I talked about Spice Girls feminism a while ago; now I’ve decided to label another form of feminism that I disagree with. I’m calling it Narcissist Feminism.
Narcissist Feminists – let’s call them NF’s – are, so far in my experience, white heterosexual middle class women who experience feminism only as a friction occurring between themselves and white men. There are no other women on Planet NF. There are no people of color. No queer people. Just her – the woman the patriarchy pictures when it thinks “woman” – and the white men that stand between her and the top of the world.
As she scrambles to get to the top, she dislodges boulders that fall onto the heads of those who stand beneath her in the hierarchy.
Her only goal is to get to the top of the heap.
Let’s think about that for a minute. Because her feminism doesn’t involve anyone in the world but herself and her lot in life and her relationship to the men above her, she has internalized the methods and priorities of the patriarchy. She wants to have what men have, and she thinks that’s feminism. It’s not.
This is a standard phase for white western women on the path to feminism. We grow up in a culture that actively dissuades us from noticing what people “beneath” us in the hierarchy are going through. Naturally, our first beef with the world tends to be with those nasty white men that stand between us and the things we believe we can earn, given the opportunity to prove ourselves. So we know where the NF is coming from.
When I was 20, I was lucky enough to have an African-American friend who was double majoring in women’s studies and black studies. She introduced me to some fascinating thoughts on how there ought to be a black women’s studies course altogether, because you couldn’t just take some ideas from anti-racism and a few from feminism, mix them together in a binder and suddenly understand the fairly unique position African American women find themselves in.
Folks: I gave her ideas full and immediate credit, but it was a decade before I really began to understand what she meant. In the meantime she’d opened my eyes so I could look around and begin to see my own privilege better. And if black women needed something different from feminism than I did, that probably meant lesbians, poor women, and women of each other race out there had different needs. If I didn’t support them as well as myself, I was being a narcissist, not a feminist. I was making legitimate points about the meanness of white men, but I was only doing it to serve myself. Not women everywhere.
And certainly not men and women everywhere, and the improvement of the whole human race.
Here’s a checklist to know if you’re a real feminist (of any of the 15,000 legitimate different breeds), or just a white girl who’s noticed how her own life isn’t fair:
- When a lot of women Unlike You tell you you don’t get where they’re coming from, you say they’re all out to get you.
- …and you unquestionably think this attack on you is far more awful than anything they may have had to endure for, oh, ever.
- You just can’t figure it out what the problem is when people point out that the stuff you’re proposing only benefits white heterosexual girls of means.
- You get defensive when people suggest you aren’t as enlightened as Buddha, rather than welcoming the opportunity to learn and further your own deprogramming.
- You think you are Too Cool to be influenced by tons of childhood programming.
- When a lot of other feminists say something you disagree with, and you tell them how stupid they are, then they explain that, well, you’ve actually just framed it in an exclusively white, middle class, het scene and that’s not where they live, you refuse to back down from supporting your perspective as the only valid perspective for all women/feminists.
- You engage in counter-stereotyping of men whenever you feel like it (I’ve been guilty of this in the past myself).
- …without even explaining that your counter-stereotypes apply only to white men, because you keep forgetting men of color exist and experience a whole different intersection of privileges and anti-privileges than the men you want to be.
If this list sounds like you… you’ll probably need someone else to tell you, since you’re just Too Cool. But if someone tells you it sounds like you, take a deep breath and admit to yourself, “I can be wrong. I can be. It is possible.” And then listen.
Or stop calling yourself a feminist and admit you really just want the toys your brother had.