Sunday, March 4, 2012

Misconceptions about feminism

I've noticed a lot of misconceptions about feminism out there-- and as I've educated myself more on the topic, it's started to bug me when I see people being all blithe about things. So this is part one in n ongoing series on the fact that not all feminists are the same.

When I say I'm a feminist, I mean I believe in the equality of men and women. To be specific, I'm a sex-positive liberal third wave feminist. I am not a radical feminist, even though I am radical in some ways, and I'm not a second-wave feminist. I'm not a formal equality feminist, I'm not a dominance theory feminist, and I'm not a relational feminist. All those different group have things that differentiate them from each other, and are not quite what I am. A lot of critiques of feminism seem to pick and choose bits from each different branch-- and since the branches wildly disagree on a lot of things, they end up painting feminism as a whole as being internally inconsistent and poorly structured.

The thing is, there are different groups that exist under the name feminism, and these individual groups are internally consistent even when they disagree with each other. Just put a dominance theory feminist in a room with a sex-positive feminist. Other than agreeing that women deserve rights, responsibilities, and to be treated as humans, they won't agree on much else. Some feminists think that women can never truly consent to sex with a man; others think that a life as a housewife who has sex with her husband every day is no more nor no less to be desired than a life as a single surgeon, or a lesbian artist in a cooperative living group. Some feminists are essentialists, who think that all women have X characteristic, and all men Y; some think that men and women are fundamentally the same except for societal socialization. Some focus on intersectionality and examining queer women and women of color while others stick to the stereotypical American woman who always seems to end up white and middle class.

Feminism is, fundamentally, the idea that women are people too. Feminism sees problems in the fabric of society and a historical mistreatment of women. Do not assume that just because you have read the works of MacKinnon or Dworkin that I, or any other feminist, must be like them. Listen to people when they tell you what they believe-- it leads to a richer conversation than assuming you know their beliefs and ignoring what they say in favor of continuing with your earlier prejudices.


Nefarious Newt said...

I have always thought of feminism as saying that a woman is capable of doing anything she wants, any way she wants, to the same degree as anyone else, so long as she's doing it because that's what she wants to do. In essence, I'm saying there's no rigid role structure that a woman should be forced to adhere to.

Leigh said...

"Some feminists are essentialists, who think that all women have X characteristic, and all men Y."

Heh. I see what you did there.

Nice post. It's clear you've thought about this!

Amanda said...


I love puns way, way, WAY too much.

Jilly said...

Not all feminists believe the same things - I agree with you. But why feminism is criticised for this I've never understood. There are variations on all possible belief systems. Not all supporters of one political party believe exactly the same thing so why shouldn't there be different types of feminism?

AlekNovy said...

"Other than agreeing that women deserve rights, responsibilities, and to be treated as humans"

Ok, who defines what "rights" are, and what it means to be "treated as a human is?

See, the problem comes in when these people define "human" as "women get every fantasy met, and men treat women exactly like women want to be treated, irregardless of the burden or pain on men"

In other words, they define human as a set of values that women are inclined towards.

How do you define human? How do you get away from the act of defining human being the same as imposting your values on others?

AlekNovy said...

"Feminism is, fundamentally, the idea that women are people too."

See, this is why feminism is widly radical in its core.

This belief actually presupossed that this is a wild idea!

The actual presupossition in that statement is what women have NOT been treated as people. IN other words, if you actually believe the views that women were treated as "not people" (in comparison to men), then you are in fact radical.

This is why all feminism is radical.

- Feminism is the belief that any problem a woman has, is caused by her gender in the benefit of men (men are treated as people, women are not)

- Feminism is the art of ignoring all the hurts and pains associated with the male role (which I claim are much more than the female role)... and then declaring the male role as "people".

In essence feminism is to me a deep-hatred of femininity... and the belief that being a human, means to be an alpha male. Because everything feminism discusses... Every single feminist theory takes the alpha male as a reference point... Conveniently ignoring those 99% of us men who are neither Rockefeller nor Brad Pitt.

AlekNovy said...

"Feminism is, fundamentally, the idea that women are people too."

In essence... All women should be treated the way the top 0.1% of men are treated... while still retaining all the privileges an average woman has over the average man.

How do you define "people" amanda? Because if you believe this sentence, then feminism would never have to have been born, since men and women have always been equally treated as people.

The assumption I'm making, is that (as all feminists), you're comparing an average woman, to high-status man (whose privileges you generalize as "male" privileges).

If you actually compared an average woman, to an average man (in any point in history), men and women have always been treated with an equal dose of "human".

In medieval times, they were treated equally shitty... But what a feminist will do, is compare a peasant woman, to a landlord aristocrat... to claim women had it worse. Not comparing a peasant woman, to a peasant man.

Anonymous said...

@ Alek,

Women and men have not been treated equally throughout history. In older societies, lower class men and women were treated equally. In agrarian societies, men and women were treated equally. However, in any class system men and women working class and above is not equality. Women not being allowed to own property or vote is not equality. Raping women in the name of war in order to slowly delute a races color, is CERTAINLY not equality.

Not all women believe the same things. Not all ment believe the same things. This is the nature of humanity. But treating someone as a person and not as a biological sex is the preferable course, regardless of whether they are male, female, or anything in between.

Last but not least, blaming the other for one's disadvantages is a timeless tactic, whether used by feminists, masculinity theororists, or bigots. Perhaps one might consider blaming one's self for the disadvantages they face that are changeable, and helping others to change those things they can not.

Aleknovy said...

Lynn Thompson - you proved my point. You only gave 2 examples and both prove my point.

1. Women couldn't vote - neither could men!!!!!!!

The only people with any power were alpha males I.e 0.0001 of the male population.

2. Couldn't own land - neither could men!!!!!

Same as the above.

This is the part about feminism that's most insulting to men. You literally ignore and make invisible 99.999% of men. You tell us that if we're not rockafeller or brad Pitt that we don't exist!!! Your idea of equality is trampling over 99% of men to make women feel less insecure when they compare themselves to an alpha male.

MipMip said...

I can't say better!

«Women and men have not been treated equally throughout history.»

You are right! Men was/are forced to work to death in dangerous job. Men, and men only, was/are conscript in war to protect and/or take asset to provide women. Men was/are those who sink with the boat in any dangerous situation. We was/are the last evacuated. Men receive far more long punishment for same crime than women. And the list continue, terabyte after terabyte.

So, Please stop your lamentation You previlagied Royal Highness.