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On the Necessity of Disagreeable Women and Imperfect Critiques of Feminism

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Reprinted from www.dailykos.com, by HyenaInLipstick

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As we all know, the idea that a woman has to be perfect in order for her voice to matter is a sexist, regressive notion, yet it is often other women who enforce this idea. As I mentioned previously, I am a college dropout. I have never taken a single women's studies course, and my understanding of feminism is based entirely on personal experience and self-directed education.This puts me at a disadvantage in feminist spaces where position is often afforded through the ability to employ obtuse theoretical concepts and reference the works of the standard women's studies curriculum. However, it is precisely this disadvantage that makes voices like mine so vital to the cause of women's liberation.A women's movement led by a small number of academically trained women drawing on the same small pool of ideas from the same small number of 'canonical' texts cannot help but to become calcified and disconnected from the experience of the average woman. The fact of the matter is very few women are women's studies majors or professional activists, and if those are the only ones who are allowed to speak about the struggles of being a woman, how can the feminist movement possibly claim to represent women as a whole?Instead of empowering average, working women to discuss the ways the feminist movement isn't meeting their real needs, too often they are simply dismissed for not using fashionable academic jargon or not framing their lived experience in the correct theoretical framework. It reminds me of how British aristocrats developed a complex, arbitrary system of etiquette so that those without the proper background could be easily identified and quickly shown the door.Is it any wonder that so few women identify as feminists? When a 2016 YouGov poll asked American women if they identify as feminists, only 32% answered yes and 45% answered no. Among those that answered no, 47% said it was because "feminists are too extreme." It's not much of a stretch to assume that mainstream feminism's inability to constructively deal with criticism has played a large role in that slide toward extremism.Instead of demonizing and dismissing women who feel a disconnect with modern feminism, listen to them. Instead of just searching for potential avenues of attack, probe the underlying reasons for their disconnect and work with them toward a greater mutual understanding, even if you don't agree with them. Feminists need to stop acting like every critique of feminism is some deep insult against them personally as individuals and learn to tolerate dissenting opinions, especially those from other women.Until that happens, it's up to stubborn, disagreeable bitches like me to speak as honestly and assertively as we can to expand the breadth of discourse in feminist spaces. I would love to live in a world where all or even half of women identified as feminists, but that is never going to happen unless the feminist movement is willing to listen to its critics and move closer to where women's opinions and needs actually are.

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