And here we go again. Another “how dare she say she’s not a feminist” rant against a high achieving woman, this time newly appointed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. You’ll find it at the mamamia website, written by self-described feminist Jamila Rizvi.
The term “feminist” has become extremely fraught, not least because of the rantings of those feminists who demand every other woman on the planet describe herself thus. Many women are understandably disinclined to use the term about themselves. Many of us will not on principle, describe ourselves as others say we should, because we are engaged in a process of liberation from all those who arrogantly claim the right to tell us who we are, and who we should be.
Instead of addressing the complexities that have developed around the term, feminists such as Ms Rizvi wrongly attack women who do not wish to include that word in their lexicon of self-description. The problem is not that some women do not wish to describe themselves as feminists. The problem is that feminists like Ms Rizvi insist on publicly shaming such women.
Rizvi writes: Somewhere along the way being a feminist has become associated with hating on men, rather than being equal with them. So, I can see why women like Marissa Mayer, who work in male dominated professions, simply cannot afford to attract the label of ‘feminist’. After all, success doesn’t come to the woman who throws her hand up in the air and says ‘look at me, look at me, I’m a man-hater’.
No, Ms Rizvi, you are wrong. “Somewhere along the way” feminism has become associated with women bullying women, bullying us into describing ourselves as feminists, for example, by using abusive tirades that were they employed against us by a male, would be regarded as emotional violence.
“Somewhere along the way” feminists such as yourself decided to take over patriarchy’s work for them, and assume the right to define women.
“Somewhere along the way” the cant of ideological purity has blinded some feminists to the reality that when ideology of any kind gets the upper hand, the war is lost, and the revolution has become the orthodoxy.
“Somewhere along the way” as well as being acceptable to the patriarchy, we now must be also be acceptable to a hegemonic feminism that demands we identify ourselves with its laws, otherwise we are traitors to the women who have gone before us?
If I don’t choose to identify myself as a “feminist”,” for example, that does not indicate that I am either ignorant of or ungrateful to the women who’ve gone before me, and by their hard work enabled some of us to achieve what was once unthinkable. I do not have to call myself a “feminist” in order to honour and appreciate those women. I do not have to use the label “feminist” for myself in order to actively care about equality. I do not have to play by your rules, Ms Rizvi, and I do not have to use your language.
There are feminists who would tear Rizvi to shreds for her love of red lipstick, her fondness for five-inch heels and her love of men. They would never grant her the right to the title. This is another reason many women refuse the label: it is, unfortunately, divisive, its meaning is unclear, and nobody quite knows what it’s describing.
I am delighted that a pregnant young woman has achieved what Marissa Mayer has achieved. I don’t give a stuff if she calls herself a feminist or not. The problem lies not with Ms Mayer. It lies with those people, women and men, who demand that human beings fit into pre-determined categories and in so doing, trash the human spirit and deprive it of its freedom.
I don’t believe for one moment that’s what the early feminists intended for us.
I do think of myself as feminist. One of the reasons I claim that title is my belief that it is a woman’s right to call herself whatever feels appropriate for her, regardless of what others may think or demand. I will not define myself according to another’s lights. I will only define myself by my own. Feminists do not condemn a woman for defining herself by her own lights. That is the task of tyrants.