Today in Twitterland the hashtag #TellAFeministThankYou has taken off, and how. I don’t know how this trend got started but here are some of the good, the bad, and the predictable responses:
I didn’t include the myriad of tweets about thanking feminists for their sandwich making skills. Trolls and their originality, fascinating insights.
Like I said, I don’t know how this trend got started but I am incredibly grateful to whomever started it. I am grateful for two things: The warm, fuzzy feminist high-fiving, and the troll baiting. I mean that in all sincerity. And here’s why:
This hashtag is serving as a perfect example of the problems with the word feminist/feminism. Let me be explicitly clear, I am solely referring to the problems with the WORD not the ideals or beliefs associated with it. When I attended NWSA this past fall I was fortunate enough to hear the brilliant and poignant keynote address delivered by Patricia Hill Collins. In her speech PHC implored the audience to imagine a feminist future that might not involve the word feminism. Her point was that after decades of reappropriation, reconceptualization, and just plain incorrect assumptions the word feminism has become muddied, really muddied. For good or for ill, “feminism” comes steeped in meaning that is not easily removed. How else might you explain the oft heard refrain, “I’m not a feminist but…”
This hashtag is illustrating just how convoluted the concept of “feminism” has become. You only need to glance at this thread to see how many people associate feminism with concepts that have nothing to do with contemporary feminist ideology. Along with the old myths about us all being man hating, womyn loving dykes, there are a surprising rash of women who seem all too eager to jump on the anti-feminist bus. Of course they wouldn’t be able to freely express their hatred of us feminists without all the work feminism has done for them, but that’s a story for a different day. I wonder how many of these rabid haters really and truly despise women and women’s rights, and how many are responding to some murky, contorted, mangled concept of “feminism” that they’re afraid to be associated with.
The perfect way to conclude this blog would be by introducing the word I have come up with to replace “feminism.” Only, I don’t know what that word is. I don’t think anyone does. I mean, PHC didn’t and if that genius brain can’t come up with the new term I feel safe saying it does not yet exist. What I think is useful is to use this hashtag, and its larger conversation, as a rallying cry for 21st century unfeminism (clever, right?). Those of us who are passionate intellectuals, activists, or just plain empowered women and men should unite in the cause to imagine the future of unfeminism. What does it look like? What does it sound like? Who is in it?
And for the record, I am thanking all those women and men who have proudly born the burden of “feminism” so that I can have the luxury of imagining what comes next.