Why I’m Letting Go of the “F” Word- Feminism


bell hooks

I’ve got a bit of a potty mouth and use the “F” word with regularity. It’s been “F” this, “F” that” – and I was proud of it- but it’s time for me to wash the word “Feminist” and all of its variants out of my system. Just “F” it.

For as long as I can remember, I was warned to show caution when embracing feminism and its tenets because it wasn’t built for the agency of black women; it was an ideal to advance my white counterparts and that I was just being recruited as a foot soldier in their war. Be it the innocence of youth or optimism, I wanted to do my part in helping to change this perception and status quo. I took my place on the front lines to challenge patriarchy. After all, what drew me to feminism was the demanding of equal rights, respect and liberation from those who oppressed us all based on our gender. So many blazed the trail, and I wanted to walk in the path they helped carve.

Over the years, it’s become clear that feminism really isn’t for everyone, and it goes beyond the grain of race. It’s become classist, elitist and exclusive. You need a certain pedigree to be considered part of the movement. The latest example comes from bell hooks who took exception to Beyoncé’s credentials during a panel discussion entitled “Are You Still a Slave?” at New York’s New School on May 7.

“I see a part of Beyoncé that is, in fact, anti-feminist—that is, a terrorist—especially in terms of the impact on young girls,” hooks said.

At a time when over 200 Nigerian girls have been kidnapped by actual terrorists, spurring the #bringbackourgirls social media campaign, I find the casual assignment insulting. Beyoncé is many things, but she is no terrorist. The reach that some go towards trashing her is beyond the pale and one more vivid example about the low depths to which feminism has fallen into.

Feminism has manifested into women policing other women, becoming the oppressors the movement once fought against. We didn’t need to be freed from one box and placed into another compact and stifling one. If a scholar can be so quick to condemn with such hostility, it is no wonder that others seem fit to narrowly define what feminism is and who can proclaim themselves to be one.

The working mantra of many feminists today is that in order to be one, you must act and look a certain way in order to gain acceptance and credibility. I don’t believe that a woman’s sexuality should be all that she’s about, but she should be allowed to express it without the scorn of those who are supposed to have her back.

I’ve felt for a long time that feminism has become more about pouncing on any perceived mistake rather than offering correction in the spirit of looking out for one another. It’s become perfection or a pound of flesh. I’m still a work in progress, and I can’t meet that kind of requirement.  The only constant in life is change, but feminism has moved so far away from the advocacy it once stood for. I understand the hesitation and resistance that some have towards wearing the label.

The bullhorn of feminism no longer speaks for me. I have my own voice.

Stephanie Guerilus is an award winning multi-media journalist and published autho with an interest in entertainment, politics and cultural issues.