So the title of this post is inspired by bell hooks’s Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics. The thesis of hooks’s book is pretty simple really — it’s an excellent introduction to feminist politics that demonstrates feminism is for everybody. Feminism benefits all people, despite what anti-feminists would have people believe. I discovered a new feminist campaign from Duke via tumblr today — it’s called “Who Needs Feminism?” and the point is incredibly similar to hook’s point. Despite the serious oppressions and inequities of the world in which we live — where we have to debate funding for contraceptives, 1 in 3 women are the victims of violence worldwide, women are not paid equally to men, it took a month for charges to be brought against George Zimmerman – we still need to prove the merits of feminism. And this campaign is doing just that, in an amazing way.
I love the rhetorical use of the word “need” — feminism is not just a want, it’s not about selfish women wanting to be better than men, or whatever — it’s a need. It is a necessity for oppressed people so that we have the tools and language to fight against the oppression we face daily, whether it is sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, ageism, class oppression, and so on. Feminism today must be intersectional. Feminism today must focus on the way different systems of oppression interact and reinforce each other. We cannot afford to ignore interlocking systems of oppression the way feminism of the past often did, whether it was disallowing African-American women from marching for suffrage rights (and the exclusion of Black women continued throughout feminist history), or Betty Friedan referring to gay and lesbian individuals in the feminist movement as the “lavender menace.” If feminism is going to make an impact, and fulfill its own goals and intentions, it absolutely cannot ignore intersectionality like past feminists did.
I love the emphasis this campaign is putting on intersectionalities, and the diversity of photos and individuals. And I love that I can relate to many of the reasons why the individuals who have participated say they need feminism:
“I want my sister to walk at night without fear.” “Because I know I am not the only person struggling to survive their gender.” “Because I contribute to rape culture… without knowing it.” “Because people still think jokes about RAPING someone are funny.”
I think about feminism pretty much daily. And I don’t often forget why I need it, but I do forget the power of listing these issues. Yesterday, FemOnFire wrote about journaling and keeping a record of instances where she felt uncomfortable because she was a woman. And I agree with her, that writing like this, for women and other oppressed people, is an absolute necessity. We can be so powerful when we use our voices like this. So why do I need feminism?
Because I am a secondary survivor of sexual assault, for several people who are close to me. Because I have to turn my keys into a weapon when I go outside at night. Because I deserve to be paid equally to men for the work that I do. Because I should have the full rights to my body. Because no one should try to infringe on those rights. Because I am a woman. Because all people need access to quality, affordable healthcare. Because I suffer from chronic migraines, which women are disproportionately likely to have. Because I’m even afraid of going outside in the daylight, at times. Because I want to be represented in media, and I want people of color to be well-represented in the media. Because I want queer people to be well represented in the media. Because I have been told I can’t do certain things because I’m a girl.
Because I could go on listing reasons like that forever.
And because people feel the need to deface these fliers with sexist bullshit.
We need feminism because people still think that “make me a sandwich jokes are funny.” People thought they were acceptable to yell at a legitimate presidential candidate. But things like this aren’t really “jokes” when people actually believe that women should be relegated to the kitchen making sandwiches, out of the public sphere, out of politics, and the workforce, where we can make change.
We need feminism because for some reason equality is controversial, and because we still have to list all the reasons why we need feminism.