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Decoding Feminist Texts: Breaking Down Those ‘Scary’ Books, In History And Theory

Posted on January 30, 2016 in Cake News

Ah, feminism.

You probably know this word from:

feminist bey

Or from the ‘I Need Feminism’ project:

Image Source: Facebook/I Need Feminism Because

Both of these are important and necessary statements that come at the end of a long history, but it’s often this history, that we in contemporary feminist movements tend to forget.

Many have observed a type of counterproductive amnesia in feminism today– and that can mean a massive lag in forwarding our politics and action. Additionally, pop feminism (the feminism packaged and distributed by popular commercial sources like TV, chart toppers or red carpet interviews) encourages people to view this historic political ideology as an easy consumer choice. Now, as much as we’d like to say becoming a feminist is like flipping a switch – anyone can do it – we know it just isn’t that easy. To flip the switch you’ve got to have the circuitry in place first.

While anybody certainly can pick the label up for themselves and find a community- it takes work, it takes commitment, it means having to confront the patriarchal ideas you have internalized, it means objectively assessing your own role in the structural oppression of others, and changing that.

Pop feminism and the legion of anti-feminists that lurk under the bridges of social media has made it okay to skip forward a few decades to today’s issues of ‘girl squad culture’ and sexual freedom, without necessarily looking at how we got here. In fact, it has moved people into that dreaded chasm of ‘not a feminist, but a humanist,’ because nobody is really taking the time to familiarize themselves with feminist history. And really, when you’re benefiting from women’s movements, shouldn’t you at least learn a bit about them?

There’s a reason we don’t have pop Marxism, and it’s not because leftists never had a VMA nomination. It’s because as a political ideology, with historical weight and consequences, Marxism needs to be unpacked carefully, systematically and intelligently. The same goes for all political ideologies, including feminism.

This isn’t to discourage an active participation in learning about feminist theory. But quite the opposite of it, actually. Given what a massive field of study it is, it’s no wonder folks are reluctant, even resistant to the idea of beginning.

But we want to change all of that.

Feminist texts are worth getting into, not because you need to pass an exam to get a feminist certificate, but because they help us grow and evolve our personal politics, experience a shared bond with people from decades, even centuries ago, and help us look more complexly at not just gender, but ethnicity, sexuality, disability, neuro-divergence, class and other areas where power binaries exist.

Suffragettes (Source: Wikipedia)

Part of addressing that counter productive amnesia also includes looking at where feminist politics went wrong. But we can’t hope to do that without going back to the foundations of feminism as a politic, and an academic subject.

How? Well, we’re proposing a humble start – breaking down some of the most seminal texts from the late 1700s, right on up to present times, to understand what they wanted, what they achieved, and what they mean for us today.

Don’t be scared of feminist theory.

Own it.