If you believe that women should have the same rights as men (and why anyone wouldn’t believe that is beyond me, since we’re not a subspecies), then you’re a feminist whether you admit it or not. I happen to be a feminist, loud and proud. But I’m willing to concede that the movement itself sometimes frustrates the hell out of me.
There is so much work to do that all sorts of side issues crop up that cause infighting and divisions. I think these wedge issues, while often very important in and of themselves, are counterproductive to the movement as a whole. We shouldn’t be fighting amongst ourselves. That gets us nowhere.
There are debates as to whether the transgender community should be included in the movement. There are debates as to whether men should be aggressively kept out of the movement or be allowed to participate. Some feminists treat stay at home mothers and sex workers as if they have sold out. Others feel that women of color have been marginalized in the movement for so long that they should be its only leaders now. We butt heads about abortion and the death penalty, too.
The newest wedge issue that I’ve noticed centers around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Many view Palestinian women as some of the most oppressed women in the world, and they feel that if we don’t support all oppressed women, we don’t support women, full stop. Others feel that this issue is simply an attempt to exclude and alienate Jewish women.
I’m not expressing any opinion about any of the above topics in this post. But I will say this: any issue that excludes people from sitting at the table, or prevents anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, religion, career choices, or what have you, from showing up and speaking out, has no place in my feminism. We all need to come together and empower each other, and we do that by setting aside our prejudices and differences and looking at the bigger picture.
I recently wrote about the Seattle Womxn’s March, and what a joyful experience it was. I still believe that. But I must say that there was one moment of tension that I didn’t appreciate. One side of the Palestinian-Israeli debate was out there with a bullhorn, chanting their opinion. Many of us supported that opinion, and in another march I might have chanted along with them. But I could also see that it was making a lot of women in the crowd extremely tense. I felt like the situation took away from the march as a whole. For a few minutes there, I didn’t want to be where I was. And that’s the last thing any movement needs.
Should we ignore these issues entirely? Definitely not. They are important. But it’s absurd to expect every single one of us to agree on every single thing. So rather than have these issues fracture the entire movement, we should focus on having a core movement, and then also break out in focus groups to support or oppose these related topics as well. Otherwise, we’re cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
I don’t know about you, but I happen to like my nose.
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