Feminism’s focus on women

Laurie Penny explains about feminism to a wondering world.

First of all there’s the subhead, which is probably not her doing, but it does rather set the tone.

Feminism’s focus on women can be alienating to queer people and anyone questioning the gender binary. But it doesn’t have to be.

“Feminism’s focus on women” – pause to savor that. How dare feminism focus on women? Other people have problems too ya know! And yet would BuzzFeed remark that anti-racism’s focus on people of color can be alienating? Would it fret that the labor movement focuses on labor?

I don’t think so. It’s only feminism that the libertarian left is so relentlessly eager to ostracize. It’s as if feminism has somehow morphed into an Eisenhower-era country club.

I’ve never felt quite like a woman, but I’ve never wanted to be a man, either. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be something in between. To quote Ruby Rose: I called myself a girl, but only because my options were limited. I always assumed that everyone felt that way.

But in school the other girls looked at her funny, so she assumed that only she felt that way.

Well I know how that goes, I was that girl, and yes I too felt like a weirdo, although less and less as we all grew older, because other girls were letting their inner weirdo out. But at any rate, that was school. Once I was out of school, I learned I wasn’t That Special. It’s very important to learn that you’re not That Special. By all means dissent, nonconform, be eccentric, but don’t think that makes you special, because it doesn’t. Very few people are all that special, and the odds that one is oneself one of those people are very slim.

It was around this time that I first read second-wave feminist Germaine Greer.

I really wish people would stop doing that. I really wish young lightweights would stop patronizing feminists who are older than they are by shoving them into the hospice labeled “Second Wave.”

According to Greer, liberation meant understanding that whatever you were in life, you were a woman first. Her writing helped me understand how society saw me — and every other female person I’d ever met. We were not human beings first: We were just girls. Looking back, though, that militant insistence on womanhood before everything is part of the reason it’s taken me a decade to admit that, in addition to being a feminist, I’m genderqueer. That I’m here to fight for women’s rights, that I play for the girls’ team, but I have never felt like much of a woman at all.

But that’s feminism. “A woman”=that subordinate person who had the bad taste not to be a man. Not feeling like that person, not accepting that subordination, that not feeling like such a person – that’s feminism. It’s not opposed to feminism or an addendum to feminism, it is feminism.

Only when we recognize that “manhood” and “womanhood” are made-up categories, invented to control human beings and violently imposed, can we truly understand the nature of sexism, of misogyny, of the way we are all worked over by gender in the end.

But, again, that’s feminism. It’s not exclusive to genderqueer feminism, it’s just feminism…or, at least, it’s just radical feminism. The more corporate kind of feminism wants barriers broken down but doesn’t want to ditch gender. And yet radical feminism is the kind that’s accused of being transphobic.

I don’t want to see a world without gender. I want to see a world where gender is not oppressive or enforced, where there are as many ways to express and perform and relate to your own identity as there are people on Earth. I want a world where gender is not painful, but joyful.

But until then, we’ve got this one. And for as long as we all have to navigate a gender binary that’s fundamentally broken and a sex class system that seeks to break us, I’m happy to be a gender traitor.

I’m a genderqueer woman, and a feminist.

Great. As far as I can tell, so am I. What’s all this about “second-wave” feminism again?

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