The Trouble with Feminism

Many people have experienced and documented the exclusionary practices of feminism. Women of color, working class women, and other genders have been marginalized by mainstream feminism–to the detriment of the feminist movement and its ideal of a more inclusive world. 

In short, I was turned off by feminism as many other progressives have been since the beginning of the movement.

As a young woman, I met several self-proclaimed feminists. They were White, upper middle class, and dogmatic. I felt judged, rather than understood, by them. I felt pressured to conform to their way of thinking and their goals. My insights were overlooked, misunderstood, and ridiculed. I clearly was not one of them, nor did I aspire to be.

Yet, there is something in feminism that has called out to me over the years. In fact, when I recently turned in a draft of my dissertation to one of my committee members–who happens to be a gender studies scholar, she asked why I did not use the word feminism. Through a conversation with her, I realized that so many of my ideas reflect feminist thought and that using the word feminism can help to convey a myriad of complex ideas in a simple way. 

That’s because feminism is multidimensional, complex, and ever-emergent. There isn’t only one feminism, or one kind of feminist, or one way to be a feminist as my unfortunate early experiences suggested. 

Thankfully, mainstream feminism is starting to reflect this diversity. But we still have a lot of work to do to build a truly inclusive and equitable feminist movement.

This has been the second post in a series about feminist leadership. Next time, I’ll share my ideas about redefining feminist leadership for all of us.