Don't get me wrong: the return of feminisms is wonderful. After a decade in which the very idea of arguing that women were oppressed would lead to awkward silences, the revival of discussion around rape culture, male privilege and the general inequality hidden beneath the lazy assumptions of society is welcome. That the Tron is hosting an event called Fuck The Patriarchy is significant. The rise of the TYCI collective is beautiful. Lock Up Your Daughters continues to evolve. Because feminism cuts across class and racial boundaries, it is a rare example of an ideology that can move beyond specific injustices towards a broader vision of social justice.
It is also incredibly diverse, thanks to its long gestation: unlike Marxism, which is guilty of cleaving to dogma and connecting everything back to its own goal of political revolution, feminism has blossomed into a diverse series of strains and flavour. It can be both pro-pornography (Anna Span makes pornography and claims both f-words as liberating) and anti-pornography (hello, Andrea Dworkin). Under the name, opposing varieties can bloom. And if ideas move forward through chatting with their opposites, feminism is a fertile ground for breeding new futures.
Besides, a feminist analysis of my language in that last paragraph would be able to identify a great many gendered words and provide a run-down of my lazy assumptions.
However, I don't want to hear much more from male feminists, especially on Facebook. There have been a series of flashpoints recently.
An important male author commented that feminism's most important task is to engage with men. Another artist apologised (on behalf of feminist men) for that video with the nude ladies. A Facebook group set up to encourage discussion of rape has been posting apologetic articles by men (who seem to be lauded for admitting that they had been a bit obnoxious on dates).
Quick note: feminism's most important task is to advance the freedom of women - whether men get on board is irrelevant. They can just get out of the way. I had never heard of Robin Prick before feminist men started apologising for him - making them part of the idiot's marketing. And realising that, like, women aren't impressed by 'nice guy' attitudes and repositioning your value system isn't the same as throwing yourself under a horse: it's a dating strategy.
I haven't mentioned the people in question by name, because they are people I respect: and perhaps any attempt to grapple with feminism is better than none. I am sure that the reposting of that article about the clitoris will change somebody's life - even if it does suggest, oddly that the clitoris was discovered in the 1990s. I remember Robert Yates drawing a picture of one for me in the back row of an English class in 1986. Not having even kissed a woman with passion at that point, I was suitably impressed. I didn't realise he was a pioneer in biological science as well.
But I can never forget the conversation I had with Jane Shagstamp at Glasgow Ladyfest at the turn of the century. She was sceptical about whether a man could be a feminist - working as a stripper in Europe might have coloured her opinion - but suggested the best a man could do as a feminist is listen.
This might justify the men who are reposting feminist articles - and I have appreciated being connected to some passionate writing - but it challenges those men who are taking on feminist ideals and boasting about holding them. First of all, men getting praised for performing feminist ideas is applauding them for co-opting beliefs. While it's admirable for men to get on board with a movement that is concerned with social justice, the fact that they are getting on stage with these concepts is a reminder that the arts, like most spheres, are still male dominated. A more radical action might be sharing the stage with a woman, eh?
There's also an aura of masculine navel gazing around the whole process. Men are constantly making theatre about 'being a man.' In dance, this is especially common. It's also more than slightly predictable. Throwing in a feminist consciousness treats the struggle for female equality as a male concern: step aside, ladies, we men have got this covered.
Part of my irritation is the preachiness of the tone: the assumption of a moral high ground. Arguing about the inherent sexism of the media furore surrounding Miley Cyrus is translated into a sermon. Robin Prick, instead of being ignored as a minor pop-culture irritant, becomes an embodiment of a slide backwards to 1970s' attitudes. The best responses are, admittedly, more sophisticated and do address the moral ambiguities of the person's own behaviour. Yet far too much of the male feminist campaigning in the social media equivalent of wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt and thinking that's going to beat the man.
I suppose I had better do the same myself - I was one of these WMFs in the 1990s. I ran a disco called Love Thy Cunt, misquoting Germaine Greer before she embarrassed herself as a TV pundit and apologist for page 3. At least one girlfriend complained that I thought I could be a better woman than she could - until one of my co-DJs reminded me of an eternal feminist truth. 'The Master's Tools Cannot Dismantle The Master's House.' She went on to become a social worker, engaging with the hard edge of inequality (not complaining about it from a podium or a stage), while I kept on being a Tool.
What the new wave of WMFs fails to grasp is the complexity of feminism, and that their celebrations of feminism aren't unambiguous. It is a classic strategy of any hegemony to appear to embrace revolutionary ideas, to divide and conquer, to give the appearance of reforming by mouthing the words. I am not accusing the WMFs of anything more than good intentions, but I am encouraging them to consider more carefully how they enter the public domain with their opinions.