The Soapbox: Sometimes I Don’t Understand Feminists
I don’t know if I’m the right kind of feminist.
Oh, my principles are in the right place -– birth control and abortions for those who want/need them; equal pay for equal work; full participation in government and society; equal funding for girls’ sports; the right to wear whatever the hell I want and not get chased down a street; and so on and so forth. But sometimes when I read articles by professional, ivory tower-approved feminists, I can’t understand what the hell is going on.
I’ll see an interesting headline over on one of the feminist-friendly websites, and I’ll click on through to expand my knowledge. And then I’ll come upon something like this:
The intersectionality of the diagonalism of the duality of the Hegelian manifesto advanced by Paglia shows evidence of unchecked cannibalistic governance that was meant to be unpacked by POC. Constructivism teaches us that inordinate amounts of identities are compromised by the culture of “being-ness” currently infecting conversations that ought to question assumptions of race, class, and woman-ness. We must disrupt notions of cis intertextuality.
OK obviously the paragraph above is total nonsense. But “nonsense” is exactly how some of these essays read to me.
Look, I don’t want someone to talk down to me. Academia is full of smarty-pants people because, well, it’s academia. I recognize that I’m not as educated as some of these thinkers. I do have a master’s degree from Columbia, but it trained me to teach adolescents in city public schools. A lot of that education, thank God, was practical and not theoretical (“How do I keep them from killing each other with pencils?” and “Do I have to tell her mom when my 18-year-old freshman tells me she’s pregnant?” That kind of light, happy stuff.) Maybe I just didn’t spend $70,000 in the right place. (Either way, Sallie Mae can’t get enough of my love.)
I’ve read some comments in various online venues where women complain that feminism is too privileged and too elitist. I think part of the problem is all the jargon. If the language of feminism isn’t accessible to people who haven’t had very specific, very pricey educations, well, how is any real progress going to be made?
I’m not saying that a working-class woman with a high school education isn’t capable of understanding nine-dollar words and complex arguments. But I am saying that any woman of any class, race, or political group might understandably be turned off if her first experience with the feminist community is a blog post that reads like a coded graduate dissertation.
Again, I’m one of those privileged liberal overeducated types, and even I can’t understand what the heck is going on in half the feminist-on-feminist debates online.
Most of us don’t have enough time or funding to read all the high-minded theoretical texts assigned in these advanced women’s studies programs. We’ve got bills to pay, work assignments to complete, dogs to feed, tires to rotate, groceries to buy, maybe even diapers to change and older relatives to care for. Our recreational reading time is limited.
Here’s what would help me and those who are far busier than I am: a list of easy-to-comprehend, plain-English (or Spanish, or Polish, or whatever you like) books, blogs and other feminist media. Yes, this can include the Twitterz and the Facespaces and, shit, even Pinterest (is feminist Pinterest a thing?)
I’m talking movies, TV shows, poetry, anything that expresses or addresses feminism in a smart but accessible way. I figure if anyone is going to know how to help me and my fellow confused femmeladyians seekers out, it’ll be you gals.
I don’t want to “unpack” shit. I just want to learn. So please assist me, Amazon warrior women of the mind. My yoni thanks you.
Sara Benincasa is a comedian, a writer, and an editor — the order in which she lists these occupations varies day to day, depending on which occupation brings in the most filthy lucre. This piece was originally published on xoJane.com.