This past week has been a tough one for women of the feminist persuasion. It’s not been a good week for feminism, it just hasn’t.
It started with Caitlin Moran telling a
troll concerned feminist that she “literally could not give a shit” about Lena Dunham’s lack of women of colour in Girls. This, obviously, resulted in a feminist shitstorm which left everyone so afraid of using the G word (Girls) the LD word (Lena Dunham) or the CM word (Caitlin Moran) on Twitter that feminists around the country took to their homes, stayed off the internet, and wept in the shower, furiously trying to cleanse themselves of their privilege.
The overall feeling has been one of disappointment.
“How could Lena Dunham not have any women of colour in her show?”
“How could Caitlin Moran say that she didn’t give a shit about women of colour?”
“How could they do this to us?”
I don’t envy women like Moran or Dunham, as they have the immeasurable weight of feminist expectation resting on their shoulders. I can only imagine that Lena Dunham has affirmations like “Don’t let the side down: You are a feminist icon!” written on Post-its all over her trailer to help keep herself sane.
The problem is that we’re all so starved for adult female role models and legit women we actually respect and look up to, that when we get one, we put them on the highest, most bad-ass pedestal we can find. We then cover it in chicken wire and install an alarm system because now that we have them, they must never leave. They must never go and they must never falter, for they are our Perfect Feminist Icon. Up there, towering above us all and tweeting terribly clever things is where they must stay.
However, this is, what they call, problematic. Our feminist icons are just normal human beings, no matter how famous or talented or OMGAWESOME they are. They will make mistakes, say stupid things like “women aren’t funny”, or have dinner with Julian Assange and hang out with him for five fucking hours despite the fact he’s avoiding being taken to court for the (alleged) sexual assault of two women.
Having our feminist icons let us down hurts more than, say, your favourite celebrity doing something stupid like dating John Mayer, because it feels personal. They’re one of us. They believe in the stuff that we do, but when they speak, people listen. They have power, and we expect them to use it for good. We expect them to fight for everything we would fight for if we were in the same position.
"If I were Cailtin Moran, I would never have said that to one of my Twitter followers..."
"If were Lena Dunham, I would have done whatever I could to have more women of colour on my TV show."
Because our feminist heroes are so far and few between, if one of us makes it to the top, we treat them like a mole who has infiltrated The System. And because they’ve infiltrated, we think they should be addressing every single feminist grievance, ever. If you think about all of the issues we have to deal with, if someone managed to make every feminist happy, it would be a god damn miracle. Quite frankly, we’re closer to finding the meaning of life than that happening.
If more feminists were in the same positions Moran and Dunham are, there would be more opportunities for shows, books, films and publications to be more representative of the things all of us care about, with characters that look like all of us. The problem is, we only have a handful of white, middle-class feminists sitting at the top of Mainstream Media-Friendly Feminist Mountain.
We also have to remember that feminism is different for everyone. If we all tried to care about EVERYTHING and fight for EVERYONE and every kind of woman, we would be some sort of politically correct, exhausted Feminist Robot. We don't all have to fight for everything, and my kind of feminism doesn’t necessarily look like your feminism, which isn't always an easy pill to swallow.
By no means am I making excuses for how Moran chose to handle that (awkward, shitty) situation. I’m also not making excuses for Dunham’s lack of women of colour in GIRLS. (I mean, really, she couldn’t have even called Mindy Kaling and been like, “ I need some help with this…”?) But what we do have to remember, in all of this (six month late) rage, is that Lena Dunham has addressed the issue numerous times, and she’s made the promise to do better. What more can you ask of her at this point?
There is nothing wrong with debate. There is nothing wrong with going, "Hey, Caitlin. Why didn't you bring up the women of colour issue that everyone was talking about in your interview with Lena?" But I do have a problem with the idea that we're a community that needs self-policing or that needs to keep its members in check or in line.
We don’t need to agree with everything our favourite feminists say and do. They are not our gods. They are not a religion. Your own thoughts, how you feel about things and how you behave is what is most important.
If you think you can do better, than you better damn well do it.