I recently had the chance to discuss the new Marvel movie Captain Marvel, released in Italian cinemas on March 6th. For those who are not familiar with the movie itself or the protagonist, it revolves around the origins of the comic book superhero Captain Marvel, alias Carol Danvers. The plot is not crucial to the following discussion. Indeed, the article aims at demystifying the fact that “there is no need to fuss” on gender issues, i.e. inequalities, stereotypes and, most of all, the very term “feminist.” Nowadays “fussing about something” has often acquired a negative connotation, for such practice would be pointless and aimed at nothing but causing a scene. However, there is nothing wrong about discussing or even “fussing over” such an important topic as gender issues because debate gives the chance to as many different perspectives as possible to emerge and to involve in such debate more and more people who relate to it. The following article argues that Feminism should be necessarily about “fussing” meant as “debating” and “being debated.” Indeed, debate is at the core of Feminism’s strength. There is dire need of fuss.
It should be apparent by now that Feminism is about gender equality in every social context and that it rejects stereotypes and/or customs exploiting gender differences to limit a individual’s freedom and to enhance social privileges. For instance, an anti-feminist stance would entail judging a person wearing a miniskirt at 3 am on the tube as stupid because she/he does not take into account in her/his behaviour the possibility of a sexual assault. On the contrary, a feminist would argue that just because an individual is wearing a miniskirt, it does not mean that she/he is necessarily trying to provoke lust or seduce someone. If the person is sexually assaulted, it is not her/his fault. Some weeks ago, a judicial trial in Ireland toward a rapist has rightly caused an uprise throughout the whole Europe and beyond. During the trial, the lawyer of the accused rapist brought forward the fact the victim of the rape would have worn a thong when she was being assaulted – thus, the sexual act would have been consensual. Unfortunately, this is not the first (nor it will be the last) episode of the sort. (Supposed) sexual promiscuity is still strumentalised to the advantage of men. The people who flocked in the streets to protest for such injustice are feminist, just like those involved in the SlutWalks movement. Born in 2011, SlutWalks aim at debasing rape culture by organising parades in which sexual promiscuity is held to be no reason why an individual should be sexually assaulted. Sometimes the participants even dress up provocatively for the occasion.
Needless to say that such movement has caused and is still causing much debate, to which both anti-feminists and die-hard and fully fledged feminists contribute. Feminist Leora Tanenbaum holds, for example, that instead of claiming the right to be sluts through the SlutWalks, society should cease to use the term slut in toto. According to the said activist, this would be the only way to abandon the binary opposition of respectable woman/slut which would be typical of male rhetoric. Whatever one’s opinion on the topic might be, such discussion gives rise to two important considerations:
- There are different feminist views, but what matters is their scope to erase any inequality. In other words, both Tanenbaum and the SlutWalks activists deeply believe in Feminism;
- Feminism needs to be about fuss, both by those who want or don’t want to share the label “feminist.” That is to say, as anticipated above, the plurality of opinions on the means through which gender equality is achieved is directly proportional to the number of feminists who debate on it.
Of course, “fuss” is legitimate only when it does not interfere with social norms of civilisation. The end never justifies illegitimate means: to kill someone on the streets because he/she was an accused rapist is not legitimate. At the same time, it is deeply important to understand that Feminism can take a revolutionary turn, and that, sometimes, violent revolutions are brutal and illegitimate by nature. However, such expressions of violence, if they seek to achieve women’s supremacy are no longer Feminism. In any case, such extreme turns do not delegitimize every feminist action.
As conclusion to this article, I would like to turn back to the original reference to Captain Marvel and the very title of this article, “there is no need to fuss.” Such assertion was proposed by a friend of mine when discussing a particular scene in the movie. – SPOILERS AHEAD – Specifically, I was expressing my excitement about the words of Monica Rambeau to her mother, who is supposed to help Carol Danvers in a very dangerous mission. The little girl encourages her mother Maria to be her example by accepting the mission, in spite of the danger she might incur in by piloting a military plane in space and of the slight possibility of making it out alive. Out of instinct, I labelled such thinking as “feminist,” while my friend rebutted that “there was no need to fuss about such behaviour, that it was as obvious as sunlit”. Clearly, my friend is not an anti-feminist and deeply believes in gender equality. Yet, faced with my labelling of the scene as feminist, he hesitated to comply with such definition. Either he believed that the feminist connotation of the girl’s words was assured, or he thought that “feminist” was too much of a controversial term to be used in this case, that it would have simply generated an endless and pointless debate. In both cases, this results in the erasing of “feminist” and “Feminism” from everyday’s vocabulary. In other words, such terms become social taboos. Such trend is also apparent in the media’s reticence to connote any policy as feminist when it deals with gender equality or the attitude of certain political parties to use “feminist” as a pejorative term conjuring the image of a madwoman speaking pointlessly over nothing. However, Feminism is not an f-word, it does not hail an illegitimate ideal. Feminism is not even a group of revolutionary activists who dress up provocatively in order to attract attention. Feminism is, above all, debate and fuss. It is free-speech (even inconclusive at times!) against inequalities and privileges rooted on gender, prejudices and stereotypes, as well as the means and the ways on how to achieve such goals. Feminist is everyone who is not afraid of speaking up on this and openly consider herself/himself part of debates on gender.
By Vania Buso