Thursday, April 22, 2010

Feminism isn't sexist

No one thinks that bike awareness discriminates against cars. No one thinks that gay rights awareness discriminates against heterosexuals. (Couples aren't fighting over a finite amount of marriage licenses.) There's no stigma associated with being a civil rights activist. Why do people think feminism discriminates against men? Why is there such a stigma on feminism? Even in junior high, everyone knew racism was really bad. If I told my coworkers I was a civil rights activist they'd think that was awesome. When I tell someone I'm a feminist they look nervous. They do the walk-away-whistling.

Feminism doesn't mean you choose women over men. It means you make room for both.

26 comments:

  1. Absolutely! I have explained to my students, multi-ply and variously gendered, and just generally cool people who are somehow freaked out by feminism that feminism, at its earliest conception, or at least in its earliest "formal" practice, was and still is, and always will be concerned with the perception/position/perception of position of ALL genders, male, female, etc, and with disparites/inequalities as they affect anyone/everyone. It's an inclusive not exclusive movement. Maybe people have had a "bad experience" with a feminist or something, or its media misrepresentation (usual culprit), but theoretically feminism shouldn't be so effing threatening to people because it isn't.

    Hurray! Was able to post!

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  2. Ah, good, I'm glad you weren't locked out entirely.

    I blame the media mostly. And just lack of education. I seem to remember learning a little about racism in school, like we watched some films the same way you watch films about drug abuse. Feminism was never addressed on any level.

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  3. Is there really a stigma on feminism?

    I think there is some perception that there are some feminists who are really extremist and that may drive some of the stigma.

    To play gadfly though, your control examples aren't so airtight. For example, lots of people do kind of get pissed at bike riders/activists/lovers. Affirmative action certainly has its opponents. etc

    How about a series of posts on feminism, like what is the current state of affairs.

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  4. Educated liberals have animosity toward cyclists and, uh, people who are against racism? "No one" may have been an exaggeration, but I'm talking about the circles I frequent, in life and on the Internet, where everyone identifies as liberal as far as I can tell.

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  5. Feminism, sadly, has been culturally misinterpreted. It's so easy to say, "Yes, I'm a feminist" or "No, that's not for me" without ever having actually read any of the major thinkers in the field.

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  6. if you're a rightwinger, all of the above definitely have stigmas, but point taken.

    "the Internet, where everyone identifies as liberal as far as I can tell"...really? the comment streams at Salon, cnn, really any news site--are full of proudly conservative trolls....

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  7. No no, the circles *I* frequent on the Internet. The places I choose to go. I avoid political blogs!

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  8. ah, my bad. that surprises me actually, but i don't blame you--they can be quite the time-suck.

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  9. I actually prefer to read stuff that doesn't make me angry most of the time. But sometimes politics and poetry get mixed up together.

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  10. "Feminism doesn't mean you choose women over men. It means you make room for both." -- The race issue maybe provides a good comparison, because with civil rights or anti-racism or whatever, the theory is as in your quote, but then in practice there is definitely the perception if not the reality that sometimes it goes over the line and ends up being reverse discrimination.

    Yeah maybe feminists need to hire some marketing gurus!

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  11. Most of the time when people cry reverse discrimination, it just seems like they feel threatened and fearful of losing territory, even if they already have all the damn territory.

    Ah yes, feminism needs to be rebranded.

    Also along these lines, what's with meat-eaters getting mad that vegetarians even exist?

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  12. What? Meat-eaters mad that vegetarians exist? No way. Your presence just means more bacon for us carnivores to share.

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  13. that's just the way people here, they gotta bring the hate

    how about a "the dumbest example of group/concept/ideology that some other group/ideology gets pissed at for no reason" contest

    what about long-distance runners v like weightlifters, they are prolly mortal enemies!

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  14. Feminism threatens very basic structures of power, not just in the workplace, but in really intimate quarters (sexual and domestic relationships, even relationships between children and mothers). In this I think it has always been fundamentally more threatening than other social/equality movements. It's complicated, also, by the fact that being "a woman" is absolutely no guarantee that all those in the category are going to have some kind of unity of experience -- race, class, culture & everything else will make the experience of woman so wildly different that it is very confusing for women to try to represent as a group, thus causing lots of women to look at, say, white affluent liberal feminists and say "that's not me" because the differences between that woman and themselves is so apparent. Even our biological difference from men (like reproduction) or sexual difference (and experiences with sexual violence) are no guarantee we will share common experience to organize around.

    Also, and this might really be it, there are some people who just really do believe that women are not equal to men, particularly intellectually and creatively (note the bell-curvers at html giant). This defies all evidence and logic, but is something felt very strongly, and enacted every day, even among otherwise educated people. I have really strong memories of various poetry scenarios (like the conference at Orono) when groups of roving men, all super well-educated academics with radical politics, moved here and there together, no women among them. In rooms full of both sexes, only the men talked, the women engaged either in their regular silent-protest of loudmouths, or some other kind of conspiracy of self-subordination. It's really so discouraging to me that I don't want to be in these settings, but rather my "own" life where I'm the one managing the intellectual debate (and being really obvious, and really strong, about making sure the women can and do get in their thoughts). I'm lucky that my school is super-egalitarian about gender, at least.

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  15. "Feminist" has been the real F word in our country since the explosion of right wing extremists in the 80s. These F-word women have been marginalized as a sub-culture, instead of embraced by their real numbers- THE culture.

    Just last year, Sarah Palin, (Sorry to bring her up as an example,) as a female governor said that she was not a Feminist- not realizing that without the initial Feminist movement she would not even have her job as governor, or even the right to vote. F her. Feminist her, I say, and buy her some books to read about Feminism.

    As the butt of many sit-com jokes, political trash-talking, and fear-mongering, non-Feminists have scapegoated the consequences of attacking any individual woman by attacking Feminism as a whole. (just think of Jessi Spano on "Saved by the Bell," it was even important to teach children that Feminism was a the butt of a joke, the crazy rant of an angry, less-sexy woman).

    I could go on.

    My point: F making Feminist the new F word.

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  16. Beth makes a good point about the backlash of the 80s and onward, but the anti-feminist movements roots go back to even before there was a feminist movement, basically. In The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith Firestone points out how during the American suffrage movement and even before, the women arguing for equality were depicted in the media as shrill bitches or dowdy battle axes.

    And she also talks about how "A hundred years of brilliant personalities and important events have also been erased from American history. The women orators who fought off mobs, in the days when women were not allowed to speak in pubic, to attack Family, Church and State, who travelled on poor railways to cow towns of the west to talk to small groups of socially starved women...But most people today have never even heard of Myrtilla Miner, Prudence Crandall, Abigail Scott Duniway, Mary Putnam Jacobi, Ernestie Rose..." and the list goes on and on.

    The deck has been totally stacked against feminism from the start.

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  17. I totally agree with K, but I also think that there was a slight upswing of the acceptance of "Feminist" as a title for the agenda of the women's movement in the 1970's, that was decidedly undermined in the 1980's.

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  18. A few years ago I attended a bell hooks lecture and she made the marvelous point that feminism will not make the world worse for men, it will make it better!

    Adam Strauss

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  19. Exactly. Suggesting that sexism is only a woman's problem is kind of like saying that slavery was only a problem for slaves.

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  20. And *HAS* made the world better for men!

    I teach an intro to women's studies in Wyoming. This is effective: put humans in room 3 hours a week. Say, I am a feminist, here's why 3 hours a week. Grade humans on their comprehension. Not half-bad results!

    Now, will everyone please get in the room? Thank you very much.

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  21. "Now, will everyone please get in the room? Thank you very much."

    I love the above!

    Adam Strauss

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  22. i don't know if any of this is directed at me (although i certainly didn't say that feminism is a form of sexism). but, for the record, i consider myself a feminist. i have said so a number of times online, and i did a feminist issue of my zine candy & cigarettes, which was reviewed positively by the feminist review. i am also, firmly, a satirist.

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  23. It's not directed at you, no. But I believe that you did imply, if not outright state, that I'm sexist. And I don't understand where that came from if you don't subscribe to the notion that feminism is a form of sexism. In any case you aren't the only one who has suggested that, this week or otherwise.

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  24. feminism |ˈfeməˌnizəm|
    noun
    the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

    why would any woman not be a feminist?

    i am one.

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  25. For what it's worth --

    For a number of years in the 1970's and 1980's, I worked for a living as a telephone operator for one of the telephone companies. For many decades, that was a job relegated almost entirely to women (at sub-standard wages, work conditions, etc.).

    Within my own lifetime, men started being hired as telephone operators. By that time the pay was (somewhat) better, and work conditions, though still sub-standard, were slightly improved. So recently was it that men were first hired as telephone operators, that the second male operator to be hired here in Minnesota was a man I later met (in a different context) and have remained friends with.

    By the time I was working as a telephone operator, the wages and benefits were at least adequate. It would be inaccurate to suggest that feminism was solely responsible for this -- labor unions had a large role in the improved wages and benefits and work conditions also --

    But without the changes in culture and ideas that resulted from the tireless persistence of feminism (in its many shapes and identies), it's not likely I would have had that job.

    My point being that I have benefited directly and materially, my life has been immeasurably better than it would have been otherwise, because of changes that occurred in this society, at least in part because of feminism.

    That's one example, just the clearest and most obvious one for me.

    I know many other men who could give their own examples of how they have benefited directly from changes brought about at least in part by the work of feminism.

    No feminism is not sexist. Equality is not sexist. It's not (not everywhere, not always) a reality yet. But the struggle for equality is not sexist. It's good and it's right.

    Thanks, Elisa, for your posts about this.

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  26. Thanks for sharing that Lyle! Thanks to everyone who has commented in the past few days. It is really good to know people are reading and caring. (Oh my god this comment actually contains the words "caring" and "sharing." Fingergun to head.)

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