In Defense of Imperfect Feminists

Poor Patricia Arquette. I bet when she wrote her award speech for the Oscars, she had no idea that the feminist movement would turn on her the way it did. “How dare she insinuate that the LGBT community and communities of color have already achieved equality. Here comes a rich white woman telling us we’re not doing enough for her. I’m rolling my eyes.”

When I heard people say this shit, I got mad. Really mad. REALLY FUCKING PISSED OFF. I wanted to throw my TV across the room. Instead, here I am, writing a blog post about it.

Look, I get it. Arquette is a person speaking from a place of privilege. She’s wealthy and white and straight and non-disabled. And when someone with privlege stands up and says “Hey. I see an unfairness happening to women, and I want it changed” it’s easy for those without privilege to get mad and say “ORLY? Your life is all cushy and you’re demanding more? Why didn’t you use your power to speak for a group that has it worse off than you? You don’t get my pain and you are blinded by your privilege.”

Here’s the thing. Nobody is perfect. NOBODY. I have met plenty of feminists whose ideology is beyond reproach, but whose actions do the exact opposite of what feminism is supposed to be about. They are not part of the sisterhood because they shit on their sisters. They’re NOT perfect. They’re assholes and they are making it impossible for the movement to achieve its goals.

Goals. What are our goals, as feminists? Are they to convince everyone to see the world as we do? To understand the complex intersections of race, sexuality, and gender? If so, is rolling our eyes at people who aren’t there yet a good way to reach that goal? In fact, IS that really our goal? Or is it to improve the lives of women? Why did we want the right to vote? Why did we want equal access to higher education? Was it merely because we wanted an ideology of fairness, or was it bigger than that? 

When I look around, I see women struggling. I see women who can’t leave their abusive partners, because their employers pay them less money than their male peers for the same job. I see women who must work 2 jobs just to make ends meet, because they make less money than their male peers. And I don’t see a feminist movement that has accomplished pay equity for them, depsite decades of fighting for it.

Part of the problem, in my mind, is that we, as feminists, have spent too much time shitting on women who aren’t perfect feminists. We have alienated women who should be our allies. We have taken our eyes off the prize–equal pay, changes in the legal system to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, paid maternity leave–and instead focused on defining the perfect feminist, the perfect feminism. And then when a woman like Arquette stands up and says “I want this thing for women” that feminists agree we need, we shit on her and we dismiss her, instead of saying “We want that too! Let’s do it together.”

As a feminist, I am opposed to anyone and anything that stops our movement from improving women’s lives. Including feminists who demand perfection instead of bringing allies into the movement. We have to stop demeaning women who want to help us, and come together to achieve our goals.