As a recent graduate who double majored in Women’s Studies and English, I thought I was a walking “Feminism 101” book. Friends and family members would ask me my thoughts on the latest news articles, my Women’s studies professors encouraged me to grade for their classes, and everyone knew me as “feminist Alissa.” But deep down, I was the most.insecure.feminist.ever. I sought solace in my pride as a feminist, and used it as a way to identify my entire being.
After graduation, I hoped to find a job during my gap year off before graduate school. It turned out to be a menacing feat, as my life was slowly consumed by Kardashian reruns (hey, I said I was a feminist but not THE BEST one) and browsing online feminist forums. My long days turned into activities on what I could replace the loss of school with.
The moment I stumbled upon the Facebook Group “Feminist Pinners,” a group dedicated to feminists who use Pinterest, my entire outlook on my year off changed. Did I mention I moved 3000 miles away to live with my boyfriend while he goes to graduate school? I convinced myself that I would keep busy, write, and work on graduate school applications. I also convinced my parents that I am going back to school once the year was over. But the one thing I had become excited over since “the big move” was that I finally had internet folks I could communicate with while my friends back home were busy with school.
At first, I used the Facebook group as a way to comment on articles. I thought I had very cunning thoughts being a recent Women’s studies grad who dedicated her undergrad to fighting the patriarchy. I thought I would be beloved in this group, becoming a leader to all who graced this 1,700 member online forum. I would start every comment with, “As a women’s studies major…” to distinguish my feminist background. I started getting replies like, “That doesn’t make you any smarter than us” and, “Who the f*ck cares?”
Despite the resistance of the group, I had spent every hour commenting, liking, and sharing posts. I was even messaged by an admin to calm down and post articles less. That’s when I began to get angry, and question why they would silence such a budding feminist scholar.
The night I finally realized the forum quickly disrupted my life was when I found myself huddled over my phone, crying to my boyfriend about an article a friend of mine wrote that I shared. The group quickly jumped on me when I wrote that I felt Kim Kardashian was a woman of color because she was half-Armenian – and me, being half-Armenian myself, I felt that I shared a deep connection with the misidentification of calling her white. Commenters began calling her white, saying she had white privilege because she passes as white, and that she was a disgrace to the African American community because of her notorious bare-butted Paper Magazine cover. Although Kim and her band of puckered lip sisters are problematic in themselves, I took it as a dig into who I was. Was I a privileged white feminist?
My revelation still hadn’t started at that moment. I started screaming outloud in a half-heaving moment, “THESE INTERNET FEMINISTS ARE RUINING MY LIFE!” as I chucked my phone across the room. I cried into the arms of my boyfriend, saying over and over again, “Why can’t they like me?” I felt I had become excluded from the cool girls club. I thought I had the credentials to back me up. I thought I would be instantly liked, and that I would become the feminist messiah.
When I took a break from the group, I slowly started to undo everything I thought I had known about feminism. My boyfriend took it upon himself to tell me I’m not a horrible feminist, and that feminism isn’t a personality, a duty, or a club. It’s a political ideology that isn’t perfect and doesn’t sprout perfect followers.
But his intervention did not save me. I found myself mumbling under my breath, “Those goddamn feminists” and even starting understanding #WomenAgainstFeminism. I was clearly delusional.
In an impromptu trip to Barnes and Nobles and sullen from my break off from my feminist comrades, I picked up Roxanne Gay’s “Bad Feminist.” In the first chapter Roxanne writes, “In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed. For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard […] I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy.”
I found my feminist twin. I snapped a picture of the quote for inspiration and took it upon myself to begin to label my type of feminism as “bad feminism.”
We are all struggling to erase the patriarchy, check privilege and figure out why we need to constantly evaluate the situations we are put in. We are not all feminist messiahs called from a feminist god to change the world and sprinkle patriarchy-free gold dust. Hey, some of us are even lucky if we know that the word does not translate to “hate all men.”
But in turn, we can all be powerful, messy feminists. We are people, we are complicated, but we can still fight. Even if it’s with each other.