That is the title of a book by bell hooks, explaining how the politics of feminism serves everyone. It was also a dig at mainstream establishments that purport to be progressive, but really only served a certain section of the population.
Because everybody is different, there are many different approaches in feminism that work towards visions of equality. They do not always agree with each other. Sometimes one silences the others, due to power imbalances. This happens because we are people with our own privileges and prejudices that the status quo has ingrained into us. This is why it is important to be self-aware, and always consider our position amongst the many.
Feminism is for everybody, even the men who for some reason believe themselves uncontrollable (or, other men but themselves), and unrapeable. Feminism forgives and expects men to be better. Feminists love men; that is why we want men to stop hurting women—what kind of abusive relationship is it, to hear the men we love constantly degrade us for simply being who we are?
Feminism protects men, too; by acknowledging that sexual violence happens regardless of sex or gender, we move to protect the men who hide and hate themselves in secret shame. We move to protect our sons, so that they grow up learning how to be in the world without violence. We move to protect our daughters who will one day become sons.
Feminism is for everybody, even the class of women reviled or ignored for being a different class or caste. We understand that certain groups of women are more at risk of sexual violence, and the economic exploitation that enables such violence. We are at risk of being raped or harassed by bosses, co-workers, and subordinates who are all too eager to get their jollies off by humiliating us.
We know that we are simply expected to put up with this abuse, because men experience it too (except men do not have to deal with the same kind of sexualisation when they face insubordination). We must serve us all, even our Filipina or Indonesian maids, even our migrant workers from Bangladesh and Indonesia, even our homeless. We must address the needs of the poor single mother struggling to feed her children, we must address why the world would look down at this as a piteous thing.
Feminism is for everybody, no matter your race, your skin tone, your appearance. We must work towards a world where we don’t get harassed for being too dark, where we don’t feel pressured to have fair and perfect skin, where we are still taken seriously even if we’re not dressed nice enough (there is no “nice enough”—it stops at “too nice” too easily). I do not have stats, but I would not be surprised to find that there are racial biases in how we deem women beautiful.—the more we look a certain, racialized way, the better for us. (I know this happens in the modeling world; Eurasians get more gigs because supposedly they have a greater “range”. Makes one wonder why any industry needs a racialized character for any visual ad.)
Feminism is for single people; why be taken less seriously for not hitting that keystone of adulthood called the marriage institution? Feminism is for married people; why be taken less seriously because our spouse is more of a priority? Feminism is for the childless—we are not frivolous nor selfish nor pathetic for not having kids. Feminism is for families—we need that maternity leave and the time off work to tend to our families and excuse us if we’re not 100% committed to lining company pockets with profit because we have the rest of our lives to live and note that I am using gender neutral-language in here because no one ever thinks men and fathers have the same issues.
Feminism is for you, too, but not just you, not just your family, not just your friends, not just your co-workers. Feminism is also for your boss and your maid (if you have one), for your teachers and students, for our leaders and followers, the nasi lemak seller, the roti man who also has a family to feed. There are few movements with so many branches, so many tendrils, so many roots, all reaching out and overlapping each other in so many ways, the same ways that everybody’s lives interact and intersect.
By oneself, it is difficult to apprehend and comprehend the vastness of the world of people. The feat is simpler when we acknowledge everybody else in it, too, who are doing the same work, and cross-reference and share knowledge. This is why there are many different kinds of feminisms. This is why feminism is for everybody.
Jaymee Goh is a writer, blogger, and intersectional theorist whose current work highlights postcoloniality and racialized participation in steampunk. She hails from Subang Jaya and lives in Canada.
Posted on 18 October 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.
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