We've been having some thought provoking conversations in the office as we near International Womens Day.
Here's some of Charlotte's thoughts about modern feminism and call-out culture that we think sparks a really important conversation. What do you think?
As we celebrate International Women's Day, it's easy to see that the reins of feminist change have now been passed onto Generation Z. This group represents a new form of feminist; one raised on the promise of equality only to discover that the world still has a long way to go. Generation Z are the "internet natives", living through Instagram and Twitter. However, the gap between the feminist Instagram post and scholarly text has widened and it feels like this gap has given rise to a method of control that is far from productive: call-out culture.
Call-out culture, and its by-product, cancel culture is the set of attitudes, beliefs and tactics promote an aggressive response to people who express prejudiced or disagreeable views. Meaning, a handful of feminists are no longer "offended" by those they deem bigoted: they'd rather fight fire with fire. Like many things birthed online, calling out had benign beginnings and a legitimate effect but has evolved into messy finger pointing.
The methods used when calling someone out tend to include embarrassing or shaming the person. Call-out culture is partly based on the assumption that many people's biases are inherent and the only way to break their ignorance is shock tactics.
At the 2018 Met Gala, Scarlett Johansson decided to show up wearing a gown designed by Marchesa - the brand founded by Harvey Weinstein's ex-wife Georgina Chapman. This was to state that women should not be penalised for the actions (or in this case, crimes) of the men in their lives. The internet disagreed, saying Scarlett was "problematic" and "cancelled". This branded "cancellation" extends not just to celebs but to anyone who disagrees with the status quo. For example, anyone who aligned them self with Scarlett's message was, apparently, denouncing being an enlightened citizen. It also feels like conversation surrounding what it means to be a feminist often descends into a cesspit of call-outs as each woman thinks her definition of feminist participation is more correct than another's.
On the subject of what is feminism, lets be clear: feminism is anti-oppression. The feminist movement is about removing the systematic barriers that have maintained a disconnect between men and women in access to opportunities. That's it. Continually debating the definition of feminism does nothing more than highlight how fickle and unimpactful any change can be. How can solutions have stability if the motive produced by the problem is fractured?
My problem with call-out culture is that there's an arrogance to it. This ambition to be the most morally, intellectually and active advocate for social justice creates an entitlement that skims over the complexity of people's lives. So ultimately no one is allowed to make mistakes? What an impossible bench mark.
Maisha Z. Johnson wrote "there's a difference between inviting [people] to make change and trying to force their hand". I believe you can disagree and debate a person's beliefs and initiatives but that doesn't make that person inherently wrong. You can't, however, disagree with fact. That's where a person is wrong - when they reject evidence, events or statistics.
People should give themselves a bit more credit. You can identify those who have "woken up" and aim to make meaningful change. You can also use evidence-based strategies to persuade those who disagree to consider another viewpoint.
As the saying goes: when you point a finger, there's three pointing back. Empowered women don't need to point fingers. Empowered women empower women through support, effective action and being content in themselves.
- Charlotte Greer