Does Feminism Mean We All Have to Fight For Exactly the Same Things?

Statutory warning: this is a feminism post, written by a feminist, addressed towards other feminists, and related to women's rights. If that offends you, I ask that you keep your commentary civil or, if you can’t do so, move along. I will not tolerate the misogynistic comments that normally tend to find their way onto anything related to feminism.

Hopefully that alienated the undesirable elements of cyberspace, so now I pose the question to my fellow feminists: does everyone have to subscribe to a universal definition of feminism in order for the movement to exist as a whole, or can we exist as a heterogeneous group that differs in opinion but seeks the same final goal?

The reason I ask is because one of my closest friends, an advocate of gender equality that I would vouch for any day, recently told me that I'm not quite a feminist because I have a very "set view" of women. Ironically, she sees nothing "set" about creating a universal definition of feminism and then disqualifying anyone that doesn’t adhere to it.

So, perhaps out of spite but more out of desperation, I approach the Internet, home to a much larger group of feminists, and ask if, based upon my views, whether anyone here thinks I am still a card carrying member.

My friend argues that modern feminism recognizes the modeling industry as a tool for feminine empowerment. However, whenever I hear the term "catwalk," I instinctively condemn everyone from Vogue to Victoria’s Secret. Any field that promotes the consumption of Kleenex and places women on a ramp to be photographed isn't a field I can root for.

To me, this is dangerous and it is objectification.

My friend also argues that pornography is not inherently anti-woman; that, when done "correctly," it can be a liberation that exposes the double standards regarding gender and sexuality in society. However, I never felt that the cameramen for Girls Gone Wild or Playboy were looking to liberate women.

Yes, it's consensual, but it also includes the usage of sexual slurs, occasionally violent behavior, and an overall depiction of the female as an object of pleasure. Oh, and sometimes it’s not even consensual.  

I've also seen arguments in favor of stopping "slut-shaming" on social media. However, I think progressive gender discourse has no room for the term "slut," even if it is being used ironically. And, if it is being used literally, are we saying that the label "slut" is okay, but the shaming isn’t? How about neither is okay?

Plus, my friend has argued that religion is nothing more than a patriarchal tool designed to oppress women. Yet, some of the most dedicated feminists I know are incredibly religious, fighting to make sure their beliefs are not misused by men desirous of superiority.

Simply put, I always saw religion as a tool to strengthen the feminist resolve, not end it.

I don't think I can ever see a day when I abandon the label "feminist." However, after several conversations with my friend, I’m practically convinced I don’t count as one. So, in a desperate plea of solidarity, I have exposed by thoughts on the subject and, if I'm still welcome, would appreciate a voice in the discourse.

And even if my beliefs are not in line with feminism, I can assure you that I believe one thing for certain: no society can ever be worthy of its existence if its men and women are not standing side by side.

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Abdul R. Siddiqui

Abdul is a graduate of CUNY Baruch, as part of the Macaulay Honors program. He has interned with the New York City Housing Authority, Macaulay, and PolicyMic. He currently contributes to PolicyMic, DramaFever, and NewLogical.

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