Identifying as a feminist is a profoundly personal decision, colored by the nuances of our own experiences. In The Feminine Mystique, the great Betty Friedan suggested that for feminists, the personal is the political, that our private thoughts and desires necessitate public action. Because of the intimate nature of the movement, it’s easy to scrutinize judge other women, but internal strife often stalls social change. Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone’s heated disagreement over marriage laws and the resultant rift, for example, proved a significant hurdle for women’s suffrage.
Almost 200 years later, the battles wage on, but this time, there are even more voices. In what one can only assume to be a satirical response to online feminist criticism, Buzzfeed’s Cate Sevilla posted a quiz titled “Are You A Bad Feminist?” with absurd questions like “You love makeup: yes or no?” and “You like Taylor Swift?” The quiz invited a great deal of rage from commenters, of whom the majority found the exercise “women-shaming,” “idiotic,” “baaaad,” “horrible,” “the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen,” and “the worst.”
Buzzfeed is most likely not the ideal forum for a scathingly satirical quiz; as many pointed out, some readers might not get the joke and be misled. But there is some merit here. Feminism isn’t a scorecard by which we might rate ourselves against other women, and sadly, that’s sometimes what it looks like. I got 15/56 “bad points,” landing me firmly within the “borderline acceptable feminist” with “problematic” tendencies category, and the total absurdity of the inane exercise of checking those little boxes made it all the more clear to me that we have more important things to worry about than what hobbies we enjoy and the color pink.
There will always be disagreements within the movement; that’s part of its beauty. Feminism is a safe place in which we can disagree, but we mustn’t make personal attacks. Women’s rights and abstract theory will often color and inform even our most private choices, but without knowledge of another’s experience, we stand in no position to judge her moral convictions. Dissent is a crucial element in any political and social movement, and it’s important that we allow for one another’s non-conformity. Let us hear your dissenting voices in the comments!