This post almost made me lose faith in humanity.
I don’t want to be too harsh — it’s a thoughtful post and I agree with its conclusions, and I have a good deal in common with its author — but my heart was half-broken by just the title.
Now, let me make this clear, in case I didn’t already: I agree with the conclusions of this post. I’m just really, really sad that we’re still asking this question.
The post continues:
One unfortunate consequence of feminism’s emphasis on the personal as political is that it becomes too easy to discriminate against people for not being “feminist enough.”
This is the opposite of what “the personal is political” is supposed to mean. “The personal is political” is not an excuse to bash other women or take away someone’s feminist membership card. It’s the idea that our ostensibly “personal” problems — like rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment — are actually part of large-scale systems of oppression. Many personal hardships are the result of political injustices.
Now, of course individuals should be held accountable for their own unfair or bigoted actions. But wearing lipstick — for example — is not an act of bigotry, even though it’s caused by a bigoted system. The fact that women wear lipstick is a function of the gender system, but the fact that women wear lipstick doesn’t itself cause sexism. We could have an egalitarian world with lipstick; we couldn’t have an egalitarian world with a wage gap.
I try to be comfortable with my naughty subservience, but as a feminist and a fiercely independent person, it’s an awkward thing to feel and admit to. I get this niggling sense that I should be large and in charge all the time, like my personal politics should be carrying over into my sexual preferences. I’m trying to overthrow gender roles, here. Being submissive in bed is a stereotypically feminine thing. Bad feminist!
I happen to be not at all stereotypically feminine, but nonetheless, I totally disagree that “stereotypically feminine” = “bad/worse feminist.”*
My best friend is a heterosexual with long hair, and I’m a dyke with a buzz cut. She can’t help liking men any more than I can help liking women, and she might feel as uncomfortable with very short hair as I would with a ponytail. Am I therefore a better feminist?
My girlfriend wears lots of dresses, jewelry and girly shoes, while I prefer to wear pants, t-shirts and motorcycle boots. We both wear the clothes we like, feel comfortable in, and look best in, and our choices are both, inevitably, influenced by the gender system. Am I a better feminist?
Of course I’m not.
So getting back to the original question:
Can I Be a Feminist and a Bottom in Bed?
I don’t know, can you?
Do you like being tied up because you think women are inherently inferior? While your partner is telling exactly you what to do, are you secretly thinking that the state should outlaw contraception? While you’re being spanked, are you thinking that boys shouldn’t cry and girls shouldn’t learn math? Are you thinking that everyone should be in a heterosexual marriage in which the man is the head of the household? Are you thinking that women who are date-raped and men who are raped prison deserve what they get? Are you think that sexism is permissible? That equal pay for equal work is a bad idea? While you’re having sex, what are you thoughts on suffrage? How about your thoughts on the ERA? Are you having on ideas about whether women should be allowed to own property?
Our actions are undoubtedly influenced by the gender system. People’s sexual proclivities may be influenced by the gender system — I honestly don’t know, and I really don’t care. At the end of the day, if you’re opposed to sexism — if you believe men and women should be equal, that the gender system in unjust, that our freedoms, both legal and cultural, should not be dependent on our genitals, chromosomes, or our gender presentation, that every person has a sovereign right to reproductive justice — then you’re a feminist in my book, regardless of how you choose to use or not use make-up and handcuffs.
* The author of the original post explains that she disagrees with this, too — this post is not a take-down of her post, really, just of the ideas that caused her to write it in the first place.
This post was written by Daisy on October 15, 2008