5 Things That Make Me Feel Like A Bad Feminist

bad feminist
| Feminism > UK Feminism

Talking about those times when you feel like a bad feminist and just want a comfort blanket.

Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes around me knows I’m a feminist. I’m not shy about it — in fact, I’m incredibly proud of it. I believe, with every fiber of my being, that men, women, and gender nonconforming folks are equal, and should be treated as such. My feminism aims to be intersectional. Though I benefit from multiple privileges, I refuse to ignore or erase the struggle of marginalized groups. I work hard to be inclusive and educated about my feminism.

But I’m far from perfect.

Sometimes, I feel like a bad feminist. I’ll think or do something that doesn’t align with my ideals, berate myself, but then ultimately justify it. What sort of thoughts and actions are we talking about? Well…

I Enjoy TV Shows That Are Sexist

I’m an entertainment junkie. Besides dogs and makeup, my truest loves in this world are Netflix and Hulu. When it comes to comedy, I prefer animation to live action, and damned if my favorite animated comedies don’t come with some crazy sexist overtones. American Dad, Family Guy, The Venture Bros., and Archer all treat women as either sexual objects or the butt of the joke — and I simply adore every one of them.

Each episode I watch is an exercise in self-hatred. I laugh at jokes that, in real life, would send me spiralling into a rage. I’m fed stereotypes and systematic bullshit that I know is blatantly untrue, yet I can’t look away. I don’t like being a hypocrite, but I often use these shows (especially American Dad) as a form of comfort when I’m feeling particularly anxious. Like a well-loved blanket, I wrap myself in them in an attempt to ease my troubled mind. It makes them impossibly hard to give up.

Most of My Favourite Movies Don’t Pass the Bechdel Test

Most people are familiar with the Bechdel Test, but if you’re not, here are the rules:

1.    The movie has to have at least two women in it,
2.    who talk to each other,
3.    about something besides a man.

The Bechdel Test isn’t without its flaws. It doesn’t measure sexism or gender equality within a film, and a movie can fail for reasons unrelated to gender bias. What’s more, it doesn’t even begin to cover the lack of LGBTQ and people of colour in movies. In truth, it’s a rather superficial measure of the value of a film.

But the weaknesses of the Bechdel Test are beside the point. The reason I bring it up at all is because the vast majority of my favourite movies can’t even pass these three one-dimensional rules. Why is it so hard for Hollywood to make room for women in their films?

I’m so incredibly tired of seeing films where women are nothing more than submissive, indecisive, defenseless props for men to swoop in and save. But I also love action, sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movies — all of which were pretty much built on this very trope. I want to send a message to the screenwriters, directors, and producers of the world by not consuming these products. At the same time, the thought of missing the next Marvel movie is enough to cause me to panic.

I Don’t Research My Purchases as Much as I Should

If a company does something monumentally boneheaded that makes it into the news and onto my Facebook wall, it’s pretty easy for me to say I’ll never purchase their product or service again. And when I say it, I mean it — I refuse to eat at Chick-fil-A, I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby, and I’ll never fly United. That being said, I don’t actively research each company I shop with. Corporate social responsibility is important to me, but I’m hesitant to look too closely for fear of what I might find.

For instance, I’ve been dying to try out Thinx, a brand that offers underwear for people who menstruate. Instead of dealing with pads, tampons, or cups, these skivvies allow the wearer to “free bleed” for 10 hours without fear of wetness, leaks, or odors. Sounds amazing, right? I thought so too, and was saving up my hard earned dollars to buy a few pairs when I found out that the former CEO of the company had sexually harassed her employees. Just like that, I knew my ideals meant I could no longer buy these much-coveted panties in good conscience.

Thus, I am afraid to dig. Afraid to find out that something I desperately want or love is lorded over by horrible people who do horrible things. But fear is no reason to avoid the truth.

I Don’t Push My Company Hard Enough

When I first started working for my current employer a few years back, the women’s bathrooms lacked trashcans in the stalls. When this was brought to the attention of our male bosses, they were confused as to why we would require said trash cans at all. One of the female managers had to have “the talk” with them in order to get us the supplies we needed.

Though this anecdote causes a few chuckles and eyerolls among female employees to this day, other stories shared in the same vein do not. Instead, they generate feelings of shame, fury, fear, and helplessness. As far as I know, the incidents that have transpired during my four-year tenure were never motivated by outright maliciousness. They were instead sparked by sexism so systematic in its nature that it never even occurred to people that they were doing anything wrong.

The company I work for is small — with somewhere just under 150 employees — but we’re not so small as to explain away the lack of women in upper management (when having women in the c-suite has been proven to be beneficial). We’re not so small as to justify the fact that, in our six year history, we’ve never had sexual harassment training. Early on in my employment, I pushed for these things, but as the years went by and my suggestions were continually ignored, I just quit trying.

I know it’s not my job to fix sexism in the workplace, but I feel that by giving up, nothing will ever be solved. It’s a miserable feeling.

I Don’t Always Mind My Microaggressions

I’m well aware of how much of an impact microaggressions can have. When it comes to racial and cultural microaggressions, I’m cognizant of my words. The last thing I would ever want to do is to make someone feel “less than” or “other.” But when it comes to sexist microaggressions, I’m not always so careful.

I still refer to groups of women as “guys” and “dudes.” Male generics pepper my language so much that it feels futile to even try to cut them out. And even though I hate it, even though I cringe when other people say it, I still hear the word “bitch” pass through my lips far too often. These things may seem insignificant in the face of larger issues (such as rape or domestic violence), but adapting our language to be more inclusive and less derogatory is an easy step to take in the fight against gender inequality.

This list of actions (and inactions) doesn’t seem overtly terrible when read out loud, but I feel each of them deeply. That’s why I view this article as a to-do list. It’s time for me to stop justifying these things, however innocuous they may be, and start working toward being… better.

Roxane Gay put it beautifully when she explained:

“It’s hard to make the better choice, and it is so easy to justify a lesser one. But — when I justify bad choices, I make it harder for women to achieve equality, the equality that we all deserve, and I need to own that.”

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