There is no such thing as a perfect feminist

Wednesday Letter #40

No one is born the perfect feminist. No one grows up to become the perfect feminst. No one evolves into the perfect feminist. None of these things happen because there is no such thing as a perfect person. There is no such thing as a perfect feminist because people are not perfect. 

Yet in the age of feminist one-upmanship it can be difficult to remember that we are all still learning. We are all still learning because we need to be. The alternative is that our feminism remains static and becomes stagnant, which serves no one because it needs to evolve to meet the needs of the most marginalised people who are affected by the patriarchy. 

I am not talking about people who claim the feminist label, but continue to actively harm people—stares at anti-choice, transphobic and anti sex work people and groups who consider themselves feminist—I mean people who are new to feminism and as a result will naturally make mistakes along the way. People who are open to correction and willing to learn and change their minds when presented with new (to them) facts, information and people’s lived experiences. 

I’m one of those people and I am eternally grateful that I came to feminism at a time when social media was less divisive and more open to being a place where questions could be asked and answered in good faith. 

I made some pretty bad mistakes. I also continued to hold beliefs that did not make a whole lot of sense when taken alongside my new found feminism. Supporting sex workers being the most obvious example of me changing my mind when confronted with the facts. 

I haven’t always been a feminist. I haven’t always been pro-choice. I haven’t always been sex worker inclusive. While my feminism has always been non-racist, it hasn’t always been actively anti-racist which it is now. Feminism and anti-racism work go hand in hand, but the me of even a few years ago did not see it that way. 

When I was younger I was both anti-choice and a men’s rights activist in the making. I know, I know, but let me explain. 

My parents separated when I was a teenager. Me and my siblings were raised by my dad and watching him deal with the family legal system left me with an image of a system biased toward women to the detriment of men. Rather than seeing the family legal system as a system also impacted by the patriarchy, I saw women as the enemy. It was a phase that didn’t last long. Mainly because my dad talked me out of it. He knew first had the damage the system could do and 100% believed that fathers need more rights, but he knew the blame for the disaster of the current system did not lie with women.  

Whether I share the full story of my decidedly anti-feminist early teenage years depends on the situation and how well I know the people in question. 

I am lucky that I can make that choice. I dread to think what damaging nonsense I would have said if social media had been around when I was younger. That there is no evidence of my stupidity is something I think about a lot. If those ill-thought out ideas of mine had been public would I be able to do the organising work I do now?

Would my previous self be held against my current self to the point where people assume I could not have possibly changed that much? I already see similar reactions when people learn I was once a member of Fine Gael. 

I have always admitted to being a mass of contradictions, which means I am open to changing, growing and evolving as I interrogate why I believe the things I do. 

The question I ask myself most is; do I still believe this? I surprise myself by how often the answer is; no, I don’t. Now what?  

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