“I love feminists…not.”
She tips her head back as she runs her perfectly manicured fingers through her shoulder-length blonde hair, laughing as if her boyfriend’s words were novel and hilarious instead of status quo.
“I don’t hate feminists,” she adds, eyes sparkling in the Cuban moonlight. “I hate what feminism has become, you know?”
“Yes!” I want to scream. I want to know her least favorite part of the movement and how we can get better. Is it how we tend to ignore issues that don’t matter to upper-class white women? Is it how we don’t believe male victims of rape? Is it how we infantilize sex workers? Is it the “womyn-born-womyn” position of radical feminism that is so dangerous to our trans sisters, especially black trans women?
“It’s just like, not equality anymore. Like why should you get payed more than a man?”
I sigh. Why do I ever open my mouth?
Feminism framed as men’s oppression isn’t the newest, or most efficient, silencing tactic I’ve faced, but it’s definitely my least favorite. Maybe it’s the holier-than-thou assurance that other people understand a movement I’ve passionately thrown myself into since, well, the day I was born better than I do. Maybe it’s the “well that’s my opinion!” accusation of censorship I get when I attempt to explain that they, in fact, have no idea what they’re talking about. After all, freedom of speech protects us from getting thrown into jail for our opinions, not from being told that what we think is absurd.
Mostly, I think, I’m sick of how the excuse to be unsupportive of marginalized people around the world and a movement that has historically fought for their rights keeps mutating instead of dying out. In the age of the Internet, accusations of bra-burning (a historically inaccurate phenomenon) and emasculation of men into submissive and inferior roles are, to be perfectly honest, absolute bullshit.
From political cartoons depicting suffragettes as evil overlords who force their husbands into servility by asking to be part of the democratic process to the modern-day “but aren’t you going too far?,” this favorite tired excuse does literally nothing to further any cause except for shutting women up. It doesn’t help men escape harmful gender roles, make the streets safer for women at night, and it sure as hell doesn’t work for creating an environment in which actual criticisms of the feminist movement can be improved on. It has one real meaning: shut up. We don’t want to hear what you have to say.
I’m ashamed to say in this situation, and in many others, I did give in and I did shut up. I don’t know if there will ever be a day where I’ll be comfortable enough with myself and my opinions to look someone trying to silence me straight in the face and tell them to shut up themselves, but I do know this: I will never stop fighting for the women who fought for me. I will never stop fighting for a better tomorrow. Most importantly, I’ll never stop fighting for a better feminism.