In praise of wussy feminists

Hey, sisterhood! Look at me! Last week I was a humourless feminist with PMS but this week I’ve decided it’s a whole new me. I’m going radical. So radical, in fact, that I’ve gone full circle and ended up being the wussiest feminist in the whole of wussdom.

I’m worse than Natasha Walter, worse even than Ellie Levenson. Honestly, I am as totally non-hardcore as they come. And in my new, wussy, softcore feminist guise, I would like to wussily propose one thing: I AM FUCKING SICK OF FEMINISTS WHO GET MORE RADICAL THAN THOU. WHY NOT GIVE US ALL A FUCKING BREAK?

Let me be clear about this. I am not saying that one type of feminist is “better” than another. Or than to be an effective feminist, it’s probably best not to get too shrill and ranty and all those other things uppity women are meant to be (and actually never are). I think it’s good to be furious about an awful lot of things. But not about other feminists apparently not being as hard or knowledgeable or clever as you. For verily, therein lies the route to arrogant, hypocritical tosserdom.

For sure, wussy feminists used to piss me off. To a certain extent they still do. I cannot have been the only person banging her head on the table when, just as Living Dolls was published, Natasha Walter admitted that yeah, she may have been a little naive with what she wrote in The New Feminism. As though a million other feminists didn’t point that out to her at the time. For chrissakes, Natasha! There’s being slow on the uptake and being completely unconscious for the past decade. But still, Living Dolls makes some reasonable points. And you can buy it in WH Smiths. Things could be worse.

This isn’t one of those posts where’s it’s announced that hey, it’s okay to be a feminist and shave your legs and wear lipstick and suck cock and blah blah blah. I fucking hate all that, not least because it always seems to me that what’s being said is that since it’s okay, it is in fact what you should do. Come on, feminists! Haven’t you realised that being subjugated is now acceptable! The Spice Girls said so! I don’t have truck with any of that (much as I like the idea of “having truck”, whatever that means). There are in fact feminists who are obsessed with makeup but are also aware that it’s all frivolous crap (not saying any names. Oh, okay then: me, now).

The thing that really gets to me, though, is it being decreed that others have not proved their feminist mettle. And, in particular, that women who make compromises with their feminism – those who might manipulate the light in which it’s seen, depending on the audience – are crap feminists who can fuck off. No, they’re not. They’re human beings negotiating the world. Often they’re just trying to get things done (and no, we’re not thinking of Louise Mensch here. Just of people who need to get a foot in the door somewhere, anywhere, and won’t get it if they behave like a PhD student who has years to sit around just thinking clever thoughts about how no one should be allowed to make compromises. Not saying any names. Oh, okay then: me, ten years ago).

Instinctively, I bristle at the suggestion that it’s not the person who shouts the loudest who gets the most things done. For instance, whenever it’s been argued that the suffragists were more effective than the suffragettes in winning the vote, I’ve thought “no, fuck off! That’s just one massive ‘calm down, dear’ from the historical establishment”. To be honest, I think that still. I think it’s a total lie to suggest that if only women played their cards right and raised grievances through the correct channels, they’d be allowed to join the club. That’s just bollocks. But I think we need a mixture of voices. Including those of women who’ve got to where they are today by positioning themselves as the friendly, made-up, highly compromised face of feminism (again, not saying any names. Oh, okay then: me, in ten years’ time, when I’m famous and stuff and blow the lid on the whole patriarchal conspiracy. I might be dressed like Theresa May, but there’s the one thing I’ve got more of, and that’s my miiiiiiiiiiiind. Oh yes, come the feminist revolution, it will be like the Misshapes video, only with me as Jarvis Cocker).

Until then, though, when I’ve wheedled my way to a position of power, crushing the rad fems underfoot with my chocolate stilettos, there is one thing I need to clarify, though. If you grow your pubes really really long, but then plait them and add Disney Princess hair grips – what kind of a feminist are you then? (not saying any names, though)

2 thoughts on “In praise of wussy feminists

  1. I read this when it went up the other day, but have come back tonight because I seem to have spent more time than is wise reading sneers and mockery and pretend-concerned head-shaking disappointment, about feminists by other feminists.

    One thing I read tonight was an old blog post/comment thread (with the post being moderately shitty, but the comments being the most depressing part) about how a particular, prominent feminist blogger has lost it, crumbled, stopped having anything to offer, and how sad it is because she used to be great and let’s all celebrate her past triumphs! But also enumerate the ways in which she is now worthless! Confused, surrounded by sycophants, and a panderer to so-called funfems, fence-sitters and transjacktivists.

    It was essentially a whole thread of people pretending to be filled with regret about how this once-brilliant advocate was now Dead To Them, but actually just kind of having an awesome time sticking the boot in: not only to her, by going on about how far she’d fallen, but to all the other deluded dupes of the patriarchy out there who align with the same views that apparently ruined her. It made uncomfortable reading, and not just because I am aware that most of the epithets that were so gleefully being thrown around would definitely, if I was on the radar of any of those people, be applied to me too (I mean the funfem stuff, etc.).

    I should probably make it clear that the blog I was looking at – on which all this stuff was being said – is that of a person who disagreed with me on a comment thread on someone else’s blog very recently. So if she should happen upon this, though I doubt she will, it will probably seem as if it’s clearly sour grapes prompting me to grumble about something on her blog.

    All I can say is: however it looks, it isn’t that, it’s an actual coincidence. I’m not normally given to snarking behind the backs of people who challenge my opinions. I only ended up on her site tonight because I’d been Googling the blog title of the other woman – the one getting the kicking I’ve described above, let’s call her Mary Bloggins – plus “criticism”. I like Mary Bloggins’ writing a lot and I tell people about her a lot, but I am also aware that she is kind of polarizing, and I’d seen what struck me as more legitimate criticism of her on different grounds elsewhere: mainly to do with her being unable, sometimes, to see past her own privilege, as regards race and education and stuff. That is an issue I also struggle with (who doesn’t?), so I was curious about the ways in which it was being called out and figured if I read about it tonight, I might learn something. And I did. But I was also left with such a bad taste in my mouth at the notion that people were so ready, despite professing their earlier admiration for her, to pile in and condemn her so harshly for a shift in thinking that had moved her away from what they considered an acceptably radical position.

    And also, of course, to condemn in passing various other generic types of folk they didn’t like. There was some blatantly hateful stuff on there about “men in dresses claiming to be women because they got a new hole”.

    I dunno. I’ve gone on at crazy length about this, and yet, it was only one of several things I read this evening that left me with a list in my head of things I do that must make me a crappy, not-good-enough feminist in the eyes of a LOT more people than I’d previously realized. Some of them came from the post I’ve just told you about, but some actually came from the other blog, the one I like so much *weeps*. However much reading the mockery of these markers of feminist inadequacy pissed me off, in many instances there was a fair point behind it that I didn’t feel I could brush off.

    I even had a brief moment, with all the “Call yourself a REAL feminist, eh? Because if you don’t measure up you are PART OF THE PROBLEM” voices circling in my head, of thinking “is there any point in mentioning feminism on my blog at all? Maybe I should just not do that at all because I don’t have the badges”. Then I came to my senses. Re-reading your post has helped, so cheers for that. I might also need a glass of wine and a decent night’s sleep.

    1. You sound like an excellent feminist to me. And I am, of course, the arbiter of who is and isn’t a good feminist. I’m like that hat in Harry Potter, but for feminist factions…

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