Being a feminist is hard sometimes. Particularly, I’ve been troubled lately with instances of discrimination and distinguishing between whole institutions or single individuals who happen to participate in those institutions. For example, I love CrossFit and I know the specific crossfit boxes where I’ve worked as places that are welcoming and empowering for their female members and distinguish between skill levels of each member rather than gender distinctions. Coach Glassman (CF founder) has been outspoken about the important roles women have played in the founding and expansion of CF, but his demeanor is at times chauvinist and flat out offensive. In addition to this confusion at the official institutional level, ignorant individual CF bloggers and owners and athletes alike joke about how a hot woman receptionist can set you apart from other local CF gyms. Or they make shirts that say stupid essentializing shit like “real women do burpees” or not even clever and just obnoxious bro-ed out nonsense like “cheat on your girlfriend not your workout” or “WODslut: I give it up for the WOD.” These things trouble me because I’m wondering how we counteract or respond to this kind of ignorance or discrimination depending on the different potential sources (institutions or individuals). Also, these a-hole individuals could be alienating women and potentially deterring them from trying or joining CF, a community and activity I have known to be incredibly empowering.
Another important issue I’ve been trying to navigate is woman on woman or girl on girl judgments and prejudices. I’ve noticed some real tensions between women in a lot of the pop culture-y places and things I frequent. How can we constructively or conscientiously critique our lives or other women’s lives without betraying or defaming one another and without perpetuating stereotypical depictions of women as hen-pecking, nagging, bitchy, jealous blah blah blah? I know that I too can be incredibly (at times unfairly) judgmental of other women. For example, I feel a little bit disappointed that Liz Lemon sells out, gets married, and has a kid at the end of 30Rock. I also find it hilarious that in one episode Liz Lemon lumps stay-at-home-moms into one of her many tirades against idiocy (and I kind of agree that that particular life decision sounds horrible to me). But in reality, I’ve known, respected, and loved several women who have been stay at home moms. Similarly, I love the Tumblr website myfriendsaremarried (and I’m just 25 and drunk) [the parenthetical tagline is my favorite part], but I recognize that its daily installments probably unfairly discriminate against women who choose to (or simply happen to) marry young. I’ve also recently discovered a burgeoning set of online blogposts and articles that debate the feminist or antifeminist qualities of Taylor Swift’s career (a blog post for another day); this set of posts opens up another important seeming inconsistency in feminist discourses: one woman’s role model is another woman’s perpetuation of patriarchy.
The underlying issue here is that I refuse to endorse a wholly relativist approach; I want to place value judgments, and I want to see and participate in a critical discourse that places meaningful value judgments on different representations of womanhood and on real life women and their lifestyle choices. So how do feminist discourses allow us to place value judgments without attacking one another or without misplacing blame on individuals or institutions?