Dissociative Feminism emerges as women’s issues plateau

Pheobe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Video

By Laurene Karajah

Staff Writer

Have women lost all hope? To answer this question we must first define a new term: dissociative feminism. The Australian government’s Better Health Channel defines dissociation as, “a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity.” While relatively new, it originated from Emmeline Clein, a Buzzfeed contributor and author of the article, “The Smartest Women I Know Are All Dissociating.” Clein’s article started a conversation about the recent shift in feminism: dissociation. Clein states, “we now seem to be interiorizing our existential aches and angst, smirking knowingly at them, and numbing ourselves to maintain our nonchalance.” This is a sign that things aren’t changing, women are being silenced by their own governments and even other women; internalizing the problem breeds nihilism. 

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

Women are resorting to a numb self-voyeurism, emulating a self-destructive form of feminism in which women disconnect from their discernment of self-identity and beliefs in response to the unmoving state of women’s rights. Outwardly speaking about the problems in the present day relating to sexism is slowly flatlining as we witness more and more go wrong in terms of women’s rights.

One of many examples of this is The Heartbeat Act in Texas officially banning abortion after a heartbeat has been detected. If an abortion is carried out past the deadline, it’s considered a criminal offense. It deprives Americans of a constitutional human right. Nothing is being done to reverse it because of the Republican majority in Congress. “Supreme Court Lets Texas Abortion Law Stay in Effect, for Now” by The New York Times proves my point, “Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, […] said the Supreme Court ‘is allowing the state of Texas to deprive people of a constitutional right.”’  Can women ever be equal to men in a nation that is regressing? 

Women also dissociate as a form of escapism. This can be seen in the media we consume as well. Particularly, Fleabag is a show which revolves around the life of a woman mourning her friend’s death. While navigating her life, she partakes in extremely destructive behavior and uses humor to cope with her current predicament. Throughout the show she communicates with the audience, giving smug looks here and there, and even speaking to them. Fleabag lives in a reality outside of her own, one where her self-destructive behavior has no effect.

Photo: Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime Video

Dissociation isn’t necessarily new when it comes to women, this flavor of feminism is often associated with female rage. Psychology Today points out that female rage is not as accepted as male rage, “[…] anger among men is perceived as […] powerful, while women who express that same emotion are perceived as ‘difficult’ or ‘shrill.’ Anger and rage clash with our feminine ideal and as such must be suppressed […]” Female rage is a pushback against the societal norms that define a “feminine” woman. Female rage sounds vocal and aggressive while dissociative feminism seems to be quiet, a limbo of internal thoughts. Both are associated with a “female manipulator.” A heartless, numb, conniving woman, who has made it her mission to wreak havoc on the men in her life. She must become a villain to survive in a man’s world.

Photo Credit: Focus Features

For example, in “Promising Young Woman”, a movie about a woman (Cassie) who pretends to be drunk in bars to see if men will try and take advantage of her only to confront them before anything occurs as vengeance for her friend that was sexually assaulted at a party and then committed suicide. Cassie is seen as emotionless or numb throughout the movie, speaking bluntly without breaking the reserved character she has created for herself. This detached rage is one that dissociated feminists are experiencing. Women are mad, but no matter how loud they shout, no one hears them. So they speak quieter, make jokes, and create characters as escapism.

Sadly dissociation is a luxury that women of color cannot afford. For women of color, racism is embedded in the sexism they face. White feminism ignores the problems that POC women face by not acknowledging their privilege. They try to compensate for their actions by acting like they aren’t to blame for how white people and their actions affect people of color. Treating sexism like it’s the only issue for all women invalidates the struggles that POC women face, often at the hands of white women. Avoiding advocating for those who don’t have the same privilege works against the goal of equality. If white women proceed to promote this behavior, POC women will always be seen as “less than,” even in the event that gender equality is actually achieved. 

To improve the state of women’s rights, we must uplift women’s voices, especially women of color. Sign and share petitions, spread awareness, and support the feminist movement by checking our own behaviors. Though it may not seem like it, small actions help. 

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