I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.
In between stuffing envelopes and doing online publicity, one of the things I’ve been trying to address in regard to Feminist Coming Out Day are the claims of appropriation from the queer community. The following is a good summary of the concerns voiced so far and is written by melancolyscholar, whose post was reblogged on The Feminist Hub:
For some reason the use of the phrase “coming out” when speaking about feminism really bothers me.
I think it may be because in my own experience that being a feminist was met with far less resistance than being a lesbian.
I have lost friends after coming out as a lesbian. I have been told I’m going to hell, that one day I’ll find the right guy, that it is just a phase.
Being a feminist is different. Yes I have lost friends over feminist issues, but it is more often my choice because I don’t want to have friends who are douchebags.
In my experience it seems to me that if I meet someone who is anti-feminist, we can generally agree to disagree and no violence or abuse will come of that.
But every time I have ever had to come out (it’s not just a one time deal, it happens each time you meet a new person) I have more often than not feared for myself. It’s not just about losing friends there is violence that can happen.
I almost feel like that this day does a lot of erasing. It makes it seem like a feminist would never have had to come out in any way, shape, or form before (queer feminists are unicorns!) and it also seems to make light of the struggle that it takes for queer people to come out (if they choose to do so).
Just my opinion but maybe we need to rethink this day.
In retrospect, I should have recognized much earlier that people are not going to understand the “coming out” part of our event title to mean that queer students are involved in this project. More likely, they may assume that we are likening the queer coming out experience to the experience of recognizing gender inequity. That’s not what we’re trying to imply. As melancolyscholar explained above, there are far more hurdles to being public about one’s sexual orientation than there are to voicing support for feminism.
If the name of my project distracts from its goals and even hurts those it’s trying to represent, then I think we should listen to those concerns and work together to come up with a new name — one that continues to acknowledge the involvement of the queer students who helped start and sustain it, and one that also doesn’t offend those who aren’t familiar with the event’s origins. (If you have any ideas, please email us at email@example.com.)
I don’t think we need to overanalyze the use of “coming out” in Feminist Coming Out Day. It is natural, and okay, to give it some thoughts and considerations but I think the idea behind the coming out day counts more than the actual use of words. I can see how it might be annoying, or even a little bit hurtful, to some people but it’s hard to always please everyone. I think that calling it a Feminist Coming Out Day is just another way to draw more attention and focus to feminism, to have a special day where you can show your friends/family/university/whatever that you are indeed a feminist and proud of it. Maybe they could have used a different word, but I think the purpose behind the day means more and is more important than the words themselves.
Which, in my opinion, completely misses the point and suggests that the writer is coming from a place of privilege. That’s not to say that the writer is a bad, inconsiderate person, but rather that their opinion reflects the default position of mainstream feminism, which has done a poor job of listening to critiques from marginalized groups. As I’ve written before on this blog, “Feminism, like many progressive social movements (LGBT rights included), is not always concerned with the issues affecting poor women, women of color, disabled women, queer women, the list goes on … even progressive movements value some people more than others. It means that those with the luxury of time and the luxury of capital can set the agenda that women like my mother don’t even have time to read.”
Feminism, like any movement, is not infallible. It’s run and led by human beings, who are flawed and have biases, who are influenced by personal interests, who sometimes can’t see past their own identities and their own privilege. I try to be very cognizant of my privilege, and I’m still not always aware of it. Sometimes, I don’t notice it until other people point it out. And because I have no interest in perpetuating the silencing and erasure that I’ve witnessed in feminism, I’d rather admit to my screw-ups than pretend I’m above them, because I think that type of honesty is going to lead to far more progress and hopefully get others to consider their privilege as well. It’s important to show people that none of us are perfect allies, because if we’re too proud to say that, then we’re not being very good allies at all.