While feminism is for everybody, it does not mean we are free to use it to further our own biases, throw a blanket label of “feminist” over our interests and expect to be patted on the back for identifying as feminist. Bell hooks warns of the dangers of “lifestyle feminism” in many of her works, ultimately saying that labeling ourselves feminist without challenging personally internalized misogyny and societally institutionalized sexism is, in fact, a form of sexist oppression. According to hooks, and the majority of the second and third-wave feminist movement, a person “...cannot be anti-abortion and an advocate for feminism,” because restricting the reproductive rights of women is sexist oppression.
Hooks is not saying that women who practice lifestyle feminism or do not believe in reproductive choice have no place in the movement, or that their voices should not be heard. Anti-choice campus “feminists” (we use quotes strategically here because we agree with hooks’ argument above) have recently denounced spaces built by organizations like the Feminist Caucus (UAFC) as being unwelcoming to their politics. This is an unfounded assertion, however, because just last week UAFC held a rally at which they invited those in attendance to speak, share their experiences and find community.
Vocal campus anti-choice “feminists” and Bama Students for Life (BSFL) members critique organizations like UAFC for their pro-choice politics on social media often and held a counter-protest at last week’s UAFC rally. Rather than participate in the creation of a campus feminist community, BSFL’s members chose to stand in silence with inflammatory signage in attempts to detract attention from the rally’s purposes to celebrate the experiences of women, to speak out against injustice and to build community between feminists and feminist allies. Rather than participate in the feminist dialogue they supposedly long for, the protesters rejected the opportunity to speak out against the “injustices” they believe plague the feminist movement-at-large. Furthermore, rather than be involved with campus feminism by attending UAFC events and positively contributing to UAFC meetings, BSFL “feminists” elect to spend their time being involved with the harassment of women attempting to access reproductive healthcare at clinics like West Alabama Women’s Center.
While it is important to give everyone a voice, there comes a point when this faux-feminism creates dangers to those who seek refuge in feminist spaces. LGBT folk, Black and Brown people and people who have had abortions are less likely to feel that their identities are welcome in a “feminist” environment that picks and chooses which portions of feminist ideology they want to support. To demand entry to safe spaces, for individuals to assert their ability to “belong” because they’re feminists, is an inconsiderate act of exclusion and a display of privilege.
It is essential to interrogate our beliefs and see how systems of oppression like sexism, racism, homophobia and the patriarchy have influenced and shaped them. The fact of the matter is this: if anti-choice “feminists” refuse to work with the feminist movement-at-large because of their disagreement with one of the many injustices feminism seeks to correct (lack of access to reproductive healthcare), then they are doing nothing to actually further the majority of the movement’s ideals.
Cassidy Ellis is a graduate student in communication studies. Lindsay Macher is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. They are both officers in the University of Alabama Feminist Caucus, and this editorial represents the views of both writers.