A friend linked to this blog on her own and my last entry spurred a lot of comments there, many of them amounting to me not being a real feminist. I’m not really one to object to being excluded from an ideological group–Woody Allen’s line from Annie Hall about not wanting to be part of any club that would have him as a member comes to mind. But it did get me thinking about why a group of individuals seeking such massive change on so many societal fronts would be quick to dismiss people who don’t tow certain party lines.

It seems that the feminist movement has frequently struggled with including particular types of women–there’s plenty of literature out there about the second-wave, specifically, neglecting (not through malevolence, but through lack of understanding) poor and minority women. I think this continues today and can be seen in the nearsightedness of the fat acceptance movement.

I’ve seen some Harding acolytes implying that fat acceptance naysayers are being disingenuous when they bring up health concerns; they’re really just judgmental and intolerant of different body types. This may be occasionally valid, but I think it ignores the fact that the fat acceptance movement, which is largely supported online and propagated by educated white women, speaks mainly to a privileged minority.

To dismiss health concerns is to dismiss the very real inequalities in access to quality nutrition and medical care that lower-income women face. The poor are more prone to obesity because often in their communities, the food available to them by dint of location and affordability is very low-quality. The New York Times did an in-depth investigation of Type 2 diabetes several years ago, and it’s no surprise that the neighborhoods of New York hit hardest by the epidemic are the most disadvantaged ones.

I take issue with the “sex-positive” movement in a similar way: its embrace of women taking ownership of their sexuality by making a conscious choice to subvert traditional gender and sexual roles by becoming sex workers again focuses on a privileged minority. BDSM in particular has the support of an extensive academic literature, and the women who decide to become dommes and the like represent a highly educated slice of the sex worker community. Many voices of third wave feminism accuse those who pose concerns about sex work and pornography of being old-fashioned and unenlightened, which I find highly naive. Sex-positive proponents don’t seem to be considering, again, the women for whom the choice to enter into sex work was informed by necessity rather than the desire to make a political statement.

The well-intentioned urge to be politically correct glosses over whole swaths of the population, generally low-income, of color, and less educated, who don’t have the luxury of the support of a feminist movement behind them and what they do with their bodies, because they have much less of a say in what happens to their bodies. The problem is that acknowledging this puts serious dents in the celebration of larger women and sex workers, because it admits that there are aspects of both issues that don’t merit celebration, but rather intervention.

Of course, it’s tricky for me to write about this as though I were the lone champion of the poor–it’s not a population I’m in any way a member of; I am as privileged as Harding and her followers. But if trying to consider this side of the equation makes me less of a feminist, so be it.