Resisting the Resistance
by Monie Choi
It seems that now, more than ever, the role of women in the public sphere is finally taking root. This is demonstrated with this year’s heated political atmosphere surrounding the midterm elections, a record-shattering number of over 100 women now holding seats in the House of Representatives, and, arguably the most formidable force of them all, the #MeToo movement that has been catapulting activists to the center stage.
All of this makes it sound like we are finally reaching a state of linear growth. But, just as we feel like women are, at last, being accepted as a legitimate force to be reckoned with, the most unexpected conflict arises. The feminists that fearlessly fought through the tyrannically male-dominated world, are now fighting against each other and at the center of it is the #MeToo movement.
As the feminist is gaining more and more power, it becomes increasingly more crucial to ascertain your stance on hot topic issues. Where you stand on certain issues dictates not only how you vote, but also sets a model for how you present yourself to other people, including other feminists. With the growth of the women’s movement, it seems that there comes a point in which you, the feminist, must decide for yourself if you are willing to scrap and brawl, tooth and nail, to the very end. This is where the great divide emerges. On one side, we have the feminists that earnestly fight with an aggressive “all or nothing” attitude, and, on the other, we have the feminists that are beginning to feel uncomfortable.
Some feminists are paving the path to equality with a step of caution. Others are banging pots and pans together, unsatisfied, still. Those wary of making a big splash argue a case for women to grow thicker skin, that if we make too much noise, the world will stop listening altogether. But, this ask of women to tolerate the ignorance of others strikes a nerve with the opposing feminist. It is unfair, they argue, to ask of women to tolerate the oppressive violence that is disproportionately targeted at women. Not only does it sweep legitimate complaints under the rug, it sets a bad precedent for what does and does not cross the line of misbehavior. When we arbitrarily say that a certain instance of assault is not violent enough to be taken seriously, we silence an entire generation of women into being too scared to speak about their experiences.
When explained through these terms, it seems that these two types feminists are more opposites that they are alike. But, it is integral to understand that the “individualist” feminist still provides for an in route to the outcome that “social” feminist wants. Individualists circle around the idea that the role of a woman is not to fit into the mold that #MeToo assigns to them. From the outlook of an individualist, the #MeToo movement is counterintuitive. A woman who decides to come forward about their experience is no longer responsible for solely their own healing. From then on, the responsibility of being a sort of ambassador of the movement is shoved onto them. A survivor of assault who is then put on a pedestal as a model for other women to look up to. This, through the individualist outlook, does not fall in line with the #MeToo value of treating women as individuals with the ability to say “no.” Individualists call for the empowerment of women to not come from forcing the world to change itself, but instead for the woman to empower herself through taking actions to wane the negative effects of the inevitably violent world.
The social feminist, taking another view of the women’s movement, wields the #MeToo movement as its most formidable tool. To them, the movement provides a space in which women are able to speak out about their experiences and are heard. To the social feminist, the movement is where the singular woman can become plural women, a force more powerful when united. #MeToo is seen as a movement that allows for the individual woman to be a part of a community of people ready to stand up for and with her.
It’s only when we are able to understand these two types of feminism are we able to see that the conflict between feminists is not truly a conflict as it may seem at first glance. Ultimately, it is not realistic to believe that feminism stands up for only one kind of woman, or even if it’s exclusive to women at all. The fluidity of feminism and the protection that the movement extends itself to touches on so many more groups that makes it impossible to see a resolve generated through only one outlook of feminism.
After all, the world is a garden of roses, and our feminists are the thorns. They are fierce, they are alert, and they protect the integrity of the garden. You will never see a thorn bending to the intrusive hand of a stranger; it is the hand that will remember the sting of the thorns.