Whither feminism?

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13 comments posted
The whole "I'm against sexism

The whole "I'm against sexism but I'm not a feminist, they've gone too far" thing irritates me so much! I hear it from so many intelligent and well-meaning women who live like feminists, but are scared of a label they think will make them unattractive to men. Every debate we have concerning gender at college, someone say "I'm not a feminist but..." then proceeds to make a feminist statement; why are people so frightened to stand up and be counted? I blame the media in the UK at least; feminism has become inextricably linked with lesbianism, which is another dirty word to a lot of women.

I like to call bullshit on them and ask how exactly feminism has gone too far. That shuts 'em up.

thisgirl's picture
Posted by thisgirl (not verified) on 31 December 2004 - 7:31am
Feminism is an "incorrect" label

I am so glad you both have brought this up. Excellent points!

I was part of the so-called "Second Wave" of the Women's Rights Movement. We never considered ourselves any kind of "wave." Why? Because a wave crests and disappears. Only when it is gone, in retrospect, does it look like a "wave."

I recall there were many lesbians who embraced the ideals of equality and I recall how uncomfortable many straight women were (and are) about having lesbians associated with the feminist movement

But to get to the my main point. Feminism is simply the wrong word.

The word we called it was "Women's Rights" or "Female Rights." Some even called it "Female Liberation."

I agree with the idea that I can wear a garter belt without being oppressed by it. So femininity is fine in my book. However, "feminism" smacks of the word "feminine." This muddies the waters. Are women actually fighting for "femininity?" That's a given, irrespective of our sexual orientation or what we do in the privacy of our bedrooms. We are not struggling for the right to be feminine as the word "Feminism" suggests.

In fact those who say they aren't feminists are the ones who actually are. They are fighting for the right to remain feminine and NOT have to quite be "equal" to men. Feminism implies that "I can have my cake and eat it too."

Let's take an imperfect example just to underscore my drift. When blacks struggled for equal rights, their movement was called the "Civil Rights Movement." It wasn't called "Negroism."

And another thing that we said in the 1960's and 1970's "Sexism is a form of racism." Racism is discriminating against a person or group because of a naturally occurring biological feature or characteristic.

The media was quick to portray women as "feminists" and "Women's Libbers." The implication at the time was that if you were a women's libber, you'd better get equal pay for equal work because no guy is going to date you and you better start cruising the lesbian bars for no self-respecting man would have you.

This is pretty tough to take so the word "feminism" is equated with someone who's a loser - yet, as I suggested, it is the ones who hate the label "feminist" who are the biggest Feminists of all.

[/rant]

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 31 December 2004 - 9:50am
As a, erm, "radical" feminist

...i.e., as someone who sees the real problem arising from characteristics of patriarchal cultures, which apparently is indeed "radical" (at least according to the wiki), there's more to the movement than equal rights, though those are first and foremost. I have interest in the unexamined, and often denied, manifestations of male privilege, for example, and that's more of perceptions and cultural norms than litigation or legislation.

Maybe there is a better word. But it's saddening to see young women run away from the term "feminism." Do they feel so disempowered so as to be unable to claim the term and redefine it for themselves?

Is this because of the "feminist establishment" so prevalent in universities, in "women's studies" and "gender studies"? Could this be a matter of teachers' not really being up to date on feminist ideas, and thus seeming out of touch to the young women coming of age today? (Just guessing. I went with a more traditional curriculum when I was in college.)

-media girl

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 31 December 2004 - 10:17am
Racism

Racist structure push women down by making us separate but equal. But separate can never be equal.

Yes. Much of the dialog is getting hackneyed.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 31 December 2004 - 10:27am
Scared of a label

"I hear it from so many intelligent and well-meaning women who live like feminists, but are scared of a label they think will make them unattractive to men."

This really hits it on the head.

God forbid a woman be sexy AND have thoughts and ideas of her own!

This, I believe, is largely media-induced. Movies and television are saturated with pretty girls with intelligent sidekicks. Rarely are the two parts found in one whole. And if they are, they're either played off as "odd" (The gothy forensic scientist on NCIS) or are *so* pretty that the intelligence takes second fiddle.

Jae's picture
Posted by Jae on 15 January 2005 - 4:02am
Another side of the media

I wonder of at least some of it comes from a distorted view of what feminism really is. The cliche feminist stereotype is a man-hating asexual angry bitter bitch. Part of it I think comes from the fact that the more controvertial activists were the ones who got the attention, and the media painted a sensationalist picture and our society was all too ready to accept that as fact.

This is a topic ideally suited for exploration here, I think.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 15 January 2005 - 10:18am
I believe it's no longer bein

I believe it's no longer being afraid of being labeled a lesbian, at least not for "intelligent", educated women. I'm at a university here in Canada, and the sense I get from discussions in my Women Studies classes is that many of the young women WANT a husband, WANT to stay at home with children, WANT their perfect houses in suburbia, and are afraid that a being a feminist would deny them those pleasures. Many feminists say you shouldn't want those things, as if we've been brainwashed by society to be that way. But what if that is how some women want to live?

Katheirne's picture
Posted by Katheirne (not verified) on 31 March 2005 - 8:11am
The system is built for that

So there's no problem, right?

Except--

Pharmacies are starting to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. How many babies do you want to have? Some states are making it much harder to divorce. What if your husband beats you? Women make what, 72 cents on the dollar a man makes. What if you want to work after the kids are off to college?

What if you have daughters?

Please explain to me how being a housewife and mother means you have to be against feminism?

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 31 March 2005 - 9:59am
feminism

As an old(er) feminist, I thank you for this. I often wonder what young(er) women are thinking, with their distaste for what brought them the freedom they love, which is so much less than they think it is.

How is it that a woman can maintain that she has "never been discriminated against as a woman" and a moment later bewail the dangers of the night streets for a young woman?

SB's picture
Posted by SB (not verified) on 31 December 2004 - 5:37pm
The nexus

Yes.

You make a point both obvious and subtle.

Another example. If women are "equal" why are not half the President's cabinet women? Why not five female Supreme Court Justices? Why not half the Congress? Why not half the top positions in the F-500?

Subtle and obvious . . . they are excluded from these positions. I can understand the argument that most women (for whatever reason) simply do not want these position, yet credulity is stretched that says that there are essentially NO women qualified to fill those positions.

Take our affable President. There are at least 100,000 people better qualified to hold the office than he. "Oh, but he has good advisorys" How about some of those good advisorys advising someone else? Maybe a woman.

Are we saying that not ONE woman is more qualified than GWB for the office of President?

What woman wants it?

Women don't run for President and it's NOT because we have equality. It is because most of us aren't willing to cross a certain line. When we see it we chant, "I'm not a feminist."

Ask Patricia Schroeder. Now THERE"S a story!

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 31 December 2004 - 5:53pm
What is to be done?

Thanks for the perceptive comments. I stumbled into here via the Appalachian Alum. Assoc.'s blog (Hope's). Good stuff. As someone who's been involved for decades, what we need are more bodies, more activism and more political involvement. Not just in the quaint University towns where you can debate speech codes for months, but in the real red counties & states where better than 1/2 of population lives. We need long term Sustained political invlovement from feminists and young folks, and I fear that the best we can do presently is hold on until a generation of new activists dedicates their LIVES to a new course of Freedom. That's something we've not seen much in 25 years. That's what it will take to face down the determined enemies of freedom. Make no mistake about it, many people need to be willing to dedicate their comfortable lives to and for the freedom of generations yet unborn before we see it all turn around. Perhaps it can be done before it's too late. Unhappily I think many, many more women in this country and around the world will have to suffer from our policies for decades more perhaps before the turnaround comes. What are people doing here to advance freedom? When have you actively faced the oppositon to Liberty. Is this a daily affirmation, or something just done in cyber space? We need to affect the world in the here and now with the well worn tools that we have got. We have forgotten how to use these tools, and we need to relearn the habits of democracy. That may take several generations. There's no sense whining about what has been lost. We need to hold and regain ground, and there should be a real sense of urgency about this task.

VJ's picture
Posted by VJ (not verified) on 1 January 2005 - 2:49pm
Commentary

Your perception, like so many women today, is devoid of what the feminist revolution actually stood for in the beginning: equality! I wish you the best of luck spreading your twisted message of female chauvanism. Admittedly, it's disheartening to know that there are men who are your equivalent male counterparts, priding themselves on their chauvanism, while lacking the IQ to perceive anything beyond their own experience and expectations. But your continued campaign of pain and misery will only fuel a never-ending war that no side will ever win. Nonetheless, thank you for highlighting what feminism really stands for today: selfish, egotistic pride.

James West's picture
Posted by James West (not verified) on 14 March 2005 - 5:33am
Case in point

Thank you for demonstrating what I was describing in my post, "James West."

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 14 March 2005 - 11:28am