The question of feminist etiquette is an essential issue in promoting and ensuring feminist social change in all spheres of society. Feminist etiquette as discourse needs be an intrinsically democratic enterprise by means of public discussion and consensus-building in many different societal units. Feminist etiquette is sceptical and selectively critical of existing social norms and therefore does not uncritically accept pre-existing social norms.
1. What is Feminist Etiquette?
Etiquette is something that is individually mostly predetermined by various shibboleths of discrimination such as age, caste, citizenship, class, functionally, kinship, gender, ethnicity and religion. Existing forms of etiquette under the tyranny of patriarchy is thus thoroughly physionomistic yet etiquette is precisely indispensable in preventing constant interpersonal and intergroup friction. In fact, etiquette is so effective in preventing interpersonal/intergroup friction that it serves to maintain, smooth over and perpetuate physionomism and DOLP (discrimination, oppression, lies and prejudice) generally.
Feminism in the sense as fourth-wave feminism here refers to the broader so called “intersectional” opposition to physionomism and DOLP generally, including the reappropriation of the semiotic domain of the feminine as suppressed and subordinated by patriarchy.
Feminist etiquette will need to constantly evolve and include behavioral requirements in many different distinctive social contexts. Feminist etiquette will be different in different cultures and subcultures in feminist etiquette engaging with cultures/subcultures rather merely erasing them.
Feminist etiquette needs to have certain fundamental distinctions, namely 1) individual consent, 2) communal adaption, 3) non-tolerance with regard to the intolerable and 4) relative respect for individual choice.
One of the meaning of individual consent is that an individual person cannot reasonably be expected to uncritically adhere pre-existing social norms and behavioral expectations of physionomism specifically and DOLP generally.
Individual consent also means that something otherwise intolerable may be consensually tolerable under specific circumstances. E.g. is enslavement generally intolerable but is acceptable as part of a BDSM slave contract that may ended at any time by means of a password. Yet, consent to enslavement is non-consensual if forming part of structural oppression, e.g. may certain aspects of BDSM indeed form part of structural oppression as opposed to otherwise constituting subversive appropriation.
Communal adaption means that feminist etiquette is adapted to rather than imposed on different cultural/subcultural social contexts. Communal adaption needs to be conscious, deliberate, questioning, critical and of course feminist. This means that feminist etiquette will be variously differently shaped in various specific cultural/subcultural social contexts.
Non-tolerance with regard to the non-tolerable means opposing physionomism and DOLP (discrimination, oppression, lies and prejudice) generally no matter in which cultural/subcultural context it appears. Non-tolerance needs of course be most careful, deliberate and precise so as not indeed perform/perpetuate physionomism spefically and DOLP generally.
Wearing the hijab as individual choice is clearly part of structural oppression and so is this also legitimate choice? It is certainly not a legitimate choice, yet one that nevertheless still needs to be individually respected, yet certainly not collectively so. We must therefore distinguish between a) the acceptably acceptable, b) the acceptably unacceptable and c) the unacceptably unacceptable. What does this mean?
Hence, a) the acceptably acceptable is feminist choice, b) the unacceptable acceptable is non-feminist choice although respecting that choice is necessary in respecting the person making that particular choice and c) unacceptable unacceptable is something that is completely and entirely intolerable such as a person selling herself permanently into slavery and so non-respecting that choice is absolutely necessary for respecting the person making that choice.
How then can we make those distinctions? Particulars of feminist etiquette must necessarily become established in public discourse through open and transparent public debate in exposing physionomism specifically and DOLP generally in open society and beyond. The purpose of public debate must specifically not be to silence discussion but rather to ensure that every topic can be openly, extensively, transparently and perpetually discussed indeed.
Feminist etiquette is the art and science of being able to make essential distinctions and draw precise lines and certainly not through fear and silence but rather by embracing freedom of expression in open society. Feminist etiquette means establishing an etiquette of open society that is open rather than foreclosed. Political wisdom is thus precisely essential to doing feminist etiquette. Feminist etiquette therefore needs to be established through consensus as emerging from discussion rather than being coercively imposed through a reign of fear and silence, adherence to a cultural taboo or to a conspiracy of silence.
Feminist etiquette does not merely subvert cultural hegemonies but need establish innovative, increasingly open and self-critical cultural hegemonies that are open to redefining liminal and other distinctions. This means that individual, communal and collective self-criticism is obviously essential to the futurographical trajectory of feminist etiquette.
Feminist etiquette is an intrinsically democratic enterprise in the sense that it seeks to discursively create and establish innovative open social consensuses supplanting current physionomism and DOLP on global, societal, cultural, subcultural, communal, familial and individual levels.
Feminist etiquette is therefore not a homogenous activity and so instead encourages diversity in feminist etiquette as applied in varying social units. The point is that such consensus-building should precisely emerge through extensive and open-ended discussion and that differences of etiquette between social units are legitimate as long as not performing/perpetuating physionomism specifically and DOLP generally.
Feminist etiquette is also a subversive and revolutionary performance of individual and communal agency in the sense as deconstructing, subverting and transforming existing social norms which unfortunately are mostly reducible to physionomism specifically and DOLP generally. Performing feminist etiquette means as consistently as possible refusing to adhere to norms of physionomism and DOLP. It is typically currently not possible to be entirely consistently feminist under the social terror of patriarchy, yet being so as much as possible is very much essential indeed.
Not automatically accepting pre-existing cultural/social norms is a revolutionary feminist position and is most effectively performed in adherence to the law of the land while refusing to adhere to notions of physionomism and DOLP as not required by law.
How then to make all these judgments and distinctions? Is there a method or system to this or is it all reducible to political wisdom? Let us therefore explore how applied feminist etiquette would take shape in different social contexts.