I’ve been thinking a lot about feminist anger and solidarity - in no small part because of a recent online kerfuffle about shaming formula feeding mothers. I won’t rehash the whole debate here; if you’re interested you can follow the links and look back on my Twitter feed.
But something that caught my attention was that several folks, who were upset about the public disagreement, made calls for solidarity and less “angry” writing. I understand the desire for solidarity and pleasantness among feminists, especially on issues that are so personal and fraught. But disagreement - yes, even red hot angry disagreement - is a good thing for feminism. As Melissa McEwan has written, “Progress ain’t fueled by rainbows and gumdrops.”
Naturally, civility is a good thing in critical debate as is staying away from personal attacks. But I actually find the expectation of “niceness” in heated arguments among women pretty sexist. What’s wrong with being angry? What’s wrong with eviscerating someone’s argument? (Especially when you’ve been attacked in a direct, and pretty disgusting, way!)
Solidarity is great. But the assumption of a universal “sisterhood” (something bell hooks and other feminist theorists have written quite a bit about) is seriously flawed. We don’t all experience the world in the same way, or oppression. Calls for solidarity for solidarity’s sake not only ignore that reality but also put pressure on women to quash their justified political anger in the service of an imaginary sisterhood.
I don’t relish fighting with other feminists; quite honestly it tears me up. But there’s a time for kindness and there’s a time for vigorous, heated, angry debate. It doesn’t make any of us assholes (well, unless you’re being an asshole) - it makes us critical thinkers who are passionately committed to our cause. No matter what side you’re on.