Quick Notes on My Personal Feminism
Posted on November 18, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 337 Comments
Because it’s been on my mind recently.
1. I don’t tend to think of myself as a feminist — which is to say that I tend to think of people who do see themselves as feminists as people who have spent a more-than-trivial amount of time studying the movement and its various social, political and economic theories. I would be willing to suggest I know more about these topics than the average guy, but I also know that what I know is little enough that opening my mouth on the subject would largely serve to point out how large the gaps in my knowledge are. To be blunt, I don’t know enough to be comfortable labeling myself as a feminist, as I see the word being most commonly used.
2. I am a feminist in the most general sense of believing that women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty. However, as far as I know most people don’t use the term “feminism” in this most broad of definitions, either positively or negatively. This is another reason I don’t tend to use the term to apply to myself.
3. A third reason I don’t apply the term feminist to myself is that, again to be blunt about it, I don’t think I deserve to. I know myself well enough to know where I fall down on the subject. On a very superficial level, I’m wary of touting myself as a feminist and then doing something that shows my ass on the subject in a very public way. Best not to set myself up for such a fall.
On a slightly deeper level, I know the personal journey I’m taking in terms of my relationships with women, individually and generally. I’ve always tried to be a good person to women in my life, and to women in general, but there have been times I’ve fallen short of those goals, through ignorance or through being (for lack of a better term) a dick. I work at these things. I keep working at them.
4. There’s a category of dude out there who likes to a call me a feminist as a way to insult me or to suggest in some way that I am somehow less of a man; this is why, I imagine, there is a high correlation between the sort of dude who calls me a feminist, and who calls me a “beta male.” Some fellows in this category also appear to believe I write on women-related topics as a way of supplicating myself to my matriarchical rulers and/or insinuating myself, quisling-like, into the feminist camp, to be rewarded with cookies and hugs. I am delighted to annoy this category of status-anxious, woman-fearing moron.
5. However, there are also a number of people, including a fair number of women, who are frustrated that when I write about topics relating to women that I often have a farther reach online then women often do. They are frustrated, I suspect, not only just because it’s a classic example of a guy being paid attention to, but also because, per points one through three above, the filter through which my own thoughts and opinions go is a male, not-entirely-on-point-to-feminism one.
This I get and understand, and is yet another reason why I tend not to label myself as a feminist. I do not speak for anyone but me. I have no ambition to try to mansplain women’s issues to them or to anyone else, nor any interesting in being a “white knight,” stepping into a discussion to shield women from men. I write about what I write about because it’s of interest to me. I apply my own perspective to them. I will miss some things important to women and feminists and will misunderstand others. Occasionally I will talk from the inside of my own ass.
6. I have explained the various reasons why I tend not to call myself a feminist, but I want to make it clear that I don’t mind if others people say I am one, if that’s what I look like to them. The men who do it to insult me are failing; I’m not in the least bit insulted (I don’t really care if you call me a “beta male” either. Sorry, dudes). Most everyone else, I suspect, means it positively. I appreciate that.
Update, 12/29/14: I amend this statement.
I take from your explanation that the (possibly) proper term for your views is “humanism,” which happens to be the same as my views. What others may call me on this topic is irrelevant to me.
I have encountered the opinion that, by definition, men cannot be feminists, and any man who claims the label is acting wrongly. I don’t hold to that idea myself, but I don’t want to be a troublemaker either, and so that is one of the reasons why I don’t claim the label of feminist for myself. I’m happy to be described as one, but I don’t insist on it.
Not all women are feminists. Not all feminists are women. A feminist is anyone who believes that women are fully autonomous, fully human, beings. (my definition)
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
I disagree that men can’t be feminists, That’s just exclusionary, in my opinion. If you believe that women are, as @sharon puts it, fully autonomous and fully human, you can call yourself a feminist.
@ Sharon- My feeling is that saying you’re a feminist means that you think women are and should be treated as fully autonomous fully human beings AND that you acknowledge that that still often isn’t the case and there is still work to be done on the subject. People who think women’s rights were won when the suffragettes won and the fight is now over don’t tend to describe themselves as feminists.
I’m always a little suspicious when a male friend, even one as brilliant as John Scalzi or David Brin, boasts of being a Feminist. So I read their arguments with an open mind.
My mother, also explicitly a Secular Humanist, was actively Feminist around the time that I was born. Being Feminist in the early 1950s was like being a vegetarian yoga-practicing Maoist, as it were, compared to the mainstream consensus.
She ran what were later called “consciousness-raising” events with women in the neighborhood, combined with study groups on the Bill of Rights, held in a gorgeous neo-gothic library long since fallen to a wrecking ball. Many of them transformed. Some went back to school and became schoolteachers, professors, attorneys, painters, or authors. Some got divorced.
She introduced me to a previous generation of Feminists, including suffragettes, and those who had travelled to several continents to communicate with African, European, and Asian Feminists. They explained Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s parents to me.
I am deeply influenced by what I learned from these women. My wife does not wear “Feminist” on her sleeve, but Physics was a man’s game when she broke in. There were fewer than 1,000 women PhD Physicist in the world when she got her diploma. I’ve watched her advance in industry — where lesser-qualified men earned $10,000/year more than her — and academia, where it took 11 years for her to displace an unpublishable sexist Chair and become the new Chair of the Department of Sciences.
Perhaps what perturbs me the most, after those pro-rape Republicans who went down in flames last Tuesday, is the middle school and high school girls that I taught. I could never figure out what they meant by “Feminist” when they insisted that they were not anything of the kind, and then demanded that I treat them the same as I treated the boys, which I always did.
Wait, go back one. The Matriarchy is giving out cookies? What kind, ’cause for a good lemon sugar cookie, I can be bought.
I am a feminist in the most general sense of believing that women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty. However, as far as I know most people don’t use the term “feminism” in this most broad of definitions, either positively or negatively.
I’m happy to call you a feminist, because I dislike the way the term has been narrowly defined in both directions — on the one hand, turning it into the bra-burning, man-hating “feminazi” caricature, and on the other hand decreeing that if you aren’t the Right Sort of Feminist (as defined by whoever’s saying that), you can get the hell out. My personal feeling is that we need more people saying that if you believe women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, then you’re a feminist.
I find it fascinating that that there is a predominantly male group which regards describing a male as a feminist to be an insult; the fact that the group also uses terminology like alpha and beta males suggests that this stems from a very pronounced level of anxiety as to their own status.
After all, people who are very, very good at what they do tend not to wander around angsting over whether they are any good at whatever it is they do, much less waste their time and energy trying to assign labels to other people when they could be doing much more interesting things.
On the other hand, watching you Mallet the loonies from VD has provided amusement from time to time, though I recognise that from your perspective it’s probably rather less interesting than shooting fish in a barrel…
“Alpha male” “Beta male” I love how people take things out of context from badly done nature shows and turn them into memes for their life without ever knowing what it really means.
This is why I use the term Bumper Sticker Feminist to describe myself, especially reasons 1 – 3
A courageous effort, I appreciate. Very true. Some of my feelings got echoed in this post.
@Sharon: that Rebecca West quote is awesome.
I’ve seen it before, but it is awesome every time. :)
I get most of the logic of not calling yourself a feminist, though less so the first: calling yourself a feminist is different from calling yourself a feminist theorist or an academic specializing in feminism.
I’m also much influenced by Caitlin Moran’s quote about taking back the word feminism: “We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
I’m also fond of Ani DiFranco’s thoughts on the subject. Specifically, from “Grand Canyon,”
people, we are standing at ground zero
of the feminist revolution
yeah, it was an inside job
stoic and sly
one we’re supposed to forget
and downplay and deny
but i think the time is nothing
if not nigh
to let the truth out
coolest f-word ever deserves a fucking shout!
why can’t all decent men and women
call themselves feminists?
out of respect
for those who fought for this
i mean, look around
we have this
John, I once saw a quote defining feminism as “the radical belief that women are people too.” In that sense, you are indeed a feminist, as am I. But I think “Humanist” would be a little better term. Certainly I’m not a feminist in the politically active sense, nor, I would say, are you.
In our blog’s vocabulary, you fit under the liberal feminist label (but not, say, radical or marxist). :)
John, is there a way to search out your various essays on the culture (this one, on being poor, about difficulty levels, some of your political posts)? I want to find some of the older ones to ready myself, but I also want to share your excellent writing with friends and family. Thanks for whatever help you or the readers can offer for this list/grouping!
This also touches on something I was pondering recently, which is that “feminist” tends to be a label that is assigned by the other as opposed to the self. And when someone takes it on him or herself, it tends to be after having been acknowledged as such by an other, sort of a title as opposed to a descriptor. Also, I could be full of it. I just found myself wondering about it one day.
Jonathan Vost Post: I suspect what’s happened is that the egalitarianism of the suffragettes has been partially subsumed and overshadowed by the males-as-the-eternal-enemy rhetoric of the Andrea Dworkin feminists. Ergo, most 21st century girls like guys, so Feminism (capital F) for them often seems anti-guy; at least at a superficial level — and they’re unwilling to embrace the label as a result. And I am not sure they’re wrong to think this way? I know my wife was always getting into it with some of her “Dworkinian” classmates when she was earning her Womens’ Studies degree at the U of WA. There was an orthodox conformity of acceptable ideas and roles being pushed forward by certain women eager to “claim the space” as it were. Which always brings to my mind the words of Elizabeth Moon: she thought feminism was about freedom, so when they (Feminists, capital F) tried to corral her, she jumped the fence.
I labeled myself a feminist back in high school when I wrote a paper on the ERA for my civics class. Haven’t looked back since. A great book on that subject: Click: When We Knew We were Feminists. The experiences are multitudinous.
@Josh: I’ve occasionally wanted that too. Alas our host doesn’t seem to categorise or tag posts much.
I have to say I find parts of this post a bit strange, especially the bit about not being able to call oneself a feminist because one has been “(for lack of a better term) a dick” toward women.
I just come right out and call myself a feminist, as in “women are people too”.
Am I perfect at it? No! But neither am I perfect at any other affiliation or definition I think of myself as, which doesn’t prevent me from trying to stand on what I think of the right side of the issue and accepting the label that usually goes with it.
I hear ya on the subject, John. My wife is a woman with a solid identity of self, and I get called on the floor as soon as my manspeech against women’s inequality starts to turn and twist in directions not her own. Bottom line, it’s hard to speak for a sex not ones own. There are historical, social, and physiological reasons for that–some of it baggage and some of it vital for identity. But, one can say that it’s wrong not to have someone treated equally. If you put on someone else’s shoes and come away with an unfair experience, then it’s likely unfair, period. Just as people have different agendas and concerns, so do the sexes and the cultures and the whatever else that separates ‘me’ from ‘you’. The key is to try and understand and respect. To find a middle ground where mutual respect can be nurtured.
Just as humanity’s evolution is falling upon our collective shoulders (funnily enough by our own doing), so too are our roles in life and how we identify ourselves. We should be elated to possess a community of equals. The potential is staggering, both in terms of development as well as depth of community. What an amazing world that would be.
I call myself a feminist because I believe women should be treated as fully adult and human AND because we aren’t there yet. That’s why the term humanism doesn’t work for me — it doesn’t usually bring along the last part.
Best new anti-oppression word in my vocabulary? Kyriarchy. I may start calling myself an anti-kyriarchist, just to keep things interesting.
John, if I had to “label” you, it would be Humanist. First off, I’m a straight white male (who loved the post on easiest game setting). However, I do believe that every human on this planet deserves the same rights, freedoms, liberties, and yes, obligations as every other Human. I know that I’m imperfect but I try my best every day not to judge someone on their gender, race, nationality, religion, economic status, or sexuality.
that being said, as a male (a few months older than yourself) I do know that it is hard not to think about certain females with my penis (a certain Irish Catholic redhead with an ex-nun mother comes to mind), which leads to seeing said members of the human race as sexually attractive… however I also work hard to remind myself they they are productive members of society who not only carry us around for 9 months but can also give us sustenance when we are defenseless babies.
The reason I fight for others’ rights is because the last few years, I’ve found myself a member of a minority: I am an Atheist. Yes people, you heard me right. I do not believe in a god or gods, I don’t believe the earth is 6k years old, I don’t believe it was created in a few days, or fell out of the anus of OWEOFMogODM, or any of the other creation myths. The amount of ridicule and hate being an atheist brings is.. well.. god damn unbelievable. “Love thy Neighbor” aside, I have discovered that “peace” and “love” are only for the few.
Again, and back to the topic, you Sir are a Humanist. Welcome to the club/label/sanity.
Well, I wouldn’t want to be overly prescriptive, and it’s good that you feel good about yourself, but I think feminism goes considerably beyond believing that “women are people too”.
After all, children are people too but they don’t get to vote…
@myrkul999: that was the bumper sticker. :) it is such a great way of saying it.
Feminism =\= humanism. Anyone who brings up the second topic in a discussion of the first is probably missing the point.
I appreciate that you are anxious to establish that you too are a victim of discrimination and persecution and so on and so forth but please try and remember that there are countries where not believing in one of more Gods/Goddesses is perfectly normal behaviour; if you are that worried about it you could always migrate to one of them.
There are almost seven billion people on this planet; the percentage believing that it was created 6,000 years ago is minute. The percentage believing that women are inherently inferior to men is vastly higher, and we don’t have the option of migrating someplace where that prejudice does not exist…
I think that it helps to reclaim the word “feminist” from those who seek to use it as an insult if more people identify as feminists, even if they aren’t always perfect. Hell, even within the community of female feminist activists there are people who do it differently and think the others are hurting the cause. Use the words you’re comfortable with, but I would encourage more people to call themselves feminists, even if they aren’t activists about it, even if they’re male.
While there is definitely a risk of mansplaining when men attempt to talk about women’s issues, I think there is also an important role for dudes to talk to other dudes about such things. Unfortunately we live in a society where when women talk about sexism in society, we are often accused of making mountains out of molehills or just being hostile to men. Men can be more inclined to listen to other men who say “listen, this isn’t my problem, but it really is a problem and here’s why.” Maybe after the basically decent guys who sometimes do practical things read a basic explanation by another man they will be primed to pay attention to women’s voices. We need to move towards a place where people with privilege are better at listening to those without, but as we work on that I think it is useful to have male feminists who are willing to speak out and approach the issues with empathy and humility. I’m pretty new to this blog, but you generally seem to do a pretty good job of that.
A quiet side note: I have run into a few genuine male chauvinists (limited old sense of chauvinism, i.e. Chauvin’s obsessive extreme Frenchness, so that stuff that was great was great just because it was so totally French, and nothing French was less than great, &c.) And genuine male chauvinists used “feminist” to mean “one who believes in equality of gender” AND used it as an insult. Maybe four, five such creatures in my life. I suppose it just demonstrates that with six billion of us on a good-sized planet, there’s a few of almost anything.
Anyway, by their standards, we’re probably all feminists here. Wouldn’t use that as a basis to call myself one.
@Stevie. I understand your point and actually agree with it… but there are also countries where I would wind up in jail or dead. My point is that everyone everywhere deserves the same rights. PERIOD!
As regards the the point about female suppression, I agree with you 100%. Which is why I’m a Humanist and fight for everyone’s rights. Until we are ALL equal none of us are equal.
And as an aside: Most people believe in a personal god/gods. More often than not us who don’t believe are pariahs. I have always believed in total equality for all.. but it took being a minority who is despised MORE THAN RAPISTS to start putting my $$$$$money where my beliefs are.
@bearpaw while I understand what you are saying, I disagree. Humanism IS feminism.. and equal rights for homosexuals and me voting for their right to be married… me voting to get rid of the part of my state’s constitution that says blacks can’t marry whites, me spending 9 years in the Army to protect and defend the U.S. against all enemies, Domestic AND foreign… yada yada. As a Humanist, I have to vote for the rights of ALL. As a feminist… much easier.. only fight for the females.
Understand that in my life the females (other that people like my father [RIP and thank you for your service!]) and my older brother (thankis best friend and buddy!), my mother, grandma, aunt, niece (little sis and lots of love to her), my better half (see the Irish Catholic offspring of an ex-nun listed above!), my sister (second mother), and a lot of other ladies I have known.. I fight for their rights every time I can.. but how can I fight for their rights at the exclusion of everyone else’s rights? Their rights are dependent upon Sherri’s right to marry her lovely female, or Stephen’s right to marry his guy (in both cases these are personal issues). The rights of my niece/little sis to earn the same pay for her job is the same battle for me as the rights for a Wiccan or Muslim or Hindu to be President of the USA.
No matter what, they are all equal. I can’t forsake my fight for everyones’ rights to just focus on one battle. In his stated beliefs, I find that John is more Humanist than Femanist… In that he believes we all deserve the same privileges and rights. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty… do you believe that we all should have to register for the Selective Service System (Draft!) or none? For me, it is all or none.
@digitalatheist: THIS. Polite applause ensues.
I don’t call myself anything: feminist, liberal/conservative, etc. Mostly because those terms are so fluid that they’re essentially meaningless. They’re like Wittgenstein’s Beetle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_Investigations#Wittgenstein.27s_beetle). I know what I mean by those terms, but I don’t know what someone else might mean by those terms. Depending on the company I’m in, I’ve been called “liberal” in one place and “conservative” in another for holding the exact same opinion. If person A points to person B and says “person B is a liberal,” I have no more information about person B than I did before person A made the statement, unless I know what person B considers “liberal”. If someone asks me if I’m a “conservative”, I always ask, “What, for you, are the necessary and sufficient conditions for being considered ‘a conservative?” (I don’t use the philosophical technical language like that, but that’s the question I’m asking, usually in a roundabout way.)
Of course, If someone wants to slap a label on me, that’s no skin off my nose. I’m under no obligation to conform to their perception. :)
Purely based on my experience and observations…..
What I have noticed is that the average white male most likely to be a Scalzi feminist has daughters. Yes, there is the implication that we only came to feminism because we had a vested interest. Maybe so, but I can only speak for myself; in my naive youth, I worked with and knew a lot of strong smart women, and it never occurred to me that a sensible society, organisation or employer would waste their talents and skills. Of course, I was a lot wiser by the time my daughter was born. I try to teach her (and the boys, as well) that other people’s prejudices are challenging, but that the problem lies with those people.
I call myself a feminist because A) I believe in gender equality, and B) I work toward it. I think that’s all it takes.
John, I’m curious what you think about Hugo Schwyzer? He is a self-identified male feminist whose articles (which are regularly published at Jezebel.com, not just once-in-a-blue-moon like yours there was) are often taken by Jezebel commenters as being mansplaining and patronizing, and yet he never responds to these claims and never seems to address the idea that he benefits from a glass elevator (when dudes in female-dominated professions, like “women’s studies professors,” are elevated above women with superior credentials). He also has kind of a creepy history, though the criticism of his writing style and the fact that it’s so often aimed at women as much as at men was there long before that was revealed.
@ martin english: there was some study a few years ago in some scandinavian country with much fewer privacy laws for corporations looked at the salaries of men and women in companies, before and after the CEO or some such important person had a child – at the companies where the CEO had had a daughter, there was a statistically significant raise in the female employees’ salaries compared to others. (not HUGE but statistically significant.)
If I can remember the study correctly: I’ll try to find a citation. (TO THE GOOGLE!)
Anyway, in a general sense, yay for considering women as people. Whatever you call it.
Regardless of whether or not one considers oneself a feminist, all we can do is try not to be deliberate asshats, and call it out when we see it. Do the best with what you have. That is all.
I get the feeling that John is saying “calling myself feminist would offend some people who I wish not to offend”, rather than “no-one could call me a feminist” (that latter point is directly addressed). And yes, there are women who reasonably believe that only women can be feminists, and many of them have reasonable points to make on that issue. One aspect: in a sexist society living as a woman is different to living as a man, and some of that difference is hard-to-impossible to understand. Which makes understanding feminism that grows from that hard-to-impossible for a man. Such is life, they don’t want me to use that label, I won’t use it.
Feminism is a diverse thing, almost one per feminist. So yeah, the Scalzi point of view is an interesting one, I like it, but it’s not the only one. Anyone trying to push him into the “Officially Certified Feminist” box… good luck with that.
the morons who deride you as a beta male usually either fit their own definition, suffer from testosterone poisoning, are socially inept and/or have feelings of inadequacy – or they wouldn’t feel the need to try to smack you down.
Most likely these persons are all of the above.
PS I don’t care whether you are self-titled as a feminist or not; nor do I care if others call you a feminist. I care about how you treat people of all genders and minorities in your life, in public and how you write women characters. It is this basis on which you and every other person stands or falls as a decent human being or not. Nearly 30 years ago I remember a program on TV talking about ‘awareness of skin’; as one person said, skin lacks any awareness of colour at all. The peeps talking about awareness of skin were trying to be PC but failing miserably as was pointed out. If we can get to the point where there is no awareness of gender, colour, disability, etc, but all are just equal people, THEN we’ve won.
John, you can be a feminist in my book. Or not. Just keep writing about women as real people with their own integrity, with as much ability to influence the world as the men in it. You can’t help being male, just as I can’t help being female or white. All anyone can ask is that we are all sensitive to the settings of our games, and respect (and where possible support) those who have to play with harder settings.
Making people think about gender, power and privilege is a gift. Being a role model for boys, and offering them for girls, are also gifts. If, for every Bella Swan, we had a Zoe or Jane Sagan, the world would be a better place for girls. My teenaged daughters still tease me about deconstructing The Little Mermaid and lionizing Mulan when they were young… but that was my gift. Nothing wrong with giving from our place of strength.
John: I think of you as a feminist, and that’s a good thing in my book (or binder, as it were.) I don’t think you have to be a Dr of Women’s Studies and write theses to be a feminist. Or, as my wife puts it, “I was raised Catholic. That doesn’t make me the Pope.”
Yes. As part of the vast Feminist Conspiracy, yesterday my cell finally mastered a simple, delicious, gluten-free chocolate-chip cookie (the *real* Project Delphi, mwahaha). We have distributed the recipe to the Sisterhood, and tomorrow, mind-controlling baked goods will go out in all school lunches and corporate catering platters. By this time next week, we’ll have equal pay, universal health care, and paid parental leave. (World peace is scheduled for after the New Year. Patience.)
I think understanding one’s personal feminism as an inward journey is an important first step for people of all genders. For me it started as a key to my reading of history — did the intrinsic disregard of fifty percent of the world’s population have something to do with how we built our world? Might we as a species have an easier time of things in the future if we were more inclusive of that other half and their needs and ideas and experiences? Probably. (It’s a pretty basic proposition, but there are still plenty of people who have a hard time accepting it.) I also found so many feminist goals so basic: reproductive autonomy, equal pay, the de-normalizing of harassment and discrimination. It just seemed so obvious. Feminist goals seemed like goals that anyone with even a modicum of intelligence should be able to understand. That didn’t make me part of a movement, it just made me smart — or so I thought. As a result, I didn’t start to think of myself as “feminist” until I immigrated — once my new country started asking about my uterus on my application form, I saw the intersections between policy and gender normativity, and I was better able to understand where action was necessary. But it all starts with that one step, and often that step is a personal awakening.
Frankly, I think the anger and bemusement directed toward the very word feminism is a good reason to BE a feminist. It shows there’s still a heck of a lot of work to be done.
Re “children are people too but they don’t get to vote…” — they do when they grow up. Children are not a separate kind of person. The default state for citizens is that they are able to vote if not prevented by a particular status that disqualifies them, such as being under age. Being a woman should not be such a status.
It also says a lot about their deep insecurities that they feel the need to treat women as subordinate “betas” in order to feel like real Men. Anyone who feels compelled to claim other human beings as property in order to prop up their own ego is a sad and pathetic individual.
@ benjb & fennvt
I know women who support every one of those things, and even enjoy them some Madonna on occasion, and yet decline to call themselves feminists for reasons not all that dissimilar to John’s own. There are no shortage of self-described feminists who hold an exclusionary view of the term, even with regards to women. And there are plenty of women (and men) who would rather not become the target of friendly fire, and so instead choose to simply support what you would call feminism without describe themselves as such. So, as much as I revel in the tuneful poetry of Ani DiFranco, I really don’t believe it’s a failure of nerves on the part of all those women who don’t call themselves feminists. Whether they’re right not to fight against the ghettoization of feminism is another matter.
This raises an interesting point. What’s wrong with saying X or Y are feminists, there just not radicals? We do it in other areas of politics. I agree with John about 80% of the time, but he’s a left-leaning centrist and I’m and left-leaning libertarian, yet we can still be allies on those overlapping issues. IMHO, a diversity of ideas is a strength, not a weakness. Just because there are arguments within, does not mean that the allies your arguing with are the enemies within. The modern GOP is a prime example of how to weaken a movement by purity purges.
@ Brad R. Torgersen
I don’t think this is unique to feminism. In an revolutionary movement, there will be petty dictators who try to take over the resulting power vacuum. That’s just human nature; some will always try to dominate the rest.
With respect, the one does not need to be equal to the other in order for the two to be related or relevant to each other. Humanism and feminism are not synonymous, but strive for many of the same goals.
@ Kenneth B
Small nitpick: Differences in meaning from one person to the next is not the same thing as meaninglessness because a word only means anything insofar as it means something to someone – words being, as they are, human artifacts.
@ martin english
No daughters (yet), but if you had asked me five years ago about the historical appropriation of women, I would have said, yes it was a problem and a Bad Thing, but not on the same level as shackle slavery. I’ve since come to the understand that being anyone else’s de facto property is slavery no matter how gilded the cage may be. I’ve arrived at this outlook for two reasons. Firstly, working out my own views of liberty, which are at the core of my social philosophy, I’ve realized that without personal sovereignty (literally: self-rule), one cannot achieve autonomy and so is deprived of self-determination. If someone is the unwilling tool of another, they are a slave. And secondly, I’ve turned my attention for women’s issues from often dense and abstract academic writings to the actual accounts of the quotidian sexism with which many women deal.
@ Moz At Work
As someone who doesn’t describe myself as a feminist for much the same reasons as John, I would like to point out that while we, as non-gender-queer men, cannot gain an experiential understanding of what women go through, we can understand second hand, though I agree that doing so is not always easy.
Careful, we all know what happened to Hostess.
The way I put it is: Children are citizens-in-waiting, and women waited thousands of years to be citizens.
[John, sorry for the double-post; I cross-posted with HelenS. All Glory to the Mallet.]
You know, someone mentioned Hugo Schwyzer. That’s an interesting name to drop, because he’s recently been subjected to extensive harassment and a months-long, concentrated Internet hate campaign that’s pretty similar to what Anita Sarkeesian has gotten. And yet no one ever brings him up in these kinds of discussions. Maybe it’s just not convenient to acknowledge that the e-feminist crowd can be just as hateful as the misogynist trolls.
@digitalatheist Thanks for saying so perfectly what I struggled to put into words. Humanist! regardless of race, gender, religion, or even political affiliation.
Just a quick note to say I enjoyed your post.
The way I practice feminism means a commitment to process and dudes who take the label I will hold to a higher standard. Your post nicely encapsulates some of my reasons why.
I’m cool with other feminists identifying men as a feminists and I’m glad when men are honored to be called one. I don’t like colonial modes of feminism that say if you think women are humans you’re a feminist – although I can see why those modes of feminism exist, and de-demonizing feminism is valuable.
Personally I think feminism is more interesting when it’s a diverse, complex process that is about a person’s relationship to gender and how they choose to be an activist. Being a feminist is not a static thing, it’s never cozy, it can be hella fun, but to me it’s always a process.
“I have always believed in total equality for all.. but it took being a minority who is despised MORE THAN RAPISTS to start putting my $$$$$money where my beliefs are.”
This is ridiculously hyperbolic. The slings and arrows you suffer for atheism as a straight white male? No quibble that atheists get some hate. Just, I’d point out that you had, admittedly, no idea what that was like until you opted to profess a personal philosophy. Gender and gender based privilege is a little more complex than “Once more into the breach, fellow humanists!”
“I can’t forsake my fight for everyones’ rights to just focus on one battle.”
You’re kind of stomping around like a rhetorical elephant here. This sentence, it has issues.
It sounds like your primary quest as a humanist is to stop atheists from being treated *worse* THAN RAPISTS (rhetorical 800 pound gorilla in the contextual room – NOT COOL). Also, your fight for “everyone” reads a lot like your fight against your own injustice. Which, is cool, of course. Just, maybe don’t belittle someone else’s injustice by making your fight “everyone’s”?
“do you believe that we all should have to register for the Selective Service System (Draft!) or none? For me, it is all or none.”
I see. Well, it’s kind of coming through that you think feminists pursue their goal of equality to the lessening of everyone else’s equality. It also seems implicit here that you think the feminist argument for equality is hypocritical, in the sense that they must not want “real” equality if getting a draft card isn’t at the top of their list.
only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women
You can use “feminism” to mean a general philosophy or set of attitudes, or you can use it to refer to real-world organizations and movements, and the writers and activists who made them up. It’s possible that a number of younger women wouldn’t call themselves feminist in the second sense, for the same reasons as what I take to be John’s: they agree with the ideas, but they haven’t paid the dues. That’s what I would say about myself as well.
As I understand, there are also some contemporary writers and activists on women’s issues who feel alienated from real-world feminist organizations; in their view, feminism has traditionally been of, by and for middle-class white women, and has been reluctant to admit that (say) poor black women have different sets of problems that need different solutions. Third-wave feminism does think about intersectionality with race and class, but some women prefer to just drop the “feminist” term altogether.
@Bearpaw: How are people missing the point?
I guess in the end, personally I think the feminists collectively need to make up their minds. Is this a “women are people” movement or an exclusive Puritan-Manichean club? It’s bullshit.
I mean I don’t really care, because I have more important things to do, like [this part deleted. Don’t be trolly, please – JS ]
@digitalatheist – It might be good to make yourself aware that there are women atheists out there, and even within the atheist community, they are treated differently – and worse! – than men. Reading about Elevatorgate would probably be educational on this topic. Here’s one link I found while googling for a summary that seems to have the relevant info: http://considertheteacosy.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/weighing-in-on-elevatorgate-perspectives-and-privilege/
Basically, things intersect. Being a woman and an atheist is not like being a man and being an atheist. Being a woman and being black is not like being a man and being black. Being a gay man is not like being a lesbian. Perhaps your humanism takes that into account, but it is one thing modern feminism is trying to focus on (or at least, the feminism I pal around with – everyone does it differently!) and I’m not seeing it much in your post.
I suppose it isn’t a surprise to people that I call myself a feminist, but I am personally surprised when I occasionally get asked why. Sexism is objectively stupid. That said, I understand why someone might not consider the label itself a good fit – one semiregular poster here who has my utmost respect has explained his views as ‘pro-feminist’, which makes sense to me. (Admittedly, I kind of roll my eyes at women who are Not A Feminist But, which is to say, they agree with everything except they don’t want to use the F-word because it scares the boys. But it’s not my place to tell them what labels they are or aren’t allowed to use.)
@Brad: Even Andrea Dworkin, who had a man as a partner for over twenty years, never claimed that males were the eternal enemy, Brad. Sorry to step on your strawman with my sensible shoes there.
@digitalatheist: Was it really necessary to come into the discussion and to the equivalent of ‘that’s very interesting, ladies, but now I’d like to talk about me?’
@MRAL: oh, please. Schwyzer was controversial long before he came out with his jaunty re-telling of his attempted murder-suicide of himself and his girlfriend, and anyone who is really interested in the details has Google right at their fingertips. I don’t think Schwyzer has much to do with the discussion except as a kind of backdoor way to turn the OP into an excuse for talking about how much feminism sucks.
@Other Bill: thank you for, well, all of that. Much more coherent than what I would have said. Also K.A.T.
@MRAL: I just did an admittedly quick search for Huge Schwyzer hate, and was unable to find an app or press about an app in which you get to (trigger warning for domestic violence) beat a picture of him and watch photoshopped bruises appear on his face. I did find a facebook page in which he is called a “creep” and “douchebag” and there are links to articles suggesting he has admitted to having ‘inappropriate relations’ with his students…. but that was all, really. Seems a little odd on the face of things to compare him to Anita Sarkeesian. Perhaps I am missing these deat-threat making hoards of which you speak.
So… I’m with mythago on this one. You seem to be trying to do nothing but complain about feminism. And be offensive while doing so, to boot.
Also, thank you to mythago!
@Josh L (also @John Samuel): This blog has a search function that works very well; I often use it when I want to locate a specific older post and either re-read it or send someone a link to it.
In addition, Google has done a fine job of indexing this site (much more thorough than any set of tags). For example, if I enter “Scalzi Being Poor” into Google, I get the original essay in the top length, and the very fine item “Why Not Feeling Rich Is Not Being Poor” as item #3. Type “Scalzi Financial Advice” and you get the “Unasked-For Advice to New Readers About Money”, which pops up even above the two men named Scalzi who actually work as professional financial advisors. (This probably annoys them, but too bad.) I’ve occasionally needed as many as five search terms (four keywords plus ‘Scalzi’), but that’s usually overkill.
If you’d like a collection of key posts, there’s a book out. Soon, there will be two. Then you’ll know even more good posts which can be fished out with a three-word Google search and thereby shared.
I consider men who are pro-feminist to be feminist allies, not feminists, in the same way that I am pro-womanism, but not a womanist.
“Feminism =\= humanism. Anyone who brings up the second topic in a discussion of the first is probably missing the point.”
THANK you. I am a feminist because there is history involved in this movement, which is important as it comes to feminism.
Here’s a term: “feminist ally”. As in, someone who might not actually fit into the space labelled “feminist” for various reasons (possibly because of some dangling bits in the wrong area or something), but who agrees with the basic principles of feminism and who supports moves to implement (or actually implements) remedies to things which are perceived as problematic by feminist thinking.
For those who are curious, here’s what I consider to be the basic principles of feminism:
1) Women are currently considered by culture, society, and institutionalised power structures to be inferior to men; this has been regarded for a long time as being just and normal.
2) This needs to stop. Women need to be considered by culture, society, and institutionalised power structures to be the equals of men (or indeed, an arbitrarily strict binary gender division needs to stop being important within our social, cultural and political institutions) and this attitude needs to be considered to be just and normal instead.
Feminists, and their allies, are people who consciously choose to work to remedy this institutionalised imbalance in the way that women are regarded (on whichever scale they’re capable of).
@mythago, I don’t think Schwyzer was controversial at all before The Bombshell back in December. I had been following him for a long time before that and I always got the impression he was a fairly well-respected, fairly low-key feminist blogger. I mean, MRAs hated him, but that’s not the same thing. Jessica Valenti references him positively in Full-Frontal Feminism. He was pretty good friends with Amanda Marcotte. Hell, the controversy originally erupted on the comments thread of a profile of Schwyzer featured on Feministe. So no, I don’t think he was any sort of pariah before the cybermob whipped themselves into a frenzy.
Googling, I can’t find a single article critical of Schwyzer dating before the beginning of the controversy. Actually, I can’t find much of anything referencing him before the controversy.
@mythago, I actually recall that you yourself were a fairly frequent commenter on Schwyzer’s site, and you seemed to have nothing but positive things to say of him, at least before the controversy. Which you know, if you were legitimately turned off by the revelations, fair enough, but don’t pull this revisionist stuff. You liked Schwyzer, as did a lot of people, before the Tumblr-based cybermob intimidated everyone into silence.
@MRAL, not really interested in playing Derailment Ping-Pong with you.
@Seth E: also because, viz Brad, there’s still a lot of cultural silliness associated with the word itself and, as someone alluded to earlier, people who are in alignment with feminist principles may still not want to deal with the baggage of using the label.
Patrick Rothfuss (of Name of the Wind fame), who does describe himself as a feminist, has an excellent blog post on what Feminism means to him:
Whatever mythago. I just think the revisionism that I see from a lot of people regarding Schwyzer is almost shocking. I remember when I read 1984, I thought the concept of doublethink was a little bit far-fetched. Apparently not.
@sharon, the original West quote ended with “…..a doormat or a prostitute”; I don’t know why that gets truncated.
Thank you for dismantling DigitialAtheist so comprehensively; saved me much wear and tear on the key pad!
The reason I fight for others’ rights is because the last few years, I’ve found myself a member of a minority: I am an Atheist. Yes people, you heard me right. I do not believe in a god or gods, I don’t believe the earth is 6k years old, I don’t believe it was created in a few days, or fell out of the anus of OWEOFMogODM, or any of the other creation myths. The amount of ridicule and hate being an atheist brings is.. well.. god damn unbelievable. “Love thy Neighbor” aside, I have discovered that “peace” and “love” are only for the few.
Hahaha, you must get a workout carrying that giant martyr complex around.
I would concur that dragging Mr. Schwyzer into the discussion doesn’t add much to it (and for the person who asked, no, I don’t know anything about the dude). Let’s consider discussion of Schwyzer as leading away from the actual topic at hand and drop it, please.
I’m a woman with basically the same reservations about calling myself a feminist. For a hardcore math/CS sort with just barely enough interest in gender issues to be willing to use classes about them to satisfy university requirements, it seems like a bit of a misleading label. Besides, I’m much more interested in being one of the guys than in promoting the cause of women in math and science. (This is admittedly made easier by the fact that the math/science guys at my school seem exceptionally sensible about gender matters. I actually have never heard unthinking sexism coming out of them.)
@Beth (the Mac is silent): Nice handle BTW. :)
I agree that the search function is fine, and I also have one of the books (autographed even :) ), but isn’t quite as useful for reading a group of the culture posts.
Especially the important ones that have ended up across multiple books.
Speaking of which, isn’t there a new Whatevef book coming soon?
I tend to consider myself a feminist. Because I think men can and should add their voices. And I think that achieving the desired equality will necessarily involve work from both groups. I’m also aware that there’s a lot I don’t know. None of what I speak out against has been my personal experience. And that makes it all too easy for me to get some wrongheaded assumptions working in the mix. But, philosophically – on my use of the term feminist – I’m not too far off from John.
I’m aware that terms and labels can be nebulous and contested. I’m also aware that there legitimate, logical paths that lead to feminist being an exclusive term.
As I’ve said before, I do my best to keep my eyes, ears and brain more open than my mouth (so to write). Especially when I feel like I disagree with what’s being offered for consideration. Doesn’t mean I always agree, but it does mean I do my best to place my disagreement –internally– as simply my personal, considered position. One which does not trump anyone else’s position or obligate any a point by point defense from anyone else. So, in the case of a conflicting position, I’m more likely to defer because I don’t consider myself expert enough to be an authority on the subject. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts, or considered positions.
Selfishly, some of what feminism aims to correct directly benefits me. In some ways, the ridiculous conceptualizations of masculinity that we have as a culture are part of what feminists work against. And, I love that. Also, I think that working with women on this deepens my perspective on life and how people live it. By thinking about feminism and how I can help I’m also encouraged to think about the privileges that I enjoy simply by being a man. Or white. Or straight. And being aware of those privileges helps me to, at the very least, not act like such an entitled prick all the damn time. Which I find makes it easier to make friends.
@minaria and @stevie
I consider Hyperbolic Rhetoric my Arch Nemesis. AND ABOVE ALL ELSE, I SHALL VANQUISH IT.
That’s a lovely selfish reason.
I would add, at least for myself, class consciousness and health to the above list; I actively try not to be a entitled prick when it comes to money (or benefits). Pieces like Being Poor – and the 600-odd comments – have helped me, I hope, just as the various feminist-or-whatnot posts have.
(as a side note: wahaha, HTML tags, I will reverse engineer you eventually! what? documentation? hmm.)
Scalzi, you should beta-ize John Perry to prove your feminist creds. That guy was alpha as fuck in Old Man’s War.
I can’t tell if you were trying to be funny with that or just trying to troll me.
I should add, that while I think deciding to be a feminist is about process etc I also want to point out that we live in a culture where women’s confidence is often undermined. There are studies showing how men talk up their expertise and women talk down their expertise. One of the final obstacles for me identifying as a feminist was that I didn’t feel good enough – I didn’t feel well read enough, I didn’t feel activist enough… even though at the age of 7 I was reclaiming the word Bitch (a bitch is a female dog and it is an honor).
I do expect men who identify as feminist to be rigorous in their self education and preparedness to be called on stuff, I certainly celebrate their support as allies. There are some dudes who when they identify as feminist they make me jump for joy and they do hard yards.
For women I don’t want to feel anyone pressured into being called a feminist, but I do want to support people feeling awesome enough to identify. The pressures of patriarchy are one of the things that can make it harder for a woman to identify as a feminist, it’s not an easy thing and for a woman to identify as a feminist is often a challenging and powerfully feminist act in and of itself.
So if there are any women out reading this who feel like they would like to be a feminist, but don’t feel awesome enough because of the reasons Scalzi outlined above, I just want to say I believe in you. If you want to be a feminist you absolutely can be. Feminism is far from homogenous and you can find a form of feminism that is yours. Your voice is valuable and I’m sure you will bring good things to the conversation.
Hey MRAL, recent scientific research has discovered that there’s something even better than an alpha male — an α′ male. Statistically, alpha-primes impregnate three times as many females of their species during their lifetimes and exert cumulative control over five times the resources, while succumbing to death by jealousy-motivated violence at less than half the rate. Unfortunately, studies show that the most defining characteristic of the alpha-prime is that if you want to be be one, you have too much status anxiety to achieve it. Oh, well!
No worries, Mythago. You step all over everything I write on Whatever. In this regard you are an overachiever. The day you don’t step all over something I write in this space is the day I know the world has gone crazy. Your stepping on my points and comments is as regular and comforting to me as the sun rising in the morning. Ergo, it’s just one of those things I can absolutely rely upon. Like death, and taxes.
Regarding Dworkin and men, it’s emergingly evident that not even Feminism (capital F) is settled, as to Dworkin’s contributions, either positive or negative. Some Feminists love her and call her a firebrand pioneer. Others . . . not so much. Dworkin had a particularly caustic opinion of heterosexual men et al, which tended to manifest in a kind of love-hate view of the actual act of heterosexual intercourse. That her partner of 24 years was a gay man . . . well, different strokes for different folks. I suspect theirs was more an alliance of ideologies (and passion for those ideologies) than an actual marriage as ordinary work-a-day Americans might understand it.
My own opinion is that Dworkin was just plain damaged, and while I am all for damaged folks doing what they need to do to deal with that damage, I still cite Dworkin as a considerable culprit in the stigmatizing of Feminist — as a a label many young 21st century women are hesitant to embrace.
A sex-positive female who’s not had the kind of shattering molestation(s) and rape(s) that informed Dworkin’s worldview, might not be in a hurry to claim any part of that worldview? Understand it, perhaps. Claim it? Own it? No.
I would venture that most young 21st century women have no clue who Dworkin was, and wouldn’t care if you told them. I can’t remember the last time her name came up anywhere, before Brad, in this thread. Maybe in 2005, when she died? Feminists aren’t like Libertarians, all worshiping at the same Fountainhead. I would say Feminists are more like disorganized Democrats, which is a frightening thought if you like orthodoxy with your politics. But any group that includes Paglia and Dworkin and Friedan and Naidu and Wollenstonecraft? Not homogeneous, and better for it, imho.
Liz: Thank you. As someone who has struggled with her identity as a feminist, I appreciate the encouragement. It’s a hard row to hoe.
Mr. Scalzi: Whether you call yourself a feminist or a humanist or an ally, you are one of my heroes, and here’s why: I’m a woman. I don’t get to stop being a woman, or put it down, or forget what it’s like. That’s miserable sometimes, but it gives me a concrete, constant reason to keep fighting, even when people call me hysterical (for being upset when they choose to ignore domestic violence in their circle) or strident (because I’m willing to voice my opinion as loudly as any man).
You don’t have that.
When you defend our rights, you’re choosing to empathize. You’re choosing to put yourself, as best you can, in our shoes. You may not do it perfectly, but it is a special act of courage to put yourself in the line of fire (even metaphorical) for the rights of a group you’re not a part of. Thank you. Thank you to you, and to all of the men who (like my wonderful fiance) try to do the right thing every day, even though enculturation and inertia makes it easy not to.
I understand people will say that it’s wrong to thank men for these things, that they should be doing them anyway, that it should be a given. It should, but the fact is it isn’t. I’ve seen otherwise good men turn the other way when their friends beat their wives and girlfriends. I’ve heard a man who claims to like women say that the study of women’s history is pointless. This is in my social circle which is in a bright blue state and is full of affluent, college educated liberals. We still don’t have it right. There’s still a lot more mouthing of words than following through; the same people who ignore the domestic violence would claim any day of the week that they believed women were equal and misogyny was wrong.
You are a voice against this, a voice that other men may listen to. As a woman who lives in a world with men, I’m grateful for that.
Um, mintwitch, libertarians don’t all worship Ayn Rand. I loathe her and I’m a libertarian, if I’m anything, politically. Like all groups, libertarians aren’t monolithic. And that’s totally beside the point of this thread. Sorry, John.
@Jack Tingle: I’m not actually sure about this particular feminist cookie — probably a sugar cookie, not sure about the lemon. But I’m sure lemon could be arranged.
In general, I think that there is definitely a role in every social justice movement for the leveraging of privilege. I haven’t been reading Whatever for very long, but I’ve definitely seen our gracious host do that to good effect, both through pieces like “Straight White Male” and through bringing attention to the works, and voices, of less-privileged folks. It’s when the privileged begin speaking for the oppressed that it’s a problem. The most common manifestation of this is probably the “don’t be upset about X, worry about Y!” thing. I see it a lot in the comments here, but haven’t noticed it in an OP.
Scalzi, FWIW, I was joking.
I remember the first time I heard of Andrea Dworkin was when David Foster Wallace referenced her in a footnote in Infinite Jest. I still have not read anything by her because, again, I have better things to do, like [I’m going to save the host some time here and just delete this myself – MRAL]
But I’m generally inclined to agree that she is not exactly a mainstream touchstone these days. I remember the last time I visited the Coop, it was for Scalzi’s Redshirts signing. Before he showed up I was browsing the second level, and happened to look over the women’s studies section, which is like three aisles. Nothing by Dworkin that I call recall. Although I did see Christina Hoff Sommers in there!
Being a feminist is a lot like being an American. We all agree on 2, maybe 3, basic principle, then proceed to fight to the death over what those principles really mean, how to describe them, how to defend them, how to enact them, and who gets to claim them. If you are born in the US (or take the test, whatever) you’re an American. If you believe women deserve social equality to men, you acknowledge isn’t hasn’t been achieved, and you take steps, however small (a vote, a blog post, a gentle conversation with a friend who said something heinously sexist out of ignorance) you’re a feminist. Welcome to the family. We do, in fact, bake excellent cookies.
jess, Sweet! I’m a feminist. Pass the cookies.
@Jack Tingle – do you prefer your lemon sugar cookies with lemon, lemon and more lemon? Or would you prefer them with almond and vanilla (the family specialty). I can do either.
I rarely refer to myself as a feminist, but only because nobody ever asks.
“I am delighted to annoy this category of status-anxious, woman-fearing moron.”
John, could you please consider not using an ableist slur in your otherwise great entry? Thanks.
I think women and men ought to be treated as equals. I think pay should be equal. I think the military needs to find some path to integrate women into combat positions (because certain promotions and positions are only available to people who have been in combat positions). I think abortion should be legal. I think contraception should be easily available. I think anyone who uses the word “slut” needs to grow the fuck up.
But I don’t call myself a feminist. Mostly because it seems like people who do call themselves feminists land on a spectrum that would probaby include me, but also include people who point at folks on my end of the spectrum and say I’m not feminist enough, and it’s not uncommon for men around my swath of the spectrum to be told we’re men and we don’t understand.
Feminism is one of the few places where I feel like I would identify with the group (I think women and men should be treated equal), but a vocal part of the group wants to disavow me from the group because I’m not “(group identity) enough”.
I’m a progressive somewhere on a spectrum of progressives. I land in a particular range on the spiritual/religion spectrum. I would call myself a SF/Fantasy fan. I self identify with a lot of various groups. I dont agree with everyone in each group because each group lands on a spectrum, and the point of a spectrum is to show a range of ideas that still fall within some broader group. But none of these groups contain a vocal contingent that I can consistently expect to want to revoke my membership from the group the way feminism does.
A third reason I don’t apply the term feminist to myself is that, again to be blunt about it, I don’t think I deserve to.
I think this points to a part of the feminist spectrum that thinks feminism is defined by doing something about it. I’m a progressive, but all I do about being a progressive is donate some money once in a while to a candidate and vote as elections come up.
On a very superficial level, I’m wary of touting myself as a feminist and then doing something that shows my ass on the subject in a very public way.
Of the groups I identify with, this seems unique to feminism too. I’m an evolutionist, but I would not expect that making a mistake about evolution would be considered “showing my ass” on the subject. If I got something wrong about health care reform, I don’t think progressives would think I “showed my ass” and demand an apology from me.
I support equal rights between men and women, which I think would qualify me as being a feminist. But the spectrum of feminism seems to be sufficiently wide that the far end of the spectrum looks at where I am around feminism and tell me I’m not feminist enough. And if the group wants to narrow the definition of the group to the point of excluding me, then I don’t feel overly compelled to demand that the label “feminism” be applied to me. I’m not going to fight my way into a group that doesn’t want me.
I’ll fight for gender equality and such, but I’ll do it under the banner of being a progressive or some bigger umbrella label.
Feminist. Yeah…. Once again, Mr. Scalzi, you have neatly summed up a position that I can point to and say “like that.” Thank you.
I do have an expansion. I sometimes tried to describe myself as a “personalist”, and then sometimes as a “humanist.” I came to think, however, that those descriptors fall waaaay short: believing that everyone deserves their spot on a level playing field regardless of race/gender/whatever is very very different from having an awareness and a set of ideas about the various social/cultural/political structures that prevent people from access to that playing field.
A “political humanist?” A “progressive humanist?”
Nothing quick about this post.
I’ll be damned. That was impressive, and I’m not trying to tweak you.
One of the (many) problems with labels is that they mean different things to different people. That’s why it’s best to judge others individually rather than by group identification.
It sucks to support someone’s position on an issue and then have them throw it back in your face because you don’t meet their standard of support. When you have to fear that you might “show your ass” with a comment that was made only because you are so comfortable talking about the issue that you can joke about it, but then you learn the hard way that because you don’t conform explicitly to EVERY facet of the subgroup you will be judged harshly and shunned.
Yeah, I can see where that would suck.
Oh. Yeah. Like Greg just said. Progressive.
jess, Sweet! I’m a feminist. Pass the cookies.
You should really point out some significant achievement of your own first. “Well, *I’ve* never raped anyone,” that sort of thing. After a round of applause, the cookie is handed over.
“But none of these groups contain a vocal contingent that I can consistently expect to want to revoke my membership from the group the way feminism does.”
I suspect that the reasons for this are two-fold. First, in your political, religious and entertainment categories you probably tend to fall well within the central figures of those groups. None of those groups are exempt from the vocal contingent looking to play the role of gatekeepers, you just don’t tend to be the focus of such a group because of where you sit in the group.
Not that I consider the two comparable, but we were just having a conversation about folks like Mr. Peacock and Mr. Efing Harris are doing their damndest, as a “vocal contingent”, to drive off fans and “police their brand identity” so to speak. But, you get the straight thumbs up on the Green Lantern shirt because you’re a dude.
Second, gender rights is different than a fan group or philosophical community. I’d allow that politics probably comes closest, but still that feminism is different. We’ve got nothing, you and I – really – on the line for that fight. Nothing. I mean, if it’s lost outright, we default to an even greater amount of privilege. So, I do tend to understand the argument that I can’t really be a feminist if I necessarily don’t have a fundamental interest. I tend to disagree, but I’d give it a more complex rating than the Mr. Effing Harris’ of the world.
But, even politically, I see many fights between progressives about schismatic issues, like drone warfare, and whether they’re a defining issue for use of the term as a self label. And, have you met the Republicans/Conservatives?
All groups have schismatic issues. This is not unique to feminism.
“When you have to fear that you might “show your ass” with a comment that was made only because you are so comfortable talking about the issue that you can joke about it, but then you learn the hard way that because you don’t conform explicitly to EVERY facet of the subgroup you will be judged harshly and shunned.”
I think the lesson there is that it matters greatly at whose expense the joke is. And, if you tell jokes that offend the people you claim to support, you’re doing support wrong.
I have a daughter, and will be raising her to reject society’s expectations of what a woman should or shouldn’t do.
That said, I’m not a feminist. Not because I’m not familiar with feminist ideology (yay, liberal arts studies in college!) but because the word feminist includes a number of connotations that feminists both cultivate and steadfastly refuse to believe exist.
I had a feminist friend in college who loved the old line that “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” and yet couldn’t comprehend why some people could think ill of feminists (after all, pretty much everyone is for equal rights these days).
While she was against special treatment of women (“I am against the draft for women, but I am against the draft for everyone” which was fine and all to say in the Year 2000), this often translated into annoying behavior such as getting pissed when I’d hold the door open for her (“Chivalry is chauvinism”)… yet I hold the door open for both men and women.
I am a husband and a father of four daughters. I am a feminist. But when I say that I am a feminist I am always afraid that I will shouted down or chased from the group because I harbor a heretical idea which has unfortunately come be be seen as antithetical to modern feminism.
I believe that sometimes abortion is wrong.
Wait! Before you lash out at me let me explain. I am a small town physician. I prescribe contraception including emergency contraception. I have performed abortions in cases of rape, congenital malformations incompatible with life, and maternal illness (cancer/heart diease). Nevertheless I believe that life begins in the womb.
At 24 weeks of gestation a fetus has a 50% chance of surviving without handicap. After this the odds are in favor of a normal life.
Tomorrow, with a mother’s permission, I could terminate a 24+ wk fetus or, if indicated, I could surgically deliver it within five minutes and pass a fully formed human being with all the inherent rights to the pediatric nurse. What is so magical about a pfannenstiel incision and separation of the umbilical cord that it grants humanity?
I hope I can be a good cheerleader for and champion of my wife and daughters, and women in general. I hope that even though I struggle with “heretical” views I can still be a feminist.
What Sharon and asdfa said in the early comments: I like the definition that “feminism is the radical idea that women are human” and should be treated as such. The narrowing of the definition makes me nervous, because when people think they can’t or don’t deserve to wear the “feminist” label, I feel like our ability to work together in a unified way for basic rights may be weakened. I’m not crazy about having radical or Marxist or academic feminists coopt the whole word (though I’m glad that we do have radical feminists et alia, and I’m happy for such subgroups to call thenselves x-kind-of feminists) any more than I like having anti-feminists use the word as an insult.
Of course there are reasons and reasons not to call oneself a feminist. What I mention above are only minor ones; I’m not thrilled about having someone as dedicated and effective in speaking for equal rights for all as John is to be saying “I don’t know enough and I’m not evolved enough to be a feminist,” but it’s a lot easier to swallow, than, say, the former coworker who once told me that she wasn’t a feminist and didn’t feel her well-paid software job owed anything to earlier feminists who fought for the right to work or to anyone other than her parents who’d paid for her college education.
mintwitch capitalized Libertarian in the same sentence that she referred to Democrats. This suggests to me that she meant the Libertarian Party, as that is the usual usage of the capitalized form in the USA. Most libertarians I personally know consider Ayn Rand quaint, if they’ve ever read her at all. Even my anarcho-capitalists friends are wary of Rand’s views being taken as their own, since theirs, right or wrong, are generally not so paper-thin.
I’m sooo conflicted! I’m not a soi-disant feminist, but I bake the fuck out of cookies. I don’t think I could handle hanging up my spatula just because I’m not a feminist.
@ Rose L
Huh? You mean moron. It’s literally Greek for foolish. Since when are differently-abled persons fools? As someone who contends with a diagnosed mental disability, I would ask that you not sweep a word for behaving foolishly in with words like “retard” that are actual ableist slurs. Promoting the idea that foolishness is a mental disability does a grievous disservice to anyone who lives with real mental disabilities.
You avoid self-indentifying with a group because others in it wish to ostracize you from participation? That seems uncharacteristically deferential of you (no offense intended).
@ Billy Quiets
Wholeheartedly agree on the individualism front, but I don’t think that the fact that a label means other things to other people means we have to all go with the prevailing definition, or that we must surrender our definition. The important thing, IMO, is that people understand each other, not that they read from the same script. There are lots of labels I apply to myself (libertarian, bright green, left-leaning, fiscal pragmatist, fantastic person) without the expectation that others will apply those labels to me or agree with my usages of them.
If you support that position because you believe it’s right, why does it matter if haters gonna hate? Or, to quote JvP’s mentor, “What do you care what other people think?”
@ Adrian Smith
Feminist Cookie Escrow is the name of my next progressive post-apocalyptic punk-rock supergroup.
@ Other Bill
Don’t you. You yourself said that feminism benefits you by challenging traditional gender roles for men as well. And, as Scalzi pointed out in his advice to Republican policy-makers who consider him their natural base, any short-term benefits that might accrue to him by helping to marginalize others would be more than offset by long-term costs. I would add that every single one of us human beings has a vested interest in justice for the whole of humanity. Our stake is not the same as women’s, but that’s a long way from saying we have nothing on the line.
@ Martin English:
Oh, FFS… so men can’t actually be the other f-word in any degree without the “vested interest” of biological daughters? Just for the record, I don’t have any children. But I do have a mother. And sisters. And female co-workers. And friends with lady-parts. I think the world is a much more agreeable place when all the people who don’t share my gender are treated with dignity, respect and genuine equality before the law, in the workplace, in homes that are zero-tolerance zones for abuse, and courts where rape complainants are the ones put on trial.
I understand why you say, “I think the lesson there is that it matters greatly at whose expense the joke is. And, if you tell jokes that offend the people you claim to support, you’re doing support wrong.”
Respectfully, I disagree with you. Feigning offense to a perceived insult is the easiest and laziest way of defeating someone’s entire position without having to debate on principle.
Sometimes, a joke is just a fucking joke. The progressive movement has elevated outrage to such a degree that they can’t even tolerate humor if it is possible to derive the slightest measure of offense from it because they are preconditioned to use outrage to nullify debate.
When you carry around this giant hammer that works so effectively in shutting down debate, every comment looks like a nail. But bashing every opinion different from your own with a hammer doesn’t do much to promote your opinion. It may silence others, but it doesn’t convince them.
“Our stake is not the same as women’s, but that’s a long way from saying we have nothing on the line.”
I could have better structured my point/response there.
In the sense that when the argument is made to me that I have nothing on the line fundamentally, I concede that that’s defensible. Because (even though I tend to disagree for largely the reasons you – and I – noted) none of those reasons are as intensely and personally experienced by me as they are by women.
I don’t think that’s the only argument made over that terminology. And since it wasn’t my main focus, I was reluctant to go deeper there. I think that left my language a bit blurry. My intent was to focus the idea that differently minded sub-groups are not unique to feminism. And that – in the case of the label of feminist – one side isn’t necessarily playing the role of Mr. Harris.
However, I will add that I think women that are protective of the label tend not to be the sort of bigoted people that Mr. Harris and Mr. Peacock represented with their vocalizations. And I think having a passionate opinion about descriptors in your fight against actual oppression – where language is part of the problem – is sensible in a way that being a shitweasel gatekeeper for some ridiculously vague notion of an entertainment product support group is not.
Greg – Please note that this response has stepped a little bit beyond what I was responding to earlier.
@ Billy: Just an FYI, the way I read your last comment is that you are at times really fucking offensive and not at all funny, and instead of learning from that, you blame others and accuse them of “feigning offense.” So glad that your amazing psychic powers allow you to completely ignore the words of your peers in favor of their thoughts. That’s a neat trick. Can you teach it to me? Because usually when someone is unfunny and offensive, I take them at their words. Maybe if I could read your thoughts I would understand why you’re not *really* sounding like an ass, but are actually the funniest thing since halibut.
While I agree martin english might’ve worded it more eloquently, my take on his observation was not that biology determined beliefs, but that most people are more likely to work for a cause that’s not an abstraction for them, but rather something that effects real people they care about. I didn’t get the sense that he really thought it had to be daughters. Just my impression; I could be totally off base.
@ Billy Quiets
I’ve often noticed that one of the issues conservatives almost uniformly have with progressives is what they perceive as a tendency to chalk up beliefs and behaviors to social conditioning. Given how much of an individualist you strike me as, and how important I know it is to you to own your own words and choices (both qualities I admire, BTW), I’m surprised to see you implying false consciousness arguments against progressives. We are not sheep. If we are sometimes oversensitive, it is not because of any sort of Pavlovian preconditioning.
You say that almost as if it’s unique to progressives, or even the Left. This is what I call the wing-nut disparagement. It works like this: point to the most extreme wing of a political movement (such as certain socially conservative quarters of the Tea Party) not totally disavowed by the rest of it, and then pretend that those few are exemplars of the whole movement. Not buying it when it’s done to conservatives. Why would I buy it when it’s how my own camp is painted?
On the flip side, sometimes people really are unfunnily offensive and, when others decline to laugh along, get all defensive. Someone not sharing your sense of humor isn’t the same thing being unable to take a joke.
@ Other Bill
That I can get behind.
I’m stealing “shitweasel gatekeeper” and hereby vow to use it at least once per day in a sentence.
“Feigning offense to a perceived insult is the easiest and laziest way of defeating someone’s entire position without having to debate on principle.”
I think you can support a cause without genuinely understanding what is going on. And, when that happens, you are significantly more likely to make a joke to your friends – who are probably your friends – that leave them thinking what a complete ponce you are. Best case scenario.
In my opinion, pulling humor off successfully is the neatest rhetorical trick a person can pull. And, it isn’t easy. Because to do it right you have to genuinely identify with and understand the people that you’re telling a joke to. You’ve got to know what to exaggerate and what actually is an exaggeration. And, the less fine that understanding is the harder the time you have telling the difference between a joke that crashes and burns (failure mode of clever and all that) and one that people use as a lazy rhetorical opening to feign offense. To tell a joke at the expense of a friend that you’re talking to is the hardest thing to do in humor. There are things about myself that I consider ripe for teasing. And there are things about myself that I would consider war over if insulted. If you don’t know the difference between those two, who’s to blame when you put in a position to be ready for war?
I don’t disagree that people do what you’re saying. But, people don’t burn bridges with people they generally consider allies over a bad joke. So, in those cases, you probably aren’t on the same side of a debate. In which case, what would prompt you to make a joke at the expense of the person you’re debating? And, if it was a moment of friendly banter – between for example James Carville and Mary Matalin – the easiest rhetorical rebuttal to the tactic you’re describing is to concede that the joke was rude. A, it probably was. And, B, it separates it from anything else you had to say and demonstrates some responsiveness.
However, given the rate of failed jokes and misunderstood groups compared to the rate that people take lazy offense, in any blind scenario I’ll bet that the humor actually failed.
The progressive movement has elevated outrage to such a degree that they can’t even tolerate humor if it is possible to derive the slightest measure of offense from it because they are preconditioned to use outrage to nullify debate.
That’s not it. Humour directed towards marginalised groups has generally been (or “is perceived to be”) one of the ways they’ve been kept down, and their concerns have been prevented from being taken seriously. So if the humour you’re using is pressing those buttons, it’s liable to be a problem. As Other Bill says, teasing is tricky. I think you have to trust someone to some extent to be able to take teasing from them.
I’d say you’re a feminist, by my standards. http://lifemarginally.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/i-%E2%99%A5-feminism/
I’m happy for you to consider yourself as much feminist as you want to claim. It annoys me much like the real nerd / fake nerd issue that there are some people who will circle an area of discourse off and reject people from it. As a trans-person, I support anyone who supports equal rights for everyone ad speaks out against harassment. And if you’re a ‘beta male’, what must the mouth-breathers think of me?
Personally, like you I don’t know enough about feminism to claim any of the labels, so I don’t. Likewise, I come into the state of being a woman not having grown up that way or internalised many of the issues and attitudes that may come with it, so I stand on the outside and listen and learn rather than comment. And having not been born female, I understand that I’m not welcome in some so-called ‘feminist’ circles, although I don’t believe that they’re real any more than ‘real nerds’ are.
Having chosen voluntarily to up my difficulty level in the game of life, I have ‘parachuted onto the glass ceiling.’ Anyone who is willing to help raise that ceiling is fine by me.
You know, I don’t identify as a feminist because I just don’t want to… but for those who feel as though the term is presumptuous or intimidating, I think that there are ways to approach the situation aside from a simple yea or nay.
What I mean is there’s a difference between proclaiming your feminism (or whatever other cause pushes your buttons), and quietly identifying if specifically asked. Does that make any sense? I think that people who make A Thing about their feminism (or, again, whatever else), well, yeah, those people should be pretty well-versed in the subject, because they’re setting themselves up as a representative. But identifying when pressed on the subject, or in other appropriate situations, to me that seems more like a simple acknowledgement of support, or a clarification of where you stand.
But obviously some people disagree with me. That’s okay.
I call myself a feminist.
I’m not interested in *bossily claiming the right* to call myself a feminist. I am generally happy to accept the definitions of whomever I am talking to, and people might have perfectly good reasons for some definition of feminism in which I am not included, and then I’m perfectly comfortable to be called a “feminist ally” or what have you.
But insofar as I get to pick the terms — there’s a historical object called feminism, a movement of liberation against a) the strictures of gender roles and b) the hierarchical oppression of women by men, and this is a movement I’m on board with. I am not just rooting for it; I want to play. Sign me up.
I think because feminism has those two, inseparably intertwined parts — liberation from gender oppression, liberation from male domination — I necessarily have a dual role — as active participant and as ally.
I was a kid who grew up on “Free to Be You and Me”, an album which comes from the core of 70s feminism (Ms. Magazine!), and which lives somewhere central in my self-concept. As a text, it has, in decades-later retrospect, some pretty screwed-up passages (the femmephobia of “Ladies First”, for example), but that doesn’t change its still-radical message — that we are not, currently, living in a land where every boy gets to be his own man and every girl gets to be her own woman; that we are still living in a place where people are treated cruelly, damaged, and treated as less than human, not in a land of freedom and fulfillment — but that we can get there: “it’s not far from where we are.” It only requires of us that we see, that we act, and that we stick together. “Take my hand, come along, lend your voice to my song.”
“Free to Be You and Me” made it very clear that it was women who bore the biggest costs of sexism – but, with “William Wants a Doll” and “It’s All Right to Cry” and “Parents are People”, it made it equally clear that this was my fight too.
I like what Liz Argall says above about commitment to process on the one hand and de-demonizing on the other hand; ideally, feminism is more than merely the passive acknowledgement that women are human beings — ideally, it means an active engagement with finding out where we’re suckered and warped and hemmed in by sexism and an active attempt to challenge that — but as John has written elsewhere on geekdom, there’s something to be said for greeting shallower engagement not with scorn, but with welcome and an invitation to go deeper.
Liz also writes “the way I practice feminism means a commitment to process and dudes who take the label I will hold to a higher standard” — for me personally, that’s a feature, not a bug. I want to be called early and often on my sexism. Not for hugs and cookies (though let’s not knock hugs and cookies — particularly not if they stand for the affection and abundance we could all have if we didn’t live in a society so dedicated to making us act like dicks), but because my reaction to my own sexism is an enormous irritation that I have been miseducated, that there is this crazy filter between me and the world, which interferes with my being the person I want to be, and encourages what I like least in myself — sloth, entitlement, callousness, selfishness, shallowness, petulance, and so on. I want that shit OUT of my head.
And, finally, as per the Ani de Franco quote above, it just seems churlish for me not to consider myself a part of a movement that made the world I was born into so much better than it would have been without it.
Hmm, re-reading what I just wrote, I am annoyed with myself for this passage:
“as John has written elsewhere on geekdom, there’s something to be said for greeting shallower engagement not with scorn, but with welcome and an invitation to go deeper.”
Cute, but false, analogy, Ben: geeks are not, here in 2012, a group being attacked with the full force of sexism, nor is being a geek any kind of moral obligation. If you’re just not into Klingon, that’s okay, do your thing — if you’re just not into justice, the situation is somewhat different.
“Scorn” is therefore a red herring. People who take umbrage at someone calling themselves feminist for having jumped the low bar of passively acknowledging that women are human aren’t engaging in any kind of hipster in-group derision or fanwank; they are legitimately pissed off that a strong label is being co-opted for weak tea.
@ Benjamin Rosenbaum
Who has the right to decide where to build the fence? Who gets to decide who may legitimately call themselves a feminist and who may not? I would argue that more harm is done to any movement by excluding good-faith participants than by the occasional uninitiated man or woman identifying with the movement. It may be cathartic to exclude what one regards as posers or insufficiently devoted participants, but does it truly advanced the cause? An analogy, of equal import in terms of social justice, that comes to mind is environmental custodianship. Greens who are greener-than-thou generally do not advance environmental consciousness and make the world more ecologically sound.
“But wait! Before you lash out at me”
It is offensive to the intelligence of Mr Scalzi, and of his readers, that you could even begin to believe that your carefully rehearsed ‘Derailing for Dummies’ abortion rant would not be blindingly obvious to us…
I think “feminist” should be reserved for those actively involved in the feminist movement, whatever shape it happens to take for them (and not just standing up for women’s rights when they’re challenged, which every decent person will do). If you support the “radical belief that women are people too” (sorry, love the quote, had to use it), then you’re simply a healthy, educated, modern human being. Putting an extra, already reserved elsewhere label on something that should be normal is counterproductive. If you ask me, one of the most important fights for equality across the board (gender, race, sexual orientation, etc, etc) is to turn the topic of equality completely and utterly mundane. Nobody gives a damn, let’s say at the workplace, if you’re blue-eyed or brown-eyed. Nobody should give a damn if you’re male or female either (except when picking a physical partner, I suppose… but then, that’s where blue or brown eyes might come into play too, so that’s taste, not bigotry).
I know we’re not quite there yet as a society in the U.S. (although, in the interest of full disclosure, even as a female engineer and an avid sf/f fan, I’ve yet to personally experience sexism — and [insert Power of your choice] help whoever tries it on me — although I’ve had plenty of people try to put me down or attack me for being an atheist, which I find funny on a personal level, sickening on a social level, and shameful considering it’s happening in a 21st century “civilized” nation). And I know there are places which are much, much worse than we are. But I think in people’s eagerness to be supportive of a worthy cause, we’re aiming to overshoot. We don’t need special labels for something that should be as normal as breathing. We don’t need white-glove treatment because we’ve been discriminated against. We don’t need some sort of compensation for a long history of systematic oppression. What I personally think we need is to discredit traditionally sanctioned dogmatic stances that breed bigotry, educate the ignorant, and make loud, public fun of the asses.
But getting back to the topic — John, I don’t think there’s a reason that you can’t call yourself a feminist if you want to (except for maybe point #1, though I don’t think one needs to be a scholar of the feminist movement to be a part of it). You’ve written plenty of articles that educate, support, and highlight feminism, and you’ve given forum on your blog to guest writers who are outspoken feminists. As you are a public figure whose voice is heard by many, I think this qualifies as active participation, even if you aren’t a card-carrying member of the movement, or you’re coming from your own, non-female perspective (which goes back to your point #5, but since when do you care what anybody else says?). And even if you get something wrong, I’m sure you know: on this blog, you will be corrected.
Oh, and stepping into a discussion to shield a woman from men? We womens don’t needs nobody to shields us from mens! Argh!
(on the other hand, if jackasses are attacking an individual who isn’t well-equipped — in the generic sense of the word — to fight back, anyone decent who’s well-equipped should certainly get involved. So, if a person not gifted with words is getting put down, the eloquent, male or female, should jump right in for some good ol’ verbal sparring, even if it bruises the former’s ego and the latter gets yelled at the end … because, well, which is worse: ending up looking like a patronizing jerk, or not helping someone in need because of the fear of looking like a patronizing jerk?)
I don’t call myself a Feminist, I suppose based on my leanings I am though. I consider myself a Humanist and Civil Rights Activist. Feminism has much deeper roots than the political issues, it had roots in the social and personal choices and freedoms women needed, in the sexual revolution women fought and are still fighting to not be labeled. In this I suppose I am a Feminist, this past few years we have lost so much ground with Rape redefinitions on the floors of state legislatures and even our right to access contraceptive without slut shaming. Feminism fought to protect women so they could walk away from abusive husbands and be protected. Feminism fought to change rape prosecution and protect victims. We made progress for years, now we are losing ground.
@Billy Quiets –
That’s not merely wrong, that’s a flat-out lie. As usual.
It is situational. If someone on the street asked me, I would say I was a feminist. If someone on the internet asked, I would avoid labels because as a practical matter they seem to create heat without light in these discussions. If I was having a serious in person discussion of an academic nature, I would elaborate on exactly what I thought were the feminist positions or perspectives on the subject at hand (if I had some useful amount of knowledge on that subject); I don’t know if I would bother with self identifying unless that was somehow necessary to the discussion.
In general I think the “validity” of calling someone a feminist depends on how you use the term. As a broad political movement, it should have relatively low barriers to entry. As an occupation or vocation, then it might require gatekeeping. Whether the latter usage is useful really depends on what you are hoping to achieve by deploying it.
As a personal note, there is something off-putting about the term “ally” to me. Maybe it is the Treebeard in my nature.
I have made no academic study of feminism, yet I’m perfectly happy to call myself a feminist. I do sometimes enjoy reading feminist theory but I often struggle to understand it. I think it’s a really big shame that a small number of academic feminist-theory types have attempted to define “feminist” as requiring a degree in feminist theory/women’s studies/etc (which are all great subjects, but not subjects for everyone).
“Feminist” is a perfectly good word that, like ‘liberal’ or ‘socialism’, has been badly misused and smeared by the forces of darkness’. In order to further their warped political agenda these words have been applied to any statement, event, person or thought that they deem bad. They have been very successful in this assault on the English language, to the point where people no longer know what the hell those words even mean and they have actually become curse words you throw at people to discredit them.
I’m not a feminist. But I am a humanist, in a manner similar to your definition of feminist.
I recognize that I am no different in any significant way from any other human. I also recognize that trying to act equably, and having the desire that equality be a given not a goal, does not make me a saint. .
But that should not stop me from trying and I should never lose that desire.
It is good to make fun of mysoginistic dicks who fail at equality in so many ways.
I also recognize that I am, occasionally, a dick, per my own definition. I am only human, after all.
A beta male is like an alpha male, only with more patches. Still not ready for release but at least it compiles clean.
I am a feminist. I have been a feminist for three and a half decades. (You sexist pigs get off my lawn, by crackly!) I’ve had to deal with the slings and arrows of sexism, AND had to deal with some narrow minded ultra Politically-Correct Wimmin who didn’t approve of how I chose to be. I’ve talked out of my ass sometimes, and once in a while spoken truth to power in good and useful ways. Feminism is a self-identified movement, not a society with a test you have to pass to get in, with a membership card. (Though I can issue you one if you want!) This is the source of a lot of the confusion around feminism. All sorts of people call themselves feminists. A slightly smaller subset actually are feminists. Feminists arel human too, which means we sometimes speak out of our asses. A lot of people do not label themselves as feminists, but act in ways that I would call feminist. So, John you can call yourself a feminist if you want to, and a lot of people, including some feminists, will believe you. A lot of your reasons for not calling yourself feminist are oddly kinda feminist in themselves. It’s all very confusing, isn’t it?
And if you want cookies, you can always buy Girl Scout cookies. Girl Scouts is an organization with feminist values committed to helping girls grow strong. I was a feminist Girl Scout leader, so I know whereof I speak.
Billy: That’s why it’s best to judge others individually rather than by group identification.
I’m a progressive, my voting is pretty much Democratic, I’m pro choice, I’m agnostic, I support separation of church and state, I’m an evolutionist, I’ve yet to see in my lifetime a large scale military action that justified itself on a cost/benefit scale. Those are at least some of the groups I belong to. And I think it at least informs people of where I stand politically speaking.
Other Bill: First, in your political, religious and entertainment categories you probably tend to fall well within the central figures of those groups.
I think Obama is right of center, I think his “look forward” response to war crimes that happened around torture indicts Obama as well, I think his assassination of Americans program violates enough constitutional idea that it ought to make people’s heads spin, I think Obama’s drone wars are only making things worse, the US withdrawal from Iraq was based on an agreement Bush made with the Iraqi government and Obama was looking to extend our stay but the Iraqi government had finally had enough of American troops killing Iraqi civilians and covering it up. I think Obama’s continuation of the war in Afghanistan is moronic, since there is no al queda there and the Taliban are pretty much only interested in local politics and most people never really noticed or cared when the war in afghanistan went from fighting Al Queda to fighting the Taliban. I voted for Obama, but only because Romney was by far an even worse choice on all these issues, and worse on many others as well.
This isn’t a “well within the center” response as far as I can tell. It’s decidedly left of the Left. And I can say all this in a room full of strident Obama supporters and I can generally expect them to not respond with attempts to drum me out of the Democratic party.
feminism is different. We’ve got nothing, you and I – really – on the line for that fight. Nothing. I mean, if it’s lost outright, we default to an even greater amount of privilege. So, I do tend to understand the argument that I can’t really be a feminist if I necessarily don’t have a fundamental interest.
Meh. The vast majority of Americans don’t have to worry about ending up in a CIA black site being waterboarded. The vast majority of Americans will not end up on the President’s assassination list. But people can look at those programs and see the wrong-ness of it without feeling the threat of it.
If the rule was “you’re not a feminist unless you have a fundamental interest” in it, then I’d be fine with that if it were applied to ALL men. But it isn’t. It’s only applied to men who aren’t feminist enough. If you’re a man (who has no fundamental interest) but your position on feminism is at the extreme end, it is unlikely that anyone will say you’re not a feminist.
Which then becomes hard not to notice that the “you’re a man” charge is only leveled at some men: The ones with whom the woman feminist disagrees with.
cranapia: Oh, FFS… so men can’t actually be the other f-word in any degree without the “vested interest” of biological daughters?
It seems to me that the spectrum of feminism includes a significant fracture along the lines of whether or not members have a “vested interest”, “fundamental interest”. Where this line gets drawn seems to be such that having a daughter is not sufficient vested interest. Where the fracture occurs mostly seems to be whether or not the person is female.
Gulliver: You avoid self-indentifying with a group because others in it wish to ostracize you from participation? That seems uncharacteristically deferential of you
;) Heh. No. I avoid self-identifying with a group that I feel is being, in its own way, sexist. As far as I can tell, the “you can’t be feminist because you’re a man” is sexism of its own kind. “You’re a man, you don’t understand.” is sexism. I think I understand, it’s just that I disagree on some issues.
Benjamin: People who take umbrage at someone calling themselves feminist for having jumped the low bar of passively acknowledging that women are human aren’t engaging in any kind of hipster in-group derision or fanwank; they are legitimately pissed off that a strong label is being co-opted for weak tea.
Heh. low bar, strong label, weak tea That’s funny. Talking about polarizatoin within the feminist group, and here’s a perfect demonstration of it.
I don’t wear any of my group identifications as some kind of badge of honor that has to be earned. I’m pro choice and I can tell that to other pro-choicers and not be queried as to whether I had an abortion or whether I stood out in front of some Planned Parenthood office in a support rally. I’m a progressive and I can tell that to other progressives without being queried about how much money I’ve donated to progressive candidates and my voting record.
For feminists who are wearing their “feminist” group membership as some sort of badge of honor that has some sort of “high bar” to entry, who view it as some sort of “strong label”, then they’re going to take issue with people who are feminist simply because they think men and women should be treated as equals.
If the bar is low, then people who havne’t suffered directly at the hands of sexism could get in. If the bar is too low, then people who haven’t had to directly deal with being raped, having an abortion, and so on, might get in.
I’m not sure what the source of the fracture is, but maybe it’s people who think being a feminist is something that has to be “earned”, versus people who think women and men should be treated equally.
As a male that grew up in the 80s/90s, I’ve really never had to struggle much with gender equality. Mind you, I’ve seen the issues of gender around me and have always tried to call them out when I see them, but alas.. I was raised by a single, very strong woman.
John makes some really good points here. As males, will we truly ever know what it is like to be female? I’d suggest that – yes – one day we will be able to experience this. As technology progresses, there is no reason that we would be able to create a virtual environment/body that would perfectly simulate the essence of being female.
I would further suggest that when such a time comes, that all males be required to go through a 9 month pregnancy and then required to give birth without pain killers. I think this would put a quick end to the whole male superiority complex. And yes, females should also experience being a male. It can’t hurt.
Until that day comes, we males will have to try as hard as possible to keep our maleness in check to a certain degree, as we will never completely know what it is like to be female.
“I think “feminist” should be reserved for those actively involved in the feminist movement, whatever shape it happens to take for them (and not just standing up for women’s rights when they’re challenged, which every decent person will do). If you support the “radical belief that women are people too” (sorry, love the quote, had to use it), then you’re simply a healthy, educated, modern human being. Putting an extra, already reserved elsewhere label on something that should be normal is counterproductive.”
I disagree that the label needs to be for people actively involved in the movement. First, that’s not the case with most labels – you can say you’re a democrat if you usually vote for them, you don’t have to actively be staffing a campaign. Second, who draws the line? If I read feminist blogs every day and get in heated conversations on those topics with my friends at school, does that count as being actively involved? Or am I not allowed to say I’m a feminist because I’m too busy pushing forward against the barriers in my own life to volunteer at clinics and go to protests?
Now, its nice to think that the normal modern view is that women are people too, and if you’d asked me when I was 18 I would have agreed with that and would have also not been super comfortable claiming the label feminist, because it seemed like it belonged in history class. But that changed as I grew up and saw what the world is like. For me, part of using the label “feminist” is announcing that I have noticed that unfortunately, that isn’t the normal modern view. It should be normal, but the fact is it isn’t.
I’d be annoyed at someone who used the label “feminist” and then didn’t actually care about any of the issues or vote on them or anything. But I think you can be a feminist without being actively involved in the movement. Its a question that comes up a lot – is the best way to be a feminist to major in women’s studies and write books about feminism and hold protests? Or is it just as good to be a woman majoring in physics and confronting sexist stereotypes when they come up? Now, if you’re a man, isn’t it pretty radical just to be willing to say at parties when it comes up that yes, you are a feminist, even if you aren’t out there every single day making a big deal of it? I have a feeling that hearing one of their bros say that yes, actually, he does consider himself a feminist and does care about equality in hiring and reproductive rights and stuff, would do more to convince the average man than any amount of active protesting.
People rarely actually ask me if I’m a feminist. But when they do, my answer is “yes of course, aren’t you?”.
I’m a feminist because:
1. I believe that women deserve the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as straight white men.
2. I believe that other minorities also deserve those rights, freedoms, and opportunities.
3. I believe that we’re denied those rights, freedoms, and opportunities not by the isolated behavior of a few bad actors, but by a system of discrimination woven into the very fabric of our society.
Point 3 is where “feminism is the same as humanism” falls flat on its face every time. I know quite a few humanist feminists. But if I (and maybe others; I don’t speak for them) seem a little twitchy about “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist/equalist,” it’s because almost every time I’ve heard someone say it, they’ve gone on to explain that that’s why they don’t support ‘special’ rights for women.
Being a humanist is only the same as being a feminist if you think all humans start out with a level playing field. Some of us are playing on a harder difficulty setting, and suggesting that treating everyone equally will solve all our problems erases that fundamental truth.
To wit, suggesting that feminists have a duty to either oppose the draft for everyone or else support the draft for women. Women in the United States Armed Forces face a one in three chance of being sexually assaulted or raped. That’s twice the chances a civilian woman faces. So no, drafting women and having them serve in combat wouldn’t be treating them ‘equally’ to men. To treat them equally, you’d first have to substantially reduce their risk of being assaulted by their own side. You’d have to change their difficulty setting.
As it happens, I’m a pacifist, and do oppose the draft for everyone. But suggesting that equality looks like getting drafted and serving in combat in combat (and women, for the record, are increasingly serving in combat, whether they’re meant to or not) suggests that you don’t have a very clear picture of what inequality looks like.
As far as “showing your ass” goes, that’s an issue with all -ism work. I’m white, and I’m anti-racist, and occasionally my own internalized racism becomes evident in something I say or do. At that point, I should expect to get called out for it just as much as anyone would. If I demand special treatment and efforts to spare my delicate feelings as the price of being an ally, I’m a really bad ally. I actually consider getting called out to be ultimately a favor, albeit a very uncomfortable one.
How uncomfortable it is depends on your goal in anti -ism work. If your goal is to be a good person, getting called out puts your whole identity in danger. If I define myself as not-a-racist, and someone tells me that something I said is racist, then I have to either give up my identity or make the other person wrong. (I’m not a racist! You just didn’t understand what I meant! You’re overreacting! It was just a joke!) If, on the other hand, my goal is to try not to be an asshole, screwing up doesn’t threaten my identity. Being told that I’ve said or done something offensive gives me more information to use in my continued attempts not to be an asshole.
As far as the idea of there being gatekeepers of feminism, yeah, they’re out there. It may surprise some of the guys here to find out that they go after women, too. Accusations of Doing Feminism Wrong or Hurting The Movement or Being Insufficiently Feminist happen to us, too. They especially like to go after trans women and their cis allies, but nobody’s immune. (Another common target is women who have sex with men.) My general approach is to avoid the corners of the internet where they hang out and stick to heavily moderated third-wave feminist spaces. Nobody in those kinds of spaces has ever tried to take away my Feminist card for never having read Betty Friedan or disagreeing with Mary Daly or “collaborating in my own oppression” by virtue of being married to a man.
Late to this party, but I think Marie Brennan “solved” any dilemmas very early in this thread, and I endorse her entire comment.
I am a man and a feminist. Caring for my family, friends, and colleagues – and people in general – as I do, I could hardly be otherwise.
I am also a proud humanist, but given our sociopolitical environment, that term does not precisely capture the point of being an “out” feminist as a matter of simple fact. I don’t expect a cookie for saying it, but more importantly I have long since put aside the notion of cookies where the word is concerned. It just is what it is.
That I’m still a colossal doofus at time around gender or sex issues – as are all but the best of us – and am woefully ignorant of vast acres of the relevant history and current realities are truths that are orthogonal to the fact that the term describes a major part of myself.
The word feminist was never supposed to be exclusionary. It’s never required an admissions test or the X chromosone. It simply requires a belief in female equality and a willingness to speak out and advocate for that over inequality in daily life, even if the person who does so isn’t always “perfect” in beliefs and actions in what is an unequal society. (And nobody is perfect, as you know.) But the far right succeeded in pushing a narrative of a “feminist” as someone who is a strident, extreme activist, and somehow this has become the social currency. Consequently, young women are reluctant to call themselves feminists even when they support or even fight for policies for better equality. Men are reluctant to call themselves feminists even when they support better equality. Women are reluctant to call themselves feminists for fear that people will think they are bitchy, over-sensitive whiners, even though they’d no more think their husbands were above them than their kitchen sink.
Far right women activists continue the narrative, claiming falsely that older (liberal) feminist activists seek to exclude stay at home moms and conservative Christians with a demand to adherence to only one image of extreme feminism, and challenges to that notion have often been unsuccessful, because hey, liberalism is always angry extremism and the far right has now a giant infotainment media complex plus the Net. Far righters, men’s righters, etc. can float the idea that efforts to improve equality for women are not supported or are unneeded by society, because hardly anyone is a “feminist” except for a minority of liberals.
Feminist has consequently become either a curse word or an uncomfortable moniker. And not surprisingly, despite at least 70% of the Western population supporting women’s equality, equality and civil rights for women have been eroded under the law and certainly in the marketplace. Far righters have been able to enact laws cutting back equality gains made over the decades and these efforts have often been met with just a shrug. It’s gotten bad enough, though, that now there is a renewed activism online and on the ground and this may have turned the recent U.S. elections. The problem of women being kept out of politics and boardrooms is more complex, but getting twenty women into the U.S. Senate is at least a start in that country. And yet still, people are going, “Well I’m not sure I’m a feminist,” “I don’t like to call myself a feminist,” and your position, which can perhaps be summed up as: “I’m not sure other people will be okay with me calling myself a feminist.”
Well I hereby give you official permission, designated by the fact that I have breasts and ovaries. You’re a fucking feminist, Scalzi, and an advocate activist at that. You have a daughter, whose equality I’m quite sure you’ll fight for the rest of your life. And the more people who are willing to call themselves feminists, all over the world, the closer we will come to equal societies in which women are fully and legally human beings and no one is afraid or reluctant to say the word. (And then the word itself may eventually vanish as unneeded, except as a historical term from when the world was less equal.)
Cause as you know, when one of your visitors here says, “I’m not a feminist,” my response has been that this person is telling me that since I am a woman, my status is the equivalent of a talking cow, livestock, chattel, unequal and controlled. Because they keep trying to decouple feminist from a belief in equality and that isn’t actually possible to do. They aren’t thinking about what it means to say “I’m not a feminist” in how they view and act towards women in society, towards their kids, wives, sisters, female friends. Those who call themselves feminists I know believe me to be an equal human being. Those who don’t, well I have to check and I have to challenge, to see if they see me as livestock or human, and it’s way more tiring. At least the men’s rights folk just come out and say that they think I’m livestock. But they aren’t the majority, at least in the West. The majority thinks I’m equal and human, even if sometimes they forget or don’t understand that they are mansplaining, etc., or aren’t that concerned about my civil rights. The majority are feminists. And there’s nothing wrong with, nor permission needed for, saying it.
@Greg: ““You’re a man, you don’t understand.” is sexism. I think I understand, it’s just that I disagree on some issues.”
You’re wrong on this one, in a big way. You may understand stuff on an intellectual level, but if you’ve never been a woman, there are aspects of living as a woman in a sexist world that you don’t understand and never will. I’m white and straight, which means there are things about being the target of racism or homophobia that I do not and never will understand.
You probably get that availability of emergency contraception is important. But if you’ve never felt that gut-level panic of needing it and not being sure you’ll be able to get it in time, either back in the days when it was prescription-only and the local Planned Parenthood had very limited hours due to funding cuts, or because not many local pharmacies carry it, or because you’re under 18, or because you’re not sure you can afford it, then there’s a level at which you don’t understand.
Saying that you don’t understand is not an insult. It’s an acknowledgement of reality. There are plenty of things about being a man that I don’t understand. Have you ever had to sit down before a job interview and try to decide what your answer will be if asked whether you plan to have children? I very much doubt it. Have I ever been afraid of being beaten up for liking books better than sports? No, I haven’t. I can be aware that it happens, I can have empathy for boys in that situation, but I can’t fully understand it.
Your opinion on sexism as it affects women is less informed and therefore carries less weight than mine. My opinion on homophobia as it affects the way masculinity is expected to be displayed/expressed by straight men is less informed and therefore less important than yours. That’s just how it goes.
@Kat Goodwin for the motherfucking win.
They aren’t thinking about what it means to say “I’m not a feminist”
Yes! This, precisely! And all the rest of it too!
The reason its not trendy to call oneself a feminist is obvously because the brand has been damaged.feminists are abrasive jerks who delight in getting under peoples skin and who have very little respect for men despite their talk that its just about women being recognixaed as human beings. I’m conservative admittedly but my personal experience with self described feminists over the years has made me even more conservatiive than my parents. I follow VDs blogs today in some part because of feminist friends and professors I had in college.
@Gulliver I have no doubt confused things, by indulging in the unfortunate habit of publicly arguing with myself. I was originally saying, precisely, “more harm is done to any movement by excluding good-faith participants than by the occasional uninitiated man or woman identifying with the movement” — and I wanted to make the I-thought-clever analogy to Scalzi’s post contrasting what he termed the “hipster” attitude of exclusion (oh crap, the wrong people like my thing) with the “geek” attitude of sharing (you like my thing?!?! ZOMG let’s geek!)
However after reading that I realized I might well come across as scoffing at other people’s indignation at a certain level of gross co-optation of a term… people with more skin in the game, as it were, than I. And I didn’t want to mock anybody’s actual discomfort with something just in order to be clever (we recall what the failure mode of that is).
I don’t think the issue there is “uninitiated” — clearly lack of information or experience with a topic is never any reason to exclude someone from anything, and clearly one of feminism’s strengths is its large sprawling undogmatic ideological breadth – as a process which cannot be reduced to a dogma. But I can imagine, at least, a more consciously distorting co-optation of “feminism” where what’s at issue is not uninitiated innocence, but intentional dilution. In your analogy to environmentalism, the analogy would be greenwashing — if you’re a logging company and find the strictures of the Forestry Stewardship Council to inhibiting, why not invent a Forest (sic) Stewardship Council with a similarly green-looking logo and much looser limitations? That’s the kind of thing I was thinking somebody might be legitimately bothered by.
I guess that doesn’t happen that much with the word “feminism” because, unlike some other progressive buzzwords, far from having become something that everyone wants to claim, “feminism” gets derided and attacked from all sides — from those on the right who see it as a perverse conspiracy, from those on the left who feel betrayed by its failings (the racism, classism, etc of many of its proponents), from those who would be its natural constituents but who have been convinced that it refers to something embarrassing, polemical, or self-indulgent. I think that’s what Liz Argall meant about de-demonizing.
@Dan, just because you cooked her dinner doesn’t mean she owed you anything. It’s not a transaction. You should have just enjoyed the company and conversation.
Ironically, if you genuinely had, it might have gone further. Even ‘abrasive jerks’ have itches to scratch.
Reblogged this on karlitoweb and commented:
Scalzi reflects my voew. I am willing to go one further and call myself a humanist, because delving into “Odentity Politix(tm)” is itself divisive. We have spent too much time differentiating ourselves. We need to come together in our diversity for all HUMANkind and against greed and exploitation. – k
B-52’s – Own Personal Feminism
rWhite: I think “feminist” should be reserved for those actively involved in the feminist movement,
Other Becky: You probably get that availability of emergency contraception is important. But if you’ve never felt that gut-level panic of needing it
Look, this is insulting. If I was discussing the death penatlty with someone and they responded that I needed to have a close friend or relative murdered to understand why they support capital punishment, I’d tell them they’re confusing victim’s justice with understanding.
I don’t need to experience the “gut-level panic” of something to understand that thing.
For the most part, fear, panic, and every other flavor of that response, clouds understanding of the issue. Anyone with half a brain can look at what happened immediately after 9/11 and see that, no really, fear is the mind killler. It makes people stop thinking. Fear is exactly the reason that people who have jobs that are life threatening need massive amounts of training so that when the fear kicks in, they revert to training as rote, rather than they revert to the evolutionary responses of fear (kill it at any cost or run away blindly, among others)
This notion that fear gives a special insight into any problem is entirely backwards.
The fear you feel from skydiving, the fear you feel in karaoke, the fear you feel speaking in front of thousands of people, the fear you feel getting shot at, the fear you feel while you’re car is spinning out of control on the highway, it’s all pretty much the same fear. You become awash in adreniline and the level of thinking generally drops.
With apologies to Rush – If you choose not to decide to be a feminist, you still have made a choice that will affect feminists.
An excellent if tired illustration
@Greg I don’t need to experience the “gut-level panic” of something to understand that thing.
But you’d have to admit that you’d need to experience the gut-level panic to, you know, experience the gut-level panic. And you’d have to be one of the people in the position of possibly being subject to the gut-level panic to fully experience the gravity of being that person in that situation.
In other words, as Other Becky put it, “there’s a level at which you don’t understand.” (my emphasis). Like the “level” of, you know, actually being a woman or girl in that predicament.
As I said above, I’m male and a feminist. Part of that is recognizing without shame that my own personal body and space are more insulated from these considerations. I can never quite fully “get it,” even though I recognize intellectually and even emotionally that the stakes are as urgent as they can be.
For the most part, fear, panic, and every other flavor of that response, clouds understanding of the issue.
I also have to take issue with this. For instance: people who have great reason to fear imminent death often see the truth with startling clarity. They refer to this as “seeing what’s really important,” an event “really giving you some perspective.” So it goes with many things: the fear of trauma, losing a family member, one’s marriage, etc. can be very clarifying indeed.
It’s helpful not to conflate “intense” with “unreasoning.”
Other Becky – being a woman gives you access to more-analogous experiences, yes. Sometimes they’re pretty clear-cut. Sometimes it’s not so evenly divided. Men and women are both diverse groups.
For instance: “You probably get that availability of emergency contraception is important. But if you’ve never felt that gut-level panic of needing it and not being sure you’ll be able to get it in time…”
Any woman who didn’t actually face any of the roadblocks you list doesn’t know that one either.
But Bob, who put in a lot of effort helping Alice get over those roadblocks when she needed to, might very well have a more personal and direct experience of the need of such emergency contraception than, say, Diane, who knows that her down-the-block pharmacy doesn’t give anyone any trouble, and doesn’t think about it much.
When the topic is a specific situation, the degree of opinion-basis derived from gender is much smaller than the degree of opinion-basis one can derive from knowing the basic facts of this situation.
I am a feminist. Am I good at being a feminist? Ehhh… not always.
But I think it does more good than harm for me to claim the label.
I respect your right to self-identify as not a feminist. However, when I read your post, a few things jumped out at me as possible signs of Impostor Syndrome. You don’t have to be perfect to be a feminist.
Kat: But the far right succeeded in pushing a narrative of a “feminist” as someone who is a strident, extreme activist, and somehow this has become the social currency.
the Right did all that, did they?
If a Romney voter tried to explain that “Republicans are racist” is a Democratic fabrication, and ignored the guy with the “put the white back in the white house” shirt, then, well, the Republican brand is going down the toilet because of its inability to self-correct.
rb: But you’d have to admit that you’d need to experience the gut-level panic to, you know, experience the gut-level panic.
All fear is pretty much the same. It’s an electrical/chemical/hormonal response of the brain. it doesn’t really care about context. In fact it makes most context go away, and reduces most issues to Kill Off That Which Frightens Me or alternatively a Trip Over Yourself Full Route. Anyone who treats Fear as some sort of transcendental experience that grants enlightenment about some issue, really needs to cut it out. Fear doesn’t make you some special snowflake with special insight, fear makes you human.
Dan: I follow VDs blogs
Well, there’s your first problem right there. I think if you can address that one, a great many things will become a lot less scary.
rb, you can take issue with it if you like, but what you’re describing is an extraordinary exception, not the mundane rule. Most people, when faced with fear, have a moment of paralyzing fear, nothing more. Even in extended periods of fear, that “clarity” comes in sporadic, unreliable pockets, if at all. It’s also only apparent after the fact, raising the issue of correlation/causation confusion. I think Greg’s right: Becky’s invocation of the “you can’t understand” trope is, at best, exclusionary, and at worst, deeply insulting.
Bob, who put in a lot of effort helping Alice get over those roadblocks when she needed to, might very well have a more personal and direct experience of the need of such emergency contraception
But to see this more clearly, it helps not to minimize the “roadblocks.” Bob will never (in this life) be subject to the personal and direct consequences of lack of receipt of EC, whereas any woman could, subject to accidents of place of birth, socioeconomic status, and the ‘conscience’ of the person behind the counter at the “down-the-block pharmacy” – which itself, for most women, does not exist.
And that’s not even addressing the prescription issue.
Likewise: the specific horror detailed at the link below will never happen to a man. Freedom from the slightest possibility of that happening to me is a freedom exclusive to my sex. Try as I might, I can’t fully realize – i.e. experience – what it’s like to have to worry that I will lose my life to such barbarism, even though I have (for real) been involved with very scary EC situations involving women I love.
@Greg: The notion that having emotional involvement in something makes you less of an expert on it, while being emotionally detached makes you more rational and therefore objective, is a classic silencing technique used almost exclusively against women by men.
I also notice that you didn’t engage with any of the rest of my argument, just the part where you get to tell me that I’m over-emotional and imply that therefore I don’t really understand things as well as a disinterested observer.
@drachefly: In the situation you mentioned, where Bob has secondhand experience via helping out Alice, you overlooked the fact that for Diane to know those things means she’s thought about it already. She’s never had any need to use it, but she’s thought about it, and that’s pretty typical. I would be willing to guess that most men (note that I’m saying most, not all) don’t know whether the nearest pharmacy to them carries emergency contraception, or how difficult or easy it is to obtain.
rb: For instance: people who have great reason to fear imminent death often see the truth with startling clarity.
Please stop. I’ve faced imminent death, and each time I managed to avoid dying mostly out of sheer luck. It doesn’t make me special. It just makes me fucking lucky to be alive.
You’re romanticizing the process.
that “clarity” comes in sporadic, unreliable pockets, if at all
Incorrect. The “clarity” comes later, on reflection. I should live my life differently because any day could be my last; that is what people are talking about when they talk about clarity and perspective.
Remembrance of the “gut-level panic” Becky describes is a considered perspective to which we men just aren’t privy.
Becky’s invocation of the “you can’t understand” trope is, at best, exclusionary, and at worst, deeply insulting.
You are confused. In point of fact: It is your equating of a woman’s considered remembrance of that panic as equivalent to an unreasoning, hypothetical real-time fear that is sexist and insulting.
It’s a simple but fundamental mistake you’re making. A person describing a feeling of being panicked and helpless is not the same as her being panicked and helpless. To whatever (very questionable and limited) degree that one may (rather insultingly) infer lack of reasoning in the former situation, there is absolutely no basis for inferring it in the latter.
Also: yes, you are “excluded” from the experience of this specific panic and remembrance. Take a blessing as a blessing.
Hey Dan where do you meet these “abrasive jerky feminists?” You complaints have the flavor of someone claiming all _____ are jerks, when never actually having met one. I’ve seen this phenomenon a lot over the years, back in the day you could actually watch TV pundits saying things like “Those equal rights folds are so rude and abrasive,That is why “I” don’t like them” more recently is was the quote OK for the average pundit to say things like “Those gays are so rude and abrasive why do they have to cram their gayness down my throat, thats why “I” don’t like them.” Today its those “rude and abrasive” Feminists and Atheists.
Care to guess what side of history your opinion will be on?
[Deleted for pointlessness — JS]
Maybe it’s meaningful to ask when “you don’t understand because you’re a man” gets deployed. I kinda suspect it’s less when men are saying “hi I support feminism!” than when men are saying “you should be quieter and more pleasant because my understanding of your experience is superior to your own and so I feel comfortable reassigning it from your chosen priority to a lower one”.
rb – I wasn’t comparing Alice to Bob. Alice is in it WAY stronger than Bob, there’s no doubt. So, let’s not pretend I was saying otherwise.
There’s this term to keep in mind when illustrative examples come up. It’s the “Least Convenient Possible World”. Please apply it to my example of Diane, and remember I was arguing for the weaker conclusions.
I’m not sure the emergency contraception example is the best one for this discussion, and I think the focus on fear is kind of irrelevant to the overall point.
I’d suggest that catcaling might be a better example of something that it’s very difficult for someone who is and who always has been a man to fully understand, since it rarely happens when men who are likely to be allies are around, and because observing isn’t necessarily the same as being on the receiving end of that humiliating experience.
Regardless, I think men can be feminists, but I don’t think hearing about or watching something gives exactly the same perspective as experiencing it.
[Deleted for responding to deleted tweet. Chaosprime, don’t feed the trolls, please — JS]
Other Becky: I also notice that you didn’t engage with any of the rest of my argument
The only argument I saw boiled down to “I can’t understand sexism becaues I can’t directly experience sexism”. Everything you said simply tried to reinforce that point.
the part where you get to tell me that I’m over-emotional and imply that therefore I don’t really understand things as well as a disinterested observer.
I said all that, did I?
I’d suggest that catcaling might be a better example of something that it’s very difficult for someone who is and who always has been a man to fully understand
Allow me to auto-retort: “But what you have failed to consider is that a man who has seen his girlfriend catcalled has a way more ‘personal and direct’ experience of catcalling than a woman who has never been catcalled!”
There ya go. ‘Splained! With inarguable reason.
eselle28: I’d suggest that catcaling might be a better example of something that it’s very difficult for someone who is and who always has been a man to fully understand,
To be on a jury for a case of self-defense/homocide, one doesn’t have to have killed someone in self defense to be on the jury. The jury has to sit in judgement without the experience of the accused.
So either the entire court system is deeply flawed for having jurors with no direct experience judging a case, or feminists who insist that one must experience a thing to understand that thing are wrong.
rb: Allow me to auto-retort
Allow you to strawman.
I was saying that feminism is a spectrum, and that my experience is that people located on the space on the spectrum where I am are often dismissed by folks at the other end of the spectrum. And here you are, demonizing my position into utter gibberish.
Guys, are we starting to get reflexively snippy with each other? And if so, can we stop?
@Greg: You only engaged with the part about fear, and how that impairs judgment. When I’ve prepared for job interviews and had to decide how to handle “Are you planning to have children?” that was not an experience that involved fear.
I would guess that it’s an experience that you don’t completely understand. If I respond by saying that they shouldn’t be asking me that, I’ve shot myself in the foot. If I say yes, some interviewers will take that as an indication that I’ll only be around for a few years, after which I’ll either quit or become a less committed employee. If I say no, I risk being considered “unnatural”, unwomanly, a bull dyke feminist who’s going to make life hard for everybody in the office. (And no, I’m not making any of this up. I have heard people who make hiring decisions say these things.)
The reason that not having experienced sexism makes you less equipped to understand manifestations of sexism is that a lot of men just don’t have to think about this stuff. I’m not saying you lack compassion, empathy, or intelligence. I’m saying that, if there’s something that I have to think about regularly and you never do, then our levels of understanding of that aren’t going to be equal.
Another example: I am aware that black shoppers are more likely to be watched closely by store employees, lest they shoplift. I hadn’t realized the extent to which that affects black customers’ behavior while in a store until I went shopping with a black friend a couple of times. I realized that, while I knew intellectually that things were different for her than they were for me, I had no idea what that meant in actual practice. Telling myself that, now that I’ve experienced it secondhand a few times, I understand it as well as she does would be arrogant and wrong. I will never understand it at that deep and fundamental a level. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid or unsympathetic.
Historically one of the justifications for denying women the right to vote was the claim that women are just like children; indisputably human, and indisputably people, but lacking the intellectual ability to make sound judgements.
It is worth bearing that fact in mind when people embark on the “I’m a feminist because I think women are people too” boat; it was holed below the waterline a long time ago…
Greg: “All fear is pretty much the same. It’s an electrical/chemical/hormonal response of the brain. it doesn’t really care about context.”
Fear, like most emotional reactions and the accompanying physical responses, depends a great deal on context.
Becky: You only engaged with the part about fear
Well, if we look at your post here, you quoted me talking about “understanding” and then you specifically reduced the topic specifcially to fear.
the tag gods are not happy.
@Kat: I’m afraid you demonstrated another large problem with modern feminism, which keeps many women (including myself) dubious about identifying with the movement. You possess the presumption that anatomy confers gender. It does not. Your breasts and ovaries mean NOTHING to whether you are a woman. I know men who have a complete set of both. I myself only have two breasts and one ovary, so if you use anatomy to define gender, I’m only 3/4 a woman if those are the parts you declare as conferring womanhood. And modern feminism has a LONG way to go to prove it embraces its trans sisters as full women deserving of respect and equal status.
To continue more generally, feminism also has a problem identifying the issues of women of color as valid to the cause. The mainstream feminist movement is focused on the desires of middle and upper-class white cisgender women. They overlap with those of trans women and women of color, but they do not match them completely. This is why I respect the women who see that and say, “No, I’m not a feminist until they include my womanhood and women’s issues.” There is womanism for many who feel that way, and I sympathize with that.
To get back to you, John, you’re entitled to not use the term, that’s for sure. I think your reasoning is valid. I just had to point out that it’s not merely the “right wing” making feminism look narrow. It looks horribly narrow to many women as well, myself included.
Kat Goodwin: Cause as you know, when one of your visitors here says, “I’m not a feminist,” my response has been that this person is telling me that since I am a woman, my status is the equivalent of a talking cow, livestock, chattel, unequal and controlled. Because they keep trying to decouple feminist from a belief in equality and that isn’t actually possible to do.
In a world where white feminists think it’s ok to say things like “woman is the n***** of the world,” it is absolutely possible to decouple feminism from a belief in equality.
Feminism as a social movement privileges the concerns of white educated cis women from high social classes. Women whose gender is not their only–or perhaps even their primary–axis of marginalization regularly get thrown under the bus by more privileged feminists.
So if a woman tells me that they’re not a feminist, I try to stay open to the possibility that they’re every bit as pro-woman as I am, but they have chosen to reject feminism because feminism has rejected them.
To the extent that you’re talking about gender equality, and about people who try to paint feminists as hating/oppressing men, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But there are legitimate reasons someone might reject the feminist label other than being anti-woman. It’s my job as an educated cis white woman to help get feminism’s house in order. To the extent that less privileged women don’t feel safe or welcome in that house, that’s my failure, not theirs.
Greg, understanding is analog, not digital. Not all non-zero values of “understand” are equivalent.
The court system is highly flawed in all sorts of ways. It attempts to smooth out some of its unfairnesses by relying on a group rather than an individual opinion and by having high standards of proof in serious cases, and even then is subject to all manner of biases.
I would suggest that the issue here isn’t whether people can identify something as right or wrong. Most people can, regardless of experience. I think the primary problem is people underestimating how common a problem is, or not being able to observe its most severe forms, or not being able to understand the harm done by repetition.
In the case of catcalling, I would say that the fact that it’s done less often when a man is present leads many men I’ve known to think it happens only occasionally, and to suspect the women they know are exaggerating its frequency. It also leads to difficulties understanding why, “Nice legs!” could be considered harassing rather than complimentary, as they’ve never observed the version of it that includes being followed down the street by a man who’s angry that the compliment was ignored or the grinding resentment that builds at having to smile lamely and say, “Um, thanks,” on a daily basis to avoid that.
And, sure, men can come to understand the experience better by hearing the stories of women. I encourage them to do so. But I don’t think that’s a complete way of coming to understand the experience – especially since it depends on the women involved being confident enough to describe the experiences to that particular man, articulate enough to describe it in a way that sufficiently evokes all the emotions involved, and considered credible enough by the man for their accounts to be believed.
@Becky I realized that, while I knew intellectually that things were different for her than they were for me, I had no idea what that meant in actual practice. Telling myself that, now that I’ve experienced it secondhand a few times, I understand it as well as she does would be arrogant and wrong.
This. Both “wrong” as in logically incorrect, and “wrong” as in “embarrassing and reprehensible.”
@Greg So either the entire court system is deeply flawed for having jurors with no direct experience judging a case, or feminists who insist that one must experience a thing to understand that thing are wrong.
Heh, speaking of strawmen and false dichotomies.
That said, fact: the entire court system is deeply flawed. We must never lose sight of this.
First: I don’t give a rat’s ass about what a person BELIEVES. What I care about, and what is IMO the proper interest of civil society, is how a person BEHAVES.
People can refer to themselves with whatever “ism” they like. It is their behavior that is going to confirm or deny that self-description. If a woman calls herself a feminist but (for example) votes against reproductive rights or sabotages the career of a female co-worker, her self-description is, again IMO, pretty much void of meaning.
A woman can call herself a feminist based on a personal belief system combined with life experience that is completely unique to her. A woman can also say “I am not a feminist” for a lot of reasons. A man can do the same. Discussing which person’s definition of the term is right or reasonable or wrong or stupid is a complete waste of time.
Second: the term “feminist” is, like EVERY OTHER self-description, subjective. It’s like calling yourself a “geek.” Your geek is different from my geek; your feminist is different from my feminist.
All that said, anyone who does not conceive of the word “feminist” as an insult is okay with me. Anyone who thinks “feminist” means “ugly, fat, man-hating bitch” can suck it.
@lysana Your breasts and ovaries mean NOTHING to whether you are a woman.
Is this true? I was under the impression that one’s self-conception could totally – but need not necessarily – be informed by one’s biology.
My self-conception as a man is certainly supported, to me, but my biology. Am I doing it wrong?
Totally with you on the rest of your argument.
“In a world where white feminists think it’s ok to say things like “woman is the n***** of the world,”
Well, some white feminists do or have done. The thrust of what you’re saying I absolutely agree with, but this is painting with a terribly broad and incendiary example.
@Brad, you can always try making better arguments. I mean, if you PREFER to get your rhetorical ass handed to you over and over again – and not just by me, either – then keep on keepin’ on, and grumble to yourself that it’s those hordes of too-clever-by-half progressives stifling your Still Small Voice of Reason. Me, I liked the other Brad, the one who realized it wasn’t a good thing if people offline were surprised to find he was a decent chap in person, the one who can have thoughtful discussions about things important to him instead of spraying emotional talking points, the one who admitted when he’s been impolitic and strove to do better. YMMV, of course.
“Dworkin feminists” is a lazy shorthand for the stereotype of the angry man-hating bra-burner, which doesn’t even describe Dworkin herself; it’s not a meaningful criticism so much as a genteel version of “they’re a buncha ugly dykes”. This is 2012, not 1972.
And there is plenty of criticism that feminism needs to own, but it’s the privilege-blindness Annalee correctly calls out, not an epidemic of women abandoning their husbands to become lesbian separatists.
Bearpaw: Greg, understanding is analog, not digital. Not all non-zero values of “understand” are equivalent.
When the response boils down to “You don’t understand because you’re a man”, that pretty much reduces the discussion to ones and zeroes. You’re either with us or against us. Digital.
eselle28: The court system is highly flawed in all sorts of ways.
Look, if you think a jury must have the same experiences of the accused to judge the accused, then the label of “feminism” is yours to have, because I don’t believe that for one second. And that is the fundamental argument behind “you’re a man, you’ll never understand”, that someone must have the exact same experiences to render some sort of useful judgement.
rb: Heh, speaking of strawmen and false dichotomies.
So you’re response boils down to an “et tu” fallacy? for the win?
I like this definition of feminism:
“You’re a feminist if you believe that (1) men are privileged relative to women, (2) that’s not right, and (3) you’re going to do something about it, even if it’s only in your personal life.”
It’s from Mike Johnson, father and a retired professor of (among other things) Women’s Studies.
an epidemic of women abandoning their husbands to become lesbian separatists.
LOL. Not that there’d be anything wrong with that!
We white cis married men might catch a collective clue if this happened.
@rb: there was some of that (though hardly an epidemic) in the early 80s, IIRC, and it wasn’t such a great thing from the perspective of actual lesbians.
OK, I’m about to expose my ignorance in a pretty massive way. Be kind.
What the hell does “cis” mean? I’ve never run across the term before and I see it a lot on this blog. I’m assuming it’s either an acronym or a prefix that was created to describe a specific kind of gender relationship or identification, but beyond that I can’t parse it.
Thank you for any clarification you can give. It’s driving me batty. When I Google it I get “Computer Information System” and I’m pretty sure that’s not the usage here.
I’ve seen people argue about using such terms as “humanist” (instead of “feminist”) or “equalitarian” because they ignore the fundamental reality. Feminism isn’t about “rights for all humans”. It’s about ending the many forms of discrimination and oppression of women. That discrimination, and multiple forms of oppression, still exist.
Does that mean one shouldn’t use “humanist” or “equalitarian”? No. But if you think about it as equivalent, you might find yourself in the trap where the concerns of men and the patriarchy seem ever so lightly more important than the concerns of women. It seems to me that ideas evolve, just like species evolve, and the environment of power makes the ideas that serve the powerful become more widespread, and more widely accepted, than ideas that benefit the less powerful. And that means if you look for “equality” there’s a great risk you’ll find more people concerned about things that benefit the more powerful – in this case, men and the patriarchy.
@Christopher Wright: Me, too. Look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender
It means that one’s body and one’s gender match (it might have other uses too). I’m cisgendered (man, born with a male body).
I can’t help with the etymology.
@Greg, you can keep misstating others’ arguments and then “winning” over these invented foes, but it’s not terribly productive.
For example: if you think a jury must have the same experiences of the accused to judge the accused
I mean, in addition to putting whole paragraphs in other people’s mouths, here you’ve even succeeded in completely mangling your own terrible analogy.
Being pregnant and in need of EC is not analogous to being accused of a crime and subjected to a jury trial. Except in ways that totally undercut your argument, because a man will never be “accused of” or “indicted for” having an unwanted pregnancy! Whether or not he’s ever …. served on a jury? What are you trying to say here?
Sincerely: you’re spinning like a top trying to win points, but stop and think for a moment about what you’re saying.
Thanks Bryan and LHW for the assist!
You skipped almost everything else I said and went back to your legal system comparison. It’s not terribly appropriate to this discussion.
To the extent you insist on pushing it, I would say that the parties involved have the best understanding of what happened, people who had similar experiences to either have the next best one, and people who have no similar experiences whatsoever may struggle to understand many aspects of the case. Our justice system recognizes the difficulties of assessing events you did not witness and may not have the appropriate context for, which is why it puts in place safeguards to attempt to adjust for people’s biases and lack of context.
But discussing women’s experiences isn’t a courtroom situation. The discussion is far broader than one person’s guilt or innocence, the stakes are different, the safeguards are lessened, the power of those who have been both victimized and implicated to tell their stories may be lower. I don’t think it’s a good model to use when discussing how people form personal judgments.
@mythago it wasn’t such a great thing from the perspective of actual lesbians.
No, I would imagine not.
@LongHairedWeirdo: it originates in chemistry, where there are cis or trans isomers of molecules. (Most commonly encountered these days in “trans fats”.) Literally, cis means “on the same side” and trans means “on the other side”. Since we use “trans*” to refer to people whose sex assigned at birth is not the same as their gender, “cis” works well to refer to people whose biological sex is “on the same side” as their gender.
I’ve also seen ‘cis’ used in opposition to ‘trans’ in discussions of fluid channel geometry – the ‘cis’ side is where the fluid comes from, and the ‘trans’ side is where it’s going.
rb – he was applying reductio ad absurdum…
Cis-: Latin for “Together, on the same side”; Used in chemistry as the opposite of trans- (see Cis and Trans isomers), and then by analogy (even though it isn’t technically the same trans) to mean the same thing WRT gender.
@Greg: “When the response boils down to “You don’t understand because you’re a man”, that pretty much reduces the discussion to ones and zeroes. You’re either with us or against us. Digital.”
But that’s not what she said. What she said was:
“I’m not saying you lack compassion, empathy, or intelligence. I’m saying that, if there’s something that I have to think about regularly and you never do, then our levels of understanding of that aren’t going to be equal.”
Note the use of the phrase “levels of understanding.”
She also said:
“The reason that not having experienced sexism makes you less equipped to understand manifestations of sexism is that a lot of men just don’t have to think about this stuff.”
Less equipped is not the same as unequipped. She’s suggesting analog, you’re shifting it to digital.
I don’t really think it originates in any of these scientific fields (we can add astronomy, where we have cislunar and translunar objects, etc.) so much as it originates in Latin, where cis- means on this side of and trans- means on the other side of.
ack, simulposted :)
@eselle28 The discussion is far broader than one person’s guilt or innocence, the stakes are different, the safeguards are lessened, the power of those who have been both victimized and implicated to tell their stories may be lower. I don’t think it’s a good model to use when discussing how people form personal judgments.
Not to mention, those sitting on a jury can be or perhaps have been accused of a crime at some point. The experience of having been a woman is not nearly so universal to men.
rb:Well, some white feminists do or have done. The thrust of what you’re saying I absolutely agree with, but this is painting with a terribly broad and incendiary example.
You’re right; a better word choice would have been “In a world where there are white feminists who think it’s ok to say things like…”
Since I stated in that post that I am a white feminist, and I hope made it clear that I don’t think saying that kind of thing is even a little bit ok, I trust it can be taken as read that I don’t believe all white feminists think it’s ok to bust out the n-word. But neither do I think I’m some kind of unique and special snowflake in that regard, so I apologize for my phrasing.
On the subject of biological factors determining womanhood: using ‘has overies/two X chromosomes/any other biological characteristic’ to mean ‘is a woman’ is exclusive of women who don’t have that characteristic (and erasing of men who do). Trans women are one of the groups I was referring to when I said that feminism frequently fails less-privileged women. Not using figures of speech that define womanhood or manhood by the biological characteristics most commonly associated with that gender is one way to be an ally to trans women (and men).
And aside from trans women, there are other women–like cancer survivors–who lack breasts and/or ovaries. Being a woman != being able to birth and produce food for a child.
Greg, you confuse the hell out of me. I have seen you deftly reduce bad arguments to their component atoms when proffered by the likes of Billy Quiets, Brad, Todd, and some of our other resident rightwingatrons, but on this one issue you consistently fall into the exact same flat spin that they do. It’s especially maddening when I’m pretty sure, judging from some other comments you’ve left on related subjects, that you honestly don’t mean to. But the rephrasing of other’s arguments in redefinition, followed by analogies that don’t in any way fit the examples discussed, and the treating as abstract things that are often horribly concrete, is very much like the slipstreamy way that they evade dealing with the facts and reality of the matter at hand. There’s every indication that you should know better. What’s up with that?
It seems to me that ideas evolve, just like species evolve, and the environment of power makes the ideas that serve the powerful become more widespread
Indeed, this is the notion of the meme – structural characteristics of the cultural enviroment impose selective pressures on ideas, influencing their prevalence and penetrance.
and more widely accepted, than ideas that benefit the less powerful. And that means if you look for “equality” there’s a great risk you’ll find more people concerned about things that benefit the more powerful – in this case, men and the patriarchy.
This is a pretty solid, straightforward way to put it, and I can only agree. Kudos.
I’m having considerable problems with your claim that Yoko Ono is white; feminist yes, white I really don’t think so…
My understanding has always been that the trans- of “transgender” and its siblings is slightly different, etymologically, from the trans- which is the opposite of cis-; and that therefore conflating the two to produce “cisgender” is a mild case of Latin Abuse that wouldn’t have happened except by analogy with the scientific usage.
I’m prepared to concede I may have been mistaken about that, however.
@Dave Crisp: I wouldn’t know; I only have enough Latin to fabricate a limited set of Bad Idea Esoteric Mottos (“Frater Centurion Non Bellum” for an OTO initiate, for example).
1) If you think that I was stating that women are only women because they have breasts and ovaries, you’re missing the entire point of what I was saying. I only mentioned body parts in a clearly joking manner to point out to Scalzi that if he’s waiting for permission from a female to call himself a feminist (not exactly what he was saying though,) then I hereby as a female give it to him. A transgender woman can give the permission too. But he doesn’t need the permission of anyone of any gender to call himself a feminist obviously.
2) Feminism is not a movement. It’s a belief that women are equal and should be treated as equal in society and by the law as full citizens. That would include transgender women. I’m pretty sure that we three are all in fact in agreement about that. What you are carping about is the “feminist movement,” which is not just one movement existing in perpetuity but hundreds, thousands of separate efforts that are only occasionally coordinated with each other and whose goals and methods are constantly debated.
Feminism cannot be uncoupled from equality because equality is its definition. Achieving equality, however, means dealing with human beings — complicated, from different backgrounds, ethnicities and different paths to being female. So we have white women who believe in equality but are clueless on race. We have conservative women who call themselves feminists while saying that they should be subservient to their husbands. We have women, as we saw with Mr. Peacock’s article, who agree that the best way to advance equality for women is to call other women sluts and criticize their dress and level of interest in pop culture, while chucking them out of a convention. We have women who have marched in no protest movements or sent out flyers, just raised their kids, but believe their daughters should be treated equally under the law. We have a lot of women whose views I think are utterly idiotic. But they are equal — to me and to men. Women are not one organism and the advocacy of feminism is not owned by white upper middle class cis-straight women.
So if either white upper middle class cis-straight women or women who are not those things want to argue that our equality is in the hands of only white upper middle class cis-straight women, because feminism refers only to them, I will argue back. The term belongs to all who believe females (including transgenders in transition one way or another or living happily somewhere in between,) are equal. The insistence that the term must mean only specific movements — plural — advocacy efforts run by well off white women is a view I personally consider, again, idiotic. And I can’t think of a better first step myself to changing that idea than refusing the definition of feminism that totally ignores its meaning and changes it to “those groups of women over there.” But that will be for each person to decide. The fewer of us who call ourselves feminists, however, who believe in feminism, the more others think the idea of equality for women is unpopular and can be ignored or attacked. It’s a bit like Lord Voldemort and his name.
If a man or woman or transgender person say that they are not feminists, then as I said, I don’t assume that they are anti-woman. I have to check whether they believe in equality for women or not. Because a lot of people are nervous about calling themselves feminists. And It’s not a given that just because someone is a woman that they believe they are and should be in society equal to men. But if people say that they are a feminist, I will accept that they hold the belief that women are equal, even if I challenge them on views they have that seem to me to express exactly the opposite or to show some cluelessness. (As you were assuming you needed to do to me.) But if they say they believe in equality, then they’re feminists because that’s what the word MEANS. And no well-off white cis-straight woman movement gets to change that — unless you let them, I suppose.
What I do know is that no one ever believes anything without numbers to back it up. The more people who call themselves feminists who believe in feminism — equality — the better a shot we have at working towards equality, even if various of us come up with some counter-productive ideas concerning it along the way. I also believe civil rights are all connected in the idea of equal humans, so though we are lousy at getting our axises into sync, chipping away at inequality in one area can help in others and advances civil rights as a whole. But then I’m a liberal who has the wild idea that I am not a talking cow.
Being a woman != being able to birth and produce food for a child.
Agree, obviously. And in addition to the myriad examples you cite, of course it is extremely common to be a woman while no longer a woman of childbearing age, other circumstances aside. I was trying not to fall into the trap you eloquently describe when critiquing the ‘jury’ argument above (concerning whether men can experience being a woman), and rather clumsily failing somewhat. Mea culpa.
But my (sincere) question was about the statement: “Your breasts and ovaries mean NOTHING to whether you are a woman.” I found this curious as it appeared to be directed specifically to one woman and the specific breasts and ovaries she herself mentioned. lysana may not respond, but she may have meant this comment in the more general sense you imply. Or – this is what I was wondering – perhaps the theory truly is that one’s own gender concept *must* (rather than merely *may*) be uncoupled from one’s own biology.
(Or perhaps she saw the original breast/ovaries comment as being unnecessarily prescriptive in the way it was said, thereby seemingly projected onto other people to whom it didn’t apply.)
I was (again sincerely, not trying to pick a fight) just interested in hearing an informed person’s opinion on one’s -own- biology informing one’s -own- gender self-impression, and how this is informed by (or not) the experiences of the subset of individuals who pursue surgical or pharmacologic alterations to their physical selves.
I want to thank Kat Godwin for putting that very well and say that I generally agree with her.
On a sad note, if it was not for this thread, I might never have checked up on something and discovered that Shulamith Firestone passed away earlier this year. We may try to uncouple from our own biology, but biology sometimes has other ideas. I used to read whatever was on the shelf in the library’s women’s studies section just to get a breadth of ideas. I doubt anyone else had read that copy in a decade or more and this was 20 years ago. I radically wish that you all have as much chance to lead a fulfilling life as any other.
@Stevie: I wasn’t actually referring to Yoko Ono. I was referring to this woman here, and the white woman who came to her defense when women of color called out Slutwalk for not telling her to put that sign away the second they saw it. That link also contains a pretty good breakdown of what’s wrong with the phrase, both in the context of the song and in the context of white women using it.
@rb: Obviously I’m in no position to say whether Kat Goodwin’s breasts and ovaries have anything to do with her self-conception as a woman–you’re right about that. But without claiming to speak for Lysana, I was trying to explain why *I* have a problem with that particular kind of synecdoche.
eselle28: But discussing women’s experiences isn’t a courtroom situation. The discussion is far broader than one person’s guilt or innocence,
Oh come on. Becky telling me I can’t understand sexism because I’ll never feel the panic of needing emergency contraception isn’t that hard to understand. It has the one simple goal of laying the groundwork of granting legitimacy to the nonsense that a person must directly experience the panic of needing emergency contraception or their opinion of emergency contraception can be voided if their opinion isn’t liked.
I don’t think it’s a good model to use when discussing how people form personal judgments.
Well, I was trying to explain why I don’t self identify as a “feminist”. It’s because when whatever I have to say goes along with the more extreme views, (for example I thought Harris’ rant about women at conventions was bald sexism at its plainest), then what I have to say is allowed to stand. When I say something that goes against the more extreme views, that is when invariably, some female feminist with a view different than mine will inform me that I can’t possibly understand the situation because I will never know what it feels like to be a woman, and therefore whatever I said that they disagree with is voided because I’m a man.
The “jury” model is simply trying to capture this idea of whether or not someone can render a rightful judgement of something without directly experiencing it. The “jury” model also comes with it the handy notion of having people excused from jury duty because they’re biased or prejudiced or whatever about the case.
It’s not a good model for trying to deal with, identify, and try to solve systemic bias like sexism. But then that wasn’t the poitn of the model. The point was to say that when someone like Becky says if I’ve never felt that gut-level panic of needing emergency contraception, then I’ll never really understand it, then that might look like someone’s trying to pack the “jury” with all women, and remove any men who might disagree with their desired outcome, and basing it on the grounds of “how could he possibly understand if he’s a man?” excuse.
rb: I dunno about “must” but I think gender “is” uncoupled from biology. Gender is social; sex is biological. I.e. I am cisgendered, so my gender aligns with my sex. I’m fairly comfortable within the gender presentation that is currently defined as “woman” in our society. I would be less comfortable with the gender presentation required of women 60 or 200 years ago. In fact, 60 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been socially defined as a woman, at all: I would have been accused of being not a woman, or not a “real” woman, because of my gender presentation and romantic orientation.
Women have more choice in gender presentation in America right now, I think, more than men do, unfortunately. Feminism is beginning to pay more attention to men and boys, and how they are policed into very narrow presentations according to biological sex, which is good, imo. Boys should not get the crap beat out of them, or thrown out of school, or be harassed in public places by strangers, because they wear nail polish or pink. Hell, it’s still considered outre for men to have hair past their ears! WTF?
In any case, transpeople clearly demonstrate that sex and gender are completely divisible. That can be hard for cis or oppressed people to understand, because the social pressure to conform to a indivisible, heteronormative Weltanschauung is nearly overwhelming, so individuals have to try really, really hard to even see the break, much less rebel. Welcome to the kulturkampf, isn’t it fun? (I love German, they have a word for *everything*!) (Gesamtheit! (heh))
I’ve already stated that I don’t think the emergency contraception is the best example (not least because there are plenty of heterosexual couples who panic over such things together). I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to defend someone else’s example. I’ve proposed my own, if you’d like to discuss the implications of that.
In my opinion, you may call yourself a feminist, or not, depending on your beliefs and inclinations. I do think there are some cases where your observations of sexism are not on an equal level as someone else’s direct experiences of it, particularly if we’re talking about emotional reactions or harmful effects or if we’re discussing a type of sexism that men are unlikely to witness unless they’re in the role of the victimizer. The fact that someone else has more credibility on certain issues than you do doesn’t mean you have no voice at all in the conversation. Your contributions can be considered as well, and there are aspects of discussions about feminism that don’t hinge very much on people’s personal experience.
The reason I think that the jury model fails is that there are many discussions about sexism that don’t ask someone to render a judgment. Using the example I proposed, the issue of catcalling may not come up because I’ve complained about being catcalled and wish you to condemn the person responsible. Perhaps I’ve brought it up because we’re discussing why I simultaneously have a profile on an online dating site, while being extremely hesitant to speak with men who approach me on the street. In that case, I’m not asking for a judgment. I’m asking for understanding of my perspective.
@Greg – it doesn’t feel good when your position may be considered less important because of your perceived gender, does it?
That was fairly toungue in cheek, but dude, there are things about being a guy that I just won’t get. Walking with dangly bits – how does that work (zippers would frighten the crap out of me)???? Fear of hair loss?
I know these things inspire considerations that I never really think about, and don’t really have to in my day to day life. I can show empathy, listen, help and not get in the way. Seems to be the best way.
Kat Goodwin1) If you think that I was stating that women are only women because they have breasts and ovaries, you’re missing the entire point of what I was saying.
I don’t think that at all. I think you chose to make a joke that is unintentionally exclusive of trans women. Inasmuch as several trans women have told me that conflating body parts with gender makes them feel marginalized and unwelcome, I try to encourage feminists not to do it.
2) Feminism is not a movement.
Feminism is certainly not just a movement, which is why I specifically said ‘feminism as a movement,” not ‘feminism as a philosophy.’ And of course feminism as a movement is diverse, fractured, and internally inconsistent. I was responding to your specific statement that:
Cause as you know, when one of your visitors here says, “I’m not a feminist,” my response has been that this person is telling me that since I am a woman, my status is the equivalent of a talking cow, livestock, chattel, unequal and controlled.
My point is, there are women who say “I am not a feminist” who do not believe and are not saying that since you are a woman, you are a talking cow. I’m glad to see that that statement doesn’t accurately represent your feelings on that subject.
So if either white upper middle class cis-straight women or women who are not those things want to argue that our equality is in the hands of only white upper middle class cis-straight women, because feminism refers only to them, I will argue back.
I think we agree that feminism doesn’t just belong to rich white cis women. It belongs to everybody that thinks that women deserve equal treatment (and to your original point, of course Scalzi can call himself a feminist if he wants; no one’s going to take his badge away).
And no well-off white cis-straight woman movement gets to change that — unless you let them, I suppose.
The idea that people can only be made to feel inferior if they consent to it is a convenient piece of victim-blaming fiction that I refuse to engage in. If a marginalized woman tells me she doesn’t identify as a feminist because she experiences discrimination from other feminists, I’m not going to tell her that women with more privilege are excluding her because she ‘lets’ them.
The fewer of us who call ourselves feminists, however, who believe in feminism, the more others think the idea of equality for women is unpopular and can be ignored or attacked.
Which is why I believe it is every feminist’s responsibility to make feminism welcome to marginalized women. Not by telling them that they’re either with us or against us, or by insisting they have a responsibility to identify as feminists, but by encouraging other feminists to check their privilege, consider their word choice, apologize when they mess up, and not insist that it’s ok to marginalize other women as long as we do it in a “clearly joking manner.”
Personally, I prefer the expansive definition of feminism: http://tomatonation.com/culture-and-criticism/yes-you-are/
“I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist” sounds a lot like “I don’t see race” to me. Both tend to come from the mouths of people who are privileged on the axes under discussion, who are trying to sound principled and high-minded while getting the dis-privileged to stfu about privilege.
It wasn’t conservatives who made the feminist label unfashionable, it was the guys to whom Robin addressed “Goodbye to All That.” http://blog.fair-use.org/2007/09/29/goodbye-to-all-that-by-robin-morgan-1970/
They should have been our allies all along, but no. When they said, “all men are created equal,” they meant exactly that, and nothing more.
eselle28: The reason I think that the jury model fails is that there are many discussions about sexism that don’t ask someone to render a judgment. Using the example I proposed, the issue of catcalling may not come up because I’ve complained about being catcalled and wish you to condemn the person responsible.
To me, that’s rendering judgement. It’s not a judgement in a courtroom, but that’s why the “jury” reference was a metaphor not… literal. It’s to see Harris’ rant about women at conventions and calling it sexism. Condemning would be judging.
Perhaps I’ve brought it up because we’re discussing why I simultaneously have a profile on an online dating site, while being extremely hesitant to speak with men who approach me on the street. In that case, I’m not asking for a judgment. I’m asking for understanding of my perspective.
Yeah, but not all women will understand your perspective either. So, here’s my question for you: If you’re trying to tell a woman about your online-dating-versus-man-on-the-street experience, and she just doesn’t get what you’re saying because she don’t see it that way, then what do you do?
If you try to have that conversation with a man and he doesn’t get it, do you respond exactly the same to his lack-of-understanding as you would to a woman’s lack-of-understanding?
Cause to me it feels like those defending the “you’ll never understand, you’re just a man” are reserving the right to use a broader brushtroke on men than they will use on women. They might have exactly the same disagreement, but the response will be completely different.
Everyone must remember, equality is an “A or Not A” kind of thing. Either everyone has equal rights, or they don’t. I believe everyone, including women, should. But they shouldn’t have any MORE than anyone else does, either. “More” equal, as I recall, leads to a bad place called Animal Farm.
I agree that asking you to condemn the person who catcalled me would be requesting judgment. That’s a minority of discussions about sexism, though. Most I see are discussions of systemic problems where prevention is the issue rather than judging offenders, or discussions that ask for understanding of why people behave in particular ways.
I’d have a different discussion with those two people. With a woman who’d had some catcalling experiences (I chose the example because I suspect most adult women have), we could compare how we felt about it and how those reactions shape our behavior. We might still disagree, of course, and she might still not understand where I’m coming from.
With a man, I’d probably need to discuss things at a more theoretical level, since that person wouldn’t have those experiences and reactions to compare (and, no, I don’t assign much credit to descriptions of the experiences of absent friends). A man might, however, be able to contribute the perspective of someone who tries to behave correctly and feels hurt when women he means no harm to react coldly to his friendly greetings. I can emphathize with that experience, understand that I’ll probably never get exactly how it feels because people are unlikely to react the same way to me, and still ultimately disagree about whose feelings are more important. I’d suggest that a man having the conversation with me could do the same – I’d certainly prefer that to being told that being catcalled is a compliment and that I should appreciate it, or that it’s not that hurtful or scary and shouldn’t affect other areas of my life.
“Cause to me it feels like those defending the “you’ll never understand, you’re just a man” are reserving the right to use a broader brushtroke on men than they will use on women.”
The people you’re arguing against in this thread seem to me to be making more of a “your understanding will be different on certain issues, and possibly not as in-depth, because you’re a man and will not have had the same experience, or possibly any experience with those issues, and therefore have not had to spend as much of your life thinking about those issues” argument. Which is not the same thing. It’s right there in Other Becky’s posts.
And the issue about how women are treated by men on the street, and having to decide how to deal with that, which eselle28 brings up, is something a lot of women (okay, maybe not all) have to think about as a matter of practicality, to a degree men don’t have to think about unless they choose to, and if they choose to, most likely with fewer potential practical consequences. That’s kind of the point, having to think about things versus choosing to think about things. It’s good if you choose to, but you’re unlikely to have thought the subject through to the same degree as someone who has no choice in the matter. Doesn’t mean your thoughts on the matter are invalid as a matter of course.
(And this is regardless of whether or not the online dating aspect of it that she brings up is in play. The online dating part is more of a specific variation of a larger set of how-to-deal-with-men-on-the-street issues that women are more likely to have had experience of.)
I think my last comment is a bit muddled, so I’m going to add another post attempting to clarify. In both the discussion with the woman and the man, I’d talk about my personal experiences and maintain the right for me to feel how I feel about my experiences, while respecting that others can do the same.
I’d probably parse the issue more with a woman, to see where any differences in perceptions of similar experiences might be. I’d not be willing to do so with a man, especially not if he attempted to use women he knows who are not present as a counter to my experiences. Those women can speak for themselves, and I’d prefer not to have to rely on someone else as a filter. The same would be true if a woman tried to use the feelings of someone not present as a comparison, though that seems to happen less often. I’d be happy to discuss catcalling experiences a man may have had, though I’d probably point out how gender makes that different.
The two discussions would probably have the same conclusion (neither a woman nor a man is going to convince me to take actions that make me feel unsafe or uncomfortable, while not benefiting anyone else much either) but I think the middle portion would be different.
It’s just as well you don’t call yourself a feminist, John. In my experience any dude that does is just trying to get laid by . . . feminists!
Just kidding. Sort of. :P
*ducks the barrage of rotten fruit pelted in my general direction*
Fortunately, no one here has suggested that anyone should have “more” equality.
eselle28: discussions that ask for understanding of why people behave in particular ways. …. A man might, however, be able to contribute the perspective of someone who tries to behave correctly and feels hurt when women he means no harm to react coldly to his friendly greetings.
Well, to me it feels like people like you are either rather rare in feminist circles or more extreme views are just a lot more vocal. It seems fairly common for at least some feminists to assume the worst intent of anyone who disagrees with them. An example of this was Becky telling me I had ignored her post except for “the part where you get to tell me that I’m over-emotional and imply that therefore I don’t really understand things as well as a disinterested observer”.
I never said that. I never said anythign remotely like that. But that’s how my disagreement gets reported back by her: If I disagree with someone about feminism, I can almost count on someone doing something like this. And rb just gave the “neener” icing on the cake for that.
Dismiss the disagreement with “how can he understand, he’s a man”, then demonize it by inserting the most malicious intent one can imagine to explain it “implying a woman can’t understand things as well as a man”. That last one kind of boggles my mind a bit. I’m arguing that one shouldn’t dismiss someone based on “he’s a man”, and it comes back as if I’m trying to say men are smarter than women.
I mean it’s not even like I said something wrong and “showed my ass”, it’s that I’m trying to say don’t dismiss people based on their gender, and then someone like rb got some crayons and went “Here’s a picture of your ass that I drew!”
It happens enough that this is another reason I don’t self identify with feminism.
I’m very much trying to avoid mediating or mulling over your conversations with people who are not me, but I do think it’s worth considering that you could fill in almost any viewpoint in place of “feminist” in your “assuming bad intent” complaint and it would still be true.
eselle28: I’d talk about my personal experiences and maintain the right for me to feel how I feel about my experiences,
Yes! And if anyone (male or female) tells you how you should feel, they need to back it up and let you have your expereience. The problem here isn’t that the person is a man, the problem is they’re telling you that you shouldn’t feel that way.
The thing is just because someone tries to report something in terms of their “experience”, doesn’t mean they get to make up their own facts. The immediate example is Becky saying I told her she’s over-emotional (which I never said) and Becky saying that I implied that she can’t understand as well as a man (which I never said nor implied).
Becky may have had experiences of men telling her she’s over emotional, she may have experiences of men telling her she can’t understand somehting as well as men can, and it might even be that what I said in some way brought those memories to the forefront for her. But that isn’t what I said and it isn’t what I implied.
And if people want to have conversations about their personal experiences and they want to exercise their right to feel how they want to feel about those experiences, that’s fine by me. But that also means they don’t get to rewrite my experiences, they don’t get to insert malicious intents into my mind, they don’t get to make up stuff that didn’t happen.
Once this starts happening, the conversation quickly spirals downward. ANd I’ve never seen any method to correct this particular downward spiral. Once people get to start taking theiir experience of something and transform it into that’s the way it really happened from everyone’s poitn of view, then it seems like its impossible to recover.
Hmm. I’ve remarked in the past that when I’m in a feminist space or engaging on feminist issues, I’m always acutely aware that I have the choice of being a cheerleader, being silent, or being silenced. And that this is a matter of credentials. Without identity credentials, I’m not offered the option of participative disagreement. So I think I see where Greg’s coming from about that.
eselle28: I do think it’s worth considering that you could fill in almost any viewpoint in place of “feminist” in your “assuming bad intent” complaint and it would still be true.
For me, of the groups I could self-identify with, the group that is “feminist” is the one group that seems to use “assume bad intent” against its own members as much as it does. Certainly, republicans assume bad faith about democrats and dems assume bad faith about reps. One group will assume bad intent of its opposing view group.
But feminists seem quite willing to attack their own, to strawman their own, to demonize their own, if they’re not feminist “enough”.
As a silly example, I’m an evolutionist. If I make a mistake about explaining how evolution works, I generally won’t expect someone to fabricate horrible intentions within my mind as to why I would do that. It would strike me as exceedingly odd for it to happen. But in a discussion among feminists, I find it extremely common to the point that I would be shocked if a lengthy thread managed to pull off a conversation without some inter-feminist assume-bad-intent attacks.
Am spinny-heady from cough meds, so this may be muddled and undoubtedly tl;dr, but:
1. Empathy, academic study and secondhand experience are great, but they are not the same thing as primary experience.
I can empathize with people who have experienced racism, especially as I have experienced other kinds of discrimination. I can also study racism (and do.) I have also witnessed the effects of racism on people of color I personally know. But I have not experienced racism, so I cannot say I truly understand what it feels like to be on the ass end of that. Presuming that you know as well as someone with direct experience does not make you an ally. Take a step back, and listen to the voices of actual experience, instead of trying to speak for them.
2. Can’t remember who said it originally, but: your feminism must be intersectional, or it is bullshit.
This means feminism is about understanding that people percieved as female will always, in virtually every culture, experience marginalization, at the very least, but that within that group, there are drastically different experiences based on other factors–race, orientation, ability, gender identity, etc.
Interestingly enough, there’s a big problem in third-wave feminism (and fourth-wave, too) in that a) it’s being supplanted with a generic, commodified “girl power” aesthetic and b) the people doing this reshaping are almost exclusively white, straight and at least middle class. The net result: girls and women who do not have these privileges feel excluded by what they see as the face of the modern movement, AND girls and women who have defined gender liberation in these terms reject intersectional feminism, because they see it as crimping their style.
This of course means that feminism must be inclusive of the needs of male-assigned-at-birth people who are percieved/identify as female. However, going back to point #1, it also means that said people need to understand that the experiences of female-assigned-at-birth people are qualitatively different. “Boys” acting in culturally-coded feminine ways do not get full male privilege, of course–on the contrary: in wearing the mantle of femininity, they take on the cultural hatred of women, and suffer for it. But even then, it’s still not exactly the same experience as female-identified people who were FAAB. This isn’t a “more oppressed than thou” thing. It’s “differently oppressed than thou” one, and something we all need to keep in mind in order to serve everyone who’s been negatively affected by gender inequality.
Bottom line: We’re all under the same umbrella in terms of fighting against gender inequality, but we do have unique needs based on our unique experiences of identity, race, etc., and those needs must be considered, instead of turning feminism into a straight, white, cisgendered monolith that looks mostly like a Spice Girls video.
Which leads me to:
3. Abusive gender-role requirements are the root problem, and all of us have a responsibility to fight that
Underlying all kinds of sexism and homophobia is the fact that we arbitrarily label traits and behaviors that have absolutely nothing to do with biology as “feminine” or “masculine” and violently maintain those categories as a polar-opposite binary. Part of the structure of institutionalized sexism, for instance, is maintaining the power imbalance by granting dominant traits to masculinity, and submissive ones to femininity, and punishing people for straying outside of their assigned list of traits: women for claiming male power, men for weakening it by refusing to be dominant.
The best thing, therefore, that any of us can do to fight sexism is to divorce the concept of gender from traits and behavior. That’s not easy to do, of course: there’s an enormous capitalist machine built on convicing people they need to buy stuff to make themselves more masculine or feminine, and thus worthy of having a mate. But until we recognize that, say, parenting has jackall to do with being a mother who gave birth to her child, we’re still going to have the same problems, over and over again.
Truncated version for the tl;dr crowd:
Feminism is not individualism, especially when the individual in question is swimming in privilege of many other kinds. The only real requirement of being a feminist is working toward freedom and justice for all people who suffer gender-based discrimination. If you’re working only for the freedom of people exactly like you, you’re doing it wrong.
Christopher Wright: “A beta male is like an alpha male, only with more patches. Still not ready for release but at least it compiles clean.”
Is this idea and/or phrasing original to you? Because I’m totally going to start spreading this around and need to know if you deserve the credit.
Yep, beta males do well enough to get work done, while we’re on the way to the glorious Man 2.0.
@Greg: Find the place where I said you can’t understand sexism because you’ll never need EC. I’ll wait. And while I grant that you never called me overemotional, and apologize for saying you did, the discussion of how (fear/anger/whatever) clouds judgment, etc, which definitely was present in your post, is, as I said, a common silencing technique. I didn’t say that you were invoking it deliberately. I suspect you weren’t. But I did, and do, notice that you have not engaged with anything else I’ve said. You’ve been making strawmen out of my arguments and ignoring all my other examples and analogies.
Do you really think I understand racism as well as a POC because I’ve watched my friend take precautions against being accused of shoplifting? I don’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand racism and its effects at all. It means that, as someone who can decide whether or not to think about racism and its influence on my life, I will never understand it as deeply as someone who doesn’t get to set it aside, ever. Having watched friends agonize over coming out to their parents does not give me the same level of understanding of homophobia that they have. I still do get it, but not completely. And that’s what I’m saying about sexism: someone who doesn’t have to live with it every single day is not going to understand certain aspects of it as well as someone who does.
I fail to see any sexism in that statement.
Are people seriously suggesting that a man can have an equivalent understanding of something a woman has lived experience of (and and as correlary, vice versa)?
Like, really. To be crass, a (cis) woman can have the experience of standing up, holding their dick, and urinating?
I think most (cis) women understand it on an intellectual level. I think some of them can take that understanding further and be competant – even excellent – doctors or anatomists or forensics scientists or whatnot and diagnose what is normal and what is not, and, yes, give relevant expert testimony in court or write about it intelligently. But, no, I do not think they get the lived experience level. Because they haven’t lived it every single day of their lives.
I do not think making the distinction between experience and thought is sexist.
Especially since most humans tend to be not-fantastic about predicting what even our own experiences of things would be when we think of them intellectually. Yes, there are exceptions, but still. ( example )
I also recall when I went through some first-responder-crisis-therapy training, one of the very strongest points they made was to never, ever say “I understand what you must be going through.” Because no. You are not them. This does not preclude, as Becky stated, compassion and sympathy. You can fully understand that what they must be going through is difficult. You can work to help them, be a shoulder to cry on, an ally in a protest. You can improve your own intellectual understanding. But you can never live their own life.
(At least not until Skynet.)
And… Karina beat me to this point, and in a more lighthearted way. Seriously, zippers.
@A Mediated Life: Flavia Dzodan wrote the original “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit” essay. I believe it’s at Tiger Beatdown.
Other Becky: Thank you!
There is internal dissent within almost every grouping of people possible. It’s certainly common within political parties, both as to philosophy and as to practical matters. I’m not a scientist, but I suspect that among evolutionary biologists, there are heated and perhaps nasty debates among researchers with differing theories about various aspects of evolution.
The same is true with feminism. This is a good thing. Groups that either don’t allow for dissent or that insist every opinion be accepted without question tend to stagnate. Of course, sometimes people are uncivil about things, particularly on the internet. But that’s a people being jerkfaces on the internet problem, not a feminism problem.
If you haven’t run into similar opposition when discussing evolution, I suspect you either have not been discussing it much or have limited your conversations to people who agree with you on the basics and who don’t know enough about or care to argue about more theoretical areas.
“I also recall when I went through some first-responder-crisis-therapy training, one of the very strongest points they made was to never, ever say “I understand what you must be going through.” Because no. You are not them. This does not preclude, as Becky stated, compassion and sympathy. You can fully understand that what they must be going through is difficult. You can work to help them, be a shoulder to cry on, an ally in a protest. You can improve your own intellectual understanding. But you can never live their own life.”
Yes, this. A thousand times this.
I think I’d tack on that it’s also possible to have compassion and sympathy for others’ suffering without reaching the false conclusion that all suffering is equal. It’s entirely possible to have some sympathy for someone experiencing, say, a loss of privilege while ultimately deciding that such a loss is not on par with someone’s suffering due to discrimination.
While I’m thinking about it, here’s a perfect example of how sexism affects different people in different ways: the “mommy” wars.
-Straight, white, cisgendered, middle-class, married women are told that if they work outside the home, they’re bad parents.
-Poor, single women, especially women of color, are told that if they DON’T work outside the home, they’re bad parents.
-Men are assumed to be less-qualified parents, and considered suspect if they want to spend much time with their kids.
-LGBT people are told that they’re not supposed to be parents at all.
In all of the above cases, the underlying problem is the same: the idealization of the “traditional,” gender-role-split nuclear family: breadwinning dad, stay-at-home mom, etc. That ideal, and the constant cultural pressure to achieve it harms just about everyone who isn’t able or doesn’t want to ape that ideal in order to be a parent. And yet, the same problem affects everyone above in different ways. Feminism has to address the needs of everyone affected by this. Chipping away at the symptoms affecting one group may help that group, but it does nothing to help the other folks. Addressing the root problem–the idea that that there’s a single “best” family dynamic in which to raise children–is the only thing that will help everyone. And only if we all work together to address that root problem will we have the power necessary to solve it.
I’m sorry, I fell down laughing at this one. Democrats (dog love ’em) practically invented the circular firing squad, and I spent two years logging onto Newsvine and w/o finding a single solitary comment thread that didn’t devolve into RINO calls. No, Feminists are not all group hugs and lets look at each others’ vaginas in peace and acceptance, but c’mon.
Eric Saveau: Greg does this whenever he is the recipient of criticism suggesting his view of himself as perfectly unbiased, logical, reasonable, etc., is incorrect or incomplete, or his intellectual consideration of something less valid than lived experience. He did it during RaceFail, he’s done it in numerous sexism-related conversations since. During RaceFail, when someone noted that everyone has subconscious racism, he repeatedly waved his Implicit Association test results to prove he wasn’t and no one had any right lumping him into a group that was. Everyone else might be, but not him. He WILL NOT admit he is wrong, that people aren’t saying things the way he’s interpreting them and responding to, while demanding that no inference or interpretation of his words be permitted, only his actual literal words. The exchange above with OtherBecky and others is classic Greg. A great guy to demolish poor arguments and genuine obtuseness, but fully equipped with rafter in the eye.
@minaria, Every woman I know who’s been asked as to what they’d do first if in a male body, has said “Pee standing up”. It seems so convenient, if perilous with dangling and zippers and all.
Other Becky: Find the place where I said you can’t understand sexism because you’ll never need EC. I’ll wait.
I was talking with Gulliver about why I dont self identify as a feminist. I said the following: ““You’re a man, you don’t understand.” is sexism. I think I understand, it’s just that I disagree on some issues.”. I hadn’t said anything to you at that point. I was talking about various feminists I’ve encountered and that this behavior is one of the reasons I don’t say I’m a “feminist”.
To this, you replied: But if you’ve never felt that gut-level panic of needing [emergency contraception] … then there’s a level at which you don’t understand.
In that same post I also said: If the rule was “you’re not a feminist unless you have a fundamental interest” in it, then I’d be fine with that if it were applied to ALL men. But it isn’t. It’s only applied to men who aren’t feminist enough.
So, I was talking about being dismissed for disagreeing with some feminist on the grounds of my opinion doesn’t matter because I’m a man and I don’t really understand the issue. And that was your response. I assume it was in the context of the part which you quoted and replied to: I think I understand feminism and I just disagree with certain aspects of it. And you brought it back to I can never understand.
the discussion of how (fear/anger/whatever) clouds judgment, etc, which definitely was present in your post
Because you brought up the idea of panic being something I could never possibly understand. Panic is panic.
Do you really think I understand racism as well as a POC because I’ve watched my friend take precautions against being accused of shoplifting?
do you really think people of color can solve racism without white people? Do you really think women can solve the problems of sexism without men?
I’m going to jump in on this one because it seems like an overarching point. Saying that you can’t understand sexism or racism or any other kind of -ism as well as someone else who hasn’t experienced it doesn’t mean that you aren’t a vital part of the solution. It just means that there areas of the problem that you’re working to solve that you can have compassion for, but may not understand in the same way someone else does.
I hope you’re not implying that people working to combat racism or sexism or whatever other -ism should pretend this isn’t the case so as to be more appealing to privileged people who might otherwise ignore the problem or perpetuate it.
Really, it’s as simple as changing your mindset from, “I want to help you, and here’s how I’m going to do it” to “I want to help you, so please tell me what you would like me to do.”
Greg: “When the response boils down to “You don’t understand because you’re a man”, that pretty much reduces the discussion to ones and zeroes. You’re either with us or against us. Digital.”
Well, if someone says that to you, by all means you should disagree with them. Meanwhile, would you like to discuss what people here have said?
@Greg: Wow, you really are finding every possible way to avoid my point. I never said you couldn’t understand panic. I said that you couldn’t completely understand a particular kind of panic. As a counterexample, you mention having been in life-threatening situations. I don’t think I ever have been. I have been frightened for my physical safety before, so I think I have some idea how that might feel, but I would never claim to fully understand a feeling I’ve never experienced.
Similarly, I asked, “Do you really think I understand racism as well as a POC because I’ve watched my friend take precautions against being accused of shoplifting?” Somehow, you turned that into a question of whether white people should be involved in fighting against racism. I really am at a loss to figure out how.
This is a bit behind, but… I found it! I found it!
Like Daughter, Like Father: How Women’s Wages Change When CEOs Have Daughters
from @ cranapia:
basically, I agree with Gulliver, but to add my own $.02:
I don’t think that’s quite what martin english was saying. martin english stated he saw average white males becoming feministic upon having a daughter, not that all average white males only become feminists after they have daughters. A sometimes leading to B does not mean nothing else can lead to B and all that jazz.
Personally, I know lots of people who haven’t had children who are at least somewhat feminist, but that doesn’t mean that others haven’t starting being feminist or more feminist, or even that some of my lovely friends and acquaintances won’t become more feminist if they have daughters. (Likewise anecdotally, some of the most chauvinistic people I deal with are much older, but some of the most blind-to-sexism-because-its-a-solved-problem-duh people or why-are-you-discussing-this-there-are-much-more-important-things-you-should-deal-with-you-do-realize-people-are-starving-in-africa people I deal with are 20-somethings; I sometimes wonder if the 20-somethings will change if they have daughters)
Personally, I think it a reasonable hypothesis that someone starts realizing that gender roles need to be taught makes their little grey cells really start to tick. This can happen in any number of ways… but it also seems like a reasonable hypothesis that it could happen a lot to parents teaching their children. Regardless of the mechanism of how it happens, there is at least some evidence for it happening in the study I linked above.
@ general trans discussion:
As white and mostly cis myself, not showing my ass to trans persons is definitely something I’ve had to work on and am still working on. I knew the word cis! … I looked it up a month ago. A light-hearted example: the musical La Cage Aux Folles? Good? Bad? The Birdcage? (I’m not being flippant, I really don’t know, and am working on trying to (intellectually) understand.)
@ greg (though not really @, just a jumping off point):
I think this can be an interesting analogy, but not quite in this manner.
For example, take something small, like, say, messing up a little bit with the Pre-Cambrian. That would be a mistake about evolution. If you did it in a public forum, that could be considered showing an ass, especially if it was done in an asshole-showing way. “No I am definitely sure about this Alice/Bob, the Pre-Cambrian ended 500 million years ago.” How embaressing, it ended 541 million years ago!
It would likely be swiftly corrected. Perhaps not kindly if the ass showing was large, but it would be over. No lunch mobs. Maybe it would get brought up in a roast later, if the AAAS decided to have one or something and the ass shower was a large enough evolutionist to be roasted.
I think this is the sort of thing intended; making a mistake about evolution. It is to be compared to making a mistake about feminism, which is (uniquely!) followed up by lunch* mobs and people demanding the beginning of the Feminist Card Revoking Ceremony.
But the same could happen with evolutionists. If a published scientist got up and stated, “I have a biology degree, but I think creationism should be taught in schools because it is a valid way of seeing the world.” Holy cow would the lunch mobs emerge! Why, they’d probably be shamed on The Friendly Atheist or by PZ Myers. People might demand the beginning of the Evolutionist Card Revoking Ceremony, or even *gasp* say said scientist lacks a basic understanding of science and is not *gasp!* actually a scientist. In fact, I think such things have actually happened.
(Wasn’t John Davison, “Professor of Biology Emeritus” banned from commenting all over various atheist blogs for being a particularly nasty creationist, despite being a biologist, and therefore “credentialed”?)
This is much more equivalent to when someone makes a statement like, “I support equality for women, but seriously chicks calm down” or (more politically, less bad-standup-y), “I support equality for women, but I don’t support making it easier for them to sue against discrimination in court by extending the deadline in which to bring a suit.” And I don’t expect a particularly nasty Professor of Gender Studies that routinely called women overemotional bags-o-slut or somesuch to last particularly long as a commenter on moderated blogs discussing or about feminism, regardless of their published or Emeritus status. And some might go so far as to demand No Feminism Card for You, or How Can You Teach Gender Studies.
Neither of these seem too unfair to me: calling out people who explicitly claim to follow some principle(s) and then espouse an opinion that does not follow from those principle(s) does not seem unreasonable. People assigning labels is ultimately their own deal; I find it difficult to think of someone as a biologist if they don’t accept evolution, but it’s not like my thinking that is going to change what they call themselves. But maybe if enough people likewise think that, others will align or re-align to, ex., think “ah, calling women chicks and telling them to STFU is not aligned with equality,” which I would agree with and support.
Additionally, there are, indeed, plenty of ways to more minorly show ones ass about feminism without “hoards” demanding Teh Ceremony, from expressing yourself poorly and apologizing sincerely, holding a different position on a non-core issue (ex., votes for women is pretty core to equality; inheritance of traits from parents through genes is pretty core to evolution) (I think, for ex., this has even happened with The Friendly Atheist and The Blag Hag) (about having differing opinions about some feminism topic, not about votes for women or genetics, because, well, yea), or screwing up some basic fact, or not having some knowledge. Like, “Geeze, I though Dworkin died in the 50s.” (actually 1946-2005). (So I was a bit off.)
That is far more like like small ass showing in the evolution world.
(Yes, all of the examples for the small mistakes I looked up on wikipedia. *blush*)
* is this a “sic” if I intended it to be lunch? Because, yeah, real lynch mobs don’t happen on the internet. But I liked a previous thread’s lunch mob. nomnomnom.
And to be silly….
*cough* surgery *cough*
Actually, I think I can draw out a point from my silliness. One should, perhaps, exclude anyone but a surgeon and nurses and such from the surgery room during surgery. But one shouldn’t prevent anyone who wants to to learn whatever they can about surgery, nor exclude them from participating in any overall discussion about surgery. Does that mean foolish ideas shouldn’t get discarded? (Don’t sterilize your hands!) No. (You should sterilize your hands.) But is there a potential for better care? (Study xyz from blahblahblah supports a more effective way of ensuring sterilized hands) I would like to think so.
And the same can be true of feminism, surely.
Whatever the, erm, operating room of feminism is.
Maybe not the best of analogies….
A (final) thought (hullo Gulliver, I took your long-post card, erm, sorry): I decided to donate to planned parenthood this year. While doing so the person encouraged me to up my pledge enough to become a lifetime member. “Why would I want to do that?” I asked, and she said, essentially, that the larger number they can claim, they more power they have when speaking to other powers (hello congress). If the same be true with feminism, well maybe believing in equality isn’t such a bad low bar.
OK, Greg, how about this:
Each member of the Fellowship could empathize with Frodo’s burden, but only Frodo himself knew the exact experience of that burden. Frodo, of course, needed the help of the Fellowship, especially Sam, to complete his task, but he was the only one who could carry the Ring.
Just because someone says, “Trust me, you don’t want to carry this Ring” doesn’t mean they’re saying “And piss off, because I don’t need your help to pitch the thing into Mt. Doom.”
@A Meditated Life:
That is an awesome analogy.
I like this tldr idea, so tldr; study about wage disparity decreasing after CEOs had daughters! Erm, people can harp on scientists, too, not just feminists. And feminists can deal with things like disagreements maturely as well. Discussion can be a good thing, yaay! And so can the power of numbers.
(Wow, that’s much shorter…)
This brings us back to the point I made earlier about the importance of knowing the history of feminism; the white women you are referring to were quoting Yoko Ono.
Your ignorance of this is, unfortunately, commonplace, just as your willingness to assume that the white women in question were being racist without bothering to inform yourself of the origin of the statement is commonplace.
Ignorance really isn’t helpful to anyone, apart from people with a vested interest in maintaining their position by encouraging ignorance…
eselle28: It just means that there areas of the problem that you’re working to solve that you can have compassion for, but may not understand in the same way someone else does.
the recent thread that morphed into a conversation about men opening doors for women, and the assessment of this seemed to boil down to: if you open doors for women, then you’re probably doing it to make yourself feel better about something really sexist you’re doing, and you’re being condescending to women and infantilizing women.
I’m not bringing it up to reopen that thread. I’m bringing it up as a perfect example of how this: I’d talk about my personal experiences and maintain the right for me to feel how I feel about my experiences, while respecting that others can do the same. isn’t how conversations structure themselves. It’s never just a discussion of person A’s experience of something and person B’s experience of that thing or something else.
People render judgements. And some people retrofit facts and intentions to fit their judgements. And I don’t need certain (non)dangly bits to see when people are rendering judgements and I don’t need certain (non)dangly bits to see when people are fabricating facts, intentions, and whatnot.
Yeah, I will never know what it’s like to have to put up with catcalls ever day. I’ll never know what its like to be asked if I plan on having children and whether that will affect a potential job offer. And if conversations about gender equality were limited strictly to women telling men what its like to be catcalled every day, and women telling men what its like to have an interviewer ask if they’re planning on having kids, if the conversations were limited strictly to women telling men what the experience of being women is like, then thta would be one thing. But its not that thing.
People take those experiences, and they render judgements. They put themselves on a metaphorical jury. And when someone fabricates a fact, it’s no longer a matter of me never knowing really what its like to be catcalled every day. It’s no longer just about someone’s experience. It’s about facts and the judgement people reach based on those facts. And people have a right to their own opinions, but they don’t have a right their own facts.
Bearpaw: Meanwhile, would you like to discuss what people here have said?
Well, I mentioned Benjemin’s reference to “weak tea”, rWhite saying “feminist” should only be used by people “actively” involved in feminism, Kat trying to blame all the bad press about feminism on the “far right”, rb trying to portray imminent death as some sort of transcendental experience, and Becky strawmanning me as saying she’s “over-emotional” and that I implied that she doesn’t “really understand” things as well as men.
Did I miss more nuggets?
@ Christopher Wright/ Lurkertype:
Your beta versions compile clean? Lucky….
Also @ Lurkertype:
I can’t/won’t blame women for wanting to pee cleanly/easily standing up; I’ve been hiking!
@ Other Becky:
An article to look up to
forceencourage me to be more inclusive! Huzzah!
@ A Meditated Life:
I think I should just wait for you to respond, because you do it better and shorter. (Well, okay, one of your posts was long, but it was also good)
Seriously, fantastic analogy. Fantastic.
I completely forgot about that. I think all scientists can argue bitterly over minutia too small to be seen by the unspecialized eye.
I can see it now…. “You honestly think that the ion channel receptor will function normally in a saline solution deviating .05 from normal!?”
*shudder* Maybe I just wanted to forget. I’ve been skipping the informal reading group at my workplace recently… *cough*
Only tangentially related: a contemporary of Darwin argued against sexual selection quite heatedly, because females were just too dumb to make decisions. At all. Yes, really. All of them. Every species. Ever. For all time! Amazing, really, how dumb they are. Or were. For millennia. (It’s perhaps not surprising that I didn’t bother remembering his name. When you stand out as being sexist during the Victorian Era, you are a special, special fool.)
Agreed! Sorry if I implied otherwise.
Don’t forget the many republican pundits are now saying Romney lost because he RINO… There was even a lovely example of a (anti-gay) pundit on NPR’s Talk of the Nation literally calling a self-identified Republican caller entirely wrong for thinking that his under 30 generation supported marriage equality. I think the young Republican was more stunned than I was.
the white women you are referring to were quoting Yoko Ono.
Your ignorance of this is, unfortunately, commonplace
How in God’s name does it make it any better that they were quoting Yoko Ono? White women quoting a Japanese woman who’s appropriating the n-word is no better than white women independently appropriating the n-word. And why do you assume no one knows they were quoting Ono? I thought it was common knowledge. The point is that they thought it was okay to do this and it was not okay, even when Ono did it.
@Lurkertype, I was just riffing, so I’ll be happy to take credit for it but chances are someone else came up with it independently as well. :D
@minaria, they compile. I make to claims to them actually running. :D
“your willingness to assume that the white women in question were being racist”
Racism isn’t determined by the privileged anymore than sexism is. Your use of “assume” assumes the important question is what the white women were deciding to be and not to what extent women of color felt valued and included in the protest.
The history of feminism includes women of color being told quite literally that they are not welcome at feminist marches. Claiming that it is ok to use quotes like that in public marches where they are meant to be seen by people who have no idea of the context of the quote, and will certainly also be seen by colored women who know the history of white feminist’s exclusion of colored women and abuse of that quote – that’s like claiming it’s not problematic to burn crosses on lawns because the original practice comes from Scotland, long before the Ku Klux Klan.
btw – it’s also not precisely a quote, it’s also the title of a song (which has that phrase as part of it’s lyrics). And the fact that it comes from a colored woman (and a white man) does not mean it’s not possible for the song or the quote to be problematic, especially as the woman in question is not black.
OtherBecky, drachefly and Dave Crisp: Thank you for the responses (re: origins of cis-) – now I’ll remember where the heck it comes from :-).
Actually, Greg, you were just eager to show your snippidness on my comment, not sure if you bothered reading the whole of it, but you definitely didn’t bother “discussing.”
Stevie, your assumption that I didn’t know the origin of the quote is interesting, given that I linked to a blog post that points out that she was quoting Yoko Ono. I even summarized the blog post along with my link, specifically mentioning the song.
The woman who held up that sign was being racist. The fact that she was quoting a woman of color, who was also being racist, does not make it ok. As is explained in the blog post I linked to, which you apparently not only did not read, but also assumed that I did not read, in spite of me having summarized its contents.
Ignorance really isn’t helpful to anyone, Stevie. Apart from people with a vested interest in maintaining their position by encouraging ignorance. You know, like you just did.
Becky: Similarly, I asked, “Do you really think I understand racism as well as a POC because I’ve watched my friend take precautions against being accused of shoplifting?” Somehow, you turned that into a question of whether white people should be involved in fighting against racism. I really am at a loss to figure out how.
I will never know how it feels to be black. But I’ve never seen a discussion of racism restrict itself to only discuss people’s personal feelings and experiences of being black.
Which is the main reason this whole “you’re a man, you’ll never understand” thing lands as nonsense. Because its never just about feelings. It’s never just about experiences.
Once the conversatoin gets beyond feelings, once it gets into facts, and judgements, and possible solutions, and such and whatnot, then the question to you is this: do you think whites ought to be excluded from those conversations as well?
For example, once you went beyond your personal feelings and experiences and started asserting the “fact” that I said you were “over-emotional”, I think my lack of experience with how it feels to panic at the thought of needing emergency contraception, becomes irrelevant.
A reminder once more to everyone to be polite and cordial to each other. All y’all are getting a bit cranky .
I’m not sure how “never understand as well as” started getting translated into “never understand.” Seems to me that some folks are talking past each other for some reason.
Wow, this thread moves fast…
asdfa: I don’t think identifying as feminist and identifying as democrat is the same thing. Far from it. A democrat is someone who generally chooses to agree with a set of stances on several different (usually controversial within a society) issues that a group that’s picked the label “democrat” has generally agreed to prescribe to – and “democrat” in the U.S. is by definition different that “democrat” in, let’s say, Europe.
On the other hand, there’s nothing controversial (or, at least, there shouldn’t be anything controversial in a civilized society) about the issue at the heart of feminism (male or female, or transgendered, etc. people have equal intrinsic value to society – no, they are not the same, nobody is, but they’re born with equal rights – and should be treated so by the law and by their fellow human beings).
And no, I don’t think merely awareness and a normal reaction when faced with sexism is enough for anyone to claim a self-identification like “feminist.” (it’s adhering to a fundamental principle, otherwise, we’d all be running around with a gazillion labels … I’m a forethoughtist, awarist, educationalist, personal responsibilitist and social dutiist, etc…)
By the way, another reason I cringe when someone uses “feminist” for the general principle of gender equality, and not as reference to the label of a specific activity grounded in its historical significance, is because that’s not how the English language works. Is being a “manist” the same as being a “feminist”? I mean, “gender” refers to both the male and female genders (and those in-between or both or none), so the words should either be interchangeable, or invalid in this context. If you want to keep your principle neutral, you have to keep your labels neutral too. I do think “humanist” would be more appropriate, although as a label, it’s been already taken by a specific philosophical stance.
Oh, and I don’t get why some “feminists” take offense to using “humanist” to include the principle of gender equality – I’d appreciate it if someone explains. The way I see it, a woman is a human, and that’s where the discussion should really end (if it was even necessary, in the first place – I kind of consider it self-evident). No human should be put down or held back due to stereotypes, religious or social dogmas, skewed perceptions, misconceptions, fears, or flare-ups of unhealthy narcissism – as no human should find their self-worth in which gender, or race, or nationality, etc. they were born (because, guess what, you did nothing to deserve it anyway, and if that’s the one thing you have to show for your identity and self-worth, you’re one damn sorry human being).
(and yes, I know it should be “masculinist” and not “manist” — just thought it sounded more ridiculous for rethoric purposes)
A Mediated Life: Each member of the Fellowship could empathize with Frodo’s burden, but only Frodo himself knew the exact experience of that burden. Frodo, of course, needed the help of the Fellowship, especially Sam, to complete his task, but he was the only one who could carry the Ring.
Nice analogy to explain “experience”. Of course, I think Frodo (and especially Tolkein) would probably have been better served at the end by finding some help specifically dealing with his PTSD. But it’s a good story to bring up to explain that Frodo is going to have his own unique experience of the ring.
I would point out that there was also that bit where Frodo accused Sam of eating all the lembas bread. At which point its no longer just about Frodo’s experience. It’s about facts and judgements and assessments and what not. Luckily in the end, truth won out and Frodo realized he had been wrong about Sam.
It’s a good tool for explaining experience. I might steal it in the future.
Also, Sam was a ring-bearer for a while, so they have shared experience there… although Sam is the only person in the entire history of Middle Earth who was ever able to willingly give up the ring voluntarily, so…
(me == pedant)
I went and reviewed that thread. The primary snarl with you there was that you felt that opening doors wasn’t something worth fighting over, and that other people disagreed. You made a coupe of brief allusions to reasons why you might be inclined to open a door, but people mostly left those alone. You were arguing with people who disagreed with you (and, for the record, I’m on their side in that fight), but I didn’t see anyone try to silence you. People did focus on Kilroy, who did explain his reasons for opening doors for women. It’s not that people disregarded his statements so much as they felt they bolstered the theory that door-opening was done for unpleasant, condescending reasons.
As for the larger discussion, facts and judgments matter as well. But without statistical data we have to make assumptions about what the facts of the situation are. As I mentioned in the catcalling example, there are times when a person’s gender may affect their exposure to certain forms of sexism. The degree of harm done by various acts is also a fact that’s taken into consideration, and there, the feelings of victims are especially important. We don’t have a neutral factfinder or set of facts in most discussions, so many times the facts are up for discussion. I wouldn’t say you can’t contribute any, but I think it’s good to examine what your basis of knowledge is.
There are also other factors that people take into account when making decisions. Many of those aren’t exerience-based, so being a woman who’s had the experience being discussed isn’t an automatic argument winner. You can cede the point that you don’t know what it feels like to be catcalled, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, and then go on to oppose the suggestion that people guilty of catcalling should be….oh, what’s something ridiculous?…eaten alive by rats for any number of practical or ethical reasons. You can do that without telling people how they ought to feel about catcalling, or door-opening, or anything else.
Ahem. Bilbo gave up the Ring after *many, many* years of owning it. (And of course there’s Tom Bombadil, but he doesn’t really count as an ordinary person.)
@Greg: I did both apologize for and retract the “over-emotional” bit. If you missed it the first time (given the rate at which posts are flying around in here), I’ll repeat it: you never did say that, and I’m sorry that I said otherwise.
I will never know how it feels to be black. But I’ve never seen a discussion of racism restrict itself to only discuss people’s personal feelings and experiences of being black.
No, neither have I. But failing to allow for the fact that black people’s experiences are a) relevant and b) not shared by white people would make for a pretty useless, and frustrating, conversation about race and racism. Your statement that you will never know how it feels to be black seems to me like you’re saying that there are some aspects of the experience of racism that you’ll never fully understand. No one has said that white people should be excluded from the work of combating racism, just as no one has said that men should be excluded from the work of combating sexism.
The assertion that I originally made was that there are, in fact, some things about sexism that you will never completely understand, because you’re a man. Just as there are things I will never completely understand because I’m white/straight/cisgendered/etc.
I will never know what it’s like to have to put up with catcalls ever day. I’ll never know what its like to be asked if I plan on having children and whether that will affect a potential job offer.
This is pretty much what I’ve been saying. I’m glad we agree on the principle, even if we don’t agree on the wording.
I think the point of conflict here may be that you’re using “understand” to mean something on the order of “be aware of/familiar with”, whereas I’m using “completely understand” to mean something closer to “grok the fullness of”.
He *almost* gave up the ring voluntarily, but he didn’t actually give it up voluntarily — he dropped it when Gandalf scared the bejeezus out of him. Bilbo still gets major props for being able to walk away from it after he dropped it, especially after wearing it for so long. But the ring had begun to seduce him, whereas it tried with Sam and Sam just laughed at it.
I wasn’t counting Tom, because Tom. :D
I’m not generally up in arms about how people identify. If someone calls himself or herself a humanist and supports feminist principles, I’m glad to have someone else on board with those ideals.
I occasionally cringe when “humanism” comes up in a discussion about “feminism,” but that’s more because it’s sometimes used (not always intentionally) to shift the discussion from the problems of women to the problems of atheists, or nerdy teenagers, or some other group the person raising the point identifies with.
I also think that there are times when it’s worth talking about the individual histories of specific groups. The overriding principle of respecting everyone remains the same, but sometimes the stereotypes and sensitivities to be aware of differ.
Yay! A fellow Agatha Christie fan :)
One association that might help geeks remember that it’s the opposite of trans- is to compare it to the prefixes use in astronomy for positions relative to celestial bodies. Cislunar, for example, is on this side of our Moon’s orbit, whereas translunar is out beyond lunar orbit.
Actually, I appreciate it. With my interminable aggregate posts, I’m sometimes concerned I’m hogging the scrollbar. It’s nice to see some balance to my prolixity. I tend to drop in on my phone or tablet and skim throughout the day, but usually only post when I’m near a proper keyboard. My partner says I’ve traded my BoingBoing addiction for a Whatever habit. But, damn it, the threads here are so damn interesting! I don’t even read comments on most sites because a) that would be the death knell of my productivity and b) they’re usually more depressing than enlightening.
@ Greg, et. al.
1) There is a difference between understanding something intellectually and experiencing it firsthand. And yes, in feminism and every other controversial area of human experience, from Israel to drug addiction to high art, there are some who will use that divide as a blanket dismissal of whatever outsiders have to say. But to assume that therefore anyone who points out the divide is simply crawling behind a cop-out is equally dismissive. More to the point, when an outsider attempts to accuse an insider of trying to shut down discussion any time they suggest an outsider’s opinion is less relevant than the opinion of someone who experiences that about which the opinion opines, it comes off as armchair quarterbacking.
2) Experiential knowledge is not more or less anything than intellectual knowledge, but it is different.
3) We’ve established on multiple occasions that there is individual sexism, which can be directed at either gender by either gender, and systemic sexism, which is a feature of the landscape tilted against women. I can’t believe we’re really rehashing that discussion yet again.
You now claim that you knew that it was Yoko Ono’s statement; if that is true why didn’t you say so in your original post for the benefit of people reading it?
Admittedly to do so would have prohibited you from claiming that wicked white feminists were responsible for the phrase, but it would at least have had the virtue of honesty.
Your latest claim is that Yoko Ono is racist; you have provided no evidence of any kind to support that claim, but then based on your posts, evidence is not one of your strongpoints…
There’s also cisalpine Gaul and transalpine Gaul, for the classics geeks among us.
Stevie, I linked to a blog post that explains why her statement was racist. That’s called support. And evidence. Since the song is extremely well-known, I didn’t imagine anyone needed to be told it existed.
I’d ask you to show me where I said anything about ‘wicked white feminists,’ or where I said that white feminists of any kind were ‘responsible’ for the phrase, but it’s obvious at this point that you’re just being willfully obtuse. So we’re done here.
On the other hand, there’s nothing controversial (or, at least, there shouldn’t be anything controversial in a civilized society) about the issue at the heart of feminism (male or female, or transgendered, etc. people have equal intrinsic value to society – no, they are not the same, nobody is, but they’re born with equal rights – and should be treated so by the law and by their fellow human beings).
And no, I don’t think merely awareness and a normal reaction when faced with sexism is enough for anyone to claim a self-identification like “feminist.” (it’s adhering to a fundamental principle, otherwise, we’d all be running around with a gazillion labels … I’m a forethoughtist, awarist, educationalist, personal responsibilitist and social dutiist, etc…)
But, do you honestly think its not controversial to have strong feminist views? That’s nice and all but I don’t think its true in modern american society, let alone some other societies around the world right now. And “normal” reactions are not so simple, either. Its often understandable psychologically why people want to blame the victim (think it can’t happen to them, etc) or say its not that big of a deal (they don’t know how often it happens, etc) – it often takes education and serious thought for even good intelligent equal-minded people to come around to feminist views on this stuff, what you’d like to call “normal” views. Even me personally, growing up female and being taught I could do anything boys could do, I did not have a lot of those “normal” feminist views when I was 17 because I just didn’t know any better. As I learned about how unfair things still were and saw rape culture and injustice first-hand in college, and started to read about similar situations in the wider world, I started to identify as feminist, and talk about and pay attention to those principles in my everyday life and the conversations I have with acquaintances. I think I’m being feminist when I stand up to the dude catcalling me at the bus stop or the salesman who explains to me that girls are worse at owning phones because they’re not smart enough to not drop them. I think I’m being feminist when I refuse to let my coworkers or underlings get away with making sexist comments at work. Are you saying I can’t call myself feminist because I don’t spend enough time writing pamphlets? (I bet the guys I work with would disagree with you – they sure think of me as feminist.)
I think its more productive in general if more people are willing to claim the label of feminist (as long as they’re not lying on purpose to mess with us). What is gained by telling people they can’t call themselves feminist? I’d rather get them to the point where they want to call themselves feminist, and then point out that maybe there’s more they could be doing or other issues they could consider if that’s what they care about.
“Humanist,” while it usually comes from a place of good intentions, does often have the effect of derailing and promoting false equivalence, and thus I think it should be avoided. Men of course stand to benefit if sexism is eradicated, but let’s not pretend that they are its victims in equal measure.
This doesn’t mean men don’t belong in the movement. On the contrary, I think more of them should be involved, because deconstructing gender is the only way we’re going to get out of this, and men need to be part of that demolition team, too. But yes, this movement is about achieving legal, economic and social parity for people perceived as female, and thus calling it feminism isn’t a misnomer.
FWIW, it’s important to understand that the very few people on the radical fringes who want the movement to be about separatism or supremacy most definitely do not represent feminism in any real way, and their numbers have been greatly exaggerated by a media culture seeking to discredit the movement in toto. (There’s a much longer rant in here about the Backlash, and the ’80s commercial coopting of feminism to sell sexism, etc., but I won’t bore y’all with it. ;) ) If you don’t want those people to be the only faces of feminism, then be a face of it yourself.
@A Mediated Life…I agree with SF and minaria. I bow to you. That’s as good as the trans-as-The Doctor analogy.
@Greg: Frodo, Tolkien, PTSD, whole rant and discussion we’ll have sometime, but totally OT in this thread, more’s the pity.
One more thought – yeah, maybe I don’t do enough as a feminist. Maybe confronting sexism in my everyday life and educating my friends on the issues isn’t enough, and I should take the time to do something more active and obvious like volunteering somewhere. But which argument do you want to have with me – do you want to tell me I am not a feminist, or do you want to tell me about other stuff I could be doing to further the cause?
Thanks for the kind feedback, folks. And oh, how I’d adore a Tolkienista discussion, but alas … ;)
Greg: I think the conversation has moved much farther along than where we were this morning, so I’ll leave that be.
“2) Experiential knowledge is not more or less anything than intellectual knowledge, but it is different.”
I would say ‘Whatever else experiential knowledge is or is not, it is different than intellectual knowledge.’ Because if something is not more or less *anything* than something, it is the same.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I say I’m a feminist, I’m stating something about my fundamental beliefs and values and how important they are to me, not necessarily something about how I spend my free hours each week.
And as nice as it would be if all my views were normal and standard, the fact is they’re not normal and standard in our society. It takes education at the very least, and probably some more fundamental stuff about willingness to see other people’s points of view and a commitment to fairness, for most people to come around to those views.
Now, if I wanted to express being active in the feminist movement, I’d probably tack on a word like activist.
@ Other Bill
To quote Bill Lumbergh, I’m gonna have to go ahead and sort of disagree with you. My point was that the two types of knowledge are not comparable in the sense of existing in the same continuum. It’s like the fallacy of degrees of realism. An abstraction is not more real than an instantiation, it’s real in a completely different way.
@ Xopher, A Mediated Life, Greg…
Let me know when you all are gonna deconstruct Tolkien and I’ll grab my postmodern cap. LOTR is one of the few high fantasy works I’ve read.
Gulliver: I think we agree?
Becky, thanks for the apology.
I think the point of conflict here may be that you’re using “understand” to mean
The “you’re a man, you don’t understand” conversations generally occur for me as a “you can’t say anything valid about this conversation”. I get I can’t tell someone they shouldn’t feel panic by the lack of emergency contraception. But I don’t need to experience the panic of needing emergency contraceptives to point out when a feminist just did a mind read on someone they disagree with, did a strawman, misapplied statistics, or similar issues. And yet, the “you’re a man, you don’t understand” doesn’t seem to limit itself to just “feelings”, but any sort of disagreement.
I think we were using different definiitons from the beginning.
eselle28: We don’t have a neutral factfinder or set of facts in most discussions, so many times the facts are up for discussion.
That doesn’t mean facts are totally up for grabs. And it doesn’t mean mind reads, subjective interpretations, and unfalsifiable statements are anything resembling “facts”. Most of the stuff said about door openers was fabricated hypotheticals and mind reads.
I wouldn’t say you can’t contribute any, but I think it’s good to examine what your basis of knowledge is.
Meh. Robin mentioned a RaceFail thread from a while ago. The common meme then was “everyone is racist”. Someone supporting the idea of “everyone is racist” offered a link to a site that would test what degree of implicit racial bias you have, and suggested people go there to find out just how biased they are. So I took the test. The website said if I had any implicit racial bias, that it was negligible. I reported it back on the thread. The general response by people who were attached to the “everyone is racist” meme was to disregard the test result and reassert the meme. Everyone MUST be racist.
The basis for my knowledge is that it be testable, objective, falsifiable. Statitics can indicate a systemic bias issue, but that doesn’t mean every incident must therefore by bias.. And despite what Robin says, if I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. But I’m not going to take someone’s mind-read “because I say so” and let that override the basics of how we really know something.
There’s plenty of actual, objective information to point ot sexual bias issues. But none of that is any kind of proof that Kilroy was sexist for opening doors. And if he really was a sexist prick, my philosophy would be to give him enough rope to hang himself. Let him be chivalrous, and ask him what he thought about Harris’s rant. If he really is a sexis prick using chivalry to feel better about his sexist ways, my guess is it wouldn’t take long for him to say something clearly sexist and undefensible. As it is, even the detractors said door opening was actually a good deed with no direct negative consequence. It’s just something minor that sexist pigs do to feel better about their evil, sexist ways.
I changed a tire for a woman in a parking lot one time. I’ve never changed a tire for a man. I think the statistical sample is too small to say anything about my choice. But my guess is some folks have already started inserting evil intentiosn into my mind.
You can do that without telling people how they ought to feel about catcalling, or door-opening, or anything else.
I don’t think I told anyone how they should feel on this thread, or the door opener thread. I’ve tried to limit it to how certain things feel for me and some examples and such to support that.
A Mediated Life:
THIS! This, this this this!!! How can I say this strongly enough? From disaster relief efforts to booking speakers at the local Co-Op, THIS.
And, you know, it’s good for business. Say you work for a retail foodservice company, like a coffee shop chain. If your wheelchair-bound customers spend twice as much if you lower the counter by 9 inches, and your normative customers don’t care, then you lower the damn counter.
There might be a one-time high cost, but the long-term cost of ownership is paid off by PROFIT. Disability restrooms and wider aisles have proven a customer driver and asset.
I’ve been working in private industry for 27 years. In my experience, “liberal” policies make fucktons of money, widely distributed. “Conservative” policies make fucktons of money narrowly distributed. I favor the former. (Vague disclaimer: I’ve not worked for a company w/o a favorable stock purchase program since the early 90s. As an employee/owner, I have systemic bias and privilege.)
By the standard you propose, no one here can talk about the opening of doors. As the topic was discussed, facts weren’t completely up for grabs. Men stated how they behaved and why they did so. Women described their experiences with the practice and their interpretations of it. Personally, I only stated an opinion, but I can add the basis for it here: about half the men who’ve ever attempted either courtesy in an obvious way or when I did not need it also attempted to start a conversation with me, and the incidence of both “courtesies” discussed has gradually declined from my late teens to my thirties. I’m glad of it, because contrary to your belief, it does a harm – at least to me. It’s a small one, but I generally feel very uncomfortable having a stranger force that kind of physical proximity on me, especially since it causes a scene if I refuse.
I think it’s worth it for all of us to remember that in the absence of a study about door openers, or catcallers, all we have to rely upon is our own observations, and we are each the constant in them. Your experiences with door opening presumably involve a man who…well, I don’t know why you feel so strongly about the matter, but I’ll assume you at least aren’t using it as a romantic approach. The women involved presumably have different opinions about the matter. My experiences all include me, but a wider variety of men with a wider variety of intentions
As for Kilroy, he stated the rationales behind his actions. People gave him enough rope to hang himself, and he made a bunch of statements about women being weaker (even though most of us are more than strong enough to open doors). He also said that if he did the same thing for a man, he might be perceived as making a romantic advance, without considering whether a woman might react the same way. I’m willing to judge his motives sexist based on those statements.
I’m not going to touch the race post, as I didn’t read the blog at that time and am not very willing to review what’s presumably a very long thread.
@ Other Bill: In retrospect, I was splitting cosmic strings. Yeah, we agree.
Gulliver: I think I was as well. Although, should the opportunity arise – on topic – to discuss their distinctions I’d be happy to.
well, if anyone wants to discuss Frodo’s PTSD, I opened a thread here
eselle28: By the standard you propose, no one here can talk about the opening of doors.
No. People can always report their own personal experiences and feelings. They don’t have to immediately go into a “every man who opens a door must be a sexist pig”
Your experiences with door opening presumably involve…
Me. I think whatever little things I do probably split genderwise to be about on par with the population I encounter. I can see that some of the things I do probably skew towards women. I changed a tire for a woman in a parking lot once. Never did that for a man. Statistically speaking, I think the sample is too small to say. But part of it is just that nothing ever presented that way before or since. Sitting in a parking lot, waiting for my wife to come out of a store. A woman was trying to change a flat tire. Couldn’t get the lugnuts off. After ten or fifteen minutes of watching, I went over and asked if she needed help. Mostly it was because she couldn’t get the lug nuts off, and I’ve never had a problem with it, plus she was probably half my weight. Had a discussion with her, loosened the lug nuts, gave her the wrench back, and let her finish the job on her own. Went back to my car and my wife came out of the store soon after.
If it skews towards women, it’s probably because they’re more likely to be smaller than me and, well, if she can’t get the lug nuts off, I still might be able to. If it was a small guy, I’d probably offer as well. If it was a guy my size (or a woman my size), then I’d probably assume I’m not any stronger, so there’s probably not much I can do to help.
If someone’s behind me going through a door, I’ll usually hand the door off to them, which may require me to slow down a bit so I don’t let the door shut right as they’re getting to the threshold. male or female.
I generally feel very uncomfortable having a stranger force that kind of physical proximity on me, especially since it causes a scene if I refuse.
I’d apologize on behalf of myself and all men if it would make a difference for you. I never used “door opening” or any thing like that to talk to a woman I was interested in. But I have gone up to strangers and struck up a conversation because I was thinking of asking them out on a date. Some said yes. some said no. Maybe when internet dating becomes the way everyone meets their dates, then there will never be a need for strangers to deal with that awkward conversation, and no one will ever get approached who hadn’t already signaled they were interested. I tried an internet site once way back when I was single. It sucked even more than the most awkward conversation I ever had with a stranger. Maybe things have improved since then.
I don’t know if there’s any way that two strangers could have that conversation and remove the awkwardness and discomfort.
Then again, if a guy makes a scene because you said you’re not interested, it doesn’t really matter if you just met him as he holds a door open for you, or if you’ve known him for years and he brings it up in a long converastion. No matter how you get there, a scene is a scene.
You’re exaggerating the first point. As for the second, I would agree that a sample size of one person needing a tire change is not sufficient. If you would change a tire for a woman but would never consider changing a tire for, as an extreme hypothetical, a man in his 80s, then there’s a problem.
As for introductions in public, they’re far better when they’re not accompanied by a feigned courtesy. If someone approaches me and wants to speak to me, it’s not perfectly easy but is very doable to slither away without any meaningful interaction. If he holds open a door from a dozen feet away, my first choice is to to scurry through the door, mumble thanks, and then have to deal with a man who’s approaching me from behind. My second is to not enter the building at all. On a bus or a subway, if I take the seat, I’ll be in a situation where it’s difficult to move away if I wish to end the conversation. This isn’t the most condemnable behavior in the world, but to the extent it’s chivalry, it’s the bad old days sort. If men really want to be courteous to women, I think it’s worth considering what they really want and need. A good way to figure that out is by asking. Chivalry that doesn’t accomplish things that women really want is…well, if it’s not sexism, it’s nothing good either. And that’s the last I’ll say on this, as it’s carried over from a debate that already lasted far too long.
Back to your original complaint: No one on that other thread was telling you that you couldn’t comment on the topic because you were a man who didn’t understand women’s experiences. You were simply dealing with a fairly large number of people who disagreed with your opinion on the issue. Feminism isn’t about you. Identifying as a feminist doesn’t mean you won’t have people heaping scorn on you if they disagree with you. I disagree with other feminists all the time, and they disagree with me. Not identifying as a feminist doesn’t mean you won’t have people heaping scorn on you if they disagree with you either. There’s no cookie awarded, regardless of which choice you make or whether or not you choose to condemn the worst examples of sexism.
Annalee: “I don’t think that at all. I think you chose to make a joke that is unintentionally exclusive of trans women.”
Point taken. Privilege can pop up. I’ll try to remember that in future.
“My point is, there are women who say “I am not a feminist” who do not believe and are not saying that since you are a woman, you are a talking cow.”
It’s very possible that they aren’t saying that, just as men who say I’m not a feminist may be doing so because they don’t feel that men can claim that title. And that’s their choice and their experience. That choice can also be a stance that marginalizes, excludes and alienates other women in society.
If someone says “I’m not a feminist,” the first question, to gain clarity with the individual, is, “Do you mean that you don’t believe women are and should be equal? Do you think that women’s status is chattel, talking cows or not?” Because it might be that they don’t believe in female equality, even if they are women. Or they may. I would hope to be able to engage in conversation with people who have either answer, as we’re doing now, and talk about how different views effect each other. But the insistence by many, either in women’s movements or feeling excluded by them, that feminism is about particular women’s movements and not the philosophy of female equality, has, in my opinion, effectively greatly assisted those opposed to feminism and turned feminism into a dirty word for many young women. It does not, for me, serve to start ending exclusionary and marginalized experiences and pitch a bigger tent. It is how they feel comfortable referring to themselves and I respect that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see any social consequences from it. It also doesn’t mean that I can’t talk to them about it, if they are willing.
“I think we agree that feminism doesn’t just belong to rich white cis women.”
And yet, it seemed to me that both you and Lyssana were arguing that it did belong to them, which was what I was answering.
“If a marginalized woman tells me she doesn’t identify as a feminist because she experiences discrimination from other feminists, I’m not going to tell her that women with more privilege are excluding her because she ‘lets’ them.”
Since that’s not anywhere close to what I said, I’m not going to argue a point I wasn’t making. I was being given the definition that feminism refers only to the women’s movements that are dominated by well-off white women, which is a definition with which I disagree.
“Which is why I believe it is every feminist’s responsibility to make feminism welcome to marginalized women. Not by telling them that they’re either with us or against us”
I didn’t say this.
“or by insisting they have a responsibility to identify as feminists,”
I didn’t say this either. I did say I think there are social consequences to the widespread aversion of using the word’s original meaning, which is not the same as saying they have a responsibility to identify as one. I did say that a person saying that he or she is not a feminist requires me to then ask them what they mean by that statement, since they may be using the word’s actual meaning of equality for women or they may mean specific women’s movements or something else. As we’ve seen in this thread, people have a lot of confusion about it. I think that’s saddening. However, I never said that women or anyone else have to identify as feminists to be feminists who believe in female equality. I said in fact the opposite of that.
Considering how OFTEN I got groped and grinded on by men holding doors, I have a pretty dim view of that habit. And this doesn’t even include that the holding door open is a quite common trick of pick-pockets and purse snatchers, because it allows them more time in people’s personal space and control their speed via door.
Luckely here in North-Germany the door issue seems to boil down to “if both have their hands free whoever’s first keeps it open for the follow up, because door in the face is mean” without any gender or age discrimination, so someone insisting to hold a door open telegraphs quite loudly that they’re up to no good here – unless the door-holder goes out of their way to make space for the other to pass without impeding their personal space.
This is something that’s so often forgotten in the door-discussion. If the door-holdee doesn’t move out of the personal space of the other, a polite gesture becomes a threat. Add to that that many men aren’t too used to consider the personal space of others, especially the seemingly women-specific rule of man-too-close-in-behind-DANGER-DANGER, and you have this clusterfluffle.
eselle28: You’re exaggerating the first point.
Maybe, but I wasn’t the first to exaggerate.
you were simply dealing with a fairly large number of people who disagreed with your opinion
I was trying to talk about how there are moderate and extremist feminists. It’s kind of like moderate Republicans have the Tea Party(*) to deal with. it’s not that the Tea Party simply constitutes a fairly large number of poeple who disagree with the moderate Republicans. It’s that the Tea Party is an extreme position compared to moderate Republican views.
I’ve been trying to point to the differences between the moderate “feminism means men and women are treated equally” and the more extreme views within “feminism”.
@Stevie, a couple of days ago you said:
After all, people who are very, very good at what they do tend not
to wander around angsting over whether they are any good at
whatever it is they do, much less waste their time and energy
trying to assign labels to other people when they could be doing
much more interesting things.
Actually, many such people *do* angst over whether they’re any good, that’s called “imposter syndrome”. It’s particularly prevalent in the arts (e.g. writers). (Not to derail the discussion, just wanted to comment on it because it came up in another discussion recently.)
Slightly off topic but I feel the need to add to the incomplete Rebecca West quote up top in the third comment from Sharon:
“I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
The full quote runs like this:
“I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”
The quote is a lot less pleasing when you add the frequently elided “or a prostitute.” I suspect that bit is usually left out because it’s profoundly classist. West is implying that prostitutes, like doormats, aren’t women, and therefore can’t be feminists. Which is a problem. And makes me wonder who else West didn’t think counted.
Yes, West is saying she gets called a feminist when she does not agree with men or do whatever they tell her (doormat) and when she acts as a sexual being (prostitute). But she winds up saying that sex workers can’t be feminists.
The full quote is emblematic of all that’s wrong with white Western feminism and it’s blindness to class and race etc.
As so many have pointed out on this thread certain feminisms have a long horrible history of deciding who does and doesn’t count as a “real” feminist. “Real” as a modifier is almost always a problem.
Saying “when one of your visitors here says, “I’m not a feminist,” my response has been that this person is telling me that since I am a woman, my status is the equivalent of a talking cow” sounds an awful lot like ‘you’re with us or against us.’ I’m glad to see you don’t believe that, but I’m puzzled as to why you think it’s completely irrational to have interpreted your statement that way.
Where we actually appear to disagree is this: you seem to be saying that anyone who believes in equality for women is a feminist, whether they choose the label for themselves or not.
I’m getting that from this: However, I never said that women or anyone else have to identify as feminists to be feminists…
If someone’s unsure about identifying as a feminist because they’re not sure they’re ‘allowed’ to, or because they don’t know the jargon of feminist academia, or are otherwise just not sure they’re cool enough to come in the clubhouse, then yeah, it’s worth it to tell them that they can decide to call themselves feminists if they want*. Just like people are allowed to call themselves geeks if they want, progressives or conservatives if they want, Christians or Atheists if they want, etc.
But if someone specifically rejects the label because they have experienced discrimination from feminists and feminism, telling them that they’re a feminist whether they call themselves one or not is a handy way of erasing them and their concerns. People who’ve specifically chosen to reject the label have done so for a reason, and thinking that the reason must be that they either hate women or don’t fully understand what feminism is/means is an assumption grounded in privilege. Womanist Musings has a lot more to say about this, from a first-person perspective.
It may be true that the world would be a better place if more people identified as feminist, but that confuses the means with the end: the world would be a better place if more people acknowledged the existence of systematic gender-based discrimination and worked to eliminate it. As Scalzi has repeatedly shown, people can do that without identifying as feminist.
I have very little sympathy for people with gender privilege who feel threatened by feminism, and significantly less sympathy than I should for people without gender privilege who attempt to bargain their way into getting its table-scraps by bashing women and women’s advocacy. But many marginalized women have entirely legitimate concerns about feminism, and we as feminists do ourselves and the fight for equality no favors by refusing to own those failings.
*with the heavy caveat that calling myself a feminist does not mean I can’t also be sexist. Everyone is, to some extent or another, and if you are a person with gender privilege it is especially important to check that privilege when participating in feminist spaces.
Aw, crap. I was looking at this from the perspective of “feminism” being defined as “wanting equal treatment for men and women”, and being concerned that the more extreme definitions were taking over. But Scalzi’s original post points out this already happened. A feminist is someone who (1) wants equality for men and women (2) spends a “more-than-trivial amount of time” working on this and (3) is a title one has to earn to “deserve” it.
Scalzi, the word smith that he is, realized that he isn’t a feminist by definition.
I thought I qualified to call myself feminist because I was thinking a feminist believed in gender equality. But that’s not anywhere near the definition. So, by definition, I’m not a feminist.
What’s odd is that people I would consider to be “in” the group feminists will use the wider definition saying a feminist is simply anyone who believes in gender equality. But that’s not how the word is actually used in interactions. In real interactions, a feminist has to meet points (1), (2), and (3).
So, I don’t know what word would be used to talk about people who believe in gender equality but don’t meet the more restrictive definition of feminist. But now I get why people are going after the word “humanist”. A humanist isn’t a title that has to be earned.
God damn it.
To me, “feminist” is a subset of “activist”. I think John’s a great blogger and does excellent research; I don’t know how he fits everything into 24-hour days, so I don’t know if the amount of time he puts into it qualifies as “earning” the label. Certainly there are bloggers who would be considered activists by virtue of what they write about and how.
I was taught in school that all people are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and are entitled to equal protection of the laws. I describe anyone who subscribes to that as “American”.
What is really pertinent about John’s editorial here is not what his personal views happen to be, but the fact that he feels the need to explain and defend himself at all.
Anyone who thinks that being in favor of equality is somehow an insult is, well, at best, anti-democratic, and at worst, not really rational (not able to see the actual consequences of their opinions).
Greg: Forgive me if this strays into personal territory, but something I’ve noticed about many of your posts in threads like this is that you seem to be more concerned with being accepted into some progressive club or other than with actually doing the work that needs to be done. Truly, it shouldn’t matter whether you’re “allowed” to call yourself a feminist, etc. in order for you to work toward a world in which everyone has the same economic, political and social power and autonomy. It kind of smacks of someone who won’t donate to a charity unless he’s going to get his name on a plaque or something. Or “nice guy” syndrome, wherein a dude thinks that merely treating a woman like a human being entitles him to a date.
Virtue is doing good works because they’re the right thing to do, not because you expect to get a cookie or a pat on the back or an all-access pass to the blissful afterlife of your choice. If you’ve ever had a thought of “well, if my work here isn’t going to be appreciated, then I’ll just take my toys and go home” then you’re doing it wrong. Doing the right thing shouldn’t take so much effort that you think it deserves a reward. (Conversely: people who only refrain from doing bad things because they fear reprisal need to seek help. Gah.)
Honestly, there really is no such thing as pure altruism. We all have our reasons for doing good things, even if it’s just getting warm fuzzies from it. But part of being a good human being is not demanding accolades merely for adhering to what should be a minimum standard of kindness and compassion.
Folks have been trying to get Greg to step back and look at the patterns in what he posts for quite some time, but there seems to be something blocking him from doing so.
We live in hope.
A Mediated Life: you seem to be more concerned with being accepted into some progressive club or other than with actually doing the work that needs to be done
You just invoked (3) Feminist is a title one has to earn to “deserve” it. Having grown up on a farm and having the puritan work ethic pounded into me those formative years, and looking at my work-related reviews as an adult, one theme you will be hard pressed to find is lazy. Having literally shoved shit for years, another theme you’ll be hard pressed to find is worried about titles or “putting on airs” or whatever you want to call it. And its not about fricken “cookies” and its not about being “appreciated” or whatever.
I’m not looking to call myself “progressive” or “feminist” because it makes me feel self-important or because I think someone is going to pat me on the back for it. Generally speaking, I think calling myself a progressive is going to get me some shit from people more than it will give me pats on the back. So, to me, if pats on the back were what I was looking for, I’d drop all labels.
Instead of cookies and back pats and whatnot, I call myself a “progressive” because its a shorthand to describe who I am rather than saying I hold the political position that holds simultaneously the importance of constitutional law, due process, human rights, equality, fair representation, regulations for market situations that cant self-regulate, gender equality, abortion rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, freedom from religion, separation of church and state, blah, blah, blah.
And just to point something out here, there is nothing on this thread’s original topic that points to any work that needs to be done. It was a discussion about why Scalzi doesn’t call himself “feminist”. So, how in this thread am I to be accused of putting less concern on “work that needs to be done” when the thread’s main topic has no work to be done, is beyond me. If there was some work to do and I thought it was worth doing, I’d be doing it. But there isn’t. So I’m not. I’m not lazy. I don’t tend to avoid work. But there was no work as the primary focus of the thread. We were talking about why someone who believes in gender equality wouldn’t label themselves a feminist.
And what I see now is that the definition of feminist isn’t what I thought at the beginning of the thread. It’s what Scalzi described. It has those three requirements that must be satisfied. I wasn’t paying attention and hadn’t noticed that the bar for entry had moved. Its quite common to hear someone say a feminist is anyone who believes in gender equality, but that’s not actually how the term is used within the group that is “feminists”. You have to meet the criteria. I made the mistake of thinking it was just “gender equality” like other people have said. So I thought I was a feminist, and I thought the poeple putting on the extra requirements were fracturing the community. But I was wrong. They already did fracture the community and I didn’t see it. Scalzi saw it. I missed it, but I’m seeing it now.
One thing I know I do is I’ll call bullshit on bullshit even if its coming from my own ‘group’. If someone does a “mindread” on someone else, I’ll point it out, even if its from someone defending progressive views. I might try to present it a bit more tactfully if the person is on the same ‘side’ as me, but I’ll probably point it out in some manner. Replace mindread with any other fallacy. Generally speaking, I try to side with the side that has the most truth and facts behind it, so I don’t think my side needs to resort to logical fallacies and such to “win”. If it did, I would have to conclude that I’m on the wrong side.
Granted, in a discussion about evolution vs creationism, I might think a young earth creationist is a nincompoop, but I can still prove him wrong with the facts.
Last, but not leastly, way back when, in my rural days especially, I was rather right wing in some of my views. I think a good part of that stemmed from naive living. You don’t get exposed to too many different viewpoints when the population density is higher for cows than people, and everyone is doing pretty much the same thing for a living (farming) or supporting those poeple in some way. I never identified with racism which I saw once in a while. Or homophobia. Or sexism. But I was pretty right wing in other ways. The closest group I would probably fit in would probably have been some flavor of libertarian. That was around the time I was in 8th grade going into high school.
And the thing is I can look back on that and see how horribly wrong I was in some of the things I was thinking. And not one bit of it was due to me wanting to reinforce, just as a random example, a brutal, sadistic, murderous system of power
I thought I was supporting the best solutions, best ideas, to produce the best outcomes. Except, you know, I was thirteen and didn’t know jack, really, about the world. But if you were going to tell 13 year old me that all I wanted to do was keep a brutal, sadistic, murderous system of power in place, then you would have been so horrendously wrong about ME that I would have dismissed EVERYTHING you said about any EFFECTS of my actions.
I mean, if you’re so wrong about me, why would I think you are right about anything else?
So, when someone drops the facts and goes for some mind read of evil intention, it gets my hackles up. I do it to other people too, I admit, but if someone calls me on it, and I go back and look at it, if I did some sort of a mind read, I’ll retract it and apologize. Even for someone like Kilroy, I’d rather he hang himself with some obvious sexism than for me to try and explain to him via magical mind reading technology that the real reason he’s doing his chivalry thing is so he can feel better about some unknown, never identified, not revealed at this time, really evil sexism he’s secretly committing.
Even if its true, unless he confesses to performing evil sexism, its unfalsifiable and unprovable, and he can just point at this stuff and dismiss them as little more than accusations of spectral evidence. “Look at all the nonsense they’re saying about me and chivalry, and they don’t even know me. Clearly they’re tilting at their own windmills”.
This nonsense about me wanting “cookies” or me wanting “pats on the back” or me wanting “warm fuzzies” or me wanting “appreciation” or me wanting to be the “nice guy”, is the exact same kind of mind read that gets my hackles up. I don’t give a damn about cookies. I’m sure as hell not doing this to be the popular guy on the blog. And yet there’s the mind reads saying I’m doing all this for “warm fuzzies” or “appreciation”.
And I read your post a few hours ago, and my initial reaction was “You’re wrong about everything! Hulk Smash!” and I walked away and tried to focus back on to something specific. And this ramble is the best I can do right now. The mind reading about cookies is sort of a perfect microcosm.
tl/dr; no, its not about the “cookies”. Can you even possibly imagine that you’re wrong about that? ANd if you are so fundamentally wrong about mind reading my intentions and unwilling to acknowledge any possibility of error whatsoever, then how can I possibly imagine that you’re right about anything else? at all?
Actually, in that quote, Rebecca West says only that others call her a feminist when expressing views that differentiate he from a doormat or a prostitute. The quote does not itself indicate whether that differentiation is in her eyes or only in the eyes of the people calling her a feminist. Perhaps the text it came from shows contempt for prostitutes (or sex workers in general), but the quote itself is semantically inconclusive on the matter.
I personally don’t regard it as any of my business whether consenting adults trade sexual favors for money or other recompense – nor do I accept that what some adults choose to do with their bodies is responsible for other adults coercing still other adults into doing the same, because I hold every adult responsible for their own choices and actions – but I do consider it a social problem that people who choose sex work often do so because they lack alternative means of earning a living. I don’t care what people do with their bodies, but I do care about equal opportunity. Vice laws and their historical antecedents have never been aimed at the liberation of women, even though some self-described feminists have supported them. The function of vice laws is the punishment of “sin” by societies, almost uniformly enforced only on those members of society who lack the resources to shield themselves from the long arm of the law.
Why does everything have to be reduced to a single-word label or soundbite? Have we not, as a culture, eroded the significance of meanings by focusing so furiously on labels and symbols? I can’t even count how many arguments I’ve had with people who seem to think symbols are their own ends. A symbol is meaningful only insofar as the ideas it represents.
@ Adrian Smith
Actually, I’ve seen Greg’s views evolve for the better over the time I’ve been participating here. I believe he does try to overcome his own biases, otherwise I wouldn’t spend time interacting with him. I’ve also noticed he’s striven to be less querulous, which was, IMHO, his biggest blindspot in the past. So, I love in hope, but not vain hope.
They still wont sleep with you
They still wont accept you
They still wont respect you
They still wont want you.
Selling your gender down the river because you think its the path to female affection is so self serving that it makes me feel sick. You deny women the men they want with your weakness, and you deny yourself a feminine women who understands her real strength is in her virtue.
Enjoy your sexless, loveless, confused life you fucking weakling.
Er, I live in hope. Not that there’s anything wrong with living in love :)
Good grief, Aussie Mackey, are you really that stupid? Sexless? Loveless? Confused? Do you even know whose blog this is, or are you just coming here because some idiot like Vox Day told you to?
I mean, honestly, do you and guys like you buy your boxers with “Kick Me” already printed on the crotch or what?
Selling your gender down the river because you think its the path to female affection is so self serving that it makes me feel sick.
An Alpha would never be made to feel sick by mere treacherous prose
Food poisoning, maybe.
Aussie Mackey is clearly a sexually frustrated man-child.
I’m just glad he doesn’t live in my country. Condolences, Australia.
Yikes! I followed that link. That isn’t a forum; it’s live re-enactment of Alice Sheldon’s “The Screwfly Solution”! For the love of Bacon Cat, how do these people interact with anyone in the world when they hate women so much?
OMG, I clicked the link, and now I can never unsee it! Fortunately, I’m medicated, so I’ll likely forget he exists within 24 hours, but until then, ew.
And I have to ask: why do our MRA visitors always begin w/ rants on the theme of “you’ll never get laid, you loser!” Not only is it patently untrue, at least in the case of our host, but it’s also, well, just plain stupid. As in, unimaginative, puerile, inane, trivial, meaningless, irrelevant, obtuse, insipid, bromidic, conventional, nonsensical, laughable, pointless, cliched, and ignorant.
Also, since some percentage of commentors are likely asexual and/or celibate by choice, and quite happy that way, “sexless” is hardly an insult.
Every MRA comment posted tells more about the commenter than about his target. It’s fascinating–in an icky, don’t look under the rock, sort of way.
I might respect these men if they could wield an insult with wit and accuracy, but they so miss the mark that they remove their own spleens. To misquote Florence King, reading these guys is like trying to cut through whale blubber with embroidery scissors.
IME, most of these dudes tried on the “nice guy” costume in high school/college, and when it didn’t get them laid (likely because the women in question could see right through the act), they decided there was no point, and instead began championing their right to be complete and utter tools.
The remaining contingent went through bad divorces.
And Greg … All I can think is that I must have touched a nerve somehow to get such an intense reaction. Might want to think about that.
A Mediated Life: I must have touched a nerve
Touched a nerve? No, you insulted me. Jesus. You basically said I was vain and lazy (worried about labels and how it makes me look and not interested in doing any real work). And it kind of chaffes my ass.
How about we flip it around and see how this would land for you:
Bob: Forgive me Alice if this strays into personal territory, but something I’ve noticed about many of your posts in threads like this is that you seem to be more concerned with your makeup than with taking care of your children. (female specific equivalents for vain and lazy)
Alice: when someone drops the facts and goes for some mind read of evil intention, it gets my hackles up.
Bob: Gets your hackles up? Wow. I must have touched a nerve somehow to get such an intense reaction, Alice. Might want to think about that.
How would you respond to Bob at this point?
By making it about how much Alice is concerned about something, it becomes a subjective mind reading, impossible to prove or disprove. Bob doesn’t want to make the conversation about specific, objective, measurable things that Alice said and did, because he will immediately be caught in any lies.
Bob: You said you hate men!
Alice: Where? Quotation, please.
Bob: Look! Over there! A bandicoot!
So, Bob sidesteps this limitation of having to provide facts by making it about Alice’s level of concern about things. Is she concerned enough about starving kids in africa? Is she concerned enough about her husband’s needs? Is she overly concerned about her makeup?
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! You can’t disprove that! By making it about how Alice feels, it allows Bob to make up anything he wants and Alice can’t disprove anything. She either has to point out Bob’s entire tactic was bullshit and bring the conversation back to measurable things that happened (like specific words she said), or the conversation collapses into who best knows what Alice is really concerned about most?
One of the things I was taking issue with on this and the previous thread was the mind reading of worst possible intent of people, and lo and behold, what did you do? read my mind and discover that I’m really just vain and lazy. And complaining about that makes me over emotional.
Actually, I’ve seen Greg’s views evolve for the better over the time I’ve been participating here.
Ah right, I may have stepped a little too far back myself then. Sorry, presumptuous of me.
And I have to ask: why do our MRA visitors always begin w/ rants on the theme of “you’ll never get laid, you loser!”
Only measure of success they recognise, innit (although I imagine Vox Day having invented a mouse with 18 buttons on it also counts). And they’ve probably decided Krissy’s a beard or something.
The nastiest thing for me was that avatar. And I’ve seen right/libertarian folks try to dismiss the Flynn Effect, but I’ve never seen one so personally affronted by it. It’s like, “How DARE you suggest there isn’t a scientific basis for my racism!”
I thought if that reference would be caught anywhere, it would be here. :)
My sentiments exactly! (Or at least mostly.)
Plus, I can’t really post from work, so… the thoughts happen, but the thread continues on… and then I get home, and… out comes the typing.
And as The Oatmeal recently posited, have you ever had the thought “I’m glad I read all of those Youtube comments. I feel more whole as a human being now.”? ( credit )
@ Kat Goodwin:
That’s… basically what I do, every time.
Or loving in hope?
Actually, that sounds a lot like unrequited, which can be okay for a little bit, but after awhile… or in nice guy territory… erm….
@ Aussie Mackey:
Seriously, that was a good one. Tell me another.
I suspect that it’s because they measure a man’s worth solely as the ability to lay. Which is kinda disturbing, but possibly less disturbing in measuring a woman’s worth solely as not offering up a lay to anyone but themselves.
And significantly less disturbing than measuring a chicken’s worth solely by their ability to lay.
Christopher Wright, Sam did bear the ring briefly, and discovered that even though he had already known as intimately as anyone could how awful it was from watching what it was doing to Frodo, the reality was much worse than even he thought — which does illustrate the the gulf between even the closest and most empathetic observation and lived experience. And he still didn’t, and couldn’t, know the totality of what carrying it for months on end was like, only that even a brief brush with the thing was awful. I’ve always rather loved that bit and was sorry they didn’t make more of it in the film — in the book the weight of it actually bows him to the ground. It’s nice proof that Frodo really isn’t just being a wimp, in fact he’s fucking hardcore just to be able to walk.
And while it was massively to Sam’s credit that he could give it up, he hadn’t had it very long. The addictive aspect of it was cumulative. Frodo could quite easily hand it about to begin with.
Oh, and @Scalzi, I used to be somewhat wary about men who identified as feminists, only because I’d seen an awful lot of them who thought feminism was great so long as it supplied them with a reliable source of approval, but the second someone suggested that they might have said something a touch sexist, then suddenly it was nothing but a den of cackling and ungrateful harpies. But now, whether you want to use the label or not, you are one of the reasons that “male feminist” is no longer a phrase that makes me anxious.
I haven’t really had the misfortune to hang out with anyone who’d use the term “beta male” as an insult (though I’ve got a number of male friends who’d probably self-apply it as a joke). From what I’ve seen, though, the guys who tend to be labeled “beta males” are the ones who are more willing to compromise, listen to opposing viewpoints, etc.–i.e. use their cooperative instincts more than their aggressive ones. I would submit that, by that definition, “beta males” seem much more likely to have happy, fulfilling relationships over the course of their lives than “alpha males.” They’re certainly much easier to get along with.
“Alpha” is Pick-Up Artist/Mens’ Rights
ActivistAsshole jargon for “Man with Narcissistic and/or Anti-Social Personality Disorder.”
I open doors for others because my parents taught me to, it’s a habit. I’m not going to try to discard it, you’ll just have to suffer through the lack of bumping, grinding, pick-pocketing, and attempted pick-ups. It’s not personal, it’s just that I was just opening the door for you.
The psychological projections of others that you can learn about on the internet.
Alex Harman pontificated: “Alpha” is Pick-Up Artist/Mens’ Rights Activist Asshole jargon for “Man with Narcissistic and/or Anti-Social Personality Disorder.”
So why are women so attracted to them then? Why are women rewarding players so that other men then look up to them as role models and emulate them? If women want men to take more responsibility for their sexist attitudes and behaviour then they should stop fucking the ones who are the most likely to have those traits.
Earl: Why are women rewarding players so that other men then look up to them as role models and emulate them?
I think any man who tries to emulate someone else has automatically forfeited any right to the title “alpha male”.
Guess what, Earl? Lots and lots of us women *have* stopped fucking them. The number of women who partner up with so-called non-alpha males is demonstrably greater than the number who partner up with so-called alphas. Any man who wants women to take responsibility for the behavior of all other women can damn well start with his own gender and take responsibility for all other men’s behavior.
I dunno why, but whenever someone like Earl goes on about how he has to change his ways to be more like an Alpha in order to get laid, I think of a certain Monty Python script.
So why are women so attracted to them then?
Is, your uh, is your wife a sport, ay?
Why are women rewarding players so that other men then look up to them as role models and emulate them?
‘Oo isn’t? Likes games, eh? Knew she would. Likes games, eh? She’s been around a bit, been around?
The very last line captures the problem, exactly.
@Greg: I certainly agree that a lot of men think they can be The Man, but then don’t have what it takes. But emulation itself is not the problem – modelling others’ successful strategies can be a very effective form of learning. Its the failure of emulation and particularly just mimicking surface behaviour rather than taking into account the underlying mind set. Which is why so many seduction coaches emphasise the importance of ‘inner game’.
What’s problematic about PUAs is that they leave out people’s values and caring qualities, wheras mainstream dating coaches (who often use similar techniques) do try to take them into account. But I can certainly understand why. Fulfilling sexual desires in the dating market can be merciless for men who aren’t much good at approach and seduction and are constantly rejected, or haven’t a chance in competition from other men. So when they see women preferring arseholes who screw them over, some conclude that everything they’ve learned about romance and respecting women is rubbish. PUAs have a readly supply of frustrated men to introduce to the dark arts of game and to pay for their expensive seduction bootcamp weekends.
50 Shades of Earl Grey: “So when they see women preferring arseholes who screw them over, some conclude that everything they’ve learned about romance and respecting women is rubbish.”
And then they complain about how “nice guys” are never given a chance. Sorry, this is all old recycled crap that has been debunked numerous times on Scalzi’s blog, not to mention elsewhere.
When they seem women preferring assholes, are they also paying attention to the fact that most married couples do not consist of an alpha-male and an adoring female? Or do they limit their view to these cliches about “women” as if we’re all interchangeable and came out of a box and all act the same?
PUAs have a ready supply of men only if there are enough men who already think of women as a means to the end of getting laid and success is just a matter of tactics. Women aren’t responsible for that icky view of women. “Nice” guys who would turn to a PUA weren’t nice to begin with.
Earl: So when they see women preferring arseholes who screw them over
The problem is that this so-called data point is gonzo. It is a fabrication. Nobody prefers an asshole who screws them over. The only people asserting that women prefer men who are assholes… are men who are assholes.
This is as gonzo as reading some nonsense that says men prefer women with syphillis, and then finding out the people who keep asserting this to be true just happen to always be women with syphillis.
So why are women so attracted to them then?
Why are women rewarding players
[Women] should stop fucking the ones who are the most likely to have those [sexist] traits.
The reason I pointed to the Monty Python script was because you’re talking about non-existent women. You’re talking about how women supposedly are in their selection of sexual partners that has nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with some weird, story you’ve fabricated about women to compensate for… something… that you’re clearly not doing correctly.
I don’t know what the statistics are, but I would say women seem just as interested in casual sex as men. The difference, as far as I can tell, is that for casual sex to be good, all some men need is for the woman to say ‘yes’. (shudder) But for casual sex to be good for a woman, the guy has to know what the hell he is doing. And if the guy is a virgin or extremely inexperienced, no woman is going to look at him and say “Oh, yeah, baby, I’m looking forward to some sloppy kissing, rough hands, five seconds of awkward action from you, and then you pass out leaving me hanging. Take me!”
@BW Part 1:
“lots of us women *have* stopped fucking them”
Then I should have said ‘don’t start in the first place’. Mea Culpa.
The asshole trope actually translates to ‘there is a higher probability of women sleeping with men whose character traits include ‘dark triad’ ones’
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad (scroll down for ‘mating strategies’)
As far as I’m concerned I don’t have an issue with women wanting casual sex or for that matter sleeping with ‘arseholes’. But if feminists demand that men take responsibility for their sexist behaviour, then they should also tell women to adjust their preferences in the dating market so as to reduce the likelyhood of rewarding those men with ‘dark triad’ character traits. I’m assuming here that most feminists do actually view male dominance in society, and the lack of awareness by men of that, as a major contributor to sexism. So that anything which encourages or sustains those patterns is a Bad Thing.
” Any man who wants women to take responsibility for the behavior of all other women can damn well start with his own gender and take responsibility for all other men’s behavior”
It means those women telling other women to take responsibility for their behaviour, in the same way that they do for men, if they are contributing to the same kind of social problem. Or perhaps men and women could stop lecturing each other?
The point I was trying to make (which I have no doubt has already been made ad nauseam by all those loveable MRA trolls, and which has been ‘debunked’) that this is an example of double standards in feminism. And yes I admit I made it in rather a trollish way myself, but that seems par for the course in the wierd and wonderful world of gender blogs.
@Greg Part I
So where did I state that I have to change my ways to be more like an alpha’ to get laid? Can you read my mind?
“Is your uh, is your wife a sport ay?”
I am not familiar with such a dialect. Please take me to your leader.
“Oo isnt … [snip]… nudge nudge wink wink ….”
Wibble wibble bloynge thwubble. Well that’s about as relevent as it gets for this section.
@BW Part II
“this crap has been debunked …” Well up to a point. It depends how you frame it. Of course what’s coming next is ‘well they should lower their sights’. Of course then their damned if they do (sleep with women their not attracted to and mislead them) and damned if they don’t (continue to be endless rejected and remain celibate). So the solution is to up their game.
“are they also paying attention to the fact that most married couples do not consist of an alpha-male and adoring female”
No obviously not. The point is that wherever they go (at least in bars, clubs, colleges, dating sites etc) there will be the same alpha males who are in competition with them. So even if the ‘nice guys’ want to get into long term relationships the presence of players make that harder. Most men also have one or more friends who they know as players. I also take the point that there is a tendency by many such men to blame women for rejecting them, rather than either other men in competition with them, or their own deficiencies.
“PUAs have a ready supply of men only if there are enough men who already think of women as a means to the end of getting laid and success is just a matter of tactics”
And the women who are looking for casual sex (whom greg seems to think are now in equal numbers to men), can’t possibly be thinking about men as a means of getting laid? Slugs and snails, sugar and spice, and all that.
It seems that you can’t concieve of the possiblity that some guy might adopt (god forbid) ‘strategies’ to decide whom to talk to, how to talk to them, what to say, when the best time to make a move while of course still respecting her space and wishes etc, so as the woman both enjoys the interaction etc, and that guy can *still* be a genuine person. Since its usually the guys who have to approach and initiate things, its not surprising some devolop explicit strategies. And the habit of making moral judgements about men who go out with the aim of getting laid seems only to apply to those who aren’t very good at it.
For the record I think that PUAs are far too cynical, but that doesn’t prove the guys who buy into their programs have an icky view of women. Nor for that matter does it mean what they teach is rubbish.
@Greg Part II
“… Nobody prefers an asshole who screws them over”
Very perceptive. I couldn’t agree more. Its desirable character traits that arise alongside the less pleasant ones.
In the casual dating market research would suggest that there is a preference for men with dark triad traits (but not neccesarily the traits themselves). And the inference that such men are more likely to be sexist is a reasonable one. (See wikipedia link further up). And yes I’m aware of the caveats.
“[Women] should stop fucking the ones who are the most likely to have those [sexist] traits.”
See points I made to BW.
“i would say that women seem just as intersted in casual sex as men”
If that’s true then that’s a fairly dramatic change in sexual preference over a remarkably short period of time. Most commentators would say that men have a greater preference for casual sex than women and women have a greater preference for longer term emotional bonding.
And gonzo to you cobber for the references to monty python (nudge nudge wink wink snark snark)!!!
Could you maybe say something coherent? This was a pretty interesting discussion, but it’s sad to see it marred with a poorly-formatted ramble about how women should properly employ the Vagina of Justice to reward the decent men and punish the wicked.
Okay, Earl Grey, you’re talking about getting laid, casual sex, and strategies for same. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with casual sex. Some of the best sex I’ve had was casual. But that’s not what the rest of us were talking about here.
Being nice might be a bad strategy for getting laid in high school. I will leave to the side the question of whether people ought to be looking for that experience at that age. (And obviously they are looking for it or being pushed towards it, even if it might be better for them not to be.) Most of us leave high school, emotionally as well as physically and most of us (hopefully) also stop trying to pick up adolescents. There are a large subgroup who don’t and to be fair this includes women as well as men. I do find it laughable that I might be expected to look to these people as paragons of “adult” behavior. On the one hand there is a certain pathos that they are still reliving the pain of development and related bad experiences so immediately; on the other hand that does not give them the right to force us to wallow in it with them.
Guys, I think we’re wandering out into the weeds here. Let’s bring it back to the actual topic at hand, please.
Earl: (See wikipedia link further up). And yes I’m aware of the caveats.
Yeah, the primary caveat is this: “the research pertaining to the Dark Triad as a mating strategy is based almost exclusively on college students”.
At which point, everything you’ve been saying about how all women are behaving a certain way is a fallacy.
Stop blaming women for not getting laid and for not being in a relationship you want. It’s pushing responsibility for how your life is turning out onto someone else. And it’s just that much more of a turnoff on top of whatever else you’re doing wrong. “Victim” is not sexy. “Whiny” is not sexy. “Clingy” isn’t sexy. “Needy” isn’t sexy.
So, in the end, this whole “alpha/beta” thing is just cover for inept men to whine about not getting enough sex??? goddamn.
Re: Point Number 6, you do look like a feminist to this woman, and this article explains why, exactly. Although all the preceeding points are well-made, to be sure.
(Tangentially, and possibly not coincidentally: There are two essays on these here Internets that I keep bookmarked in order to link quickly at the relevant point in discussions. One is “Yes You Are.” The other is much closer to home, here.)
Ironically, or maybe not, I do not know for I freely admit I have not thought deeply about this, almost exactly because of your first few points I have hesitated to label myself a feminist as well. But then there’s always Sarah Bunting’s point. Yes I am.
I came to your blog from Ursula Vernon, looking for your post about the recent “fake geek girl” kerfuffle. Then I read your post on “the lowest difficulty setting” and “being poor”, then this post. I just want to say that I am a white female feminist and I respect you. I think you write very well and I agree with what you said in all those pieces. Keep up the good work.
PS: the post on being poor made me cry.
[Deleted for stupid — JS]
My mother was a feminist and an MD. My grandmothers were suffragettes. The idea that my brothers might be more important than me, never entered my mind. That they are smarter, yes they are, but I have sufficient brains to make my life work and to think creatively when needed. and I refuse to kowtow to men just because they are men. (this causes friction in my home because my husband was treated like a godling as he grew up and I was never taught to give the man precedence in all things.)
I still like the dress bit
Number 5 is your only good argument for not identifying as a feminist, but having a longer reach than women isn’t the same as claiming feminism. First, to place yourself in an inferior position because a woman told you that it was unfair and unequal, and, second, the best advocates for equality are those in the privileged class discussing the problems with others in the same class. If feminism is about equality despite (and in spite of) it’s root word and connotation, then women should applaud your courage to speak with (not for) them to further other men’s, as well as your own understanding, of feminism. I think you should fess up that you are a feminist, while also understanding and admitting that sometimes you will speak in ignorance OR just speak out of your ass (on purpose) sometimes. You’re the most well-spoken, male feminist I’ve ever read. You can help reclaim the word for women as a man.
As a Social Worker and Psychologist I can say, it seems you fail to understand the concepts of humanitarianism and feminism. The way you apply it, explain it and defend it is way off base. You hide behind the word feminism but you are clearly doing so in a patriarchal white supremacist way. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were racist too. Don’t hide behind values when you are posting something to hurt or demean another human being, even if they are assholes. You have the balls to wear a dress so have the balls to tell it like it is.
Familiarize yourself with the words advocacy, empowerment,dignity nondiscriminatory practice and a code of ethics.