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"You Can't Sit With Us!" - How Fourth-Wave Feminism Became 'Mean Girls'

Posted: 19/01/2014 23:10

Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimised by a feminist.

I know I have. Despite me being utterly in favour of gender equality and not being painfully trampled on by our largely patriarchal society, one particularly vitriolic female reader of the London Tab actually went as far to vehemently accuse me of "personally set[ting] feminism back 30 years", which would almost be impressive enough a feat to put on my CV, were it not extremely embarrassing and also a ridiculous overstatement.

As someone who identifies as a woman, it should be fairly obvious that I am absolutely pro-feminism, because I believe that the values of feminism are far more suitable for everybody than the current and heavily biased state of society - not to mention the fact that a more feminist-minded society might improve my own individual life in terms of my future career and maybe not being continually harassed on the street.

Now that we've sufficiently established that I'm not out to burn my fellow females at the stake, it's surely time to question the hypocritical, petty Mean Girls atmosphere of fourth-wave feminism today. I've actually never once been belittled and attacked by a man for believing in the cause of feminism, but women are just about lining up to take a whack at the shoddy piñata of my personal tastes and opinions.

Why is this? I certainly understand that I, on occasion, might say or do something that might mistakenly deviate from my feminist value system (to err is human, etc.) and that it's great and helpful to be corrected so that I can become more self-aware and aware of others. However, all too often I'm not simply and respectfully corrected. I'm gleefully dissected for some kind of weird gratification on the part of whoever has chosen to point out what I'm doing/thinking wrong.

It's worrying that in the new fourth wave of feminism, instead of simple values of equality and respect becoming popular, it's actually this strange sort of cliquey, hierarchical feminist culture of "one-upmanship" that has come to be in vogue. Sometimes, the movement seems to be about who can become the best and most righteous feminist, whilst us ladies who don't know our Steinem from our Atwood crawl subserviently away from public forums and the terrifying scrutiny of the Regina Georges of feminism.

It's got to the point, for me anyway, that I'm quite scared to even share a music video that I like on Facebook. Having had a good giggle at Lily Allen's latest tune one night, I nearly posted it on my social media profile for everybody else's delectation, only to remember that I had lectures early next morning and could not afford to stay up all night in a prickly comment war. I'd have had to defend the fact that I liked the song because it was catchy and expressed a fair few feminist points that I agreed with, because my opinion was almost certainly WRONG and EVIL in the eyes of a few of my female Facebook friends who had probably understood the true, demeaning message of Lily's video much better than I had.

I had previously posted a Blurred Lines parody that I thought was quite funny and clever. It turned out that my friend thought it prudent to tell me that I only liked the parody because men had made and starred in it, and that the patriarchy had brainwashed me into thinking that the feminist efforts of men were superior and preferable to those of women. This was, honestly, helpful - it really made me question whether my opinion of it was truly my own - but when I deduced that I really did enjoy it simply because I felt the lyrics expressed what I believed about Blurred Lines, I felt quite affronted about the way my friend had so suddenly and viciously disparaged my perfectly valid opinion.

Why on earth do some cyber-feminists truly believe that their opinions exist on a higher intellectual plane than those of other women's? What possesses them to demean other women, often savagely, on public forums? For me, it seems to go against the entire point of the feminist movement. Most, if not all, women in the world are oppressed in some way - some much, much more than others, some less, but oppressed nonetheless. Why then, do some educated women feel the need to add to the oppression and humiliation of women who are "not good enough" for feminism? To quote Mean Girls, "I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school... I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy..."

I've certainly not studied feminism to the extent that some feminist scholars have, so this might be dangerous to assume, but isn't the idea of feminism a lot simpler than some faux-expert, fiercely monopolizing feminists make it out to be? Through fourth-wave feminism, I've learnt very simple things that I feel have drastically improved the way I interact with other women and the way I feel about myself; how slut-shaming anybody is absolutely wrong, the importance of learning about people who identify as women and accepting them, the need to educate any future children I might have about sexual consent and therefore help towards ending rape culture. Yes, I agree that part of feminism is helping to educate other women about the importance of changing our behaviour in order to change society - I just don't see how it's acceptable to disregard common courtesy and attack other women for not being as clued in as you. Politely and kindly encouraging people to question their opinions would create a much healthier feminist discourse, rather than delighting in tearing apart women for your own intellectual gratification. Feminism is supposed to be inclusive, not alienating. I'm starting to get scared of it.

Maybe if we all stopped enjoying looking down our noses at each other, then the patriarchy would stop looking down its nose at women as a whole. After all, feminism shouldn't be about intimidating queen bees and monopolising the prized tiara - it should be about breaking up that tiara and tossing pieces out to the little people, too, so we can all feel equally empowered.

 

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