The year was 2014 when one of my best friends forwarded Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay to me. The compilation of essays critiques social and cultural issues whilst taking the reader on this journey where Gay explores and evolves as a feminist and cultural critic.
I think about that text often, and I refer to it as often. Unless I feel comfortable enough in my knowledge, I have always been reluctant to share my views on many (read most) social and cultural topics just as much as I have been openly vocal about the fact. As someone who tends to translate better on paper, I had admittedly adopted an inferiority complex where cavalier statements like “Naledi is uneducated” acted as stop signs in my head on the days when I felt tempted to say something about some things. In a very related way, going to varsity proved beneficial in opening me up to a world where academia and casual conversations were partners when it came to emphasizing just how little one knows and just how wrong one may have been about almost all that they have come to know.
A year ago I was tasked with exploring my different identities and the ways in which they intersected and subsequently informed my feminism. Although this was an academic research project, it continues to draw to my attention to certain privileges and discrimination(s) that are set aside for women like me. In studying feminism as an extensive framework, I gained more interest in the complexities surrounding other forms of the movement. By engaging with other feminists in my daily life and browsing through a number of resources and material online, I began to take note of the way in which different groups seemed to react to certain sentiments.
Inasmuch as everything is moving faster than we can process what was trending twenty-four hours prior, we cannot neglect how such shifts affect the life-span and impact of the knowledge we attain in the era of wokeness. This perceived consciousness or mindfulness concerning said social and cultural issues has contributed to the way in which I continually navigate my feminism, as well as issues pertaining to women and the way in which they are represented across different mediums.
This week one of the biggest, dare I say, female superstars has been trending in the media for multiple reasons. Among those reasons are; claiming to be interested in the empowerment of women in work spaces (just weeks after supposedly getting an intern fired for sharing her views about the star online); openly supporting an alleged pedophile on numerous occasions; and then finally, the allegations that she physically abused an ex-boyfriend and has not been held accountable to name a few. It’s unfortunate that of all possible titles, feminism then takes on one such as inconsistent.
As movements tend to go, the groundwork can often be overshadowed by the people at the forefront of the movement at a given time. Chimamanda’s brand of feminism for example, was cool until she spoke about trans-women and oppression in a questionable regard. So while feminism can hold conflicting ideas in general depending on who represents the movement, I cannot deny that it propositions the kind of ground stable enough to explore these shifting changes.
“Feminism, as of late, has suffered from a certain guilt by association because we conflate feminism with women who advocate feminism as part of their personal brand. When these figureheads say what we want to hear, we put them up on the Feminist Pedestal, and when they do something we don’t like, we knock them right off and then say there’s something wrong with feminism because our feminist leaders have failed us. We forget the difference between feminism and Professional Feminists”
— Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)
This is why I would propose, like Gay, we should all be Bad Feminists. I say this because it allows room for error and education in the same breath. Much like what I encountered and felt during my years of study, I have come to realize that I know a lot but also, not nearly enough. There are opportunities to improve said knowledge and pick up new terminologies every other day; there are conversations that can offer a perspective I may not have otherwise considered. By accepting that I do not know it all and I certainly am not always right, I open the door to listening before being defensive; to understanding before imposing my views on others. Without this kind of outlook, I am reminded of why I was weary of ever being labeled as one of those feminists. The reason simply being because feminism seemed to take on a personality where it was more intimidating than it was inviting.
As much as I am aware that there is still so much more for me to engage with, for now, I am thankful that I am more informed than I like to credit myself for and I am hoping to find more comfort in the fact. To disregard or to be ignorant about my feminism, is to deny myself a balanced understanding of the movement and to avoid imparting knowledge where my platforms and my daily life allow me to do so.
Once again, as movements tend to go, the triumphs of feminism are often proven by the numbers behind it. That said, it takes individuals to make up these numbers so I task myself with the responsibility of identifying and engaging with the movement in a way that others might be able to without feeling as intimidated by it. Up until more recent months, I became prone to picking my contexts and settling where my voice seemed to matter. My dedication to learning and exploring, though many times in secret, has always been an unwavering one. This feels like the most appropriate time and season for me to breathe in, exhale and finally dip my toes in the water.