Why Margaret Atwood Is Not A Bad Feminist

First, it was Weinstein, wasn’t it? And then the next day there was someone else, and another, and Kevin Spacey, which was sort of different, and then someone else turns up the very next day, and then whoosh, #metoo is born in this storm and you can feel the energy. That righteous indignation fueling awards shows, the hope, the tired of you blawdy men pawing times, and petting, and getting, and needing, and defining our beauty, controlling our security, and all those who want more than being defined by our whoredom, BEGONE.

Every single day a new one is pushed out from the darkened reaches of the internet, from the general vicinity of Hollywood, California, U.S.A., generally, but not exclusively. There is a reckoning afoot. An entire industry of fame and fortune, with it all pasted to the front page appeal, shattering the glass box it had built around those who it should be ashamed – but they were not, and that’s the pity.

So Atwood steps into the fray and of course, she bows to no one’s views, and I do admire that. With age one generally does garner some sense of authenticity, knowledge, and an appreciation for the broader point of view, but really, the woman was always that way.

In question, or at issue, is the University of British Columbia, and a letter that herself and others signed in regards the firing of a UBC professor of creative writing, Steve Galloway, even after the judge said there had been no sexual assault, but he was fired anyway and UBC has refused to release the details of the case. So, she has been labelled a “bad feminist” for signing.

“A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other. The signatories of the UBC Accountable letter have always taken this position. My critics have not, because they have already made up their minds. Are these Good Feminists fair-minded people? If not, they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world.

Margaret Atwood Am I a bad feminist?  January 13th, 2018, The Globe and Mail

To be honest, and this I feel even uncomfortable admitting, I’ve never been a big fan. Really. Never read The Handmaid’s Tale, or anything except The Robber Bride (but only because I got a chance to see her do a reading at The Grand Theatre here in London) and I was captivated until I finished the book. But nothing since of her’s had gripped me, or I’ve just never put in the effort to try to read more of her books.

Perhaps I am just not as literary as I thought, or thought I should be.

So with her books made into a series, and the fated timing, the tyranny, the misogyny and the lies that travel at such breakneck speeds as to throw you off your course, spinning you round in its wake, and she seems to be turning up a lot, but is she just the tired voice of the old guard? The conventional view?

It is tough to know where to stand, what to think, what to notice and what to ignore. It all comes through as BREAKING this and BREAKING that, and everything is immediate and requires your concerted opinion, your time, your thoughts muddled by the onslaught.

And the grand Canadian literary one wades in to speak her mind, her particular truth, with that knowing smile. Those twinkling eyes seeing more than she writes about. Always good to have your opinions checked, given a review, feelings can be manipulated. New points of view can be born out of the friction of having ones very morality questioned.

“Such things are always done in the name of ushering in a better world. Sometimes they do usher one in, for a time anyway. Sometimes they are used as an excuse for new forms of oppression.”

These are wise words and not one of a bad feminist, you can be a bad Mother, Father, Daughter, Son, writer, speaker, and otherwise, but not a bad feminist.

Just because you’re right, does not automatically mean that one may ignore the very institutions that defend our rights and freedoms.

“In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.”

Through careful consideration, and not just jumping to conclusions based on pithy dialogue. Is it really my job to either believe or not believe someone? Is it not the courts’ job? Nor do I desire such a position, my Great Grandfather was the Judge.

I am concerned with accusations, and when they add up, yes, they add up. Yet, still, not my job. Not my circus, not my monkeys, not my job to decide what is or is not the truth of it, but be saddened by it none the less. Angry sometimes at it, none the less.

So, yes, we all must speak our own truth, and speak it again, if one must. However, by no means does that make it more or less divinely inspired, since, as they say, opinions are like bums, and everyone has one.

So what’s the answer? Fire freely all those who have been brought to the surface as moderately or seriously scummy? I no, I no, can’t be caught pandering to a man with his pants down around his ankles. That’s how people lose if not their shirts certainly their investments, sometimes their mind.

Where our focus should lie I think is elsewhere. Accused, stand as charged, yes. Yet, what of those who stood by and allowed it?

These are times that try our morality, our values, and our sense of what being a woman is, what being a man is, what being human is. And the feeding frenzy continues, gnawing the boners, gapping at the spectacle of it all. Gnashing of teeth from this corner, silence from others, and the din of the feminist purist purring for perfection and peace of mind stand their ground. The drumming of the righteous know it all’s shoving it down your throat, the alt-this-that-and-the-other all facing off at each other, and no ones really listening, just trying to be heard.

Which is the point, to be heard! But, to be believed by strangers halfway around the world? Why? And why does it matter what I think? Say it anyway. This movement is about speaking truth and the power of the truth, and yes, it can set you free, but at what cost? Everything has a price, everyone has value, all truth is not created equal, though, which is a pity and a fact. And when did wanting an open hearing of the facts become a bad thing?

I agree to disagree I see often is not a popular way to be, as one must I guess make powerful and inspiring speeches, defining our womanhood as deserving of Presidential treatment, the gold standard of praise. Surely there is more to feminism than popular thinking. Certainly more to being a woman than the colour black in high heels.

Personally, I’ve been catcalled once probably in the last number of years, so I’m out of practice, and happily so. Anonymity is rather delightful. We are not tied to our indignation, nor are we defined by someone we don’t even know. Or shouldn’t be. I’m certainly not.

Margaret Atwood’s truth is perhaps difficult for some to understand, as jaded as we sometimes tend to be, and yet powerful in its courage. The courage to disagree, and say, hey, wait a minute every once in awhile is good for us. Every one of us.

Sometimes there is something to be said for the old adage if you can’t say anything nice, just don’t say anything at all, but not this time.

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