One of the issues we face when we are both feminist and vocal is being labeled as “that girl.” That girl who won’t shut up, that girl who complains about everything, that girl
who just can’t take a joke. Yes, I’m that girl. I’m that woman, that person. That person who stands up for her rights and the rights of others, who calls people out for being misogynist or homophobic or racist or anything else, who takes offense when offense should be taken. I keep thinking that if we all started being “that girl, ” then maybe we wouldn’t have to be singled out for speaking up for human rights. What a wonderful thing that would be. Until then, those of us who voice our opinions just get to be “one of those.”
And it’s always “girl,” isn’t it? It isn’t “woman” or “lady,” and it certainly isn’t “person.” It’s girl, which is both condescending and infantalizing, and positions the user as one who is wiser or better than. When paired with a phrase like “one of those” it becomes even worse, because “those” people are not desirable. This language has been used over and over again for years and years to oppress and demean various marginalized groups in many different ways, and its purpose is always to hide under a veil of politeness. Because, you know, they aren’t really saying anything bad! It’s not like the used a slur or anything! So it may seem mostly harmless, but those words have a much deeper meaning.
The problem isn’t just the words that are used; it’s the dismissal behind them. Saying that I’m just “one of those” when I do something like, oh, throw some rape statistics at an apologist, is dismissive. Women’s words already mean nothing to so many, but apparently they mean even less when those words are feminist. This language is used to dismiss us, our facts, and our opinions as being nothing more than silly radicalism. I lump this in with the whole “it’s just a phase” thing, particularly when the words are coming from someone older than myself in a self-perceived position of power. Well, guess what, Mom? My feminism isn’t a phase (like so many other things you want to dismiss), and my facts are real and evidence-based. I’m not being some edgy youngster – I’m fighting for the rights of those who deserve them.
I imagine that, in part, the disdainful terminology is based in the fear that because we typically back up our social justice with facts, we’re smarter than everyone else. Think of it as a sort of know-it-all syndrome. When I start fact-slamming, I know that at least one person is thinking that I’m some liberal intellectual elitist and having flashbacks to the kid in grade school who knew every answer. And because I am a woman, I imagine it’s worse, because usually if I’m debating someone on this, they’re at least somewhat sexist. And we all know how sexists feel about smart ladies! Sorry I’m not living up to your stereotyped ideal. Oh wait, no, I’m not.
All of the whispers behind my back, the snarky comments that I’m meant to hear, the words about me said to someone else within earshot, the stories I hear from eavesdropping friends mean only one thing to me. When I hear that I’m “that girl” or one of “those women’s lib types,” when someone sighs heavily or clicks their tongue or rolls their eyes when I open my mouth, when I hear someone say, “Here she goes again!” or, “ugh,” all I know is that I’m doing something right. I have a reputation for speaking out, and I’m happy with that because I know that, at the very least, people are listening. They may not like what I’m saying, but they’re hearing it well enough to remember it. I hope that one day, if they hear it enough, maybe they might start thinking that hey, women do deserve the right to choose what happens to their bodies. They might realize that queer people are people like everyone else, that equality is a right, and that sexuality is complex and nuanced. Maybe they might start seeing that rape is real and that survivors aren’t lying about it for attention/money/shame.
One day I hope that we won’t need those labels. One day I hope that we’ll all agree on human rights and autonomy, and everyone will stick up for everyone else. We’ll all be “one of those,” so that none of us need to be “that girl/woman/guy/person.” But as for right now, the patriarchy can take that dismissive language and eat it, because I will not be dismissed. Our premise is valid, and we can never allow it to be dismissed.