Feminism 101

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The Feminism 101 We Need, says Sophie Setter Jerrome, needs to really mean #yesALLwomen.

The popularity of feminism amongst young people is great. But you know what’s less great? Exclusionary feminism that sees young women replicate the divisions that feminism’s been working with since before our Grandma’s were born. 0/10, no stars, would not recommend to a friend.

What we need is a Feminism 101 that’s about appreciating each other’s differences. A handy guide to inclusion and refusing to compromise for the sake of people who resist change.

What we need is a Feminism 101 that’s about appreciating each other’s differences

So with that in mind, I’d like to present Sophie’s Intersectional Feminism 101: a message from one young feminist still figuring it out to all the others in the same boat.

1.Let’s put an end to this no-homo branch of feminism.

Ladies: please stop acting as though lesbians (and any women who aren’t 100% heterosexual for that matter) are an embarrassing secret that the movement needs to shove into the proverbial closet to prove that “we’re not all a bunch of hairy lesbians!”

I get that the whole ‘angry, man-hating lesbian’ trope is intimidating, and it’s something we as young women are taught to be afraid of being accused of, but do you know why that stereotype exists? Because it scares people to see a woman whose sexuality doesn’t centre entirely around men.

But change is supposed to scare the people who are comfortable with the status quo, so grab your Halloween masks and your girlfriend and get scaring!

On that note: 2. Feminism should freak you out.

Let’s collectively pledge to stop wasting column inches reassuring the quivering masses that, yes, feminists can still shave and get married and are generally not bridge-dwelling trolls who will die alone, never knowing the sweet caress of a pink Gillette razor.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with dresses, make-up and wanting to settle down with Prince Charming, but has society ever told us that there is? Does constantly reminding us that these decisions are A-OK in this new brand of ‘Sexy-Feminism’ actually do anything at all for gender equality?

Let’s try something revolutionary by, instead of throwing non-gender conforming individuals under the bus, reminding each other that it doesn’t matter what other people think of us, a message we actually might not have heard before.

How can young trans women join the feminist movement when we constantly erase their identities through both casual cissexism and outright transphobia?

3. It’s time to include trans women.

How can young trans women join the feminist movement when we constantly erase their identities through both casual cissexism and outright transphobia?

When you cut out trans women from feminist conversations, you don’t only tell young trans girls that feminism isn’t for them, you silence some of the greatest contemporary feminist voices we have. A feminism that doesn’t make way for the ever-flawless Janet Mock and Laverne Cox is not a feminism any of us should want a part in.

So next time you want to write a link-bait article about bra fittings and vaginas that is sooo relatable, maybe just somewhere in there you could point out to your readership that your understanding of gender/sex is fatally flawed and also wrong. That’s all I ask.

Cissexism, by the way, refers to the erasure of identities where an individual’s experience of their gender does not match with the sex they were assigned at birth. Let’s start teaching people THAT in conversations about feminism, and remind the world to stop acting like vagina+boobs=woman, or penis=man.

Women of colour are routinely forced to take a back seat in feminism

4. Stop pretending race doesn’t matter.

Fellow white girls, before spouting about your feminist-darling Caitlin Moran, or declaring that it is our duty as white women to spread oh-so-enlightened Western culture around the world, consider this: don’t.

Women of colour are routinely forced to take a back seat in feminism, and when our ‘feminist icons’ are the same ones declaring they ‘literally couldn’t give a shit’ about lack of representation of non-white women, something needs to change.

Sometimes, white people (such as myself) need to just pipe down. Maybe carry a helpful ‘shhhh-ing’ diagram just to make it completely clear. You can use it on your white friends, or as a handy reminder to yourself to just button it once in a while and let someone else have a voice. You’re welcome!

I would also strongly recommend Rife Magazine journalist Adibah Iqbal’s excellent ‘Seven Things Muslim Women Are Tired of Hearing’ for some further insights into how we need to give shutting up a try.

So that’s my advice. This isn’t just about ‘divisions in the movement’, it’s about acknowledging the importance of every single one of us. ‘Cause maybe we’re not all hairy, or queer, or disabled, or a woman of colour, or trans, but if some of us are, then that should be enough to make our story matter. That’s the real message a Feminism 101 should get across.

That, and maybe those shhhh-ing diagrams because I think I might be onto to something there.

Agree with Sophie? Disagree? Tell us what you think… @rifemag

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