First off, if you are reading because you think I'm about to bad mouth feminists, you're out of luck. Secondly, when I refer to "bad feminists" I am referring to ideas that stem from Roxane Gay's "The Bad Feminist Manifesto". Never heard of this? I'll give you a quick summary and if you're feeling really adventurous read this extract.
It is hard for anyone to live up to certain ideals that institutions and society make for us in determining what is right and wrong. Like religion, we have all sinned in some form but does that make us bad people? You'd argue "depends what you did"(PS, I am not religious, sin is just something everyone I think can comprehend).
Gay explains the contradictions of certain actions or pleasures of hers versus the myths of how a "true feminist" would act. She puts a refreshing spin on the idea: Regardless of engaging in her"guilty pleasures" like misogynistic rap songs about big booties, she can still be a feminist.
Gay says, "Maybe I'm a bad feminist, but I am deeply committed to the issues important to the feminist movement". Her point is important.
When I read her work, I looked inwards and realized I rejected feminism for years because I thought "I wouldn't be good at it". I gave into popular media's portrayal of the "bad feminist" as the extreme feminist. To reflect this image I would have to change my whole lifestyle.
The reality is: I just care about women's rights.
Like anything there can be extremes, but you can be an ally to any social movement if you do what you can. In simplified terms, referring back to religion: sins can be ranked from worse to worst but through a modern lens, some sin is not a sin at all.
What can we learn from the concept of Gay's "bad feminist"?
When I see memes like this one on my Facebook page, I bite my tongue until it bleeds:
Yes, she is using a diesel train.
Yes, she is using single-use plastic.
BUT blunt statements like these do not take into full consideration what she is trying to express. She wants to live in a modern society in which she doesn't have to live in as a contradiction. If world governments made the changes necessary in addressing climate change, she would not have to pick from the lesser of two evils. I could go on, but Greta is not my focus today.
To summarize, it is not about what we do but about how we do it. We are all a function of the modern day and to expect anyone to be perfect is delusional. We must be easy on ourselves while attempting to make change, but we also have to be easy on others. We have to start somewhere, and as long as we are trying day after day to reach towards obtainable goals and actions we can count that as success.
Don't let hypocrisy get in your way of being an ally for something, but don't abuse it either.