A feminism that rejects the binarism of the personal and the political necessitates the consistency of a moral, political, intellectual, and personal rigour so that a feminist practice – and by extension, a feminist world – can be realised.
It’s for this reason that in my own journey as a feminist, I’ve often felt the need to conduct “heart checks” to make sure that I am consistent across the work that I do and the life that I lead. This is to help me identify areas where I fall short of the call, but it is also to help me identify and solidify my values by thinking through why I hold these to be central and how I can better implement them.
It is not an unfamiliar story, to hear that feminists can be inconsistent when they publicly profess a revolutionary ethics and ideal, but that their private lives are conforming to oppressive systems of thinking and behaviour. While this doesn’t necessarily discount the advances that they make through their work, it does beg us to question whether we can truly change the world if we don’t fully change ourselves.
Systems do not emerge from a vacuum. They are embodied creations, and we both conform to them whilst we make and remake them simultaneously. Systems like capitalism are undergirded by personal values that hold some people and some things to be more profitable than others, and also that some people and some things are more exploitable than others. We can publicly disavow capitalism, and we can choose to divest and practice anti-capitalist means of engaging with politics and the economy, but we must ask ourselves: are we being capitalists in our private lives?
So this is a heart check, for both myself and for you, as feminists who both want to see a different world realised:
Are you inclined towards befriending or spending more time with people who can be profitable to you? (In terms of what they can provide for you through their network, their personal connections, or through their service, which can generate beneficial social and/or monetary capital.)
For the friends who don’t necessarily or directly benefit you in these ways, are there ways in which you are exploiting their friendship? (Are they just fallback friends for you? When presented with the opportunity to spend time with someone with more social capital and “network value” versus spending time with these other friends, do you choose the former over the latter? What are your reasons for doing so?)
Is there (capitalist/non-capitalist) mutuality in your friendships? Are there different tiers of friends that you have? And if so, how can you implement an ethics of solidarity and responsible inclusion in these different kinds of friendships? (What happens when your “higher capital” friends meet your “lower capital” friends? With acquaintances, like with friends who are close, how can we not engage in an attitude of disposability and honour their worth regardless of their personal affiliations with us?)
How can you enact an anti-capitalist radical love in friendship? What are the barriers that are holding you back from practising this kind of radical love? How can you overcome them?
How we view and interact with people is foundational to the politics and lives that we profess and lead. These questions may be difficult, but they are necessary for us to ask and to ask often, for a feminist world is at stake.