I’ve been thinking a lot about the term “bad feminist” after I wondered if I was, indeed, being a bad feminist by talking about my ongoing weight loss when I wrote 40 years & 40 pounds . This is a blog about fitness and a feminist perspective and I felt more than a twinge of self-censoring. I certainly got riled up at the thought that people were thinking discussion about my weight loss made this a “bad feminist” blog. So much so Tracy thought we should do a series of posts about that term being bandied about. She did some great ground clearing in Does Feeling Good about Weight Loss Make Me a “Bad Feminist?”
I’m not an academic. I came to feminism in my late twenties as the realization dawned on me that the world was, in fact, highly sexist. I started to see how this gender game had negatively impacted me. I took courses in women’s studies and try to apply what I’ve learned in my personal life and in my public life to end the oppression of women.
I think healthy debate is phenomenal, I love learning new things. The most surprising things in my life have come from changing my mind on something when I get new evidence. I remember the first time I watched Taylor Mali’s spoken word “Like Lilly Like Wilson” and thought, wow, I was, like, totally, like Lilly Like Wilson and it drove my feminist high school biology teacher around the bend.
She would try to get my friends and I to understand that in 1990 wearing dog collars as fashion statements was degrading, that we should go to Take Back the Night. We’d have none of it. I’ve changed my mind about dog collars and Take Back the Night so please hear what I am about to say.
No one gets to call me a “bad feminist” but myself and let me explain why. I think that term is slung around when we mean other things like sloppy thinking or forgetting privilege or perpetuating harmful and hurtful ideas about body image and weight. I don’t think it’s intended to shame or silence but that is the impact. How dare I write about losing weight when there are so many bad arguments about weight loss! Bad Feminist! Uh, no thank you. I do self identify as a “bad feminist” when:
-I try to make my experiences universal, I can only speak for myself
-I forget my middle class, cysgender, able, white privilege
-I forget the gift of a non-violet partner who is a feminist
-I self-censor for fear of reprisal from other feminists
-I tell another woman what to do instead of supporting her choices
-I tear people down instead of building them up
So, yes, when I catch myself doing these things I self-identify as a “bad feminist”. Honestly sharing my experiences to provide more stories about fitness and health instead of feeding women lies that there’s something wrong with us is something I’m actually quite proud of, so I don’t feel like a “bad feminist” at all.
Let’s all write great stories, about our health and wellness, our bodies, that celebrate our achievements measured by things we find meaningful for ourselves. My idea of health and fitness is largely keeping up with my family, eating great food and sharing many laughs with my friends. What’s yours?
I also appreciate that many schools of thought teach us to critique and point out the problems in arguments, to debate the points, question assumptions. These are great things and I learn from feedback and questions. I have changed my mind about so many big things but I find I can’t be open to change if I’m feeling on the defensive from being called a “bad feminist” from other people. Although, I’d rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.