Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Feminist Points Game

Using the model of yesterday's post about Good Quakers™, here's the feminist version, penned by me. I freely admit that I borrowed the format of this column from another source. My point in expanding this initial idea is to show that it is entirely possible to be religious, Christian, feminist, and liberal simultaneously. In fact, owing to the fact that Friends allowed women to provide ministry during Worship hundreds of years before other faith traditions, Quakerism can stake an authentic claim to being a feminist religion.

The Feminist Points Game

Here are some examples of what will earn you points in what I call the Feminist Points Game. Feminists will get some of the inside jokes, but I think any activist, socially conscious liberal will understand, at least in part.

1. Your greatest aspiration is to take part in a panel discussion held at a small liberal arts college.
2. You were the first among your friends to discover what transgender means. Bonus points if you dated someone who later transitioned, and extra bonus points if you've been in a relationship of any length with someone who identifies as transgender.
3. You wrote your master's thesis about gender roles and domestic violence in a small African country. Add more points if you can actually speak the native language. Add even more if you studied there for at least one year.
4. You're a male ally and have constant angst about unintentionally sounding sexist or misogynistic, or by inadvertently dominating discussions by speaking first, or out of turn.
5. You've used the phrase "gender dissonance", "mansplaining, or "sex-positive" over the course of the last three hours.

Check, check, check! In this game, we give out and collect points for these things, keeping a mental tally in order to determine who is a “good Feminist.” Some believe that you are a really good Feminist if you satisfy any of the following:

1. You have a prominently displayed rape crisis center refrigerator magnet, just in case someone might need it.
2. You become absolutely livid at the mere mention of certain controversial topics, then write a blog post about it. At least ten people comment, mostly to say they agree with you.
3. You think bell hooks is a genius, but wonder what the hell happened to Namoi Wolf.
4. You produce 'zines with names like Smash the Patriarchy or Angry Femmes Rule.

I’ve noticed among the feminists I know that we generally agree on what behaviors or activities make someone a good feminist or really good feminists. These positive-point-earning items tend to be fairly easy to see and to check off on a list in our head. There are good feminists and there are...uh oh, what do we call the others besides “bad”? Maybe “not-good-yet”? How about “still-evolving” or “questionable” feminists?

If we’re awarding positive points, then we must be giving out negative points as well—ouch! But we don’t want to go there. We really do not like to look at our own dark sides or to acknowledge how making such general judgments may marginalize members of our community. But what if we did examine some of the stereotypes of what makes someone a “bad feminist”?

1. You stick up for male celebrities accused of sexual assault—negative fifty points.
2. You delight in being the only male in a women's studies class so that you can get the smug satisfaction of receiving better grades than your exclusively female classmates. Definitely minus points here; this is just called being a jackass.
3. You coin creative excuses for sloppy logic and pointless trolling on websites about topics in which you are extremely ill-informed.

On second thought, maybe the Feminist Points Game is pointless. Why judge a person—explicitly or implicitly—by external features. Sometimes we turn good, or at least well-intentioned people away with our generalized negative judgments of what we think is bad or at least not good enough. Insight is often found in the strangest of places, and we need to be open to it in everyone.

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