At first, I was just amused by the Tumblr page “Is This Feminist?”, which has the tagline “Because being a marginally acceptable feminist is a full-time job.”
The concept is pictures of Women Doing Things, with short text explaining why, no matter how feminist–or harmless–the Things They Are Doing may seem, there’s always some way to cast them as problematic. And then there’s a humorous twist.
Here are two examples:
This woman is texting a friend about her date. IS THIS FEMINIST?
Frankly, it’s appalling that you think we might endorse antiquated, stereotypically feminine behavior like “texting your friends about your dates,” or “telling your friends about your dates,” or “having friends.” However, this particular woman is texting her friend to say that her date was Zorgon, the All-Powerful, and that after their date he teleported her to a glowing void dimension in which there was no space nor time, only unlimited free wireless. So, we’re fine with it. This woman is REPRESENTING FEMINISM. For now.
This woman is watching a sporting event of some kind. IS THIS FEMINIST?
No. The culture of sports is a sort of miniaturized warfare, which incites the individual to lose him- or herself in identification with his or her “team,” in a proto-nationalist fashion, making him or her complicit in an exercise of brutal, organized physical domination of the enemy “team.” Thus, sporting events create and support a patriarchal conception of “power-over” in which victory — and thus worth — is defined by physical domination and conquest of the Other. It’s still feminist to watch “Friday Night Lights,” though. PROBLEMATIC.
There’s lots more, and it’s all funny. Whoever is behind this page (anonymous, as far as I can tell) has a really good grasp of feminist rhetoric, and knows how to twist it to make it ridiculous.
When I got past the giggling stage, and thought a little, I decided that I was seriously impressed. The mysterious Tumblr-er’s underlying point is not only valid, it’s important.
Social awareness, like everything else, is a bell curve–the vast number of people are in the middle, and the further we are to one extreme or the other, the more aware we get of how different we are from that vast number of people in the middle. And everything they believe and do and say starts looking problematic to us–generally because it is problematic, based on our values and what we think is important. It’s inevitable (and in fact, it’s a good thing) that this makes us scrutinize everything, from texting to sport, from doing science to doing laundry.
And the more we scrutinize everything, the more problems we find. If I take this scrutiny far enough, it’s easy to get to the point where I can’t get out of bed in the morning, because what shoes to wear, what soap to wash with, and what tasks to do first are all completely entangled in what’s problematic and why. And if I don’t take awareness far enough, I’m more part of the problem than I am part of the solution. And, to recomplicate matters one more time, every person’s definition of “too far,” and “not far enough” are different.
Self-aware, informed laughter is one of the very best ways to navigate this dilemma. So I’m grateful to the anonymous Tumblr-er who gave me a set of good giggles and a useful new way to think about how radicalism works.
Thanks to Feministe for the pointer.