A feminist, in my opinion, is a person who accepts two basic premises: (1) women and men ought to be treated equally and (2) women and men are not currently treated equally.
Without accepting the second premise, the first is an empty offering—a Hallmark card, an #AllLivesMatter. If there were no problem, there would be no need for feminists; if you don’t think there’s even a slight problem, you are the problem.
But here’s the thing about modern progressive feminism: It’s ALL about the second premise. It’s ONLY about defining the gap, identifying perceived problems, making sure women understand how and how often they’re getting the shaft.
It’s the patented Hillary Clinton strategy for mobilizing the female vote. How will women feel compelled to stand #withher unless they believe the sexist world is against her? It’s “the highest, hardest glass ceiling.” Remember “Shame on you, Barack Obama!”?
It’s not Hillary’s fault: This how-dare-they, don’t you see how they hate us, hangdog attitude has become the uniform of modern feminism. It’s no wonder celebrities—most recently Meryl Streep and Kim Kardashian, successful careerwomen both—actively reject the label ‘feminist.’ Who wants to hang out with the paranoid kid in the corner of the party who complains about everyone and everything?
I’m thinking about this for a reason: having recently made a stumbling start at writing again for this blog, I found myself searching Google News for anti-woman stories I could write about. And caught myself: I was literally searching for things to be angry at. Is that all my feminism is—an indignant reaction to something I’ve unearthed expressly to complain about?
I believe, of course, that feminism is more than that. But looking at other feminist bloggers, you wouldn’t think so. In fact, the ladies of my generation seem to have collectively turned the femosphere into one spiraling Georgia O’Keeffe vagina-flower of outrage, snark, and put-downs. We feminists have become that which we expressly reject as the definition of woman: no more than a reaction to man’s action, an echo not a choice, a supplemental hanger-on.
It’s not a feminism to be proud of. It’s even a little ridiculous, as the parody tumblr Everything’s a Problem makes brilliantly clear. It’s the reason there were so many feminist blog posts lamenting male responses to the all-female Ghostbusters movie but so few feminist blog posts about the (admittedly terrible-looking) movie itself. It’s the reason I know the name of a male astrophysicist who wore a much-maligned pinup shirt but don’t know the name of a single female astrophysicist.
This will sound awfully Bambie-esque, but: what about a brand of feminism that proactively explored and celebrated feminine success, that created new spaces and language for women to create, that—like my friend Michelle Minton does with Human Achievement Hour—promoted achievement and innovation instead of only amplifying perceived slights?
I really don’t want to say ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’—who of my generation doesn’t twitch at that saccharine motto forced on us by doe-eyed do-gooders and block-faced posters—but seriously—I can’t believe I’m saying it—maybe we should be the change, ladies. Because maybe—just maybe—it’s better to be the change than be a bitch?