If you clicked into this article, chances are you have a fairly firm grasp on what side of the political spectrum you fall on. And if you're ever in the online comments section of just about anything, you have likely stumbled upon the insults that right-wing conservatives use to troll the left: bleeding heart, snowflake, PC police, SJW (social justice warrior — although it's unclear why being a champion for justice is considered a bad thing). Regardless of how you self-identify, there seems to be a broad consensus of
what makes you a liberal or a conservative.
There's also the caveat that social politics cover a range of topics, so generalities about what makes someone liberal or conservative aren't necessarily correct in every case. However: Promoting civil rights for the underrepresented and supporting equal economic opportunities for all would usually make you a social liberal. (That said, some people reject the conservative/liberal labels and think we should
stop using the right-left political spectrum entirely.)
Assuming you identify as a liberal, you and any self-identifying "woke" advocate should take care to not fall into stereotypes or self-congratulatory traps. You might think you're fine because you voted Democrat or follow the Instagram feed of
Guerrilla Feminism, but being a modern-day progressive requires continuing to learn from others and reexamining the values you consider progressive.
Here are some of the reasons why you might not be as liberal as you think.
1 You Think Women's Liberation Is "One Shoe Fits All"
Remember 2013, when women from the Ukrainian activist group
FEMEN began protesting the mistreatment of Muslim women by going topless at various events with slogans like "I am my own prophet" scrawled on their bare torsos? Their attitude toward Islam made it seem like you can't be both a feminist and a Muslim.
It's not to say human rights abuses and gender inequalities don't exist in Muslim countries. But by speaking on behalf of the Muslim women you see as a victimized mass, you take away their agency to choose how they practice their faith.
2 You Think Being A Gay Man Means You Don't Contribute To The Patriarchy
As comedian Gabe Gonzalez pointed out to the gay male community: "Making out with boys doesn't mean you're immune to being a
tool of the patriarchy."
Small microaggressions, from
condescension toward "femme" men to grabbing a woman's breasts without her consent, imply that 1) to be female is to be weak and 2) a woman's body is fair game for all, regardless if you're attracted to her. 3 You Think Having Gay Friends Means You're Never Homophobic
For the LGBTQ community's straight allies, consider the language you use when addressing your LGBTQ friends.
"You don't look gay" is not a compliment and lesbian women shouldn't feel pressure to make out at bars to feed men's porn fantasies. 4 You Don't See How Your Faves Are Problematic
If you believe feminism should be intersectional, then you might have to accept that some of your favorite self-proclaimed feminists might be flawed.
You can applaud Taylor Swift for standing up to sexual harassment while also acknowledging her brand of
self-serving feminism is full of hypocrisy. You might be a fan of Girls, but that doesn't mean Lena Dunham's objectification of a black man isn't problematic. You can love kick-ass heroine Buffy the Vampire Slayer without ignoring the troubling accusations against her creator and feminist preacher Joss Whedon. 5 You're Offended When People Of Color Call You Out
Being asked to recognize your privilege should be seen as a humbling experience, not a personal attack or an attempt to make you feel ashamed of your advantages. In our culture, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and
hustling to achieve are seen as a source of pride. To admit that we started out with certain advantages doesn't necessarily take away from those achievements.
Even liberals feel uncomfortable to admit the luxuries they were born with helped them succeed — as if we all have to pretend we got to where we are entirely by ourselves. But instead we can recognize these privileges and use that knowledge to be a force for good. So pass the mic and pay attention.
6 You Blame "Dumb Hicks In The Midwest" For Trump's Victory
It's undeniable: the atmosphere after Trump's shocking win in the 2016 was tense and divided. Those who were angry with the outcome were looking for someone to blame and political pundits scrambled to explain how we the people elected a so-called buffoon into the White House. A scapegoat emerged:
poor, rural white people! Uneducated blue collar workers! Midwesterners forgotten by the coastal elite!
But the commentary swirling around this blame game became troublingly classist, ignoring 1) the years of public policies that have contributed to the
economic decline of small towns and 2) it wasn't just poor people who voted for Trump. White voters, educated and wealthy, turned out for Trump too — including college graduates and female voters. 7 You Use Mental Illness To Dismiss Trump & His Voters 8 You Refer To Trans People By The Wrong Gender
This one's easy to follow. A transgender man is a man. A transgender woman is a woman. And some choose not to follow a binary gender. This all goes regardless of what sex they were biologically born as or what sexual organs they have or don't have.
When in doubt, just ask which pronoun they use.
9 You Only Read Books By (White) European Writers
Tolstoy. Brontë. Shakespeare. Proust. It's easy to rattle off the "classics" because these are the classics taught in high school and college literature courses. While academia puts European literature up on a pedestal, we shouldn't forget that culture exists outside of Europe, too. Fortunately, if you're looking to expand your horizon, these authors list their favorite
non-western classics that universities neglect. 10 You Say Things Like "I Prefer Being Friends With Guys" & "You're Not Like Other Girls"
Women get stereotyped as catty, competitive drama queens, which is funny considering that men have started most wars in the world. If you are proud of the fact that you're mostly friends with guys, as if all women except you are toxic, consider why that's a source of pride. Doesn't being more like a man and less of a woman imply being a woman is a bad thing?
13 Rules for Female Friendships," author Roxane Gay lays it out: "If you feel like it’s hard to be friends with women, consider that maybe women aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s just you." 11 You Fetishize Certain Races And See It As A Compliment
One of the PSAs in the film Dear White People goes: "Dear white people, this just in: Dating a black person to piss off your parents is a form of racism." Just a helpful reminder that you're dating a person, not a race.
Get Even More From Bustle — Sign Up For The Newsletter
From hair trends to relationship advice, our daily newsletter has everything you need to sound like a person who’s on TikTok, even if you aren’t.
Subscribe to our newsletter >