My appearance does not determine my level of feminist commitment. Neither do my choices to or not to marry or my sexual orientation. Or whether or not i like porn. Guess what? I can vote for whoever the fuck I want and still identify as a feminist...
...I identify with feminism because of its commitment to social, political, and economic equality for all people. Regarding women specifically, my feminism allows me to: be independent, while depending on those I love; be flirty and "girly" whenever I want, without it compromising how people view my intelligence or sexual freedom; exercise, for me, for my body, for my health and strength, not to fit into conventional beauty; stand firm for what I believe in, and not be called too masculine or bitchy. My feminism does not discount the differences between men and women, but strongly believes that these differences are either a product of, or exaggerated by, socialization. My feminism values men because it values equality. My feminism is anti oppression. It seeks to end the discrimination of people on the basis of sex, age, race, social class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Oh, and my feminism is always changing, because like the waves of change flow through society and politics, feminism needs to be fluid to reflect the needs of the world.
Feminism is a way of engaging with the world and a lens through which to process it, it's the belief that women deserve equal consideration and rights as human beings. That's it. There's no membership card or secret handshake, no "10-step guide to removing the patriarchy" to follow, no rules. Well, except maybe one: if you engage in behaviour that shames, denigrates or otherwise attacks any woman (or group of women) for her appearance, job or lifestyle, you are not acting like a feminist. In fact, you're acting like an asshole. You might still be a feminist (remember, there's no card to revoke). After all, some feminists are assholes, just like some people are assholes. Nobody is going to kick you out of the movement (some, like Ren, may leave in protest, because it's a label that you get to choose to apply to yourself or not).
But here's the thing: you're not helping.
In fact, all you're doing is perpetuating a double-standard that has been around for centuries and is part and parcel of that patriarchy thing you hate so much. The virgin/whore, good girl/bad girl split isn't exactly a new one...
Sarah: (in comments)
But you know, if you supposedly “know” that you shouldn’t judge women for how they look, here’s an idea: don’t do it. Don’t come here and do it to me.
...I used to pass judgments on people all the time. The way I broke myself of it? I started saying “That person’s AWESOME” instead of “weird/trashy/whatever” judgment I was about to pass. It made me stop and think, yeah, that person is awesome.
And that’s the kind of sentiment I want floating ’round my feminism.
I’m just going to say that if you look at us closely, the human race can be quite creepy. Feminists are no different. We’re not gentle unicorns with ribbons in our luxurious manes, treading softly on rainbows.
“But Natalia!” You’re saying. “Not unicorns? You’re so dour.” Well yes, this is rather dour. But it also helps me be a better feminist, or so I’ve decided.
My feminism is not a superhero costume. And it cannot be summed up with politics alone. Rather, it’s part of the way in which I understand and relate to my own humanity, and the humanity of all the women I know.
...So I feel all noble and aggrieved and slightly martyr-like when I treat others the way I want to be treated, and said others turn around and treat me the way I don’t like at all. Perhaps if I was a more spiritual person, I’d see some cosmic messages in all of this, and pipe music would issue forth from the skies, and I’d sit down and write a self-help book and earn millions. As it stands, I just get ticked off.
And that’s another part of the journey of being a feminist human being - you enjoy the anger of others, and others enjoy your anger.
For me, feminism is about having the freedom to choose. An important aspect of this involves trusting women's judgement. If a woman makes an informed choice she should not be judged by that choice. Sometimes I'm made to feel like that's quite a crazy, radical thing to say! But I learned that not from looking at sex work but from women in Christian religious movements. Some women I've talked to throughout the time I've being studying new religious movements (2001 - present) talked of oppression not from the patriarchal hierarchy in which many of these NRMs operate but from wider society. One of the major oppressive presences in these women's lives is Feminism. I've spoken at length to many women in a variety of NRMs and read many stories too; they tend to avoid feminist literature not because they're unintelligent or incapable of engaging with the material that challenges them but because they're judged so harshly by feminist writers.
I spoke once with a woman once about written material that challenged her beliefs. She had spoken previously of her refusal to read newspaper and magazine articles against her religious movement, but spoke at length about Modern Theology. We found that we both enjoyed Karl Barth, and she explained a lot that had gone completely over my head. She spoke too about liking to look at mystical literature and early Christian theology. In short, she was incredibly knowledgeable and well-informed. This isn't terribly uncommon...
...To assume women in NRMs aren't terribly bright is, to me, absolutely ridiculous. It would be laughable had I not known that these women's colleagues and neighbours rather looked down on them and didn't bother them because they were "those religious nuts", assuming they are incapable of talking about anything other than their religion. For the women, they have this and the feminist literature against them.
These women have made an informed choice. Women do that - women make informed choices to do things you wouldn't want to do. If you don't trust women's ability to make an informed decision when the woman is free to make that decision, well, that makes me think you don't really think very highly of women. Which brings us very neatly to sex work.
**and from an expat who renounces the "f word" for herself:
Now look at them! Look at them, tribe womyn! None of them are rolling in the money, contrary to popular belief. None of them are being paid off by the Porn Overlords, academia, Sugar Daddies, or anyone else, yet there they are in Chicago at the DA:PBS event! Two of them wrapped up in bandages, the other dealing with her own medical problems and an odd curse of bad luck that seems to fall upon her anytime she sets foot in Chicago. All of them, gasp, are dirty, dirty, horrible sex worker rights activists, involved in various ways with SWOP and other organizations. All of them have faced strife: from loosing everything to the federal government, to death threats, to daily verbal and emotional abuse, physical abuse, to real life and work related chaos and stress, physical pain, stalking, slander, outing, lies and countless other charming things thrown at them by the law, by feminists, by men and women alike, yet there they are…smiling. Ready, willing and able to do what they came to Chicago to do, what we all came to Chicago to do: Make some kind of difference.
So let me tell you about Robyn & Jill.
The truth about Robyn & Jill, that is.
Jill B is one of the funniest (in that sharp, rather sarcastic way I love) people I’ve ever known. She’s been a victim, a survivor, a motivator, an ally, a mentor, a leader, an educator, an inspiration. A sex worker, a feminist, a harm reduction advocate, and yep, a fellow ex-pat. She loves 24 as much as I do. She has a dog. She’s had my back any and every time I’ve needed it. She’s patiently engaged people who do nothing but insult, dehumanize, and trash her. She’s really tall and has a great laugh. She’s a hell of a lot of fun to be on the radio with. She’s smart, she’s articulate and thoughtful and well informed. She’s patient, brave, and strong as hell. She’s amazingly altruistic, and always wants to do the best thing for all involved. I respect Jill a whole hell of a lot, and really, I can’t say enough good things about her. One of the main things that sucked about this event? Jill couldn’t, due to work and such, be there the whole time!
Robyn Few, well, this is the first time I’ve ever met Robyn face to face, and let me tell you…the woman is a powerhouse. She’s passionate, boisterous, proud, and she doesn’t take shit from anyone…all qualities I admire immensely. She’s also incredibly warm, friendly, inspirational, and she’s got an amazing laugh too. She always seems to have a smile on her face, even after all she’s been through. Whore Pride? Robyn has it to spare. When life kicks her, she turns around, grins, and makes a difference somehow, somewhere, for someone. I came back to the hotel on Thursday night, and Robyn was out front, talking to four Chicago Police Officers about decriminalization and sex workers rights. And the cops were nodding! She passed the torch of educating the police on sex work to me so she could go to bed*, ...One of the other main things that sucked about this event? Robyn had to leave early for chemo.
In fact, you know what? People like Jill & Robyn almost make me believe in sisterhood!
...And you know, when I look at some of this other shit, for a second, I do think maybe they are just jealous. Not because of looks, or money, or power, or any of that shit, but because of solid, true allies and sisters like these.