This is the second in a series of (three to four) short articles on the types of “allies” to marginalized groups that people will meet throughout their Social Justice journey through day-to-day life. It is meant to be semi-satirical. This article will focus on feminist “allies”, the previous was LGBTQIA+ “allies,” and the next will be anti-racist “allies.” If there are any others anyone wants to see–let me know!
As if it still needs to be stated, Feminism is not the raging battle against men, the violent fight for feminine superiority that seeks only to undermine masculinity, to castrate and humiliate cis men. Feminism is the battle against dominant society for equality, for equity, for everyone.
There are lots of people who don’t identify with the term feminist for some legit reasons. One example is women of color who identify as “Womanists.” Womanism is by and for women of color who have been traditionally excluded by mainstream (“white”) feminism; womanism is more or less parallel to feminism, and there’s almost a complete overlapping of views and goals. Another example is trans men who have socially transitioned and prefer to step out of the spotlight and allow women and women-identified people to be the center of the conversation while still making active attempts to raise up intersectional feminism as the way to go and amplifying the voices of intersectional feminism. And yet there is a multitude of people and groups who claim to be solid feminist allies, use our rhetoric, misappropriate our goals but are false allies at best. The following are only a few examples of the many types of faux-feminist allies.
The I’m a Feminist, but Not The Bra-Burning Kind ally:
Arguments condemning feminists frequently includes a reference to this so-called bra burning incident. Of course, these faux-feminists and allies don’t note that this incident was not a feminist demonstration. It was a set-up by a misogynistic radio shock-jock staged directly across the street from a feminist demonstration; models were hired to take off their bras, throw them in a trash can, and light them on fire. And, if it counts, only three bras were burned. Yet it’s a famous staple moment in anti-feminist history (considering it was staged by an anti-feminist). “Bra Burning” is coded language for “an angry at men.” And being angry is the antitheses of feminist respectability politics; if we don’t educate you calmly if we get emotional, how are we supposed to get our point across? Nobody listens to a raving bitch, right?
I actually mentioned this to someone in school the other day. One girl mentioned writing a paper on feminist politics and mentioned that she would just make her entire paper say “[insert name of fellow student] because she’s totally, like, feminism embodied.” Said student then jumped in and made sure that I (of all people!) knew that she “is a feminist, but not the angry bra-burning kind.” I kindly told her the above-stated reality of the infamous bra burning, and the reply I received was “yeah. Well.” You go, girl. Fight that system.
The I’m Not a Feminist, I’m an Equalist ally:
You’re not a feminist? Oh. Well, what are you? See, Feminism is the radical belief that women are, like, people. It fights for gender equity all around. The proponents of “Equalism” argue that feminism is a misleading name because it has the prefix “fem-.” If we really believed in equality, we wouldn’t have a prefix that excludes other groups.
A calm explanation of the details, reasoning, and nuance of feminism–including the word itself–frequently results in a “see! I told you so!” cyclical conversation. By saying “equalist” cannot be equal because of many reasons, many details, many nuances, that the language used can be used as a tool of oppression, we’re accused of being exclusionary, being mean angry lady-pigs. How dare we police language? How dare we tell someone they are in the wrong?
The Pedestal Placer ally:
The faux-allies who place women on a pedestal, or claim to, are not feminists and are not allies. Firstly, feminism fights for the equality of everyone. In the search for equity the goal is for nobody to be on top; leveling the playing field to reach that involves incorporating multitudes of oppressed people, uniting and standing in solidarity with them—and not all of them are women.
Feminine women are seen by the pedestal placer as delicate flowers with certain needs that differ from men due to genetic differences. For example, inherent maternal instincts, or emotional reasoning. The argument is that these are good things, to be nurtured and that they are physically, genetically, inherent. So, in using this rhetoric, these “allies” are forcing roles upon women and discrediting women who do not fit these ideas. Pro-pedestal allies claim things like job discrimination is an expression of feminism because women are more inclined to stay at home and not being allowed as many work hours etc. allows them to spend more time being delicate flowers and vacuuming the house in wait of their husband getting home. Also, heteronormative much? Yikes!
The Let’s Go Back to My Place ally:
Sex-positive feminism is actually great. It’s multi-layered, and involves a lot of critical thought. To be sex-positive is to promote everyone’s bodily autonomy while examining the structures that condemn bodily autonomy and why society is threatened by a woman who expresses her sexual agency. It does not mean “sex all the time; with everyone, forever; all day, er’y day.” (In fact, many sex-positive feminists are on the asexual spectrum. Supporting a thing doesn’t mean you have to practice the thing; for example, I’ve never practiced BDSM—though I’m intrigued—but I 100% support people who dig it.)
Men who use sex-positive feminist allied rhetoric in order to attempt to get into the pants of sex-posi feminists are not allies, and are not feminists. Using a movement’s rhetoric to get someone into bed isn’t being sex-positive, its being sneaky and coercive. Of course, there are plenty of good dudes out there who are sex-positive feminists while respecting the right of a sex-positive feminist or sex-positive feminist ally to say no. That’s part of, y’ know, respecting the sexual agency and bodily autonomy of an individual.
False allies of all kinds are something we’ll encounter even in safe-spaces. A lot of the time they can seem legit at first. But once they get called out? Ally no more! What’s your experience with faux-feminist allies?