I’m a feminist. Yeah, no shit. But listen: I know many people see feminism as a controversial concept, perhaps even think it to be too convoluted by man-hate and dominating the species. In my vast experience of online dating, any time the fact that I’m a feminist comes up, the man in question will scoff or attempt to tell me what feminism really means.
Or they say something like this and I spend most of my Thanksgiving trying to have a conversation about what the word means to me while this dude mansplains over me.
Here’s the thing though. Men hating feminism, I understand. I understand it because to them perhaps it’s a scary concept if they are not entirely informed on what people actually do with feminism. Some men think they must all be women bent on destroying the patriarchy and any source of very precious male privilege. Except feminism isn’t about women. As my boss once said, it’s about women doing the same shit a man does and judging them equally. It’s about choices. You can have all the freedom you want, you can be as promiscuous as you want, you can do whoever or whatever you like as long as there is consent, and your partner is as equally into your expectations. You can be a stay-at-home anything or a workaholic. You can deal with the same amount of bullshit at work and get paid for it accordingly…
But some people don’t see it that way.
Like I said, men hating feminism I understand. But there is a strange thing that happens with women who see feminism as a threat to what they believe as the fundamental rights as a woman to be able to take care of the home, take care of her husband, and not be so “in your face” about wanting more than just the basics. And those aren’t event the basic arguments, which include the inherent victimization of women, the apparent fetishization of body hair growth, and the belief that the patriarchy doesn’t exist.
And while I don’t hold these views and would love to sit these women down and explain to them what feminism really means…that’s when problems arise. I can be dismissive of men and still see there are essentially sexist attitudes in my dismissal. Other women I cannot so easily dismiss because I feel other women should share my views. And when they don’t, it gets a bit dicey.
That’s the problem with feminism. It isn’t so much about sticking it to the man, it’s about trying to understand women who don’t understand you. And trying to communicate to each other without being completely baffled by the other side’s views.
This is more on the large scale. Infighting between women has been happening on the small scale for decades. It’s often innocuous, often covert, and often overlooked because communities of women don’t truly see these things as a problem. And thus we explore what’s been crumbling the feminist movement amongst women with a casual example that speaks volumes about our priorities as people who want to “lift each other up,” “stand beside each other,” and “protect one another” as equals, even if you are the type of woman who doesn’t believe in western society’s definition of feminism.
It’s like Bro Code, but essentially more…complicated. These are rules, arbitrary or not, that make it possible to remain friends with other women. There’s not exactly a manual, or if there is no one has informed me on this shit, but I know from high school and living in the limbo that is college that there were a few basic tenants.
- Never date another friend’s ex-boyfriend.
- Never sleep with a guy a friend has dated/slept with.
- Rescue your friend from creeps hitting on them
- Always tell your friend if you know someone has wronged them.
- Pretend to like the person your friend likes at first to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I’m going to stop there because I’ve broken every single one of these rules so far, and listing more off will just be pointless. The first two rules, though well-meaning and attempt to connect women rather than disconnect them, undermine some of those essential things about sex-positivity: namely, sexual freedom. Not only that, they send the message that men are property to be claimed and once you’ve claimed that property once, it cannot be claimed again by another.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that’s kind of pathetic. People aren’t things, people don’t adhere to conventions. People are malleable, they make mistakes, they form judgments based on needs, their own bias, and their own ideas. Isn’t it a bit ridiculous to cry out against men for being the #1 proponents of the double standard, when women casually appear in the same vein? In this video, these two Youtubers discuss the difference between “Guy Code” and “Girl Code” and essentially come to the conclusion that you can’t sleep with other people your friends have slept with. Except they’ve done it. And admit to it. So what does that say about practicing what you preach? Why are there rules to begin with if there are loopholes you can discuss (“It depends on how long they were together,” “It depends on how well you know them,” “It depends on if you’re like, soulmates or something”)?
And if you do sleep with a friend’s ex, are you honor bound to tell them? If you’re being sexually fluid, know you’ll never do it again, and it probably means little to nothing, what does it matter? Is there a case for knowingly withholding information from a person when it just makes matters worse? Or does breaking one rule only to adhere to another suddenly redeem the transgressor?
Inherently, these rules (on all genders, “Bro Code” is very similar after all) do more than form a community, they basically work to oust people from the very beginning. They other while seeming to include. I understand the notion that keeping lives separate, keeping sexual partners separate from your friends for one is a real thing. I see the benefits of that if, for example, you are really interested in a guy and your friend basically says “Oh I slept with him x amount of time ago.” I see where jealousy and whatever comes into play. But at the same time, this practice of Girl Code and Guy Code is very heteronormative. In the gay community, this doesn’t necessarily happen. So what does that say about this apparently “steadfast” rule? Does it apply more to women who proclaim themselves to be antifeminist? Aren’t feminist women just as at fault in this practice?
My view of Girl Code is obviously caustic to others and I get that. I see sexual fluidity as a fundamental right regardless of gender or social mores. Others would say this is ridiculous, that my sexual fluidity could inherently go against another’s and that’s valid. The problem here isn’t easy to tease apart. On one hand, an antifeminist might say the Girl Code keeps women from treading on each others’ toes by creating barriers that may essentially keep peace and harmony within a friendship or a group. On the other, a feminist may say this should not have to be so, that barriers could create the illusion of harmony while subjugating in the process.
Either way, calling each other “idiots,” or “wrong” doesn’t solve the problem, it intensifies it. Antifeminist women are more prone to see feminism as a controlling force while appearing liberal and loosely defined. Feminist women may see antifeminists as an extension of the patriarchy, wishing to remain in the old ways and be beholden to their partners while ostracizing women who aren’t.
And as a feminist, I feel sooooo inclined to tell antifeminists they are wrong. I want to scream at them both face-to-face and from the comfortable distance of my keyboard to wake up and understand what my movement is all about. But doing so accomplishes the same goal as the Girl Code potentially does: ousting those who do not agree and causing enmity.
Because though they don’t technically agree with me… they have some of the same values as I do.