“Can you be a feminist AND a Love Island fan?”, BBC Woman’s Hour tweeted this morning. It’s a fair question. Or rather, it’s just as fair a question as “Can you be a feminist and share a naked picture?”, “Can you be a feminist and love fashion?”, “Can you be a feminist and a rap fan?”, “Can you be a feminist and religious?”, “Can you be a feminist and have an eating disorder?”, and “Can you be a feminist and a doll fan?” – aka not a fair question at all, in any way, from any angle.
Of course you can be a feminist and a Love Island fan. Of course you bloody can. Love Island is silly and fun and distracting, exactly the kind of thing you need after a hard day of dismantling the patriarchy. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you stop finding joy in frivolity, that you can only spend your spare time reading Simone de Beauvoir and going to poetry readings by women wearing scuffed Doc Martens. When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defined a feminist as “A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”, she didn’t add a hidden footnote that says you can’t also enjoy watching strangers playing an oversize version of spin the bottle or stuffing as many sausages as possible down a girl’s bikini. The two aren’t linked in any way.
I wonder if the only reason feminism gets such scrutiny is because so many people still love the idea of feminists being these weird, boring people who hate everything and can’t take a joke
Why don’t other movements get this level of scrutiny? Why aren’t we asking if people can be libertarians and football fans? Or if people can support local libraries but also occasionally go to Waterstones? If people can have a gym membership and also sit on the sofa for eight hours binging Orange Is The New Black with a family-size bag of Maltesers? Call me a feminist killjoy – something I imagine most of the people writing these headlines would be more than happy to do – but I wonder if the only reason feminism gets such scrutiny is because so many people still love the idea of feminists being these weird, boring people who hate everything and can’t take a joke. By asking these stupid questions in their headlines, even when the article itself comes out in support of feminism, they’re using a lazy stereotype that they know will get people clicking because that caricature is so appealing for feminists to destroy and for misogynists to laugh at.
It’s not to say that Love Island doesn’t have its problems – of course it does. The show is full of people with socially acceptable bodies having heteronormative relationships and fulfilling typical gender roles. But the endless discussion over what feminists are “allowed” to enjoy is overshadowing real work being done, discrediting feminism and reinforcing the idea that feminists are joyless dickheads rather than normal, flawed humans who happen to believe in equality. If you weren’t sure whether or not you “counted” as a feminist but read headline after headline telling you that feminism was incompatible with getting married, liking clothes, enjoying music, taking selfies and watching fluffy ITV reality shows, would you want to get involved? And let’s not even get started on how the debates on what feminists are and aren’t allowed to do is distracting from serious conversations around trans women’s rights, poverty, reproductive health and intersectionality as a whole.
Sometimes feminists do things because they’re fun, because we like them, because we’re influenced by factors in our lives other than our feminism, or because we just bloody want to
Being a feminist doesn’t dictate your entire life. While my feminism is hugely important to me and influences how I live my life, not everything I do is a feminist act. Sometimes feminists do things because they’re fun, because we like them, because we’re influenced by factors in our lives other than our feminism, or because we just bloody want to. So to answer the questions in the first paragraph, yes you can be feminist and like Love Island, share naked photos, love clothes, enjoy rap, be religious, like dolls and do basically whatever else you want that isn’t hurting anyone. Of course you can. There is absolutely no reason why not.
Now, I have a question for the world. Can I be a feminist and just fucking live?