Many of us would like to think that we are extremely woke, but in all honesty, none of us are really born as a perfectly woke person. All of us are listening, learning, reading, growing and changing. Instead of declaring ourselves as fully formed feminists, perhaps we should start considering ourselves as feminists in progress. In her Twitter bio, Jameela Jamil proudly describes herself as a “Feminist-In-Progress”, but what does that mean for feminism and the feminist movement in the upcoming decade? How should we handle activism (especially through the problems social media throws at us) and how should we discuss toxic masculinity and women’s issues – including abortion – with men. Does the ideal feminist truly exist?
[Image: Instagram, @jameelajamilofficial]
In the past, we have all had problematic thinking or made ignorant decisions, but reprimanding a feminist because they are not perfect already goes against a central principle of feminism. Then there is the fact that feminism is not a static concept, you have different forms of feminism (cultural, environmental, liberal) and different waves of feminism (first, second, third) and these can result in points of contention. However, there is no perfect feminist. I mean, when you look at it, there are different ways to handle activism and no approach is completely ideal. For example, it is hard for some to believe that a person can support a foetus and still support abortion for everyone because they still want liberty for all. If you make a mistake, or hold opinions not held by the majority of a movement, then you are cast out. That is why we need to engage with the idea of feminism-in-progress. Otherwise, you will find yourself casting out those who want to engage in activism, and no one should ever have the power to push you out of considering yourself as a feminist.
There is value for calling out other women, but there is no value in cancelling the woman who has been called-out or labelling the woman who has done the calling-out a bad feminist. When there is constructive criticism, you can progress, and fix, and improve the problems that exist. We need to stop calling other women bad feminists because it is rare to see the men who criticise other men being cancelled. There is value in striving for improvement, in working together to be better, in coming together to create a positive change.
The concept of the ‘perfect feminist’ is impossible to achieve. It is a standard that even the most woke of us cannot live up to. Ultimately, this idea of moral purity and perfect feminism is unattainable, and you will never find it. There needs to be more focus on progress, not perfection, because you cannot call-out women and men for not being the perfect feminist. There should be room for everyone who has a past, and that is the majority of us, because we have all made mistakes and moments of ignorance. There is no value in cancelling people every time they fail, because there is no value in learning or progressing at that point, and punishing people for their past can do more irrevocable harm than anything else. As feminists, if another individual being called-out has not committed irreversible harm, then they should not be punished for things they no longer stand by. A central principle in feminism is to support and empower, so we should allow others to grow and do better, otherwise, no one will think there is value in progress and learning. Yes, we need feminism, but we do not need to be the perfect feminist.