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© 2015 mo'adore | Content and design by Morag Lee | Powered by Blogger.

I prefer my International Women's Day served radical, but cutesy Instagrams are nice

Illustration by Camila Rosa

Today is International Women's Day. Which you would think would be my favourite day of the year. But, meh. Can take or leave it.

I'm going to sound like an anti-capitalist hag (which I am) but it's commercialised and lost a lot of its original feminist meaning.

According to Wikipedia:

"After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations."

Today I've seen a lot of memes, inspirational quotes, and people laughing at Richard Herring. A lot of it is fluffy. A lot of it is posted by brands looking for more engagement on social media. A lot of it is not really inciting any actual change or recognising the big fight we still have on our hands.

I am 100% a believer that fluffy pop-culture feminism has its place. It's great at catching people's attention and creates a non-threatening introduction to social justice. Just as much as you shouldn't teach someone to read with a copy of Wuthering Heights, when you're introducing someone to left-wing politics you start with something like fairer taxes, or free higher education. You probably shouldn't storm in there with "most crime is created by inequality and prison is shit, sex work is real work, meat is murder, white people shouldn't wear dreads, and if you're a white, straight, male you probably have done some oppressive shit in your time. Oh, and I'm going to spit on you because you don't know what demisexual or polyamorous means".

That would scare people, and you don't change people's mind by making them feel stupid or defensive.

I might be a pure radical lefty now, but I started out a centrist. I even voted Liberal Democrats once upon a time ahahahahahahahah. Oh, my.

But I grew and learned and I'm here. Heck, I accept that I probably still have blind spots. And that's why I read about 5 non-fiction books a month trying to unlearn oppressive shit.

While fluffy feminism is a great introduction, that's where its usefulness ends. If we want to really pull down the shackles and dismantle patriarchy, we have to get radical. That means education, organisation, and tackling all kinds of oppression (because they interlinked).

One of my favourite internet people Sophie worded it perfectly:

Fluffy pop-culture feminism rarely covers any issue that doesn't relate to white, middle-class, heterosexual, thin, monogamous, cis-gendered women. Not saying that issues such as childcare, short skirts, women in sport, or leadership opportunities for university educated women aren't important - but they only scratch the surface and already receive a lot of airtime.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: if your social justice activism only focuses on issues that affect you, then you're doing it wrong (read my review of Hot Feminist, where I originally touched upon this).

That means giving a shit about issues that might affect lots of other women but not yourself. If we want the men to take our issues seriously (because every social justice movement needs allies with privilege) then we need to take the issues that affect under-represented groups of women seriously. Read a memoir by a woman of colour. Ask people their pronouns instead of assuming. Remember that bisexuals exist. Respect someone's right to be fat. Donate money to a charity that supports sex work. Stop judging young mums. Share an article by a disabled woman. Say fuck you to capitalism.

Sharing a cutesy quote on Instagram about girls supporting girls isn't really doing anything.

I'm a big fan of the saying "the personal is political" and this is my favourite analysis of its meaning is (also from Wikipedia):

"The personal reflects the political status quo (with the implication that the personal should be examined to provide insight into the political); the personal serves the political status quo; one can make personal choices in response to or protest against the political status quo; ... one's personal choices reveal or reflect one's personal politics; one should make personal choices that are consistent with one's personal politics; personal life and personal politics are indistinguishable."

To me, social justice slips into every area of my life. From always voting for a left-wing party. To only being friends with people who share my political values. To boycotting beauty brands that test on animals. To my commitment to using non-violent communication in my personal relationships. Even just being nice to waiting staff. And definitely my decision to be vulnerable on the internet and share my stories.

All while also recognising that some of these decisions can only be made thanks to my privilege as a middle-class, white, university-educated, cis-gendered woman.

A big part of finding your own place in the social justice movement is recognising your own privilege and knowing when to sit the fuck down. Supporting trans women does not means speaking over the top of trans women. It means listening to their stories, amplifying their voices, and not using slurs (and probably other stuff too, I'm not an expert). You'll never see me write a blog on trans issues (or any issue that doesn't affect me) because what the fuck do I know about trans issues? I'd just be another cis-gendered woman clogging up the conversation.

And it means challenging yourself. This is the part where a lot of people get defensive. Changing the world does not mean shouting about how shit everyone else is and acting like your shit don't stink. We've all been subjected to the same social conditioning, albeit some more than others, so we hold oppressive views and have done oppressive stuff. I've dressed up as a Native American for Halloween, I used to judge fat people, and I got weirdly angry about teen mums. I have zero time for social justice warriors who can't admit their own problematic bullshit. It's political Nice Guy Syndrome.

I became the woke bitch I am through years of active unlearning, reading a fuck ton of feminist non-fiction, and calling out my own bullshit.

In other words: I wasn't born this way, baby.

I know this blog won't win me many party invites. But I'm not here for those anyway. It's the revolution I want an invitation to. Or I'll just turn up. But, what I know is that the path to the revolution isn't lined by pink glitter and corporate slogans of female empowerment. It's dirty, and it's uncomfortable. It might make you cry and shake with anger. But I think there's an Instagram quote somewhere that a rainbow only shines after rain?! Something like that.

Today, on International Women's Day do one thing to initiate radical change - whether it's within yourself or for the wider world. The patriarchy won't dismantle itself, no matter how many cutesy Instagram quotes you share.

Peace x
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