#Iamnotaproperfeminist BECAUSE VAGINAS*: Why we started the hashtag

by Veronica on June 23, 2013

in Soapbox

Yesterday morning I was on the phone to Frogpondsrock. We were bemoaning the fact that the #convoyofcleavage had sparked such disparaging language, that some feminist circles were angry about the terminology used, and the “slacktivism” of the whole thing.

I can’t remember who said it first, but one of us stated that we obviously weren’t proper feminists because we don’t know the secret feminist language/we like our husbands/don’t think feminism should be an exclusive club.

Then we got the giggles, because we think we’re hilarious. Suddenly, we had a twitter hashtag on our hands.

Thus is began with both of us tweeting on the #Iamnotaproperfeminist hashtag and amusing ourselves.

We wanted to poke gentle fun at the idea of there being a “right” way to be a feminist. Sometimes, people in the know get so hung up on the terminology used that they forget women all over the world are coming at feminism from a perspective unique to themselves. We’re not all the same person, with the same circumstances. To state unequivocally that feminism is THIS THING and not THAT THING is to discount the experience of women different to you.

By yesterday evening, our hashtag had taken off, grown wings and flown far away from where it started.

All across twitter, women and men were joining in to promote feminism without borders. And not just cis women, but trans women too. I count this as an extra success, because if their tweets are anything to go by, trans women are told they’re not able to feminist properly more often than I am.

Feminism has become something quite narrowly defined in recent years. Women who study feminism at Uni bristle at those of us who didn’t complete a degree calling ourselves feminists.

It’s all a bit ridiculous.

How do you define feminism anyway?

With all the drama and terminology complaints, it’s no wonder that young girls have been stepping back from calling themselves feminist. Who can be bothered when you have to always make sure you’re using the perfect word for the job, and inevitably, we all end up “doing it wrong” anyway.

Young women want to be feminists. We want equality. We just don’t want to have to constantly talk about what feminism is and isn’t – and I’m pretty sure that we don’t want women who are further along the paths of education (self, or otherwise) to be pointing out how we’re not being the perfect feminist.

I am not a proper feminist hit back at the stereotypes, at the exclusionary language, and it showcased the discomfort a lot of us were feeling at being told there was only one true way to do this feminism thing.

I am not a proper feminist, because there is no such thing.

And that’s why it’s awesome.

* Because VAGINAS reference from here.

carly June 23, 2013 at 11:45 am

Beautifully said! I couldn’t agree with you more. I often tell people I’m not a feminist/don’t believe in feminism because I see people pushing one strong set of views on everyone else. I believe in equality and respect. I don’t think women are better than men – I think we both have our strengths and weaknesses. And sometimes a woman can be physically stronger than a man and a man can be more empathetic than a woman. Life is complex and so is being an advocate for equality.

Robyn June 23, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Wonderful stuff! I saw some tweets on the hashtag this morning that made my blood boil, quite frankly, but I didn’t buy into the debate anymore than I already have.

It is so damn sad. Is feminism doomed because the “thou shalt do as I say or you will feel my wrath” brigade simply drive women away? It is a question some could do well to consider.

Maybe we need a new word for those who strive for gender equality without all the man-hating, without all the “I know best” crap and who actually care about women at the coal face.

I am adopting Carly’s approach from today. I am no longer a feminist because the example being set by those who consider themselves the “senior” feminists are not setting any example I want to follow or be a part of.

Quite simply, I believe in equality. I’ll keep working for it. In an inclusive and understanding and sometimes frivolous (because laughter is great medicine) way.

river June 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm

The way I’ve heard some people talk I gathered that Feminists were women who hate men.
Didn’t sound right to me so I stopped listening. So I still don’t have a clear idea on what Feminism is and probably don’t care enough to find out. I’d probably get howled down anyway because I believe in equal choices and equal chances rather than blanket equality. Men and women aren’t equal. We’re different and hooray for that.

Oculus Mundi June 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Exactly right. Frustrating and sad to see exclusionary verbal lambasting of women by people who have self-decreed themselves as feminist icons. (I just tweeted this comment too, in the interests of admitting I am a lazy tart who didn’t want to think up two comments :))

However you approach feminism, whether it is academically or in your everyday life, we are all entitled to attempt it in our own way. Of course, furiously angry people are also entitled to rant, snark, froth, foam and rave and generally embarrass themselves. And we are entitled to keep doing whatever we damn well please with our own boobs anyway :)

Got to be honest, the more snarking and frothing that is reported back to me, the more I want to get my tits out for Australia again. Maybe instead of having fun with it and calling it Convoy of Cleavage this time we can call ourselves Real Feminists telling you how to behave and really help knot some knickers :D

I’ve always said we didn’t need another term for feminism. But maybe we do. Because I sure as shit don’t want to be associated with the level of bile and general screechy anger that I have been hearing about from some of my Twerps.

Maybe people who really believe in gender equality need to find a new name for it and leave the furious, exclusionary, self-appointed feminist enforcer types behind.

Anne Powles June 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I am very pleased you started the hash tag and admire the reasons for which you did. I share your viewpoint that feminism must be inclusive and there is not just “one way”.

But as an “old feminist” a couple of the comments subsequently made saddened me. Particularly the idea that one has to reject the name “feminism”. This perhaps arises because of a lack of historic understanding of some of the things that actually used to go on. I know very few feminists who “hate men”, for example.

The stands we had to make, say 50 years ago, are misunderstood because, sometimes, people do not realize just what we fought against. Some of the attitudes we held (and occasionally a few still hold) about dress may seem odd but they are a result of the very strict dress codes women previously were compelled to follow. As a young student and then lawyer, I could not appear in court without wearing a hat. We were not allowed to be in public, even as Uni students, in slacks. We had to wear skirts at all times. Gloves were de rigeur for girls at High School. And removing excess public (not pubic) hair was an absolute. We had no choice. So the ancient vision of us all as hairy, trouser wearing, lace-up shoe sporting viragos was as a response to these strictures, not as fashion choices. It was far from the desire of anyone from those days to want to prescribe dress and other behaviours. Quite the reverse, we wanted to demonstrate choice.

But I must admit I still prefer to wear the pants as I continue to say, as do most of my contemporaries, “Go choice”.

Anne Powles

Robyn June 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Anne, I understand where you are comin from. I acknowledge I am one of the ones who called for a new name! :)

In my working life I am one of the ones who fought for the right of my female staff to be able to wear trousers to work. It was hard work. I never had to wear a hat, luckily, although at school it had certainly been hats and gloves (and witches-britches in winter).

Not all the women reacting to the situation are young. I may not remember back quite as far as you do, but I remember. :)

rhonda June 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I loved this hashtag, and I completely agree with your post. My hat is off to you Veronica.

john malpas June 25, 2013 at 10:55 am

If you want to be a cultural marxist it has to be their way.

Emily June 25, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Loved the hashtag. Love this post. Love your work.

Oculus Mundi June 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

Hi Von. I have been thinking about this on and off for the last few days. For years, decades even, I have been telling people they already are feminists if they believe women and men are equal, deserve equal respect, pay and whatnot. I have argued the case and the word repeatedly and defended feminists over and over.

Recently I was witness to a self appointed, self-aggrandising virulent verbal tirade. This rage-fuelled invective was vomited over any and all words and deeds that a self-decreed academic armchair feminist was unable to comprehend.

The bizarre and puzzling malice of the outburst – which continued over several days – has so thoroughly co-opted the word in my mind that for the first time ever I no longer wish to describe myself as a feminist. I now understand why so many people turn their faces away in disgust when they hear the word. If I thought of foaming, frothing, exclusionary malice when I heard the word feminist, I would too.

I won’t say I am not a feminist – because I am. In its real sense. And I will always know it. And defend others who consider themselves feminists.

But I will be thinking of and describing myself as an equalist from now on. That way, I know I won’t, ever, accidentally be counted in the same category as those who deliver rage-fuelled malicious diatribes against human beings they have no understanding of for the shocking crime of daring to disagree with the armchair academic and think and act for themselves.

Equalist it is then. At least for me.

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