• Wed, Oct 26 2011

Being Horrible And Proud Of It Doesn’t Make You A Feminist Warrior

A friend of mine pointed out that she’d been seeing a lot of articles on lady-blogs with titles like “I Kidnapped A Child – WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING OF IT?”

I replied that if I encountered such an article, I would, indeed, probably make something of it, and maybe call Child Protective Services, if it seemed appropriate. I’d drop them an e-mail. With a link. Or tweet it to them! That’s what I’d do.

“But you can’t get upset with the article itself,” my friend replied.

“You never saw the The Face on the Milk Carton, huh?” I retorted.

“No,” she said, “but by opening the article you’re already agreeing to the premise that kidnapping children is cool.”

Or that cheating on your spouse is awesome, or that you fuck your neighbor’s dog because you’re a kook. Just title any article and follow it up with the phrase “SO WHAT?” In caps. So people know you’re feeling it and, particularly if you’re a female writer, it seems like a bundle of appreciative comments will follow you applauding you for being “true to yourself”. That’s not nearly as bothersome as the ones the tell you you’re “a feminist.”

Just so we’re clear, the definition of feminism is: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

There’s nothing in there about how “you should totally do stuff that would be deemed socially distasteful in a person of either gender, grrrrrlll-friend!”

Now, I would never suggest that horrible people can’t be feminists. They absolutely can be. But “doing something awful and feeling proud of it” is not the feminist secret handshake. If you want to write a post entitled “I got all my co-workers fired for things outside of their control, then went and volunteered. I tutor underprivileged women. We’re reading Machiavelli” I would say 1) you are both a horrible person and a terrific feminist, actively working to help other women advance socially, economically and, ultimately, politically 2) The contradictions in your nature would are startling and intriguing 3) Thanks for not ending that post with “SO WHAT?,” but the title is a little long.

But equating ‘being a bad person” with “being a feminist”, well, let’s try to keep those separate.

For obvious reasons.

And because the whole preemptive defense thing? That behavior was already mastered by every bro in college. You remember him, right? That guy who would do something in-arguably awful like crush a beer can on a puppy, and then say “yeah, I can be an asshole,” and then shrug his shoulders and say “whatever.” See how he beat you to the punch there? After which you were expected to laugh and have a good time! Because it was somehow understood that if he possessed a sense of self-awareness, the horrible nature of the deed was forgotten. You’d nod and he’d feel absolved. By continuing to hang out with that guy, you were accepting “this is someone who I have now given a free asshole pass to” and who will behave accordingly because “you guys know I’m an asshole!”

Which is why you should always reply “dude. You crushed a beer can on a puppy.” And then you should walk away because that’s not the kind of pact you’re going to enter into.

Except this is worse. That bro in college may have decided that you’d probably let him get away with bad behavior if he acknowledged it, because you valued people being “real,” which is another way of saying “behaving terribly.” Anyone who begins a statement “you want to make something of my French kissing your labradoodle!?” wants something different. If it was the equivalent, the title and tenor of the posts would be “I’m fucking my neighbor’s dog – I’m pretty much the worst! You guys know me, I’m a terrible person!” These people aren’t looking to be excused or absolved for their bad behavior, they’re looking to be applauded for it.

Don’t.

I realize that men are often permitted to be more selfish than women. But even that Bro with the beer can wouldn’t have said “I crush cans on dogs – high five!” He certainly wouldn’t have said “WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING OF IT?” because you’d look at him like he was a serial killer and report him to campus security.

It’s a bit of an odd commentary on society that men who did that would be perceived as legitimately threatening and scary, whereas women doing the same thing are perceived as “spunky!” Maybe that’s partly because of how closely with align virtues like nurturing and selflessness with female sex, so that when a woman does something horrible it seems like she’s deviating from the norm so wildly that’s just comic.

Which is insane. Don’t applaud people for behaving badly. Don’t giggle at their jokes and fetch them another beer can to see how Fido responds. Especially don’t do it just because someone has a vagina.

Being a decent person and being a feminist aren’t mutually exclusive – they actually quite often seem to work hand in hand. And, as we’ve established, horrible people can be feminists, too. But being proud of misdeeds doesn’t make you anything – except kind of a jerk.

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  • Jamie Peck

    I am proud of you for keeping this post entirely in the hypothetical. ;) And yeah, I feel like it’s sort of annoying that this even needed to be said.

  • Laura

    Your post kinda reminds me of the that song “Kill the Rock Stars” by Nofx. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to be a jerk. In a way, I feel like this applies to other “minorities” also. I expect to get flamed on that statement but oh well. What I mean is, I hate to see anyone, woman, glbt, ethnic, ect, think that because they’re part of a group that they see themselves as “outsiders” or rebellious and that they have to become a stereotype.

    • NotaFlame

      I see where you’re going with that and I’m not going to flame you. I think everyone, the “majority” included, can act rebellious or stereotypical when they feel judged or somehow threatened in a social environment. It’s actually a quite normal thing if you think about it.
      I also think that sometimes the majority notices certain stereotypes/rebellious behavior in “minorities” simply because of confirmation bias (whether or not they’re fully aware of it).
      I’m just not fully in agreement with “going out of your way to be a jerk because you see yourself as an outsider” because, while it applies to the puppy-crusher somewhat, I wouldn’t attribute that to all other social occurrences especially involving minorities. You probably aren’t doing that, though so don’t take this as an accusation!

  • Eve

    This. This x 1000000. Can we also add ” being the queen of TMI doesn’t make you a unique snowflake ?”

  • Suomy Nona

    I certainly hope that Laura doesn’t get flamed. That would mean that the point of the article was missed.

  • amber dawn

    wow…. I feel fortunate not to have even known that this was a thing.
    And I hope Xena’s on there as an example of “warrior” and not as an example of “horrible” right?

  • andrea dunlop

    The Cat Marnell school of feminism!

  • DC

    Is this the kind of debate feminists are having these days? No wonder the movement has lost steam.

  • MM

    YES YES YES. I am so tired of how feminism on the internet seems to be “agreeing with everything a woman does even if it’s stupid.” Similarly the term “slut-shaming” can be used to mean anything, including “how dare you criticize me for sleeping with my boyfriend’s roommate.”

  • student

    Finally!!! Thank you. Being a feminist (radical, second wave, etc) has nothing to do with being irresponsible, disrespectful or mean. IMHO, part of being a strong, independent woman is being kind,thoughtful, responsible and hard-working.

    • MR

      Over the years, I have reported to and later worked with a lot of heavyweight professional women (all feminists) who meet your definintion. Though I would move hard-working and responsible to the front of those four adjectives you’re using. All these women I’m speaking of have changed the world for the better in some way.