In a technological age, everyone and their sister has the ability to get on their own soapbox and advocate for or against issues that appeal to them.
And in said technological age, everyone wants to be not just someone, but the one: the one voice a community can rely on for input, criticisms and platforms for pressing social issues.
It’s inevitable that people will get a little self-interested and self-preservationist once the floor is theirs and they begin gaining a following, but there’s a risk in taking it too far.
To be a feminist voice is to inherently be inclusionary — ideally. You’re shining a light on those who don’t benefit from the current system.
It’s when that system decides to approve your voice that things get a little tricky.
Let me tell you a story about one prominent feminist. Let’s call her Sheila (name changed so I don’t get in trouble).
Sheila has risen the ranks of the male-dominated field of sports and combat sports commentators on Twitter by calling out injustices, the usual problems with the patriarchy and shutting down trolls on the Internet. In doing so she’s gained attention from more established writers in her field, and has become a presence on Twitter for feminism.
Sheila of course commemorated International Women’s Day by reminding all of us to support other women and applaud the achievements of other women, because we need to build ourselves up.
That would be fine and dandy, if it wasn’t for Sheila somehow avoiding other women who aspire to add their voices to the discussions in her field.
There are people like Sheila in so many different kinds of communities. The ones who strategically get ahead with a message of inclusion and social justice but tend to hover around people who are particularly beneficial to their own careers. It’s all a part of climbing the ladder of prominence. But it’s hard to ignore when there’s a huge conflict between what you say and how you act.
Of course, being a woman on the Internet requires being highly selective of who you surround yourself with, as there is many a weirdo ready to make your life miserable around every corner.
But it’s incredibly suspect when selectivity becomes borderline Machiavellian. Instead of, “How can this voice bring a new perspective on undermined groups to the forefront,” it’s “What can this person do for my brand?”
It’s also suspect when one minute you’re interested in collaborating with other feminists and the next you’ve decided they can’t improve your image in the same way that people buttering you up or prominent men approving of you can, thus letting you pretend you never intended to work together in the first place.
Or god forbid working with other women jeopardizes your prized position as the high ranking feminist in the community.
As previously mentioned, self-preservation and selectivity are part and parcel of having a voice on the Internet. But if you’re not practicing what you preach, what can you really fix?
Having disdain for, or avoiding those who speak out on similar issues quite frankly helps the patriarchy.
It makes sure that the status quo stays alive by creating a ladder, limiting feminist voices and allowing men to stay in the majority.
Being self-interested and resenting those who speak out on the same issues also perpetuates the age old stereotype of women being “catty” and “out to get each other.”
Do we honestly need to give men more of an opportunity to put women down? By buying into their system?
I was once one of those people who said, “Feminism can’t be Marxist, Marxism had a specific place for women in society that was not (on) par to men.”
After seeing feminism in action, however, and realizing the damaging effects of a hierarchy on how feminism is consumed, there is no way that an inclusionary, intersectional feminism can adhere to the capitalist system.
Women don’t have to tear down other women or act more like men to prove they’re “one of the boys.”
What’s more, feminism isn’t “marketable” enough. That is to say, it’s not enough of a commodity or an accepted piece of social thinking that one could even begin to get competitive about specific territory in feminist commentary.
At this stage, we need as many voices as possible to pitch in so women’s voices can break even and promote a discussion that includes the maximum subsection of women.
For many, it’s not easy: not everyone has it 100 per cent right all of the time; they may not express their opinions as articulately as you do; or they may do a better job than you at articulating their thoughts; or you may just plain hate them.
At the end of the day, feminism is worse off if those voices are discouraged from speaking out, and you shouldn’t be able to get your own soapbox just to forfeit a win to the patriarchy.