Countless beautiful stories have erupted from people who are brave enough to share their feminist experiences. Dialogue is powerful, a weapon that is more deadly the more you sharpen it—but try to break a glass ceiling by “sharing experiences” and you’ve got another thing coming.
It takes more than writing about feminism experiences to change the system. It takes action.
In 50 Shades of Feminism, 50 authors share brief accounts of what feminism means to them. While a plethora of sharp-witted and fearless stories, the book lacks activism. Author and politician Lynne Featherstone suggests at the end of her piece, “Where there are no laws we must fight for them to be properly enforced. And where there is violence we must end impunity. Women across the world need economic empowerment, land and property rights, fairness, justice and freedom from violence.”
One hundred percent aboard the Featherstone train to the land of equality, but how do get there? Writing that we need to end violence is one thing, but these words don’t arm us with the tools to conquer injustice.
Another experience by Nina Power ends on the thought, “The future that my generation was presented with at school and home is now our present, and there’s so much more to be done. Let’s just not call it work!”
Then what do we call it? How do we move forward? While these words are powerful, they lack empowering.
50 Shades of Feminism offers heartbreaking and feisty stories, told from fierce feminists who know equality is a long battle. Few authors suggested nonprofits to support such as Women for Refugee Women or tips on how to embrace compliments. An extremely powerful tale by Lindsey Hilsum describes the conditions for female journalists. The haunting piece ends with her female friend and male photographer dying from the same wartime shell. The rockets “did not discriminate by gender.” But mostly, 50 Shades of Feminism is a compilation of experiences with little guidance toward the future.
It’s like seeing a Rosie the Riveter poster. Powerful. Sensual. Badass. The “We Can Do It” in bolded white lettering is authoritative and compelling. But Rosie, how can we do it? Do I need to bring my bandana? How about some tips for the workplace? Also Rose, can I borrow your muscle power because girl you are looking good.There’s no denying that words can change the world. Let’s look to our literary goddesses Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harper Lee and Alice Walker. But words can’t stand alone. Behind every ink stain is an activist.
Writing about feminism takes courage. Articles from the Washington Post and The Guardian describe the verbal online warfare against feminist writers; the Post drawing the conclusion that feminist writers have begun to retire after receiving backlash. Sometimes, even saying the “F” word is difficult (T-Swizzle, I’m looking at you.) Feminist stories need to be heard, but that’s only half the battle. The other part is turning the pen into a sword of activism. Instead of simply writing nonfiction experiences, what about adding links to nonprofits, tips, guidelines—anything that helps us move forward.
The world isn’t completely feminist friendly, and chipping away at the patriarchy requires the sharing of experiences. Writers write about what they know, but to solve the “problem” with writing about feminism, let’s discuss something that seems unclear: the future.