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9 March 2011, 4:00 pm No Comments

DisOrienting Encounters: On Deploying Feminism

This post was submitted by Cyrus

In solidarity with International Women’s Day and in conjunction with Feminist Coming Out Day, there are many reasons to celebrate women and feminism. Feminist transformations have changed many people’s lives across the globe in perhaps the most revealing yet mundane ways. It can be as revolutionary as realizing one’s position and place in society while on the other hand, it can be as simple as realizing that one is different from another.

The reach and the meaning of feminism are under constant negotiation. At my alma mater, I peer-facilitate an introductory-level women’s studies course where young college kids break into smaller groups and delve into the meaning of feminism. It has been a satisfying experience to see young men and women try to make sense of the theoretical meanings and the reach of feminism in their own respective lives. Some regard feminism as the equation of women to men while others have a more complex and profound definitions, such as “the revolutionary act to realize women are also human.”

Throughout my year as a peer-facilitator, I have also grown to realize how some use the banner of feminism to meet personal ends that appear progressive but actually are a huge step backward from the truly transformative nature of feminism. For example, a common discussion held in my groups alludes to the nature of the 2008 election as a feminist transformation; when America grasped the possibility of a female president in then-Senator Hilary Clinton and Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin; when the possibility of female heads of power was a viable route. But on the other hand, Sarah Palin’s stance on reproductive justice and abortion has severely limited women’s access to choice. So my groups and I reach cross roads and junction points. We have women finally accessing new zeniths of power but also have female candidates who limit choice. Is this feminism?

Hopefully, my groups realize they are allowed to make their decision and depart from these cross roads on their own terms and choose their own truths.

As for myself, I learn with them. Deploying feminism is not only talking about feminism but also realizing how people misuse it. For example, under the umbrella of tolerance, feminism may signify a turning point in societal expectations and outlooks on people and lifestyle. However, tolerance can be used as weapon of preaching hate and violence from one group towards another.

Hence I present you, truetolerance.org. If the name of the website doesn’t beg you to ask what is true tolerance , the message presented on the website will get any queer feminist to react and ask “Really? They’re preaching about tolerance?” It is clear the creators of this website (mis)use the word tolerance to react against many equality initiatives. They believe the queer community is attacking the establishment of family, home, and security. They advocate attacking the queer community in “fact-based ways” AND even explain how one might reverse equality initiatives in their own communities.

What is most surprising is the irony that this organization founded itself under the guise of true tolerance, while there are strains of blatant homophobia passing itself as progressive reform. From deceptive anti-bullying initiatives readily passed off to local governing officials to claims of deceptive queer agenda-based action, the site is a visible attack on the institution of family.

So, here we are. We are at a crossroads. What is your feminism? Is this tolerance or is truetolerance.org using feminism incorrectly?

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