Monthly Archives: October 2014

‘Feminism Lite’. A response from Intersectional feminists by Christine Donayre

So a white bloke has figured out what’s wrong with feminism and has discovered ‘Feminism lite’? Really? Is ‘feminism lite’ is the new name for liberal feminism? Perhaps I should ask a man to explain it to me.

Right through the article by Antony Loewenstein on ‘Feminism Lite’, the author claims that men are scared of commenting about feminism for fear of backlash from women. Now, I don’t want to make light of any fear that the author may have genuinely experienced when deciding to comment on ‘feminism’ or not. What I will say is that surely this experience of feminists berating a white man expressing his opinion is not comparable to the reality faced by women on a day-to-day basis. The fear of walking down a dark street by yourself at night time anywhere in Sydney, walking past a group of men, having to confront dominating people in your life, reacting based on past abuse, or the fear that came across me just yesterday when I spotted an abusive ex-partner had viewed my LinkedIn account. These are fears women deal with every single day. Myself and hundreds and thousands of other women get that and all the fear that comes with being a woman. Maybe we should paraphrase Margaret Atwood:

‘Author is afraid feminists will be mean to him. Feminists are (still) afraid men will kill them’

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Perhaps the author also gets mean comments because his position is patronising, and well… wrong.

It’s quite ironic isn’t it, that men feel that they can comment on feminism and how it is practised in Australia? Well thankfully for some, they have the luxury of having a platform to espouse their views that most feminists do not. This is a reference not just to the author of the piece but to mainstream feminists who purport to speak for all women, who also have platforms from which to preach their version of feminism. Nor, frankly, are even these least challenging of feminists offered a platform as often as men.

A brief feminism 101: what is being critiqued in the article is called ‘liberal feminism’. Yes it has its faults – the most common criticism is the idea that women can ‘win’ without acknowledging the inequitable power structures of capitalism, race, and ciscentrism. Yes this is wrong, exploitative even, particularly for low paid workers, and yes it does mean that not all women are represented. Thankfully we feminists have already been critiquing the wrongs of liberal feminism for quite some time now. We have managed to figure out some things about capital, power structures and patriarchy and their interconnectedness. There’s even a term for it. I’m not sure it’s in the womansplainer’s shopfront, but you could start here. The term to look for is ‘kyriarchy’ and/or ‘intersectional’.

There are feminists, not only in Australia but around the world, critiquing liberal feminism and doing other feminism at the same time.

Not only are individual feminists busy writing, representing, advocating, activating on behalf of the women that are left behind by liberal feminism but we are doing so on alternative media platforms. Firstly, obviously, we are not generally offered weekly columns in major publications to talk about race, class, disability, and feminism. Secondly, the feminism on offer in a lot of publications and the liberal feminists offered a platform do not represent us.

The group of intersectional feminists I work with have to beg for a platform – and we have to fit the work around our jobs, our children, our lives, and other commitments – for free. In fact it’s almost like people prefer to hear from mainstream feminists and white men on feminism. Go figure.

Whilst you may think that mainstream feminism is ‘feminism lite’ there is a place for it. It reaches people who have had no exposure to ideas around gender equality before. You start with the basics then you move on to other more complicated issues that intersect with feminism such as class, race, queerness, able-ism and the like. Let’s not touch on the other variations because we’re clearly still at 101 – see above, definition of liberal feminism. But surely this isn’t to argue that no feminism is better than liberal feminism?

It says more about the critics of feminism than it does about feminism itself that an assumption can be made that liberal feminism is not being critiqued or taken on enough in Australia. The feminists that have the ear of this nation, the Mia Freedmans etc do not represent all women. They sure as shit don’t represent me. For what its worth neither does the author.

I’m trying really hard not to put the boot in because I know that Antony is a decent person with decent politics, but please let’s not pretend that power structures aren’t at play here. Antony, is a white western male journalist, telling me and other feminists like me, that we are not doing feminism properly. From his published story in a major outlet, which he was hopefully paid for.

Feminists of colour, feminists with disabilities, intersex, cis-gendered, tran-sw*myn, indigenous feminists, eco-feminists, intersectional feminists – all of us – we have a voice. We are here. But for some it’s an uncomfortable voice to hear. And some, perhaps Anthony being one of them, don’t look for us.

The best thing to come out of the article for me has been the reactions from feminists, both here & abroad. To get a mention in the esteemable feminist blog Shakesville is no mean feat.

So next time it crosses your mind (white men and mainstream feminists) to talk about feminism, please do some research because then you will see that there’s a whole world of feminism out there and hopefully you will wonder why they aren’t getting the same kind of platform that you have and maybe, just maybe you can talk or write about that.

Here’s a handy listicle by Amy Gray which is a good counter article to Loewensteins.

Christine Donayre
@donayrials