Being a Bad Feminist

Feminism seems to struggle with the difference between individual actions and cultural forces–that is to say, that it has trouble with the difference between tearing down cultural norms that oppress without also tearing down individuals for their choices. Admittedly, the two are not wholly separate. One’s choices are usually influenced to some degree by the biases our culture has instilled in us, and those choices combine with the choices others make to affect the culture we live in. What this means is that often there is pressure–sometimes external, sometimes self-inflicted–to avoid certain things because they reinforce the very things we’re trying to eliminate. Which leads us to things like the parent who won’t let hir daughter play with dolls, the stay-at-home mom who is maligned for not working, and the discussion over whether Slave Leia cosplays are empowering or objectifying.

The other factor that comes into play is the tendency people have to see things in all-or-nothing terms. Criticize something for having objectionable qualities and watch fans come out of the woodwork, howling like you just kicked their puppy. Or you might be criticized yourself for enjoying it. Often it seems like there’s no middle ground–you either like all aspects of something or you avoid it. There’s little room to enjoy something for some qualities while also being aware of places where it could be improved.

As a geek, this leaves a lot of room for me to feel stuck. If I was to avoid everything that was objectionable, I’d have to avoid most of the things I enjoy, because so much of the media and culture is misogynistic or steeped in male privilege. So instead I get to enjoy things that have (sometimes very) problematic aspects to them. Another person might call these ‘guilty pleasures’. I don’t, because frankly I refuse to feel guilty about it–most of the time it even works. The good aspects simply outweigh the bad ones for me, and I’m not going to apologize for liking those good qualities. That doesn’t stop me from being aware of the bad aspects though. It just means they’re not bad enough to turn me off completely.

Maybe this makes me a bad feminist. I don’t know. But I learned years ago that doing things based on what other people tell me to do is a recipe for regret, and whatever that makes me, I plan to own it.


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