Monday, 26 September 2016

Struggles of being an Intersectional Femininist

Hello readers, welcome back! As I mentioned previously, I have been rather busy this year with mountains and mountains of school work in preparation for my upcoming HSC examinations, but I've kinda sorta given up on stressing about them and instead decided to put some much needed time into posting again on here. So today, I thought I'd talk about a subject very close to my heart - feminism. Anyone who's had a conversation with me knows that I can talk gender politics until the cows come home (whenever that is), and love name checking feminist theorists like Judith Butler and Deborah Tannen whenever applicable (and to be honest, even when it isn't). However, that doesn't mean it's always easy. Yes, I am a proud feminist and love a good debate, but sometimes, even I have to admit that I find it challenging to apply all of the gender theories I come across into all aspects of my everyday life. So keeping this in mind, may I present to you, some of the struggles of being an intersectional feminist . . .

1. Lobbying for Equality for all Performances of Gender and Sexuality but being the poster child for Heteronormativity

Yes, it sounds like I'm speaking a foreign language, but I promise you, it's all relatively simple. Gender theorist Judith Butler describes gender as being a performance and differentiates it completely from biological sex. Sex basically refers to your biology, and whether or not you have male or female reproductive organs, while gender is thrust upon us by society, for instance the notion that girls wear pink and are highly emotional and in need of saving, while boys wear blue, are completely stoic and act as heroic protectors - all of these being the gender norms we've all become pretty accustomed to. Butler however would argue that if a a man were to wear pink and be super emotionally expressive, he would be performing traditional elements of femininity. The same goes for sexuality.

As you have probably guessed, I am all for equality with regard to the way men and women perform gender. If a guy wants to wear a dress and cry over romantic comedies? That's totally fine. And if a girl wants to wear a suit and monosyllabically grunt at everyone? That's also super cool. And I am all for everyone being able to express who they truly are no matter where they fall upon the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, because I am super duper accepting and am a massive advocate for equality. But me? I am a typical, privileged, middle class, heterosexual white girl. My favourite colour is pink, I'm easily excitable, I wear nothing but skirts and dresses and am not into dating girls. I am literally a walking cliche. And yes, I have to admit, I feel pretty hypocritical. I know that being anything but who I am just to try and transcend this stupid gender binary and perform elements of masculinity to make a statement would totally defeat the purpose, but I can't help but feel bad for embodying everything that I am also simultaneously critiquing. Ugh.

2. Promoting Female and Male Empowerment but being a sucker for flawed Disney fairytales and Romantic Comedies 

I'm probably going to say it a lot throughout this post, but just to be clear, gender equality is something I fully support and fight hard to achieve. I think that both women and men should be able act however they want and are totally capable of being successful and independent in all aspects of their life without the helping hand of their significant other, however, I also appreciate a wide variety of films. Disney fairytales are absolute classics, there is no denying that. Watching Cinderella find her Prince Charming or Ariel get hitched to Prince Eric is satisfying every time, and while it may not do anything to break down traditional gender roles or defy the heteronormative, patriarchal construct of marriage, it will certainly brighten your afternoon. And it's the same with a good rom com. They always follow the same formula - girl meets guy, guy tries to pursue her, girl tries to fight it, girl and guy eventually end up falling in love and living happily ever after. Again, while these films are cliche and play into gender steretypes, they are super entertaining. And no, absolutely none of the movies mentioned within these genres would pass the Bechdel test in any way, shape or form, but there's no denying that they're heaps of fun to watch, and no matter how hard you try to fight it, will always secretly be a representation of how you want your life to turn out.

3. Opposing the Objectification of Women or Men but also being in to Fashion and Make-Up

I absolutely hate the objectification of both women and men that occurs in the media, and how it creates for everybody unhealthy standards of beauty that they feel they need to live up to, not to mention it renders the complexities of a person irrelevant and forces people to merely focus on a person's physical attributes. This is super wrong, I know that, but at every single red carpet event, I can't help but be brutally honest and comment on everyone's fashion (as you've probably noticed if you've ever read this blog before). Do I feel bad about it and super hypocritical? Yes, yes I do. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop. It's exactly the same with make up. I believe in a person's right to wear as much or as little make up as they want, and in theory, I know that cosmetics are kind of stupid anyway. I mean, why would you create a bunch of products to go over features you already have to hide all your supposed facial flaws? And the only reason we think we have flaws is because the media has told us we do. So yes, I get that it's a little bit of a scam, but saying that, I still pretty much never leave the house without it on, and spend quite a significant amount of my time on Youtube watching make-up tutorials and stalking Mecca Maxima's website (which I highly recommend, by the way), pretty much just because it's a fun thing to do.

4. Hating when People use Gender Specific Terms Haphazardly but also Doing it Yourself

Saying he or she? That's totally fine. But for instance, if you're hearing a description of someone, and they play a sport or are into cars and you instantly say, "oh, what's HE like?", that's when I get a bit annoyed (especially if they inadvertently guess correctly). The same goes for when a person talks about their significant other, and your automatic assumption is that they're dating someone of the opposite sex. Assuming a person's sex based on their interests or sexuality because it's what you've become most accustomed to is super not cool, and just proves how much social norms have had an impact on our speech patterns. But saying this, I have certainly done it myself more than once. It's hard, okay. We've been bred to speak a certain way by generations of people whose views and ideologies have been constructed by patriarchal societies, and while I have certainly become very conscious of it, it's kind of difficult to police everything you say, and eradicate all assumptions you have. I always try my best, but occasionally I'm going to slip up, and when I do, I'm met with an onslaught of people satirically being like "but isn't gender a construct? did you just assume my gender?". Needless to say, I get pretty frustrated, and to be honest, I don't even know who with.

And that's about all I have for you folks. Yes, being an intersectional feminist is confusing and I feel like I'm a massive hypocrite most of the time, but I'm just going to keep performing gender the way I want to and accept the fact that I am a complicated, super contradictory person and get on with my life. Because at the end of the day, I'm pretty down with equality, and that should be all that matters...right? Til' next time . . .

Annabel xx

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