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Realistic Feminism: Ditching Narcissism for a More Grounded Approach

The contemporary feminist movement has seen waves of evolution and interpretation, but its ultimate goal remains unwavering: to secure equal opportunities and rights for all genders. However, as we strive to achieve this equality, it is essential that we maintain a clear, realistic perspective rather than succumbing to narcissistic tendencies. A feminist lens should be broad and inclusive, focusing on the common good rather than individual desires or gains. For instance, take the current dialogue surrounding body positivity. A realistic feminism approach recognizes that promoting healthy body images and fighting against body shaming should be universal, regardless of gender or body type. However, a narcissistic perspective might see this movement as an opportunity to glorify personal desires or normalize unhealthy behaviors, neglecting the shared responsibility for communal well-being.

Realistic Feminism Ditching Narcissism for a More Grounded Approach

As such, it is crucial to adopt a realistic lens in feminism, one that acknowledges the diversity of human experiences and aspirations. This will help pave the way for a more egalitarian society, built on mutual understanding and respect rather than individualistic demands or misdirected power dynamics. It is through realism, not narcissism, that feminism can truly empower every individual, while fostering a society that upholds dignity and equality for all.

Realism is a philosophical and theoretical perspective that aims to understand and represent things as they really are, without illusion or embellishment. In political or social science, realism emphasizes the competitive and conflictual side of human nature. It tends to focus on the material or objective conditions of life, and it often assumes that these conditions are shaped by immutable laws or forces that exist independently of human will or perception [1]. In the context of feminist movements, realism might guide activists to concentrate on concrete changes in law, policy, or social structures that can improve the condition of women, rather than on more subjective or cultural aspects of gender inequality. For example, realist feminists might emphasize equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, or the prevention of violence against women. They might also focus on international or structural factors that impact women, such as war, poverty, or global economic systems.Narcissism, on the other hand, is a concept from psychology that refers to an excessive self-centeredness or self-importance, often associated with a lack of empathy for others and a need for constant admiration [2]. In relation to feminism, narcissism could be reflected in movements or theories that focus predominantly on the individual experiences and self-expression of women, often at the expense of collective action or structural change. For instance, some critics have argued that aspects of so-called “choice feminism” – the idea that any choice made by a woman is inherently feminist – can be narcissistic because they privilege individual choice and empowerment over collective struggle or social change [3].

The influence of realism and narcissism on feminist movements can be complex and contested. Realism might encourage feminists to focus on concrete and tangible changes, but it could also lead to a neglect of subjective, cultural, or interpersonal aspects of gender inequality. Narcissism, meanwhile, can promote a focus on individual experiences and identities, but it can also undermine collective action or distract from systemic issues. Critics from both sides have valid arguments. A purely realist feminist movement might ignore the significant cultural and interpersonal aspects of patriarchy and overlook the intersectional experiences of different women. Similarly, a purely narcissistic feminism might fail to address the structural roots of gender inequality or to build the broad-based movements necessary for systemic change. It might be beneficial for feminist movements to find a balance between these perspectives, acknowledging the importance of both systemic change (as emphasized by realism) [4] and individual experiences and identities (as emphasized by narcissism) [5], in order to achieve a more comprehensive and effective approach to gender equality.

The Rise of Narcissistic Feminism

Narcissistic feminism is a concept that refers to instances where self-interest or self-promotion take precedence over the broader objectives of feminism. While feminism aims to achieve gender equality and address social, political, and economic disparities, narcissistic feminism focuses on personal gains and individual recognition within the feminist movement. It can be argued that this behavior detracts from the collective goals of feminism and hinders progress by prioritizing individual success over systemic change. One example of narcissistic feminism can be observed in the realm of social media activism. In recent years, platforms like Instagram and Twitter have become popular spaces for individuals to express their feminist views and promote gender equality. However, some individuals may prioritize self-promotion and personal brand-building over meaningful activism. They might engage in performative acts of allyship without actively working towards tangible change or addressing larger issues. For instance, posting feminist slogans or sharing content without actively participating in advocacy or educating themselves about systemic injustices can be seen as a form of self-promotion rather than genuine activism.

The Rise of Narcissistic Feminism

Furthermore, the rise of influencer culture has also contributed to instances of narcissistic feminism. Some individuals, while presenting themselves as feminist advocates, may primarily focus on enhancing their personal brand and financial gains. They may use feminism as a marketing tool, engaging in selective activism to attract followers, endorsements, or sponsorships. This self-centered approach can divert attention from the broader objectives of feminism and undermine the movement’s credibility and impact. One example that reflects this trend is the controversial role of Kylie Jenner in the feminist narrative. Jenner has been heavily criticized for using feminist language and imagery to sell her cosmetic products. For instance, she launched a “feminist” lipstick line featuring names like “Empowered” and “Independent” (Schwartz, 2019). Yet, Jenner’s adoption of feminism has often been labeled as performative and superficial, undermining the movement’s credibility and objectives [6]. Another instance is the Instagram influencer culture. Many influencers use the hashtag “#GirlBoss” as a feminist symbol of success and empowerment. Yet, critics argue that the term has been co-opted to promote consumerism rather than dismantle patriarchal structures. Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, who coined the term “GirlBoss,” faced backlash when it was revealed that her company had a culture of toxic work environment and mistreatment of employees [7].

The rise of influencer feminism, while opening doors for discussion about gender equality, has been criticized for its performative nature and for diverting attention from the structural challenges women face worldwide. It’s important to remember that real progress in feminism requires addressing these systemic barriers, not just promoting individual success stories. Remember, these examples are not to discredit the role of influencers in feminist discourse completely, as many influencers genuinely advocate for the cause. However, it’s essential to be critical of who we follow and the messages they propagate.One notable example is the controversy surrounding the 2017 Women’s March in the United States. The march was initially organized as a platform for women to protest against gender inequality and advocate for women’s rights. However, concerns arose when some high-profile celebrities used the event as an opportunity for self-promotion.

Instead of centering the march on its intended objectives, these individuals promoted themselves and their personal brands, shifting the focus away from the broader feminist agenda.

With the emergence of this, Narcissistic feminism has neglected the intersectionality of feminism and even fails to address the experiences of marginalized groups, the rise of “white feminism,” demonstrates a narrow form of feminism that primarily focuses on the experiences and concerns of white, middle-class women, often disregarding the intersectionality of feminism. White feminism tends to prioritize the issues that directly impact white women, while marginalizing the struggles faced by women of colour, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other marginalized groups. This form of feminism perpetuates an exclusive and self-centered narrative, ignoring the importance of addressing systemic inequalities and recognizing the diverse experiences of all women.

“Narcissistic Feminism” – A Misrepresentation or a Reality?

The term “narcissistic feminism” is not a commonly recognized or accepted term within feminist theory. Scholars have grappled with different iterations of feminism that occasionally seem to deviate from the central tenet of gender equality. For instance, cultural feminist ideas sometimes risk lapsing into essentialism, inadvertently promoting a binary conception of gender [8]. Such interpretations could, in theory, lend themselves to the so-called “narcissistic feminism”. Yet, these are often misrepresentations of the original theories and not reflective of feminism as a whole [9].

Critics often use the term “narcissistic feminism” to describe behavior they see as self-centered or self-promoting under the guise of feminist ideals. It has been used pejoratively to highlight instances where some individuals co-opt the feminist movement to advance their personal agenda rather than contribute to the larger struggle for equality [10]. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, a feminist theologian, criticized what she sees as individualistic feminism in “In Memory of Her” [11]. She wrote, “When feminism becomes only a matter of individualistic choice, it has been co-opted and neutralized.” Fiorenza’s critique suggests that focusing too heavily on personal experiences and gains can potentially dilute the broader goals of the feminist movement.

However, feminists rebuff this criticism as a gross oversimplification and a misunderstanding of the diverse ways in which feminist thought can manifest. bell hooks emphasizes that feminism isn’t a monolithic entity; it is multifaceted, encompassing various perspectives and approaches that reflect the diverse experiences of women across different social, cultural, and economic contexts [12]. Therefore, the critique of ‘narcissistic feminism’ often serves to obscure the richness and complexity of feminist theory and praxis. As Kimberlé Crenshaw noted in “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”, “Ignoring difference within groups contributes to tension among groups” [13]. Thus, individual experiences, even when they appear self-focused, can be crucial in highlighting intersectional issues within the feminist movement. Feminist philosopher Nancy Fraser argued in “Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis”, that feminism has been co-opted by neoliberal capitalism, but she refutes the idea that this makes feminism inherently narcissistic [14]. Fraser writes, “The problem is not feminism’s emphasis on individual rights per se, but rather the way this emphasis has been co-opted to serve the interests of neoliberal capitalism.”

Moreover, feminism has always grappled with the balance between individual and collective liberation. Audre Lorde, highlights how personal experiences can form the basis for political understanding, as the ‘personal is political’ [15]. Thus, what might be construed as ‘narcissism’ could also be a form of personal resistance against oppressive structures.

Thus, labeling certain behaviors or subsets of the feminist movement as “narcissistic feminism” may oversimplify or misinterpret the nuanced and varied perspectives within the movement. Such a term might be more reflective of the critic’s lack of understanding about the multifaceted nature of feminism than of the actual intent and behavior of feminists. Recognizing this complexity is crucial to engaging in productive discussions about feminism and its many iterations. Feminist theory has always accounted for the tension between individual experiences and collective struggle, viewing both as essential for understanding and combating gender inequality. Therefore, criticisms labeled as “narcissistic feminism” could be more constructively addressed within this context rather than as dismissive labels.

Realism in Feminism: Intersectionality and Inclusive Activism

Realism in feminism is a critical perspective that calls for pragmatism and grounding in the actual lived experiences of women. This approach, although appreciating idealistic visions for a better future, gives primacy to the existing social, political, and cultural realities that shape and influence women’s lives [16]. By foregrounding realism in feminist activism and theory, intersectionality – the interconnections among multiple forms of identity such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation – can be more fully explored and understood, leading to more inclusive and effective campaigns. One such example comes from the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw, a prominent scholar and law professor who has been instrumental in advancing the concept of intersectionality [17]. In her seminal 1989 paper, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” Crenshaw argued that the experiences of Black women cannot be fully understood merely by focusing on their racial or gender identities separately. Instead, she posited that their lived realities are shaped by the intersection of both these identities, leading to a unique form of marginalization.

This argument was grounded in a sense of realism in two key ways. Firstly, Crenshaw used real court cases to illustrate her points, including the famous DeGraffenreid v. General Motors case, where the court declined to acknowledge that Black women could face discrimination that was unique to them and not faced by either Black men or white women [18]. Secondly, Crenshaw’s approach was realistic in its acknowledgement of the complexities of the social structures affecting women’s lives. She recognized that simply advocating for gender equality or racial equality was insufficient. Instead, a more nuanced and complex understanding of the various social, political, and cultural realities that intersect and influence women’s lives was needed.Crenshaw’s work, firmly grounded in a sense of realism, was key in advancing the idea of intersectionality within feminist activism and theory. This has led to more inclusive and effective campaigns that take into account the different experiences of women across various identities. For instance, intersectionality has guided efforts to address wage disparities, acknowledging that the wage gap is wider for women of color compared to white women. This realism-infused, intersectional approach has allowed feminist movements to design initiatives and policies that are more attuned to the unique experiences of different groups of women, thereby becoming more effective in their pursuit of equality.

Intersectionality and Realism

Intersectionality and realism present a dynamic framework for understanding social phenomena and identities, extending beyond traditional paradigms which consider each dimension of identity in isolation. The concept of intersectionality, pioneered by Kimberlé Crenshaw and further developed by other scholars like M. Jacqui Alexander, Patricia Hill Collins, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, and Pauline Park, posits that various facets of identity such as race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, and religion do not exist independently but intersect and interact, creating unique lived experiences. For instance, Alexander’s examination of race, sexuality, and nationality in the context of cross-cultural experiences of women in North America and the Caribbean has illuminated the ways in which cultural context can shape experiences of intersectional oppression [19]. Similarly, Collins’ Matrix of Domination concept broadens our understanding of intersectionality by suggesting that systems of oppression are interconnected and mutually reinforcing, meaning that privilege and oppression can be experienced simultaneously based on the intersections of one’s identity. In the realm of disability studies, Garland-Thomson’s work underscores the importance of intersectionality in understanding disability oppression, indicating that disability intersects with other marginalized identities to produce unique manifestations of oppression and privilege [20].

Applying a realistic lens to these intersectional experiences allows for a more comprehensive understanding of social phenomena. Audre Lorde’s writings serve as a clear example. Identifying herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Lorde’s work provides rich insights into the lived experiences at the intersections of multiple forms of oppression.Furthermore, intersectionality has significant implications for the LGBTQ+ community [21]. For instance, transgender women of color face a unique form of oppression shaped by their intersecting identities. Park’s scholarship highlights the importance of incorporating an intersectional approach in LGBTQ+ rights advocacy to ensure that the needs of all community members are addressed. [22]

Intersectionality and Realism

Analyzing intersectionality and realism together reveals the complexity and multi-dimensionality of social identities and experiences. It encourages a more nuanced and inclusive perspective towards social justice, highlighting the overlapping and reinforcing nature of different systems of oppression.

The theories and concepts you’ve mentioned are primarily drawn from academic works and critical theory. While the specific citations would depend on the exact pieces of work you’re drawing from, I can provide some general references that are typically associated with these scholars and concepts:

The Role of Realism in Feminist Activism

Realistic feminism is an essential tool for effective feminist activism. It prioritizes practical solutions grounded in the lived experiences and needs of women across different backgrounds. Such an approach acknowledges that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to gender inequality because different groups of women face different challenges due to their unique intersectional identities (Mohanty, 2003). Therefore, feminist activism needs to be flexible and adaptable to the realities of these various experiences.A realistic approach to feminist activism can manifest in many ways. For example, it might involve advocating for specific policy changes that directly address the unique challenges faced by different groups of women. It might also involve efforts to change social and cultural norms that contribute to the oppression of women in specific contexts. This approach, in its essence, calls for strategies that are responsive to the real-world conditions in which women live and the specific forms of discrimination they face [23].

Gender Equality in Workplace

An excellent illustration of this approach is the fight for pay equity. While advocating for equal pay for equal work across genders is a common feminist goal, realistic feminism recognizes the intersectionality at play. Women of color, for instance, face a wider wage gap compared to their white counterparts. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2020, Hispanic women earned just 54 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic male, while Black women earned 63 cents. Thus, a realistic feminist approach to this issue involves not only fighting for pay equity but also challenging racial discrimination in the workplace and advocating for policy changes that specifically address these compounding inequalities. Another example lies in the realm of reproductive rights. While the right to access safe and legal abortion is a critical feminist issue, the practical reality varies significantly for women from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Wealthier women may have the means to travel to places where abortion services are available, even if they are restricted in their home states. However, for poorer women, particularly those living in rural areas, these restrictions can essentially equate to a total ban. Therefore, a realistic feminist approach to this issue goes beyond advocating for the right to abortion and includes fighting for policies that improve access to reproductive health services for all women, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Furthermore, realistic feminism takes into account the cultural contexts in which women live. For instance, in certain societies, deeply entrenched patriarchal norms may force women into early marriages, depriving them of education and economic opportunities. In such contexts, realistic feminist activism may involve working with local communities to change these norms and creating education programs tailored specifically for girls.

Realistic feminism, therefore, serves as a lens to view and tackle gender inequality in all its nuanced forms. By recognizing the intersectionality of women’s experiences and grounding actions in the realities of their lives, feminist activism can achieve greater resonance and effect tangible, meaningful change. This is the power and potential of realistic feminism: a tool that offers not just a theoretical framework, but a pragmatic, adaptable approach to dismantling the multifaceted barriers that stand in the way of gender equality.

Creating Inclusive and Effective Campaigns

Realism in feminism fosters inclusivity by recognizing and validating the diverse experiences of women. It encourages feminists to work towards social justice from multiple angles, acknowledging the various identities that individuals embody and the different forms of oppression they face [24]. Realistic feminist campaigns can be more effective because they are tailored to the specific needs and experiences of different groups of women. For instance, a realistic approach to feminist activism might involve advocating for comprehensive sex education that addresses the unique health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals or policies that consider the unique challenges faced by working-class women or women of color [25]. Such targeted efforts can lead to tangible improvements in the lives of women who might otherwise be overlooked by more generalized approaches to feminist activism.

Feminisn Includes all Genders

One significant aspect is the plight of rural women in India, who confront distinct obstacles compared to their urban counterparts. Limited access to healthcare, education, and sanitary facilities are among the pressing concerns faced by these women. In this context, organizations such as the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) have emerged as exemplars of realistic feminism. SEWA focuses on addressing the unique needs of rural women, who are often overlooked, thereby promoting inclusivity and empowerment within these communities [26]. Another critical intersectional issue in Indian society is the discrimination faced by Dalit women, who belong to the lowest caste in the hierarchical caste system. Dalit women experience a complex combination of caste and gender-based oppression. Realistic feminist campaigns, such as the All India Dalit Women’s Rights Forum, aim to combat the intersecting forms of discrimination and inequality faced by Dalit women [27].

Due to criminalization and pervasive social stigma surrounding non-heteronormative identities, LGBTQ+ individuals face unique challenges. Realistic feminism recognizes the importance of advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and addresses their specific needs, including comprehensive sex education and legal protections [28].

Women residing in conflict zones within India, such as Kashmir and the North-Eastern states, confront distinct forms of gender-based violence and repression. These issues often remain excluded from mainstream feminist discourse. Movements like the Meira Paibi have emerged to focus specifically on the struggles faced by women in these conflict zones, raising awareness about their experiences and striving for gender equality and justice [29].

Furthermore, the working conditions and rights of women in India’s informal sector and domestic work sector are areas that demand realistic feminist activism. Women engaged in these sectors often endure low wages, poor working conditions, and a lack of legal safeguards. Movements like the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) have been at the forefront of advocating for the rights of these women, working towards improved conditions, fair wages, and legal protections [30].

In conclusion, a realistic feminist approach that acknowledges the unique needs and experiences of different groups of women has the potential to effect substantial improvements in their lives. By addressing the specific challenges faced by rural women, Dalit women, LGBTQ+ individuals, women in conflict zones, and women in the informal and domestic work sectors, realistic feminist campaigns strive to create a more inclusive and equitable society for all women in India [31]

The Balance of Individualism and Collectivism: A Feminist Perspective

In the ongoing discourse surrounding feminism, an underlying question persists: how can the movement balance individual empowerment with collective action? How can it champion individual rights and personal ambition while ensuring these elements do not overshadow the collective progress it seeks to advance? These are vital inquiries to consider as they highlight the tension between individualism and collectivism inherent in the feminist movement. 

According to bell hooks, a prominent feminist theorist, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression”[32]. This definition encapsulates the collective vision of feminism. However, as individual experiences of sexism and oppression vary greatly, the movement also advocates for individual empowerment and personal ambition, creating a delicate equilibrium between these two forces. In her seminal work, “The Second Sex,” Simone de Beauvoir argues that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” [33]. This assertion emphasizes the individual nature of the feminine experience, underscoring the importance of personal empowerment. 

However, while personal empowerment is a fundamental aspect of feminism, unchecked personal ambition can threaten collective progress. bell hooks warns against the danger of individualism subverting the collective cause, stating, “When feminism becomes only about individual empowerment and personal success, it loses its radical potential” [34]

A balance between individualism and collectivism can be achieved through several strategies- 

Firstly, embracing intersectionality, as suggested by Kimberlé Crenshaw, is a valuable approach. Intersectionality acknowledges the multiple identities and experiences of individuals within the collective, thereby balancing individual empowerment with collective action (Crenshaw, 1989). 

Secondly, feminists can engage in regular dialogues and consciousness-raising discussions, which offer opportunities to examine individual ambitions within the context of collective progress. These discussions, according to consciousness-raising groups of the second-wave feminism era, can prevent personal ambition from overshadowing collective progress by promoting mutual understanding and unity [35].

Lastly, feminist leaders and activists must continue emphasizing the core mission of the movement: eradicating sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. As Gloria Steinem famously said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” [36].

Inclusive Feminism: A Comprehensive Approach for Global Gender Equality

Despite considerable progress in the realm of feminism, the journey towards true gender equality is far from over. Concepts of intersectionality and collectivism have laid a solid foundation, but there is much work ahead. There’s a need for refining current strategies and developing new ones to ensure the inclusivity of feminism and its unwavering commitment towards gender equality. This essay proposes realistic strategies with an international perspective, drawing examples from various global contexts, including India.

  1. Fostering a United Global Feminist Front: The first strategy involves fostering solidarity among feminists across the globe, despite geographical or cultural differences. Shared platforms for knowledge and experience exchange can create an environment of unity and strength. Case in point, the ‘Aurat March’ in Pakistan and the ‘Women’s March’ in the United States share a common goal of gender equality and can leverage shared strategies and experiences for mutual benefit.
  2. Including Men and Boys in the Feminist Dialogue: Men and boys are integral to reshaping societal norms and should be included in the feminist dialogue. Initiatives such as the HeForShe campaign by UN Women invite men and boys to join the women’s rights movement. Similarly, in India, the MenEngage Alliance works with men and boys to reduce gender inequalities and promote overall well-being.
  3. Promoting Feminist Education and Advocacy in Schools Schools are foundational platforms for societal views, making them excellent venues for promoting gender equality. Gender sensitization programs and feminist education can shape the minds of the young. For example, Sweden’s education system has successfully implemented gender-neutral policies and curricula.
  4. Ensuring Gender Equality in Corporate Culture Gender-neutral policies in the workplace can help tackle inequality. Companies like Salesforce have made strides in this direction by addressing the gender pay gap. Tata Steel in India, for example, has implemented policies for women’s safety and promoting diversity and inclusion.
  5. Advocacy for Gender-Neutral Legislation: Feminists should engage in policy-making processes to encourage the establishment of gender-neutral laws. Examples include Iceland’s gender-equal laws and India’s Vishaka Guidelines, a landmark ruling against workplace sexual harassment.
  6. Using Technology for Feminist Activism: Technology, especially social media, is a potent tool for advocacy and raising awareness. The #MeToo movement demonstrated how technology can amplify voices globally. In India, the rise of digital feminism is evident in campaigns like #GirlsWhoCode, which encourages women’s participation in technology.
  7. Policies Informed by Intersectionality: Although intersectionality has been discussed earlier, its importance in forming feminist strategies can’t be understated. Intersectionality-informed policies can better cater to diverse identities, experiences, and social positions. The Indian government’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (Save Daughter, Educate Daughter) campaign, which also addresses caste-based discrimination, is one such example.

Realism Over Narcissism: A Paradigm Shift in 21st Century Feminism

Realism Over Narcissism A Paradigm Shift in 21st Century Feminism

The evolution of feminism through the waves of its movement has witnessed a continuous transformation of ideologies and methodologies. With each wave, feminism has adopted new dimensions to address the systemic oppression faced by women. However, the 21st-century demands a significant shift in the feminist narrative – from a narcissistic perspective that exalts individual accomplishments to a more realistic viewpoint addressing systemic barriers. This paradigm shift necessitates an understanding of power dynamics, intersectional discrimination, and the lived experiences of women across social strata.

  1. The Need for Realistic Feminism: A Deeper Understanding of Power Structures

Feminism is an extensive discourse that transcends mere gender equality to encapsulate the disparities and challenges confronting women worldwide. Scholars like Dr. Valerie Bryson advocate for a realistic approach to feminism. This approach requires an intricate understanding of power dynamics and intersectionality, recognizing systemic issues obstructing gender equality. For instance, access to education serves as a critical case study for understanding this shift in perspective. While the increase in girls’ educational attainment worldwide is commendable, many girls in underprivileged regions face daunting hurdles, including poverty, cultural norms, and lack of infrastructure. A realistic approach acknowledges these systemic challenges rather than merely applauding the progress made.

  1. Feminism Against Narcissism: Collective Emancipation Over Individual Empowerment

The rise of a sort of ‘narcissistic feminism’ has prompted criticism from scholars like bell hooks, who emphasize the need for collective emancipation over individual empowerment. The celebration of individual accomplishments often obscures the broader picture of systemic and structural inequalities. The case of a woman ascending to the position of a CEO exemplifies this. While such an achievement is noteworthy, focusing on this milestone often overshadows the systemic issues within organizations, such as discriminatory hiring practices, unequal pay, and lack of family-friendly policies. A realistic approach demands an interrogation of these structures of inequity and a shift from individualistic victories to collective progress.

  1. Intersectionality: Addressing Multi-faceted Discrimination

Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, is a vital facet of realistic feminism. It underscores the fact that discrimination is multi-layered, with individuals potentially facing bias based on their race, class, gender, and other social categorizations. To truly achieve equity, feminism must acknowledge and address these overlapping identities. Practical application could involve advocating for more inclusive policies and laws protecting against multiple forms of discrimination, reinforcing the realistic approach’s importance.

Realistic feminism provides a comprehensive framework for addressing gender inequality. By moving away from narcissism and prioritizing realism, feminism evolves into a potent tool for advocating social justice and equity. Although the shift may be gradual, each stride towards a more realistic feminism is a stride towards gender equality. It encourages collective progress, equality in societal institutions, and understanding the intersectionality of discrimination. The future of feminism lies in realism – a perspective that acknowledges the complexity of women’s experiences and takes comprehensive steps to challenge and change systemic inequalities.


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Drishti Kalra - Author at Anthroholic
Drishti Kalra

Drishti Kalra is an Assistant professor at DCAC College in the Department of History, at Delhi University. She is also a PhD Research scholar at the Department of History at Delhi University. She has also been employed as a Research Assistant on two projects at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and JNU. Currently, she is also working as a Research Associate at the DU Centenary Project on the "History of Delhi University". She has lately held positions with institutions such as The Telegraph, Médecins Sans Frontières, Intern, and Hindu Business Line.

Articles: 58

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  1. You have collected many sources and tried to bring out the essence of it in one place,Your article is very good. At the end of the 20th century(1970-80), when the women’s movement was at its peak, black women in those movements were right in saying that mainstream women were not raising their rights socially and culturally, that’s why they formed a separate group again ( Something similar happened later in India when Dalit women raised a similar voice against the mainstream feminist groups )

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful words. I’m glad you found value in my article.

      You bring up a fascinating point regarding the nuanced layers of social movements like the women’s movement. It is indeed correct that within larger social movements, subgroups often arise due to differential experiences and needs. This is largely due to intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, which explains how various forms of social stratification, such as race, class, and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together.

      In the case of black women in the women’s movement of the 1970s and 1980s, they often found that their specific struggles—which combined both racial and gender discrimination—were not being adequately addressed by a movement that was predominantly led by and focused on the issues of white women. Thus, they formed subgroups to tackle the unique challenges they faced at the intersection of race and gender.

      The parallel you drew with Dalit women in India, raising their voices against mainstream feminist groups, highlights the universal nature of this phenomenon. It’s a vivid illustration of how class and caste can intersect with gender to create unique forms of oppression. The concept of Dalit Feminism emerged in India as a response to the exclusion of Dalit voices in mainstream feminist discourses.

      These instances underline the importance of recognizing and addressing the distinct experiences and challenges faced by those who exist at the intersections of various identities. It helps us understand that social movements must strive to be inclusive and representative, taking into account the diversity of experiences within their ranks.

      Thank you once again for engaging so thoughtfully with the article. It’s discussions like these that truly enrich our understanding of social dynamics.

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