Merriam-Webster’s Words of 2017 List includes the discussion topic for this week’s blog post: feminism. According to Merriam-Webster, Feminism, by definition, is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes; organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”. In theory and practice, this political ideology makes absolute sense to the everyday individual- or does it?
Alex Bertulis Fernande, presumably a student of the arts in London, England, shared a piece of work inspired by the words from her teacher: “Dial down the feminism”. This comment was in response to pieces of art that were made on behalf of her political ideology.
Fernande took to Twitter to vent her frustrations with the comments made on behalf of her work and to share the piece that she would later be presenting to said teacher. The piece quite literally demonstrates the ‘dialing’ down that was suggested of her, but many comments in response to her tweet were not supportive of the presentation or the message. It may be a bit bias for me to say, but wouldn’t you think that feminism is common sense?
Some disagreed with the idea of a human being “complicit in my own dehumanization” because the idea of “destruction” that the dial left suggests is merely “over-exaggeration” or a “hyperbole” of the sorts. Is this suggestive of the hysteria stigma usually associated with women supporting women’s rights? Some individuals flat out disagreed with the presentation believing that the dial model had caused for a middle-ground where something along the lines of “Appropriately assertive; respectful to others”. Is there a middle-ground when talking about feminism in its purest form? Some simply responded with memes to mock the piece put out by Fernande:
“Rational Individual” is seen as the third option in the image above.
“Compassionate human-being who does not need to inject their political ideology into every facet of their life” is seen as the third option in the image above.
Rest assured that each of these individuals were rebutaled with well thought out responses explaining the significance of the piece and the spectrum that exists for the movement or lack thereof. Many feminists will agree that you are either a feminist or not a feminist and that this is why Fernande took the approach that she did with this piece by only providing two settings for the dial.
Many anti-feminists or disbelievers of “radical feminism” (even though this piece does not demonstrate those ideological beliefs) claimed that political ideologies should not be evident in artwork and therefore this piece was unnecessary to create and share via Twitter (even though politically-fuelled pieces of art have been prominent in hundreds of societies for centuries). Others argue that this piece was a deliberate example of “hate speech” because the artist did not directly hide their message within the art. Art is one of the driving forces of societal change, and it needs to be recognized as such.
The individuals that took time to analyze this piece came up with a few ideas that provoked thoughts not only in my mind but in the minds of individuals that I shared this piece with. I, unfortunately, did not receive the three of differing opinions that I would have liked, but I did get responses that helped me realize why exactly this piece and the deliberation that took place in the comments is so important to today’s discussion on feminism. What steps are we going to take to make a change?
Here a few existing replies in the thread:
“I thought, “Which way does it twist?” Then I realized: It shouldn’t. (@TemmyWindy via Twitter)”
“The responses by a lot of folks to this post proves your point: No need to dial down anything. Patriarchy and sexism are thriving. Keep resisting. (@dissentingj via Twitter)”
A few individuals brought up the idea of women always being told to do what they believe is right so long as it does not get in the way of men’s way of life, and this piece targets that ideology directly. Countless times I have had discussion with individuals who claim to be feminists, but call out any feminist practicing their beliefs a “radical”. This behavior is not healthy, and it is the sole responsibility of every individual who believes in equal rights to practice their beliefs without being shut down for bringing attention to an issue worth fighting for or “injecting their political ideology into every facet of their life”. Isn’t that what most individuals do with their religion or said political parties anyway?
It seems to me that we have a lot to work on in terms of reaching equal rights among the individuals in our societies, but it is more important than ever to keep working at it and not giving up because someone of authority tells you to ‘dial down…’.
This deliberation I believe had more respectful individuals than disrespectful which was pleasing considering the topic of this discussion. Ultimately, it was agreed upon by the majority that ‘dialing down the feminism’ is not the answer, and although there was some dissent among the thread of comments, ultimately these individuals did not pursue conversation any longer because they were either shown a different side of the argument or proven wrong by example. The conversation thread continues for much longer than one can endure in one sitting because the individuals kept the conversation going with new ideas and insights on the piece of art. Isn’t it crazy how much art can impact a society of individuals?
An individual questioned what the Fernande gained from “disrespecting” what her teacher/ mentor expected of her and asked what she changed?
She has changed the way that at least a handful of individuals viewed the issue and sparked interest in creating a change through artwork. The deliberation ultimately found several solutions to the problem at hand and ultimately agreed upon one: Do not let anyone tell you to ‘dial down…’ what you stand for. Be loud and proud. Change comes through when the individual does.
What do you think about this piece? You can read the thread for yourself here: https://twitter.com/alexbertanades/status/961318001743147008