I love feminism. I need feminism. I am a feminist. Now that that’s clear…
Feminism is going to crucify me for this but dammit if I’m not sometimes driven to madness by the pedantic semiotics of what I’m dubbing Internet feminism. Internet Feminism is not feminism that is on the internet. There is a lot of great feminist thought and discussion on the internet–but none of it is what I’m calling Internet Feminism. What I know about Internet feminism is this: it will never be happy with you, no matter what you do or say. Internet feminism is here to tell you you’re WRONG, even if, OK, maybe you’re a little bit right, here’s why you are definitely still WRONG. You will never be good enough or right enough or FEMINIST ENOUGH for Internet Feminism.
With Internet Feminism, there’s absolutely no grey areas. Only black and white. You can have a liberal, open minded opinion in a matter of interest to women, and yet Internet Feminism will poke holes in it until you sink. It is my belief that not all things need to be poked to death. Yes, we need to call out injustices where we see them. We need to psychoanalyze the cultural signifiers that build up around us to erode the dangerous perceptions they create. And we certainly need to keep challenging the status quo every single day. But we don’t need to needle away with trite academics–all that does it make it impossible for anyone to make a substantive point about anything.
Women are still an “other” in society, especially with race and socioeconomic issues conflating already institutionalized inequalities. But I don’t think that means that women should be immune from, say, comedy, to give just one example. Or even just a simple bit of individuality and airiness. Internet Feminism has lost the ability to have a laugh at the expense of a female trope–I’m not saying rape jokes are funny, nor am I condoning them. But can’t we all just take a load off and giggle about the way a lot of women like lipstick or Taylor Swift? These aren’t insults, they’re not made up either–there are lots of generalizations about women we make that, believe it or not, can be completely innocent, a lot of the time because they’re rooted in an act of the majority.
The one that always seems silly to argue on is PMS. Girl, I PMS like a heroin addict going cold turkey. I make fun of PMS not to bring women down or because it’s some fantasy thing made up by men to trick us into relenting to the patriarchy, but it’s a biological thing that happens to our bodies that we can’t stop. Our hormones go wild, our bodies change, and our emotions and personalities alter to fit these strains that are put on our physicality. It’s OK! It’s not a reason to treat women as LESS, but it’s OK to just accept that this is an absurd thing that happens to women, and acknowledge it as such. Our physiology isn’t a leather purse in a Thai market place next to the plastic knock off male physiology–“same same (but different)”–so there’s no point in trying to convince ourselves that we’re all wired the same way. We’re not.
My point is that Internet Feminism can be really tiring. It’s really exhausting to try and figure out what sort of woman you’re going to piss off by making some totally off-the-cuff comment that doesn’t have an ounce of antagonism behind it. To me, it’s fairly clear what is damaging to women, and what is light-hearted fare. An article calling women fat or slutty–that qualifies as damaging. An article about the gross things women do when they’re in private, or the stupid faces they pull when they’re putting on mascara, or secret things they do with their best friends–the only thing that hurts us about these is when we focus our energy on tearing them to shreds. To Internet Feminism I say, in the words of Katy Perry, “Choose your battles, baby.”