What Comes to Mind When You Think of a Feminist?

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What comes to mind when you think of a feminist? For those with a positive view, you probably imagine a person who strives for equality of all people, regardless of gender, race or religion, with no image of a specific person popping to mind. However, if feminism holds more negative connotations to you, you may think of the stereotypical white, middle class woman who is too focused on the issue of her own oppression to acknowledge any other issues. 

This may also lead to the belief that feminism, including the Leeds Feminist Society, has become an echo chamber; an environment which is overpowered by one mindset, to the extent that only views which coincide with their own are heard, and no alternative views are considered or represented. 

However, I would like to pose the question: is this always a bad thing? Of course, any debate or discussion will be limited by a lack of opposing views, but clubs and societies are a collection of like-minded people who are passionate about similar topics. Under this line of questioning, why is no one asking why the Young Liberals or Labour society have not saved a seat for the staunch right wing students at Leeds? Why is feminism subject to harsher judgements than any other group?

Whilst I agree that more diversity of opinion will never go amiss in discussion groups or debates – the topic of equality certainly requires the input of men and people of colour, which both may be considered to be lacking in a lot of feminist groups. It is common sense that the members of any social faction have views that mostly coincide with the concerns of its members, much like any other society focused around a particular ideology. You would not join the People & Planet society to argue that climate change is not real, so why would you join the Feminist society to argue that women should not have equal pay? Certain contributions to discussions do limit their productivity by flat-out contradicting the topic at hand. That being said, we are all advocates of free speech; it is more a question of finding the space where your views will be heard in a positive way and welcomed with productive feedback. We aim to enlighten people and add to their beliefs rather than turn debates into an “I’m right, you’re wrong” scenario. 

Moreover, Feminist discussions are often accused of focusing on few, specific issues and over-discussing them. This may be linked to the view of general feminist beliefs as an echo chamber – limited access to different views and opinions lead to limited awareness of issues outside of your own environment. However, this assumption is not always true. In the past, Feminist Society for example, have collaborated in discussions with the Leeds society OnBeat, a zine for women and non-binary people of colour, as well as the political group OFOC to consider the impact of Brexit on women and LGBTQ+ people.  It is also worth stating that they should not be penalised for ‘over-discussing’ any issue. Indeed, there are a range of feminist issues, but that does not mean that the argument for widely discussed issues like equal pay or women’s reproductive rights should be side-lined until the debate has been won and social change has been made. There is room for all these issues to be considered with equal seriousness and severity. 

Therefore, in response to the question of whether Feminism is an echo chamber, it can be considered as such, but no more than any other society made up of a group of people who have similar beliefs and follow the same principles and ideology can. In the case of Feminism, this does not limit diversity. The only people excluded from this echo chamber are those who oppose equality. 

Lily Armstrong