Pragmatic Activism- Yes, it sucks but that’s the world we live in!

When I saw the “Pride Rally” included as one of our group activities, I wasn’t exactly sure why or how that related to feminism. Of course, lesbians are women too and should be considered in all their intersecting identities of sexuality and gender; however, “pride” itself doesn’t immediately relate in my mind. I suppose the question is, does activism of one justice issue like feminism necessitate activism of all other social injustices? Can we be “activists” without supporting all our fellow activists who similarly struggle for recognition and social change? While I personally support the gay rights movement and Pride Week, I don’t think activism necessarily translates across all genres. One, for example, can easily support ending child slavery in Haiti but that activist may directly reject demands of the pro-choice movement. In other words, social issues are not all similar enough in nature that activists would come to a common understanding. So how does feminism relate to gay rights specifically? I think the two are not necessarily connected; however they do share commonalities worth understanding. Most overtly; women and homosexual people both share defining features, which oppress them. Though a gay man can navigate modern society without calling attention to his homosexuality, he is; none-the-less, a target of oppression as a result of this crucial identity component. In both cases, no obstacle such as intelligence or inadequacy prevents forward movement. Rather, it is the structural favoring of another identity category, which oppresses them. In this way, we are all fighting to be recognized as we truly are. We are fighting to be entrusted with the worth and respect that we, as individuals, merit rather than the worth society allocates to our identity groups. In these fundamental ways, the gay rights movement is intimately tied to the feminist belief in equality of all human beings.

Another critical factor intertwines these two movements, which I had not acknowledged or contemplated before speaking with my moxie peers this week. This factor is misogyny as the primary enemy of both gay and feminist movements. I had been relating gay pride to feminism as a separate issue when, in reality, the success of one movement may actually facilitate the success of the other. In other words, if feminism fights to challenge norms established by a misogynist society, destruction of these norms should also destroy homophobia, as it is also grounded in misogyny. Perhaps gay rights and women’s struggle for equal validity and power as men both relate back to the same misogynist structure. When our program director suggested this possibility I was resistant, feeling almost possessive of my justice struggle. “Feminism is about women like me!” I caught myself thinking, “I don’t want to share the stage with gay rights movements as if the two were equal. I don’t identify with the gay rights movement.” Obviously this hierarchy of injustice is highly problematic, but I did notice a personal resistance to admitting homophobia into the feminist struggle. After thinking a little more, I pin pointed the reason I might feel so resistant to partnership of movements.

Struggles and confusion, for me, arise when I contemplate the different forms activism can take in the gay pride versus feminist movements. I have always struggled personally with the identities of a “no apologies feminist”, and an understanding, moderate feminist. On one hand, I want the world to know how angry I am about the absurd injustices towards women around the world. I want to scream at men, retreat to “safe” female spaces, and cover my body conservatively in a “fuck off, thank you” sort of way. On the other hand, I don’t want to alienate myself and my voice from the very people who I’m trying to reach in the first place. Obviously everyone has to act the way they feel most “themselves”, yet sometimes embodying an activist, extremist stereotype prevents you from being heard in any way. Moving towards the gay rights movement, I find myself cringing sometimes at the vulgarity and outrageousness of their approaches to activism. Of course sexual liberation is central in this movement, and reclaiming rights to sexuality is awesome, yet, from a political perspective, I don’t find this activist approach relatable. As a feminist who is fighting stereotypes of craziness, and outrageousness, I don’t want to associate our movement with a group of men dressed in drag, talking about anal sex openly to their most close-minded opponents. I feel strongly that feminist demands, while radical in that they seek to challenge overarching societal structures, are completely and totally moderate in their logic. Any open person willing to listen to a logical, level-headed feminist woman can easily agree that demanding equal access to resources and opportunities is not wild or outrageous in nature. To me, linking an otherwise relatable equal rights movement to something like overt, public sexuality is a fast way to alienate and affirm oppositionist’s. I take a strong, yet pragmatic stance in my feminism, so I don’t always identify with the gay rights movements’ strategic approach. I personally know many gay men who also cringe at the rumors of sexual acts performed at the gay rights parades, or become enraged at the implications that all gay men are drag queen, sparkle wearing, street dancers. I would personally be irritated if a group of extremist feminists with short hair, and no bras took the streets yelling about feminist issues. It delegitimizes the humanity of the movement to the people who actually hold the power. Yes, it sucks to self-constrain in such a way, but that’s the world we live in and utopian idealism is never the best way to reach people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *