Categorizing feminism

There were a lot of celebrities that participated in Women’s Marches last month and many also spoke at marches. One notably missing celebrity was Taylor Swift, who instead only tweeted about the marches.

Taylor Swift has come under fire about her feminism ever since she first outed herself as a feminist in 2014. She has been criticized for participating in white feminism, not supporting other women, and prescribing to a consumerized version of feminism. Not marching on Saturday opened her up to the same can of worms, this time amplified by her lack of participation in a worldwide protest fighting for almost every progressive feminist ideal possible. This prompted many people, including some Swift supporters, to question her feminism and whether we can still consider her a “feminist idol.” (I should note here that not everyone considers Swift a feminist idol and she is one of the most divisive feminist figures of the past five years.)

New categories of feminism

I thought about this whole Swift debacle but instead of dissecting every possibly feminist thing Swift has done, I decided to go back to a tweet-storm I went on over the summer on “levels” of feminism.

The tweets that followed explained my initial statement and I described what I thought were good labels for the different types or levels of feminism. No type is best and no type is worst; sure, some are better than others for certain people but I don’t think of it as a hierarchy or a roadmap to becoming “the best feminist.”

The passive feminist

The passive feminist is a person that believes in the basic definition of feminism, meaning they believe in the most basic equality between the genders. This person might not be very open with their feminism but will nod along if you go on a feminist rant near them. They agree with you on the most surface level about feminism but try to avoid getting into heated discussions about feminism because they don’t want to be wrong.

The only explanation I can give for why someone would want to stay a passive feminist is laziness and a lack of passion. The passive feminist does not want to put in the effort to educate themselves on feminist issues and would rather leave it to those more invested than them. They don’t want to be known for rocking the boat and accidentally making a mess of it all so they don’t rock the boat at all. They board the boat and will be a quiet passenger, leaving their room for organized activities and meals but don’t think about ever working on the boat or driving it or rocking it.

Being a passive feminist is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Not everyone can work on the boat because then there would be no passengers and how would the boat company make any money?
(I took that rocking the boat cliche and ran with it here, hopefully the boat metaphor makes sense.)

The internet feminist

The internet feminist is the newest category of feminism, and only is a thing with the invention of the internet.

I would say that the internet feminist is the most outwardly criticized category of feminism I will write about here. One way of diminishing the internet feminist’s work is to lump them in with Tumblr feminists (as shown in YouTuber Marinashutup’s video below), social justice warriors, and “slacktivism.”

The internet feminist probably doesn’t take “action,” but posts plenty about feminist topics online, usually just reposting and sharing other people’s posts. The internet feminist probably shares similarities with the passive feminist, as this person probably won’t be the type to march or organize or even petition but they do consider themselves feminists and spread that message.

The power of the internet feminist lies in how large their reach is – the more followers they have on Twitter or friends they have on Facebook, the more people they can make aware of an issue. This feminist might not be organizing but awareness is one of the tallest hurdles to cross.

The feminist scholar

This is another pretty self-explanatory title. The feminist scholar is someone who studies feminism. This person most likely has a degree in women’s or gender studies or at least uses their degree in the social sciences to examine women’s issues.

This category of feminism has established itself as the ultimate authority in the world of feminism and gender equality. Most of the essential feminist literature was written by a feminist scholar. This is helpful in that the most powerful voices are educated and actually know what they’re talking about. On the other hand, this makes feminism exclusionary to the common person who doesn’t have advanced degrees or years of research experience. Having feminism be an academic subject is destructive because it makes it difficult for a ‘regular’ person to be a strong voice within the movement.

Why it all matters

Like I said before, I don’t think any of these categories are better than the other. As a movement, we can’t have everyone at the top and we can’t have everyone at the bottom. Too many voices at the top would just lead to those voices fighting for power and nothing would get done. Too many people only posting things on Facebook would mean no real organizing would happen; sure, people mind get a more feminist mindset but the institutions would not change.

There are plenty of other categories for feminism (including some I tweeted about) but these are the ones I think require the most discussion.

I’ve criticized the movement enough for one day so I’ll end with this Roxanne Gay quote from her amazing Bad Feminist:

No matter what issues I have with feminism, I am a feminist. I cannot and will not deny the importance and absolute necessity of feminism. Like most people, I am full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman. I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.




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