this opinion somehow undermines my position as a feminist. Often I feel I am somehow unqualified to join in the discussion. In reality having ovaries is qualification enough. Having ovaries, for that matter, is optional. Lots of guys feel like they can’t speak out about feminism and that’s just rubbish. It shouldn’t feel like there’s a line in the sand and you have to pass some kind of mysterious test in order to cross it and become a “proper” feminist. There aren’t any ideals I have to prescribe to (except, you know, equality and common sense). I don’t have to sign away my soul in order to think that “asking” to be raped is a fundamental contradiction in terms. But some days I have to convince myself that none of that is true.
Some days I have to be reminded that I’m allowed to call myself a feminist.
I think debate should be at the heart of modern feminism. If there are things wrong with our world, it makes sense that we should talk about them. And if that discussion ends up being a lot of people mostly agreeing with each other, then all the better. But we can’t shut down the views that don’t align with ours. This all seems so obviousas I type it out. I wonder why I feel the need to say it at all. But the simple fact is that I still don’t feel completely comfortable being vocal about feminist ideas. These thoughts still belong in August and the relative safety of Potentially Problematic Opinions Month.
Since last year a lot of my ideas have changed. I try more actively to consume content produced by women. Of the seventeen books I have read this year, five of them were by women and two more were a collaboration featuring a woman. That’s a decent percentage. I’m starting to really think about the way women are portrayed. Sexism is still everywhere and that makes me sad sometimes. But we aren’t going to change that by scaring would-be advocates into hiding.
I want my version of feminism to be informed by my world view and the specific life that I’m living. I don’t want to feel that I should confirm to a stereotype (I’m allergic to cats, guys) or that I should just sit down, shut up and let the “proper” feminists do the leg work. There’s no such thing as a proper feminist.
I want to be able to decide what feminism is to me.
Is one potentially problematic opinion not enough for you? Well you’re in luck because this year there’s a bunch of other great bloggers joining in. This week: Lizzy asks if feminism is a dirty word; Britt talks about why the Bechdel Test shouldn’t be the be all and end all and Jessica explains why not all “classic” literature is worth reading.

If you’d like to jump on board, we’d love to have you. More info here. For PPOM updates, head over to the Facebook page.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year