Hell Yes, I’m a Feminist
Posted on December 29, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 182 Comments
A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece on my personal feminism, in which I noted that while I can be considered a feminist on the fundamental level of “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,” I usually didn’t call myself one, for various and what I thought at the time were perfectly reasonable reasons.
Then 2014 happened, and those reasonable reasons now kind of feel like careful, rationalizing bullshit to me.
So, as an update to my thoughts on my personal feminism:
Hell yes, I’m a feminist.
Mind you, I don’t think this declaration comes as much of a surprise. I think people are aware of my general feelings on feminism, and I’ve not been shy about the topic before, when it’s suited me.
Here’s the thing about that — I was passive about it. When people said, positively, that I was a feminist, I took the compliment. When people said, negatively, that I was a feminist, I mocked them for thinking being called so was an insult. But I let them put the label on me; I didn’t choose it for myself. Which of course is a choice, and one that said something about me.
So this is what I want to say about me:
Hell yes, I’m a feminist.
Not a perfect feminist, or even, depending who you are, a particularly good one. I don’t expect declaring myself a feminist means I will be granted a +5 Ally Shield of Immunity From Criticism, with a side of cookies. I come to feminism carrying the same baggage any 45-year-old well-off straight white man does. I show my ass from time to time. I expect to be called on it when I do. I’ll try to learn from it when it happens.
Hell yes, I’m a feminist.
I don’t think feminism has been waiting for me. It doesn’t need me as a spokesperson or a leading voice. I don’t believe any woman has been wanting for me to be her “white knight.” As I’ve said before, it’s white knighting to assume women can’t defend themselves; it’s not white knighting to stand with them against the shit thrown their way.
But: I do think it’s important to let women know you do stand with them. I think it’s useful for other men to see it being done. To the extent that I have influence and notability, I’d like to use it standing with, and for, women. At the very least, 2014 showed me that it’s where I want to be standing, and to the extent that it’s useful, be seen standing.
So, for as much as it matters, and can matter:
Hell yes, I’m a feminist.
Sorry it took me so long just to come right out and say it.
Just as a heads up, attempts in this comment thread to define feminism as some sort of movement that exists as a stepping stone to A MAN-ENSLAVING ANDROGEDDON will be mocked and then mostly likely Malleted. Spare us all the bother, please.
Likewise, any various posts that read as if cue cards for the Men’s Rights/GamerGate/Just Plain Sexist Brigades talking points were being slapped down. Dude, no. Go home.
I’ve been saying (to like, anyone who will listen) for a while now that more men need to see men (especially famous men) proudly proclaiming their feminism, in the hopes that it will help them realize that feminism isn’t a bad word, or that it’s only for women, and get past whatever hangups are keeping them from embracing actual equality. So thanks!
Well said, and Hell, yes, so am I!
I’m the son of a woman, the brother of women, the husband of a woman, and the father of a woman. How could I not be a feminist, and live with myself?
(The first formulation of this was before the husband or father parts, when I was in my twenties and on the state NOW board; but the basics have never changed.)
It’s so important that people “come out” in support of their values. One reason the cause of gay marriage progressed as quickly as it did (and it progressed far more quickly than anyone anticipated) was because so many gay people came out. (Same is happening with atheism right now.) It’s harder to discriminate when you actually know and like the person you’re discriminating against.
The right wing has controlled the media for decades, largely due to the Reagan Administration disabling the Fairness Doctrine, so it’s even more important for us all to speak out.
Hillary (whose first book was The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way, http://www.lifelongactivist.com)
Wait just a minute. I was promised there would be a man-enslaving androgeddon.
This was one of your better social issues posts as far as I’m concerned. Standing up for women and letting men know you’re doing it for the reasons you do it is exactly what I try to do. It has me thinking about how I’m an ally myself, what I do, and why I do it.
What I try to do is to help create spaces that celebrate women’s achievements and make an it an active goal to do so, and to make those places understand that this does not mean they’re “unfairly advantaging women” or having some sort of quota system that rewards women for just being women.
The fact is that talented women are continually pushed out by society. They’re held back and discouraged. Creating spaces that celebrate women’s accomplishments isn’t turning my back on some mythical space that rewards only quality, it’s acknowledging that the myth is in fact a myth. Those spaces lacked women because women were pushed out. Celebrating women’s accomplishments is a way of pushing back against an undeniable, factually provable tide.
Anyhow, that’s me and what I’m trying to do. Thanks, John, for talking about what you’re doing as well.
I totally read that in a Marvin the Martian voice.
Darcy, I suggest you read Noah Berlatsky’s book on Wonder Woman. That’s what you’ve been looking for.
And here I was about to write a post on why I’m a feminist. Guess I need to finish it :P
Just for the record; I think that most fathers of strong daughters are feminists, whether they proclaim their status loudly or not.
My mother was a feminist activist in the 1950s, who introduced me to the prior generation of feminists (Suffragettes) who told me about the previous, very international generation. And, hey, Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. My Caltech Classmate David Brin has been calling himself a feminist since, say, 1970. He polished his credentials by editing a 1992 anthology called “Abortion Stories: Fiction on Fire.” So welcome to the club!
Hell yes, I’m a feminist too.
pretty sure this is not a surprise to anyone who regularly reads your blog.
Welcome! We have cookies! And thank you. This post made me weepy for some reason. I think it is part wacky preggo hormones, but mostly that until a couple years ago, I’d NEVER heard a man say he was a feminist. It is lovely to hear!
My father would die a thousand painful deaths before he declared himself a feminist…and yet, he raised one. My mother, too. She is still a working (grand)mom who has always demanded treatment as equal to the men around her–she works in a male dominated industry–but still would slit her wrists before she used that word. I always thought it was just their generation…but to see so many people of my generation and younger doing the same really kills me. I believe Hillary’s point is valid…the more people who stand up either as feminists or as allies, as in the gay right’s movement…the better off we’ll all be.
You should probably add this one to your Best of 2014 list. Just saying
I went through a similar process (but not being all famous authory and otherwise awesome I did so less publicly).
PLEEEEEASE can’t we talk about the coming Androgeddon? It’s so much more satisfying to tell them how we will crush them beneath the heels of our sensible shoes (or sneakers, or stilettos) before we do it.
I never doubted it.
But I will add myself to the list: Hell Yes, I’m a Feminist
You’re thinking about photoshopping yourself into that Beyonce backdrop, aren’t you? ADMIT IT.
>PLEEEEEASE can’t we talk about the coming Androgeddon?
That was already covered fifty years ago by the late William Tenn, in his story “The Masculinist Revolt.”
You can’t beat the master, so why even try?
great article, but i cringe a little at you calling yourself a feminist if you’re a man. Feminism isn’t just a word to describe wanting equal rigths for women, but is also loaded with all the political history of the movement. Feminism is for women, however that doesn’t mean I don’t want men like you to be my ally. This is why i wish the term “feminist ally” would catch on for men. Men calling themselves feminist already feels like they’re stepping into a space meant for only me and other woman, and many feminists agree on this point. I also, I dunno, get discouraged by straight dudes wearing “this is what a feminist looks like” shirt. They don’t do much of anything for feminism, just promotes themselves. I’d dealt with a lot of “feminist” men who are only to happy to call me bitch once I don’t meet their standard of a feminist. So really, once again, I appreciate what was said here, but if you really want to show you respect women, and not out for cookies, then call yourself a feminist ally please.
“Feminism isn’t just a word to describe wanting equal rigths for women, but is also loaded with all the political history of the movement.”
It is only “loaded with all the political history of the movement” if moderate feminists yield use of the word to the more zealous feminists. I’m a feminist and I have zero problem with John using that word to describe himself.
This essay by Sarah Bunting may be of interest to all: http://tomatonation.com/culture-and-criticism/yes-you-are/
Thank you, John. And Eilonnwy, I disagree with you just about as strongly as I can. Feminism is most definitely not limited to women, and the more men who loudly proclaim that they, too, stand for equal opportunities and equal choices for women, the better.
By that definition, me too.
I find using the term, as center-right, small-government fellow, sort of problematic as the term carries lots of other political assumptions with it in its wake that have squat to do with the basic point: I’m quickly not a “feminist” but a “feminist who is against gun control” a “feminist who is for atomic power” a “feminist who is against Dodd-Frank”, a “feminist against broad amnesty for illegal immigrants” — and it becomes really problematic if you get into the woods about particular government solutions that are actually germane to the issue of women’s equality.
So I don’t much bother trying to use the term as I find it a hinderance, rather than a help, to discussing the underlying points.
@eilonnwy: I’m also a feminist who has no problem with John using the word to describe himself.
I understand what you’re saying, but I think on the whole, it benefits feminism to be inclusive because it helps fight the awful “man-hater” stigma the term has been given.
I would like to be able to say “hell yes, I’m a feminist,” because I too believe 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.” The reason I hesitate is that it seems to me that much of the current feminist political movement has more to do with things that don’t really strike me as having much to do with gender equality: Promoting wealth redistribution, more entitlement programs, an expanded welfare state, hostility to private gun ownership, etc. Under the banner of “every issue is a women’s issue,” modern feminism has become just another manifestation of generic leftist politics.
If feminism means nothing more and nothing less than that men and women are treated equally, I’m for it. If it means that we’re all marching toward some socialist utopia, count me out.
I’m also a feminist, and the next time I see John, I’ll offer him a cookie. Unless I don’t happen to be carrying a cookie, in which case he gets nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. He loses. Good day, sir.
2014 has been called the Year of Outrage. I think it’s been the Year of Recognizing Rationalizing Bullshit And Calling It Out.
I’m a feminist. How could I not be?
We need a man’s T-shirt that says “Hell Yes I’m a Feminist” in big bold letters.
Oh and the “feminist ally” is not the term I would men to use. It basically insinuates that men don’t have skin in the game. They do. Every boy who wants to play with dolls or likes My Little Pony without people playing “guess my future orientation” has skin in the game. Men who are tired of the “sexual prowess/how much can you bench/how tall are you” BS defining manhood have skin the game. Every guy who wants to take paternity leave or stay home with the kids while the wife works has skin in the game. Every guy who wants to send his daughter to a military academy and NOT worry she will be sexually assaulted during her career has skin in the game.
So show “respect for women” and say you’re a feminist. Because that space is definitely NOT meant for women and only women. That would be sexism.
In case anyone missed it:
Another female feminist who has zero problem with male feminists. Or het, or cis or trans or queer or poc or atheist or religious or agnostic or small government or big government or anarchic feminists. All are welcome in my particular feminist tent so long as they are actually feminists. In the meaning of “women are entitled to the same rights as men.”
Seems to me what you are describing, elionwy when you say ““feminist” men who are only to happy to call me bitch once I don’t meet their standard” are male persons who want the name but aren’t actually very clear about what it means. I know a few female persons who would meet that criteria too. They don’t automatically get to be feminist by dint of being female either.
But I say let em in the tent and then argue with them about the meaning of the movement when they get in here!
Also, the Sarah Bunting essay is awesome.
Spotted this when I went to amazon to look for The Masculinist Revolt. Seems like you will be a natural for the second edition
“The Politics of Manhood: Profeminist Men Respond to the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement (And the Mythopoetic Leaders…”
After reading your blog, I went looking for the definition of “feminism,” as I have a niggling thought back in the memory banks of it being applied to sexism in general and not being restricted to women and the female experience alone. Among other things, I found this:
“Feminism is an entire world view or gestalt, not just a laundry list of women’s issues.”
– Charlotte Bunch
THAT’S what I was looking for. Hell, yes.
This is not to denigrate or belittle “women’s issues” in particular; they exist and have real consequences for those that experience them. Admitting that they exist and attempting to deal with them is necessary in order to move society along in the right direction. I just get the feeling that the root cause for gender role discrimination, if you will, encompasses more than misogyny, and, for any solution to be truly effective, the human race must drill down, as you like to say, to the core issue. There are roles thrust upon both sexes based on many factors – gender, ethnicity, economic and social status – and perhaps we can further specifically feminist goals more effectively by looking at how human beings view and treat other human beings.
Just a thought. Full disclosure: I am male.
That said, HELL YES, I”m a feminist. Let’s roll up our collective sleeves and build on this. There is so much to be done.
(but next time you pose in a pale green regency dress, wax your chest)
Maybe I’ll get used to it some day, but I’m uncomfortable with the term “ally” being used to describe men who support the feminist movement, white folks who oppose racism, and so forth.
I mean, I think sexism and racism are bad things, and I do things in opposition to them, but am I an ally of women and people of color, in the same way that, say, FDR was an ally of Churchill during WW2? I don’t think I’ve earned that title.
(Long time reader, first time poster, hoping not to incur a malleting by starting paragraphs with conjunctions.)
I understand eillonwy’s concern. The Public Declaration of Feminism sometimes comes with a load of ‘and I think feminism should be this’ baggage, which suggests the person making the declaration has largely missed the point.
But Mr Scalzi hasn’t done that; in fact he’s said this, “I come to feminism carrying the same baggage any 45-year-old well-off straight white man does. I show my ass from time to time. I expect to be called on it when I do. I’ll try to learn from it when it happens.”
Aside from a chromosome, this 45-year-old, straight, white, nowhere-near-starving, UK-living woman will be toting a lot of the same baggage as Mr Scalzi. And just like our host I hope someone calls me on it and whacks me around the chops with a fish when that baggage makes me say/do dumb stuff.
@NI: What you said, doubled.
I will call myself a feminist too, by John’s definition, because I think his definition is the correct one, and those who are advocating that it actually means effective female superiority are in the wrong. Men and women are different, and this does not make one inherently better or worse than the other, just different. Vive la difference!
(Of course, we can argue about whether being male or female makes one more or less suited to particular tasks, on average…and remember, there are always outliers in either direction from the “average.” But this does not imply “better” or “worse,” just “more or less suited” in a particular task or circumstance.)
Woot, John! Welcome to the club. We’ve got your T-shirt and lapel pin waiting for you.
Erbo, men and women are different, yes, but the WAYS in which people think they’re different are often incorrect. Behavioral science more often than not shows that the curves for a specific behavior/skill/personality trait have different means, but that the standard deviations are so high for both men and women that the differences aren’t significant. That is, the average woman may be more emotional than the average man, but, on balance, there’s so much overlap between the curves that that difference in average is meaningless. We’re not nearly as different as people think.
And don’t even get me started on the confounding aspects of culture, education, etc.
Sign me up in support of what geekylabmom just said. So very much of what people think they know about gender differences is not supported by the research.
@geekylabmom: I have no trouble with that. Many of those traits for which the standard deviations are that broad aren’t relevant to the question of “suitability for some particular task” anyway.
I was thinking more along the lines of something like, say, physical strength. On average, men will be more suited to a task that requires physical strength. This is not to say that there aren’t some very physically strong women out there (there are always outliers), and they shouldn’t be restricted from performing that task if they can manage it. Likewise, men who are less physically strong (the outliers can fall in either direction) shouldn’t get a “free pass” just because they’re men.
What I would object to is the deliberate lowering of standards of physical strength for that task for the purpose of allowing more women to perform it. There might be good, physical reasons for requiring a certain degree of strength for that task…and the physical universe won’t give you a break just for being of one gender or another.
(Of course, if the definition of the task changes–for example, machinery takes the place of human strength in performing it–then the criteria for determining one’s suitability to said task should also change with it. Maybe a woman can’t lift as heavy of a rock as a man, but they’re both equally good at pulling a lever to let a machine do it.)
There’s cookies? I’d like some peanut butter chocolate chip please.
As a male my personal feminism has beat down my inner dudebro from time to time not to mention my inner white knight as well.
I agree that the “average” is usually a BS mental picture. Take firefighters. People talk about men being more suited, but in reality when they picture a firefighter they see a tall white well built male, they don’t see a short Asian man. While we believe that on average men are taller and stronger then women, you still have to stick to similarities in group for it to hold true (comparing men from Vietnam to women from the Netherlands would give you women on average two inches taller then the men). So its best to think “what are the true requirements to do the job” and make sure gender bias and race bias aren’t assumed as the defaults.
Another male feminist here. And thanks, John, for a bold and eminently quotable statement.
And, in regard to its political implications, I do in fact believe that feminism leads naturally to leftist politics. Reason being that, if you want women and men to be equal, then at some point you have to enforce that equality.
Otherwise–as in most libertarian fantasies–you’re relying on people to do the right thing all by themselves. If they were so inclined, then we would never have needed laws in the first place.
Just my $2×10^-2. Thanks again, John.
If we have people doing rescues I want both big ones that can move the heavy objects and small ones that can get through the spaces under the heavy objects.
In either case, genitalia doesn’t matter.
So. Enough of that argument. :-)
bell hooks, in her book _Feminism is for Everybody_, defines feminism as being against sexism and sexist oppression. There are lots of “feminisms,” depending upon your priorities, values, and strategies you use to enact your beliefs, but I think that hooks’ definition is a pretty good foundation.
Reblogged this on Brad H Branham, Author and commented:
No point in repeating what he already wrote. If you think “feminist” is a pejorative, you have been misinformed on its meaning by jackasses with a hateful agenda. Sure there are crazy extremists on each end of the pole. Don’t be stupid and define the entire concept by the extreme.
Good for you John! Very well said! Just sorry it took you saying it here for me to say it out loud on my FB page.
Yet another female feminist who thinks it’s just fine for anyone of any gender to call themselves feminist. Welcome to the club, John. We have the best cookies.
“Promoting wealth redistribution, more entitlement programs, an expanded welfare state, hostility to private gun ownership, etc. Under the banner of “every issue is a women’s issue,” modern feminism has become just another manifestation of generic leftist politics.”
Where are the right-wing feminists, and what do they stand for? I see a lot of policies that are detrimental to women promoted by conservatives. Expanded programs to help parents under the poverty line with childcare and healthcare are women’s issues because some of these policies disproportionately affect women. You can be against abortion but pro-coverage for healthcare services like yearly exams, birth control, and counseling. But it seems to me that many politicians on the right only want those things for women if they fall within their own personal idea of what is morally appropriate, and in some cases, that means they don’t want those things at all.
Bingo Diane. Basically you cannot be a feminist and right wing at the same time. The two ideas are diametrically opposed to each other.
Thank you. I’m a middle-aged female and have felt very awkward about the word up till this year, because I think we should be gender blind and men get the shaft in some horrible ways: they are forced to fight and kill in wars, they have been expected to be breadwinners and protectors, they have been expected to “man up” and stuff their emotions. That all sucks.
I was afraid if I termed myself a feminist, that I would become a target. I’ve already been a target in other ways, so… no. I wasn’t feeling very brave about it.
I think it was a long, slow turning point, but for me the defining moment was Malala’s recovery from her attempted murder. Because she wants to go to SCHOOL. She has more courage in her pinky than I host in my entire body.
Hell yes. I am a feminist. Feminism benefits everyone: men, women, children, our entire future. A single mind wasted, a single body defiled, a single soul broken: one too many.
Thanks for weighing in, John.
There are feminists on the right, I am not one but I do know some. There is nothing particularly incompatible between believing that women should have equal rights under the law and that for example,people should have the right to own guns. Under that formulation women would simply have the right to own guns on the same terms as anyone else.
Note, I wrote my own comment before I read any of the others. I hope that was not a breach of etiquette.
Eilonwy – I have to disagree with you on the “ally” point. An ally can cut and run if the tide turns.
Self-definition as a feminist means you’re making that particular stand.
The whole point of feminism is that having this belief, taking this stand, should not be limited by gender. From my point of view, it’s a civil rights issue. All genders should be given equal rights, period.
p.s. Eilonwy is one of my favorite literary characters
bunwat there is nothing compatible between the “traditional family values” of the American right and Feminism.
“Basically you cannot be a feminist and right wing at the same time. The two ideas are diametrically opposed to each other.”
Um….I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Or, at least, it depends on what you mean by “right wing” – if you’re coming at things from a sort of libertarian “the rights of the individual are sacred and the government should butt out”, then….the two ideas are indeed quite compatible (“the rights of the individual are sacred, for both women AND men”). But if by “right wing” you’re focusing only on a few select issues, then no.
But the thing is, you need to confine your definition of “right wing” to a specific definition to make that claim, and – just like with feminism – I don’t think that’s possible either. Claiming that all right-wing folk are pro-life Quiverfull church goin’ folk is like saying that all feminists have hairy legs and well-thumbed copies of Andrea Dworkin or Valerie Solanus’ SCUM Manifesto, and neither one is the case.
Actually, John, we knew that — you’ve been walking the talk a long time now. The rest is just a semantic argument. Hey, if you post your mailing address we could all send cookies! (Which is SUCH a good reason not to do that…)
bunwat, I agree that there’s nothing incompatible between believing in equal rights and treatment and gun rights…however, I’ve observed that I tend to disagree with many right-leaning women on what we mean by “equal rights” because the line is usually drawn at abortion rights or contraceptives. Then it’s just convenient that I, left-winger, am also pro-gun control, and she, right-winger, is pro-gun rights. I think that’s how it all gets lumped in there.
But as far as what is compatible with feminism, I think it intersects with sexism and a patriarchal view, as well. When conservatives (mostly SWM) say they want to return the country to a “better time” or “how it used to be” – many of us ask, “why?” and it’s because that time was overwhelmingly nicer for those guys. They were terrible for women and minorities. I’d never want to experience those times. But the women who stand by these candidates don’t see that (mostly because they’re white women), and when the words align with the actions (voter ID, criminal prosecution rates, mandatory ultrasounds) I just shake my head and wonder how many women vote for that party and believe in feminism.
Agreed. I still call myself a bumper sticker feminist to reflect my relatively shallow academic grounding in feminism but…
Hell yes, I’m a feminist.
@Yvonne R: I think there’s a lot of truth to what you say. The bullshit and the outrage have always been there, it’s just that now the push back can be seen.
It feels worse because it’s more visible, but may actually be getting better.
Well, I’ve lived with “The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” for more years than Mr. Scalzi, which means I’ve lived during even more of the Golden Age of Men (or MadMen), And after observing my own parents’ relationship, I began an interest in Feminism even when I was experimenting with Libertarianism (worse than experimenting with drugs).
In my working life, two of the three best bosses I ever had were women (and only one of my worst five). And after a long and ultimately heart-breaking relationship with a woman who had deep emotional problems, I get very very angry at men who toss out the term “crazy ex”. Hell yes, I am a Feminist.
And not only do I believe that we desperately need more equality among the sexes, genders, orientations, races, nationalities, everythings (and yes, I know it would seriously diminish my own personal privilege), I suspect that even if the pendulum swung a LITTLE too far the other way, from male-dominated to female-dominated, Paternalistic to Maternalistic it would do our society more much good than harm. I welcome our new “misandrist” overlords… I mean overladies. Whatever.
Yay! A lot of us female feminists knew you fit the definition, but it’s important that you feel comfortable enough and strongly enough to declare it yourself!
[Deleted. Guess, remember what the failure mode of clever is, please — JS]
@eilonnwy Your attitude about feminism is what made me, a woman, distance myself from the term in my teens and twenties. I do not want to belong to any group that defines itself by exclusion. I get discouraged by people who are willing to hinder the movement rather than accept the support of men, especially when men still hold the majority of power and therefore have more power to effect changes from the inside.
I’m a woman who embraces feminism. I think any woman who doesn’t is a fool to herself and a menace to others, because she’s living in a dream-world (yes, that does include the current Foreign Minister of Australia).
But I also believe feminism, and particularly intersectional feminism, is only part of the process of dismantling structures which have been built up to create and support the kyriarchal privilege hierarchies, and creating a world in which a person’s heritage (both genetic and cultural) is not regarded as fit grounds to either privilege or disprivilege them for life. I have no idea what that world would look like – I’m not that good at world-building – but I would hope it would be a better one than this.
Part of this process involves recognising “mainstream” feminism is largely the feminism of wealthy white women (and the men who support them), and recognising this feminism not only doesn’t have all the answers, but quite often isn’t asking the correct questions. It doesn’t ask questions about whether the intersection of gender and other axes of privilege creates different problems, or whether there are problems inherent within “mainstream” feminism itself and its privileging of wealth and whiteness as some of the defining characteristics of femininity. Which means I feel it incumbent on me, as a white woman, to listen when my non-white sisters speak about their experiences of not being white, and how that intersects with their experience of being a woman. It means when my transgender sisters speak up, I have to listen to their experience of how being trans changes their experience of being a woman. It means when my non-heterosexual sisters speak up, I need to listen to learn how their sexual identities alter their experience of womanhood, feminism, and femininity compared to my own experience. I need to be willing to accept that someone else’s different experience isn’t “better” or “more authentic” or “less authentic” or “worse” than my own – it’s just different. It means I want my wealthy sisters to listen when I speak about how being on a low income affects the way I perform femininity, and how I perform womanhood, and how this doesn’t make me a better or worse feminist as a result, but it does mean I’m not going to give the same reaction to something they think is wonderful. It means I want my neurotypical and able-bodied sisters to listen when I speak about how being mentally ill and having a thyroid condition affects the way I perform these things – and how these things change what I want out of feminism as a result. I want my younger sisters to listen when I speak about the way ageing changes priorities as well.
(Oh, and I also listen when our brothers start speaking up about how they’re disadvantaged by the kyriarchal intersections too. But not to the point where I’m willing to do the heavy lifting on their behalf – if you want to change the world, guys, you have to put in some of the effort yourselves.)
So yeah, I’m a feminist. But I’m a feminist who isn’t going to just go along with the main herd – I’m going to stand up and critique things and ask awkward questions along the way. Which in many ways means other feminists may not wish to own my feminism.
Great post, and I agree entirely. Thank you for writing it.
And my I suggest that, on the off chance that you need a follow-up t-shirt for the purple-bunny one, some kind of graphical riff on “MAN-SLAVING ANDROGEDDON” needs to happen. That is one fine turn of phrase, there. Turns of phrase like that might make you a perfessional story-writer!
Happy New Year to you and your family!
As the father of a daughter who is a USMC Lieutenant Colonel and another who is a bigwig at a well-known tech company I have been an avowed feminist for a long time. My moment of clarity happened when I was in law school and took a class in feminist issues and came home babbling to my wife about the Great Enlightenment. After which she said “So how come i always have to do the dishes” I have been trying hard to free myself from conflating gender with roles and activities and behaviors ever since. As i am very human i do not always succeed but do not suggest to me that either of my daughters or granddaughters should be limited in any way other than by their abilities,l interests, and commitment.
This (Barriers to Diverse Recruitment) popped up on my feed just now, and I think it sort of ties in with a lot of what is being said about the role of feminism in tackling issues which aren’t necessarily just flat-out “gender discrimination” up-thread. Have a read of it, and try to listen to what the writer is saying. The writer isn’t just talking about issues of gender here, although gender is largely the lens they’re using to view the issue – they’re also talking about issues of race, of disability status, of sexual identity and so on.
We (and by “we”, I mean “the people living in the WEIRD culture set”) live in a culture set in which the cultural creation apparatus has largely been not so much hijacked as annexed by the minions of the kyriarchy – the people who create our means of cultural self-reflection largely create it in such a way as to strongly reinforce kyriarchal value sets. Part of the process of reclaiming our culture for all of us (not just the rich straight white males at the top) is getting more of the people who aren’t straight white males of middle and upper class ancestry into positions where their cultural creations are promoted and recognised as valid.
 Western, Educated, Industrial(/post-Industrial), Rich, Democratic
I think Emma Watson would approve.
John, you do not get a cookie from me, because I’m almost outta cookies and I’m not sharing them with anyone right now.
Are we all going to form the next super-band “Man-Enslaving Androgeddon” now? Or is that the overall title of the festival featuring many bands?
John doesn’t get a cookie from me because I already gave him a whole package of cookies (and a Coke Zero to wash them down with) at his Gurnee reading for Lock In. So there.
I think that Man-Enslaving Androgeddon should definitely be a multi-day festival. With cookies.
Men and women are different, and this does not make one inherently better or worse than the other, just different. Vive la difference!
‘Separate but equal’ certainly sounds more elegant in French, but its meaning is just as ugly. And not especially feminist.
Insisting men and women (with a few reluctant exceptions) are just different comes apart when you look at it carefully. What does it mean to say that women are ”more emotional” than men, in a culture that punishes men for showing sorrow but treats anger as properly manly? Why do we fuss about women holding jobs that “require strength” but think nothing of the physical strength required to be a washerwoman or to knead bread by hand?
People come in a wide range of physical and emotional packages. To cram them all into one of two (2) preset boxes, while generously allowing as some unusual specimens might get a hall pass from time to time, is not feminism, either. Feminism is, or at least should be, about opening up the full range of human expression to everyone. That people worry this will lead to a dystopia of forced androgyny or incompetent firefighters is baffling.
[Deleted because contentless insults are boring and add nothing to the conversation – JS]
@Cally: “Man-Enslaving Androgeddon! It’s like Lilith Fair, but METAL! With COOKIES!!! Buy your tickets from TicketMistress!” \m/ Featuring Forced Androgyny on the second staaaage.
Turning off comments for the night. Be back on in the morning. See you then!
Update: Comments back on.
thank you so much for sharing your experience, JS! every time a man recognizes and acknowledges men’s gender-based privilege, he joins our struggle! congratulations and welcome aboard!
It’s weird, I just assumed John did not call himself a feminist out of sensitivity for the people who espouse Eilonwy’s position. Well, welcome to the club, Mr. Scalzi. I have been out of the closet as a feminist for over 20 years now. It doesn’t make me a better person. It just means I am not completely stupid about one aspect of life. But there are so many aspects of life to get wrong, I doubt if I will ever run out of frontiers. Keep reaching for that rainbow!!!
We use the word “man” inclusively to refer to the entire species, even though we also use it in a gender-exclusive way. I like to think I am man enough to call myself a feminist.
Great post, John! And kudos for inspiring a rad new t-shirt about it.
I prefer to go by the term “pro-feminist” because I support feminists who actually are making changes in the world. It doesn’t hurt that many of the women in my family are strong, independent types, and in my career thus far, I’ve had the pleasure of working under many smart and talented women.
I also support feminism because, as a male, I’d like to not be lumped into the “macho” culture I live in. Despite what TV commercials and certain MRAs tell me, I don’t want to feel ashamed for not being a beer-guzzling, woman-chasing, football-watching Red-Blooded American 24/7. I’d like to enjoy my wine, baseball, and pleasant chats with a platonic ladyfriend, thank you very much.
Words like Liberal and Feminist shouldn’t be frowned upon. Thanks J!
Unfortunately, we don’t always get to define the meaning of the terms by which we identify ourselves in public discourse. It’s one thing to say “I am a feminist and here is the definition of how I am feminist,” and another for someone else to say “well, he says he is a feminist, and so do these other crazy people, so he is identifying with the crazy people.”
An example from across the political isle. Someone might say that they are a Tea Party sympathizer. By this, they may intend to mean “I am generally in favor of having taxation and spending in relation to one another and would prefer we do not fund our government via IOUs written on behalf of our grandchildren.” Someone else, in hearing that, may think, “this person is a crazy right-winger who doesn’t want to pay a dime in taxes and thinks the government should be shut down totally!” (And indeed, there are a few of the latter type knocking around out there…) Your use of the label does not result in the identification that you’ve got in mind. You can say “but this is what I mean when I say Tea Party” all you like, but the other person is likely not interested in that argument, thinking “if you identify yourself with the movement, you’re identifying yourself with the movement.” Anything else smacks of Humpty from Alice in Wonderland, no?
And this is unfortunate, because frankly, I’m completely all right with the kind of feminism that you’re espousing – i.e. that men and women should have equal opportunities, that a lot of opposition to things like abortion are based on religious objections that don’t have any place in a secular government (and that, more bluntly, abortion should be generally available and free from obstacles), that women should not be subjected to skeevy behavior without their consent, and that large venues should have the appropriate policies in place to ensure that their attendees aren’t subject to harassment. I don’t find those policy prescriptions to be objectionable at all.
And I’m also sympathetic to the idea that hey, here is this great term to describe your political position… but it’s taken on a lot of additional baggage, and a lot of that is due to people who are assumed to be leading the parade because they got out in front in order to blow their own trumpet, as it were. But if the words “Tea Party” make you think “oh god, Pat Robertson”, surely you can understand how another person could hear “feminism” and think “what, all sex is rape now?”
I don’t know if there’s a good answer for this sort of thing, though. To an extent, any successful movement is going to attract the sort of person who will be happy to insist that of course their own idiosyncratic nuttiness is the basis of the broader movement in general, and the media loves looking at those people because “all sex is rape!” or “God will burn the gays” or whatever gets more traffic than “reasonable people espouse reasonable positions, film at 11″… Maybe we just need to live with it.
>the Men’s Rights/GamerGate/Just Plain Sexist Brigades
This Venn Diagram is a perfect circle.
Hell yes, I am Spartacus… er, a Feminist!
Yay, glad you came around to our way of thinking on this topic! (We still get people coming to our blog linked from comments on that previous thread.)
Dear eilonnwy, KWadsworth, and NI (and anyone else who needs it),
There is one sure way to do feminism wrong– that is to tell a whole bunch of other people they are doing feminism wrong. “Divide and conquer” is a strategy beloved by the establishment and the status quo. “My way or the highway” is the proven enemy of genuine change.
pax / Ctein
p.s…. and before someone points out that the first sentence can be read oxymoronically (is that a word?)… ummm, no. That’s like saying someone is a bigot if they say they hate bigots. Semantic games are not reality.
mythago, that was beautiful. Thank you.
To the guys saying, “I’m a feminist because of the women in my life” (and variations on the theme), thanks for the support, but… how about being a feminist because it’s the right thing to do?
(Apologies in advance for the contorted use of first/third-person references.)
I just went back and read the original post for context. Greg paraphrased the first half of Scalzi’s reasons for not self-identifying as feminist this way:
Scalzi then said, in essence, that he didn’t feel he met that “bar” to call himself a feminist.
John: I’d be genuinely curious to know whether you no longer feel that these criteria are necessary/relevant, or whether you now just feel more comfortable in self-identification as feminist on the basis of your recent pro-feminist advocacy. Because honestly, either or both could be true.
“how about being a feminist because it’s the right thing to do?”
Yeahhhh, that kinda thing bugs me too. It’s like all those Repubs who suddenly see the light when their son/daughter/wutevs comes out as gay– good for you, but no points and no cookie. You should have some empathy without people HAVING to be related to you.
[Deleted for uninspiring insults – JS]
[Deleted for pedestrian aspersions regarding my masculinity. Seriously, Obi, you had to come back to drop this one? Disappointing – JS]
“I don’t expect declaring myself a feminist means I will be granted a +5 Ally Shield of Immunity From Criticism, with a side of cookies.”
I do think you deserve at least those cookies.
More seriously, this is probably the first time this entire year I’ve seen the term “white knight” not used pejoratively. That is… refreshening. And hopeful.
[Deleted because, Oh, Obi. You couldn’t be more of a sad little dude if you tried. Bye, now! – JS]
Eliza and Eric RoM, sometimes that’s what it takes to begin to make a shift in someone’s thinking. People in a given group go from being “them” to being “my kid and people like her,” and suddenly (or not so suddenly perhaps) the lightbulb goes on and their perspective shifts. Whatever brings them to the light is a good thing, IMO.
“Dear eilonnwy, KWadsworth, and NI (and anyone else who needs it),
There is one sure way to do feminism wrong– that is to tell a whole bunch of other people they are doing feminism wrong.”
…Well, uh, yeah, that’s kind of what I was trying to say.
“+5 Ally Shield of Immunity From Criticism, with a side of cookies.”
I totally misread that as an “+5 Ally Sheedy of Immunity” the first time through – tells you how old I am, I guess.
I am a cis, white, het male in a developed nation. As such, my voice is heeded far beyond its worth, heeded in a way that most women’s are not. This is why I publicly, loudly, and unapologetically identify as a feminist.
I take the ridiculous, unearned gravitas that was handed to me as an accident of birth and use it for good, or I try to anyway. I speak out as a feminist because I’m harder to ignore.
And please understand, I don’t speak for women, I haven’t that right. I attempt to be an amplifier, a signal boost to the message that women have been screaming into the void for generations: “We are people.”
I am a feminist, and I hope like hell that one day I will be able to lay that label down because the world no longer sees me as the default human.
“Hell yes, I’m a feminist.”
Uh huh. So is Christina Hoff Sommers, according to her.
Excuse me for side eying this claim from a man who repeatedly privileges men’s comfort over women’s – bros before hos in every case I can think of – refuses to boot some of his worst, most sexist regulars, and refuses to call out misbehaving men like Neil Gaiman because they’re buddies.
That doesn’t make you unique, Scalzi. Lots of men behave like this. Lots of women too, sadly. It doesn’t make you evil. But it doesn’t make you a feminist either.
I will grant no man the right to take this label for himself. You can be given it, with qualifications, and you can lose it very damn easily. You don’t deserve it yet.
You get props for trying. You get negative cookies for this self-aggrandizing post. Wipes out a lot of goodwill you might have otherwise claimed for your efforts.
(And no, women don’t need men labelling themselves feminists. We need men walking the walk. Walk the walk, keep walking it, and one day, you might achieve what you claim here.)
Sorry to drop this into your bright shiny new 2015, but I was travelling when this came out and you closed comments the one time I tried to say this before.
“I will grant no man the right to take this label for himself.”
This suggests you believe that the privilege of granting or denying the label falls solely and exclusively to you, Ms. Somerville. I imagine a number of people, including many women, might be surprised by such a claim.
Otherwise, you are of course free to have any opinion you like about me, including regarding my fitness for the title of feminist. As I do with anyone, you may be assured I give your opinion all due consideration.
Avatar @ 12/30/14 18:32:
1. Who are the “crazy people” whose words and actions are eclipsing all other definitions of “feminism”?
2. What are the statements people have made in the name of feminism that lead to those people being labeled “crazy”?
I’m asking both questions, not either. I predict, based on my experience with this line of argument, at least one of the following:
* You will struggle to answer question 1, when it is separated from question 2
* There will not actually be a strong consensus that the people named in your answer to question 1 actually do define feminism.
* Your answers to question 2 will not be not beliefs a non-negligible number of people actually hold (I’m tempted here to link the WHTM debunking of “feminist quotes”)
* You will list some names in answer to question 1 and some beliefs in answer to question 2, but it will turn out those people don’t hold those beliefs.
I always say:
Of course I’m a feminist. As a boy, I was prohibited from doing things because I was a boy. Feminism means non-sexism: it means boys are not prohibited or discouraged from doing things merely because they’re considered “girl things”. As a result, feminism directly personally benefits me. What if I need to cry in public? What if I want to wear a pink dress in public (without getting beaten up)?
Obviously, girls should have the same rights to do things which are traditionally considered “boy things”. Basic fairness, right?
I had an email conversation with someone once where she said that she thought that for a lot of men it was just very abstract; that they didn’t see feminism as a personal matter; and that’s why they didn’t get it. I guess if you’re comfortable with conforming with the gender-shaped box your culture has put around you, you can be a sexist and be happy with it.
If you’re not comfortable in your culture’s gender-shaped box, then it’s *personal*.
I always say: I will accept men calling themselves feminists the very second that black women accept white women calling themselves womanists.
“I imagine a number of people, including many women, might be surprised by such a claim.”
And a good many who’d agree with me, so what’s your point?
I figured you’d treat my comment with contempt. But then that’s the way male ‘feminists’ usually react to criticism from women of their self-labelling. I mean, women have historically done so well with self-labelled feminists like Hugo Schwyzer and Ally Fogg. And we have never had any difficulties with men who think they understand feminism better than the women who’ve fought under its banner for decades have. Or who think they understand how sexism operates and why feminism is needed, more than any woman does.
You’ve called yourself a feminist in public for mere seconds and already you’re pouring scorn on women who’ve identified as one all their lives side eying you over it for excellent reasons – both your personal actions, and the history of other men trying to grab attention and cookies for what women have been just getting on with for no praise and a great deal of criticism most of their lives. So you say “you are of course free to have any opinion you like about me, including regarding my fitness for the title of feminist” but you don’t actually accept I have a right. You won’t give my views consideration because I’m interfering with your cookie seeking. And yet it is the cookie seeking which makes me doubt you most of all.
A real feminist ally listens to women – especially one who has engaged you and discussed things with you in good faith over several years – and refrains from the kind of bullshit you just engaged in. Of course there are women who think men can be feminists. There are women who deny others the right to abortion and believe their trans children can be ‘cured’ by Christian therapists. Your snotty reply makes it clear that you will only listen to women who agree with you.
And mate, that’s really fucking typical of male feminists.
Try a little humility, Scalzi. Women have it enforced on them. It might help you realise that role playing feminism is nothing like living as one. And maybe then, you will use your male privilege in a way that actually helps us, not just your reputation and your battles with the fuckwits of the internet.
Feminism isn’t a game. It’s a struggle, one faced every day, every minute. Only those who live that, deserve to use the term ‘feminist’. The best you can be is an ally – but this post is not the best of you.
“Nothing proves the need to stop male feminists like telling men they can’t be feminists.”
In a post where women are being told they’re the reason feminism has such a bad rap, and men are lauded for coming into a woman-intended space and claiming a label that does not belong to them. I think I’ve had one time where I said “men can be feminist allies, but not feminists”, and the man I was speaking to didn’t spend hours arguing with me about how I was wrong, anti-male, and in fact not a true feminist.
If we’re quoting bell hooks in self-support, then:
“Individual heterosexual women came to the movement from relationships where men were cruel, unkind, violent, unfaithful. Many of these men were radical thinkers who participated in movements for social justice, speaking out on behalf of the workers, the poor, speaking out on behalf of racial justice. However when it came to the issue of gender they were as sexist as their conservative cohorts.”
(In the comments of said post, I mean. Words, I has them.)
“What I would object to is the deliberate lowering of standards of physical strength for that task for the purpose of allowing more women to perform it.”
Okay, and how often has this actually happened, as opposed to it being merely asserted as an obstructionist tactic to prevent the inclusion of women and non-Caucasians?
I’ll bet you dollars to ducats that you can’t find much more than unverifiable anecdotal assertions from entirely dubious sources.
And, even if I lost that bet, it’s a bogus concern, because it places physical strength above all other criteria. In California, for example, police forces used it for years to keep out women and non-Caucasians (here, primarily Asian and Mexican men who, on average, are of smaller and slighter stature than Caucasian men). Well, guess what? It turns out police forces do a much more effective and safer job of policing when they include a representative selection of the population? Even if a smaller percentage of those can’t take down your urban-mythical 300 pound-body-building burglar?
On the general matter of calling oneself a feminist, I personally approach it as an English major: Words are weapons. I choose my weapon according to the circumstances. For instance, in an internal discussion among the like-minded, I would never bother to say anything like “I am a feminist” because, really, my thoughts and opinions speak for themselves and anointing myself with a label isn’t going to make them any more credible. It might even make them less credible if some people think I’m just trying to score points.
On the other hand, if I’m in such a group and someone asks in one form or another, “How many people here consider themselves feminists?” I’m going to raise my hand. Strength in solidarity.
Similarly, in dealing with the outside world, most of the time I will not necessarily identify myself as a feminist because that just gives the opposition a bull’s-eye target to box me with a label. It would be like if, for example, I wanted to argue for governmental fiscal responsibility (BTW, I don’t) and I start off my argument by saying “Well, since I’m a Republican…” (BTW, I’m not) It’s a poorer approach that gives people who don’t agree with me a reason to ignore me ab initio.
On the other hand, in an outside world debate, if someone challenges a statement of mine by saying accusatorily, “What are you, some kind of feminist?” I’m very likely to respond with something along the lines of “Oh yes, the very dangerous kind.”
I don’t particularly give a damn whether I am “qualified” to call myself a feminist (pace, Ann), I’m only interested in how useful it will be for furthering the political goals I support (which are feminist). Which sometimes makes it useful to stand up as a man asserting he’s a feminist and sometimes not.
As an aside, I just can’t get behind the term “feminist Ally.” To me it sounds wishy-washy and a way of avoiding taking any responsibility for one’s politics. I know it hits other people differently, but for me it’s a copout. I’d rather not say anything at all then use that phrase.
On the other hand, I am, officially, an “Abject Toady** of the Evil Feminist Cabal.” I have the button!
**(‘Cause, you know, Evil Cabals don’t have minions or even lackeys. They have toadies.)
pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
— Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com
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Apologies for misreading your intent. I read it divisively, apparently not what you meant!
It was the “moderate” vs “zealous” feminist thing that set me off. Just maladroit choice of words?
Frankly I can’t imagine how anyone could object to the idea that feminism has to be understood in the context of “all the political history of the movement.” I mean, fergodsakes, it is a POLITICAL movement. The rallying cry of the Second Wave was the profoundly important “The personal is political.” Because, of course, the political is personal as well.
But trying to do feminism divorced from its history? That’d be like trying to do race rights divorced from segregation. It does not compute!
‘Course, what conclusions one draws from that history is a whole ‘nuther matter.
pax / Ctein
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Ann, I think you’re misreading Scalzi here:
“This suggests you believe that the privilege of granting or denying the label falls solely and exclusively to you, Ms. Somerville. I imagine a number of people, including many women, might be surprised by such a claim.”
The claim to which he’s referring is that you yourself are the exclusive arbiter of who may use the label, not just whether he may use it. And yes, many women would be surprised that one single woman they may not know exists has the authority to say whether they may call themselves feminists.
I don’t see contempt or scorn in his comment, though I’m not saying that therefore you shouldn’t, of course. I do wonder about the instances of “bros before hos” that you’re recalling, since in the six years I’ve been reading here I don’t recall much of that.
For the record, I don’t use the label as a noun myself, although my husband finds this very strange. I’m of a religion that doesn’t get involved in politics, so I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to take a label as self-identity along those lines — I wouldn’t call myself “a liberal” either, although either of those may be used as adjectives to describe some opinions I have been heard to espouse vociferously.
I appreciate the idea of “being a feminist” as not a defensive thing but an aspirational one, as including accepting the possibility of additional criticism and seeking both accountability and to be a supportive resource. I think that piece of it addresses many of the criticisms of men who have adopted the title in the past, benefiting from the positive publicity available to them (but not women) while still personally making things worse.
“And a good many who’d agree with me, so what’s your point?”
A good many people would agree that you are the sole arbiter of who is a feminist and who is not? With all due respect, I am skeptical of that assertion.
“I figured you’d treat my comment with contempt.”
As I noted, I gave your comment its due consideration. If you assume that’s with contempt, that’s on you.
With that said, at this point you have registered your opinion on my calling myself a feminist, and I have received it, and I’m not sure that there’s much more to say about it, so let’s go ahead and wrap up this particular line of conversation, please.
“more or less suited” for different jobs.
The only gender specific jobs are sperm donor and wet nurse.
The thing about “lowering standards” is they generally pick some obscure case that doesn’t really reflect the job but will screen out almost all women.
For instance, when I was in the US Navy (mid 90s, on the first ship with women from the start), people were saying women shouldn’t be on the ships because they couldn’t load ammo. Now, I’m not talking regular bullets here, I’m speaking of loading the 5″ gun magazine. It involves moving oddly-shaped 90 pound explosive items in a confined space. You had to move each one solo, as passing off or team-lifting explosives is highly discouraged. It was brutal enough that our ship formed 3 teams, and each one worked about one 5 minute shift every 45 minutes.
To do this, they used only the (young) guys from combat systems. The older men and women either held down the rest of the duties or supervised, and the junior women did the non-physical parts of the job (inventory, crane operator, safety observers, etc). There are certainly women who could hump ammo, but I’m comfortable stating that the median male sailor could do it, and the median female sailor couldn’t. I’m also comfortable stating that if anyone did the job often enough, they’d have to make tools to assist.
It’s important to note that this is a rare task (once in 4 years on the ship), and there are plenty of non-lifting roles in this task. In fact, the majority of the jobs are non-lifting. But still, it was seized on as a reason to exclude women from combat ships.
I’d note that being small enough to climb over/behind/inside equipment to maintain it (a daily requirement), an area where women have a distinct advantage, was never, ever considered.
We may be wandering off topic just a little, so let’s tighten up the discussion, please.
This is from your blog entry:
“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.”
I completely agree with that statement.
Now the reason why I have problems calling myself a feminist is, that I also believe that the first step to achieve for women “the same rights and privileges as men” is to acknowledge the differences between women and men.
This might sound paradoxical, but fact is that women for our species get pregnant and bear children (you might circumvent this with technology, but I do not want to follow that line of thought right now).
This is a huge biological difference between women and men, and in my opinion this particualr difference has a huge social impact.
I am from Germany. We just passed legislation that approximately says that
30% of personnell of the boards of directors of major German companies
should be female by 2016 (the details are a little bit more complex).
I am not a big fan of this legislation.
I believe that the fundamental problem is how to deal with the biological difference, and this legislation does not address this problem at all.
I believe to give women the same rights and privileges as men, you must somehow address this biological difference. I also think that this is not only a matter of legislation but also a matter of social pressure and social environment or social habits (for lack of a better term).
I do not believe that there are straight-forward or easy solutions for this problem.
Now my impression is that some feminists (at least in the German media), try very hard to gloss over the biological differences.
I do not think that this is helpful at all; and because of that I do have problems calling myself a feminist.
Do I believe that women should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as men ?
Yes, very much so.
Do I believe that women and men are (biologically) created equal ?
No, not at all.
So: The first step to give men and women the same rights and privileges is to accept the second point and find out how to work around the biological differences and their consequences.
That thinking is years (if not decades) out of date. It was long ago obsoleted.
First off, what the world is being on a board of directors have to do with whether or not one can get pregnant? I fail to see any connection whatsoever.
Second, I was under the impression that most countries in the EU had implemented PARENTAL leave––not maternity leave, leave that is available to both parents. I’m pretty sure that’s old news.
Third, you are engaging in the “biology is destiny” fallacy which is at the root of a huge amount of sexism. Even if there were an argument for treating women differently in the socio-economic arena because they are pregnant (and there is not really any good argument for such), you cannot argue that all women should be treated differently because they *could* get pregnant. At any given moment, most women are not pregnant. Many women never get pregnant. Many women have been pregnant and are through with it. Many women decide they will not get pregnant for some considerable period of time. Declaring that all women should be bound by whatever strictures you wish to nonsensically put on them because SOME of them get pregnant is exactly the kind of prejudicial blanket stereotyping that feminism fights against.
So, yes, indeed, I agree with you. Until you can divorce yourself from the profoundly sexist notion that pregnancy enters into the discussion, you should not call yourself a feminist.
And, despite my being a man and so lacking a certain intimate familiarity with female culture, I believe I am on very safe ground when I state that there is not a single feminist woman out there who is not fully and completely aware that women get pregnant and men don’t! Pointing this out as if it were some kind of insightful revelation is… Well… I will just be polite and call it “humorous.”
You may find others are not so polite. Male privilege comes into play.
pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
— Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com
— Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
I love you, John. I’m going to repost the hell out of this.
I think “men shouldn’t call themselves feminists” is reasonable position. But I personally don’t hold by it.
I do think male feminists have to be extra careful that they are not dominating a room, or assuming leadership just because they can, or flexing their privilege in other ways. They should also be extra careful in calling out women, even if other feminist women are calling out the same women in (apparently) similar ways. It sounds unfair, but correcting privilege isn’t easy….
That said, I think Scalzi has shown he is sensitive about these things (and has been willing to listen when he wasn’t). Unlike the aforementioned Schwyzer.
The whole conception of biological difference is also a very tricky thing that creates massive generalizations and is also in and of itself a social construct, as I see it. The way I have taken to putting it lately is to point out that we have 23 chromosome pairs, so why do we let one of those chromosome pairs outweigh the other 22 on such a massive level when we are looking at society?
I think the language I see people in discussions like this use about needing to recognize the differences between men and women smacks a little too much of “separate but equal” for my tastes. I definitely do think we need to recognize and respect difference, but it’s not that we should recognize differences between male and female so much as that we should recognize that different people are different, period. Massive generalizations like the male/female construction do more damage than good.
Ingo: for us trans people, your argument constitutes erasure and implicit transphobia. Trans men have carried children to term — that doesn’t make them not men. Trans women have provided the sperm for biological children — that doesn’t make them not women.
Speaking more generally, I fail to see any gain in excluding men — or any gender — from declaring themselves feminists. There are things that hurt men — gender role enforcement, the role of violence in being acculturated as an assigned male, and many other issues — that are also things that feminism stands against. Women face, by far, the greater burden under patriarchy, and men benefit far more from patriarchy, but to pretend that patriarchy does not also hurt men is to erase a lot of pain and violence.
Seredee, you bring up a point that has been bugging me and now I feel prompted to speak – er, write because of your lovely thoughts on this.
This notion that only women can be feminists seems terribly exclusive. It assumes that those that identify as a gender other than male or female (something quite common in many parts of the world and growing in acceptance here at home) are then excluded. It assumes that transgender people cannot be feminist (unless, I suppose they are transgender female?).
Add to it this whole ‘feminist ally’ thing; it just feels a bit too much like the old school country clubs or men’s clubs where the former allowed membership to women through their husbands and the latter might allow you, on specific nights, to bring a wife to dinner but membership was understood to belong to the man. It smacks of the whole “There’s a good dear, why not sit by the pool and have a martini with the girls while I talk business” nonsense.
Sure, it might feel good to be on the dominant side of that equation for once, but if I am espousing feminism, shouldn’t I be avoiding just those sort of situations?
Look, I’m a woman who grew up in a house of men – three brothers and dad and then mom and me. Mom had the advanced degree first and was the majority breadwinner of the family for most of her marriage (which lasted 60 some odd years). She also drove the Triumph or the Mustang while Dad drove the ‘sensible’ car, and they shared pretty equally in the upkeep of the house, cooking and child raising at a time when that was kind of… radical. So perhaps my idea of equality is bit more skewed. My mom was a feminist before feminism was a thing, I suspect; though I’m not sure she would have identified herself as such.
I guess my point here is that Mom made it work, mostly to her advantage, by not playing by the rules that someone else sought to impose on her but rather by the rules she decided worked best for her situation. And she had some interesting fights.
I hope I am doing the same, ignoring the rules that will just piss me off and forging my own way when the path is blocked. So I don’t feel we should to be putting the ‘gurlz only’ sign outside the feminist club house if what we are looking for is equality among ALL genders. Instead, I think that sign should be along the lines of “Everyone welcome who welcomes everyone.”
As such I am thrilled to hear a man announce he is a feminist – however imperfectly he may come at it. I’m not a perfect feminist either,
Dear Seredee and Kathryne,
Seredee, you brought up the other really good reason for not indulging in these “biology is destiny” arguments, which is that it seduces people into binary thinking about human sex, sexuality, and gender. Which is so very, very wrong. (I don’t mean just morally/ethically wrong… which it is… but factually wrong,just not the way those things work.) In shooting down Ingo’s silliness (and, really, it’s hard for a man to get sillier than to think that he needs to explain to a woman *anything* about sexual biology) I totally fell into the trap of talking about it cis-wise. Which I know better and normally avoid, but when someone else is (restrictively) defining the playing field it takes a particular degree of attention not to get sucked in.
Unless you are the one whose ox is personally getting gored.
Which is the point you were making!
Kathryne, I think you’ve crystallized what was bothering me about that “ally” thing. It feels like the equivalent of “ladies’ auxiliary,” except it’s operating in the mirror universe of male privilege–– it gives men the psychological privilege of thinking/saying, “Hey, look, I SAID I was your ally. I’m talking the talk. What more do you want from me?!” It’s not an acknowledgment of a secondary role. It’s a copout.
I’d rather say nothing at all. Except, as noted in my earlier comment, when it is a useful weapon to do so.
pax \ Ctein
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“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.”
I would add “responsibilities” to that sentence and then i’d agree 100% (Finland’s conscription doesn’t apply to women) but i still don’t see myself as feminist. In my view, the term feminist requires somekind of action or active advocacy that concerns women’s rights that i do not do. Like being in somekind of activist club or such that promotes those issues. I don’t do anything like that, i just vote on all issues promoting egalitarianism towards all genders.
This isn’t best possible analogy, but it was the best i could come up with: If i like a book, that doesn’t make me a fan of the book. To be a fan, you need to do bit more, be more enthustisiastic and get more deeply in it. I think the same way about feminism, just thinking that everybody should be treated equally regardless of their gender doesn’t make me feminist. In my view, feminist is someone who actively advocates and promotes the issues and concentrates on those issues. Feminist is “fan” of the women’s issues.
First: I find the comments about my little contribution above rather funny: The comments reflect exactly why I would not like to be called a “feminist”.
Second: It seems I was thoroughly misunderstood so let me try again:
>>First off, what the world is being on a board of directors have to do with whether or not one can get pregnant? I fail to see any connection whatsoever.<>you are engaging in the “biology is destiny” fallacy which is at the root of a huge amount of sexism.<>why do we let one of those chromosome pairs outweigh the other 22 on such a
massive level when we are looking at society<<
I do not think that this is helpful at all.
My credo is: Accept the differences; use the resources of society to lessen the impact these differences have on the destiny of a person. That will help to build a society where everyone (regardless of gender, race or whatever else) has a fair chance.
Forget my entry before: It got severely mangled and I do not seem to be able to delete it, so let me try again:
First: I find the comments about my little contribution above rather funny: The comments reflect exactly why I would not like to be called a “feminist”.
Second: It seems I was thoroughly misunderstood so let me try again:
“First off, what the world is being on a board of directors have to do with whether or not one can get pregnant? I fail to see any connection whatsoever.”
It’s the other way round: Because woman do get pregnant their chances to become a member of a board of directors is lower.
I think the reasoning behind this is as follows: Assume a woman bears three children (so has three pregnancies). Additionally the woman wants to spent the first year after birth together with her baby. That means her career is interrupted for about 3 years (one year per child).
That in turn lowers her chances to rise through the ranks to become a member of a board of directors.
I believe that it should be possible for woman to get children and still have the same chance (or at least a similar chance) to become the member of a board of directors as any man.
Now there are a number of ways how society might achieve that. Here are a couple:
– Society simply honors that a woman bears children and cares for her babies.
So in the example above: When the woman returns back to her job,
the child care and birth count as extra qualification and not as disruption of her career.
– Somebody else takes care of her child. For example: Her husband might support her;
or her employer might offer a child care on the job; or the state might offer child care.
– Technology might help: She might be able to work from home (home office)
via using the internet etc.
Note that part of the problem are social conventions: Even if a mother has access to a child care facility, she might not use the facilty because she is afraid that society might label her as an uncaring mother. At least in Germany I believe this to be a very real concern.
What in my opinion does not help at all is to simply ignore the fact that woman do get pregnant and man don’t. So if ctein tells me that
“you are engaging in the “biology is destiny” fallacy which is at the root of a huge amount of sexism.”
I counter that ignoring biology will for sure lead to a rude awakening. I argue that you should not ignore biology. Instead: Because we live in a high-tech, high-wealth society, we should try to lessen the impact biology has on your destiny.
I believe that you have to accept biology and have to actively work against it to make sure that biology does not determine your destiny.
I think that technology has already helped a lot: There were lots of jobs which required a huge amount of brute physical strength.
These jobs were not exactly well suited to your average woman. But with the advent of mechanisation more and more jobs do not require brute strength any more and thus are open to everyone (who is able to handle the machines…).
To repeat what I already said: I find that feminists seem to ignore the biological differences or claim that these differences do not exist or declare them irrelevant. Example from Joel (above):
“why do we let one of those chromosome pairs outweigh the other 22 on such a massive level when we are looking at society”
I do not think that this is helpul at all.
My credo is: Accept the differences; use the resources of society to lessen the impact these differences have on the destiny of a person. This might really help to create a society in which everyone (regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation) has a fair chance.
As someone with a life on ‘Easy Mode’, I will say here that I don’t declare myself a feminist (despite acting as one to the best of my ability) because I don’t want to argue with people like Ann Somerville – I don’t have the energy, and anyway, I suspect it’s likely a kind of inverse kafkatrapping.
If you don’t think feminists are aware of all that and deal with it, you have not been paying much attention to feminism. As eilonnwy said, there’s a political history, and the past fifty years of it is full of exactly the sorts of discussions and recommendations you say feminists need to have for you to be willing to join the ranks. If anything, it has very sensibly dominated the discourse.
You’ve decided to pick very selectively from among those who have chosen to address other issues and use that as an excuse for not calling yourself a feminist. You find it funny that people don’t admire you for this. Enjoy your amusement– you stand alone.
I repeat– what you consider insightful is the most basic of knowledge for women, feminist or not.
Educate yourself on feminism better. MUCH better. Then you’ll possibly be able to make a sensible judgement about the movement.
Right now, you’re simple expressing an awesome amount of ignorance.
pax / Ctein
I do not want to hijack the conversation, so a short answer will suffice.
Is conscription as controversial in Finland as it is in the US?
Here, a substantial fraction, possibly a majority, of the population considers it an unacceptable evil. That is certainly the majority opinion on the progressive side of things. So, the question of whether or not women should be drafted (if conscription is ever re-activated) boils down to trying to decide if you an expand an evil to include everyone, in the name of equality, or if you try to shut the evil down entirely?
It does not admit of a simple answer in feminist debate, so it’s not considered a “litmus test” here.
Is the political situation different in Finland?
pax / Ctein
I have zero problem with gender equality.
I have a bit of a concern with identifying with the label “feminist” because of the way Ann so graciously demonstrated above. There is also nonsense like this (http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-09-hating-heforshe-campaign-doesnt-make-bad-feminist/ ). There is a significant portion of feminists that are adamant that feminism is not about gender equality for all, but strictly about gender equality for women. For another example http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/09/25/an-anti-feminist-walks-into-a-bar-a-play-in-five-acts/#comment-764098 where pointing out any sexism against a man can only be sexism itself, a demonstration of privilege.
I might dismiss this all as similar to the radical people who hashtag ferguson and advocate that all cops are evil. Extremists who dont represent the majority view. Except the first link is from someone pursuing a doctorate in feminist studies, so maybe that is what they’re teaching as the definition of feminism.
The “heforshe” name is awfully clunky, but its clearly about gender equality for all. And if doctorates in feminism want to define feminism to mean men can only be seen as oppressors and the heforshe campaign can only be seen as a bad thing, then, i am all for gender equality, but maybe “heforshe” best describes me.
And, as continuing, people are arguing that feminism needs to include men, that feminism is too exclusively about women (really.), that being an ally would mean men would behave worse than when they call themselves feminists, that being a feminist would mean arguing with people.
Dang, no wonder people don’t want to call themselves feminists. It’s too full of uppity women thinking they get to have something for themselves.
It is funny, Ingo, that you used my post as an example of someone who “ignores the biological differences or claims that these differences do not exist or declares them irrelevant,” given that I was in fact making the point that if you look at those biological differences they fall apart not because they do not exist, but because there are too many differences between too many people in the *same* category.
If you actually look at those biological differences you are taking for granted more closely you will find that most of the elements held up as biological differences between the sexes only apply to portions of each sex. The appeal to biological differences fails because if you actually look at specific examples of biological difference you will find that it doesn’t break down on lines of “male vs. female.”
I am not saying that people are the same, or that there are not differences between different groups of people, but rather that male and female are not particularly useful descriptions of those differences. People are *more* different than the male/female construction allows and we should actually celebrate those differences rather than try to create a binary.
On another note. I will also say that by my view there is a very good reason to keep the label Feminism and Feminist. Female has been associated with weakness historically, and this is still the case today. You still hear lines like “She succeeded despite being a woman” or “I cannot believe that girl is good at math and likes video games.” The stereotype of women as non-analytical and flighty still exists. The stereotype of women as a whole being victimizable and weak still exists.
While gender essentialism and patriarchal structures *also* do a massive amount of damage to people identified as male, the damage is quite different and the category is still used as the “power” category. So, the way I see it, the label feminist needs to stay in use until female is no longer used as the weak category in any way.
XtinaS, I don’t know that a small but vocal minority counts as “too full of.” As in any large population, there isn’t going to be homogeneity of ideas, and fixating on the small but vocal minorityas if they represent all of feminism and feminists smacks of laziness or a desire not to engage with the broader aspects of feminism.
And “uppity” has no meaning in a discussion of feminism. “Uppity” is a term that has typically been used to describe people who don’t know their place, with the implication is that their place is lower on the value scale than people who are describing them as “uppity.” People are described as “uppity” when they dare to presume equality with those who are supposedly higher up in the hierarchy. Since there is no hierarchy in which women are actually lower down, the use of “uppity” has a rather ugly implication.
BW, I’m pretty sure you’re missing the sarcasm tag in XtinaS post.
Xtina – uppity woman feminist here. Still, exclusion is what feminist fights against, yes? Excluding people based on gender? Excluding people from jobs, from fair salaries, from choices – that what feminism is against. So if, as a feminist, I am against exclusion based on gender, shouldn’t I be against the notion that men can’t be feminists simply because they aren’t…women? That seems counter-intuitive. I am happy to argue feminist ideas. I have been known to do so, loudly, vociferously, vigorously. I do so because I don’t believe that my gender has anything to do with anything other than being a part of my identity.
I will say that I am kind of tired of the fight. This fight should have been won by now. We shouldn’t be talking gender politics in 2015 simply because by now gender politics should be a quaint exhibit in a museum, a look at how things used to be way back when. And yet here we are. What this fight needs is more advocates, not less.
We need more people to say “hell yes, I’m a feminist” because it means that more people are saying “hell no, gender shouldn’t even come into the equation.” Which can’t be done when we are busy excluding people because well, gender.
So yeah, uppity and feminist and yet (hopefully) inclusive.
Greg @ 1/4 23:54:
A growing movement within the larger feminist movement is pushing for inclusion of non-binary people under the umbrella of feminism.
If that’s not what you meant, I’m not sure what this sentence means. Equality is for all by definition; that’s basic arithmetic.
DAVID, that is quite possible. If so, my apologies, XtinaS. There are plenty of people who have expressed those sentiments for real, so reading between the lines is an iffy proposition.
I refer you to the “womanist” bit, above. Fighting against oppression based on a particular axis does not mean we’re required to include the oppressive group in the struggle. (This goes for a great many struggles, not just feminism, of course – disability, race, social class, &c.)
Women are still treated as lesser in a wide variety of ways in society. (I speak to the US; I can’t speak for other societies.) Making sure men are included too!!!! comes way lower on my list than dealing with things women tend to have to face. Making yet more room for men who traditionally use that room, and their power, to drown out women is… peculiar at best, and damaging at more common.
BW: No worries. I sort of live and breathe sarcasm, so I forget to tag it. (No sarcasm in this comment. :) )
Hershele: If that’s not what you meant, I’m not sure what this sentence means.”
click on the links. read.
If that is still insufficient, the specific phrases you’re looking for is “Feminism is not about equality for men” and for a man to point out gender discrimination against men is really just more male sexism against women and male privilege. The other phrase to look for is that the “heforshe” campaign is to be hated because asking men to be part of feminism is really saying that “men have to liberate women because women have been unable to liberate themselves”.
If you follow the links and read, those two links forward a definition of “feminism” where Emma Watson’s “heforshe” campaign is simply more sexism against women and reinforcing male privilege and male white-knighting.
Equality is for all by definition;
Yeah, well, “feminism” is not the same word as “equality” now is it? I don’t have a problem with gender equality, because it is by definition arithmetically clear. Feminism, on the other hand, has multiple definitions, and they are not all wholly compatible. Some definitions, in fact, are diametrically opposed.
I see we’re wandering once again into a more general discussion of what feminism is and is not. It’s a rather too general discussion for the scope of this particular thread, so let’s reel it in, please.
Hereshele: see also how including men in the feminism movement is “Making yet more room for men who traditionally use that room, and their power, to drown out women”.
or Ann saying that for a man to declare himself a feminist gets him “negative cookies for this self-aggrandizing”.
So, there are two fundamentally different definitions of feminism. One is simply “gender equality” and includes men and women in the fight equally. The other sees men as traditionally the enemy, therefore they can’t be included in the fight for equality, and men who attempt to identify with the feminist movement are doing nothing but “self aggrandizing”.
So, I am leary of identifying with the label “feminist” because one common definition would see me as the traditional enemy of feminism and accuse me of taking on the label purely to get cookies.
Gender equality? That’s me. HeForShe? Sign me up. Feminist? Depends on which definition you mean.
I have been flattened by a virus for some days, thus leaving me in search of two kinds of reading material; the frivolous and the important. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference, but I chose to read the Parliamentary proceedings which brought equal marriage rights in England and Wales.
They are exceedingly long, and it was a hard fought battle, but the point which draws me to John’s perspective is that the legislation was won on free votes, in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, by large majorities. The men and women who voted for marriage equality were overwhelmingly straight, mostly white, privileged people who used their privilege to extend some element of justice for gay people, so that those who wish to marry their partners may do so; campaigners inside and outside Parliament sought and found allies within the ranks of those who wanted to extend civil rights to those who have been marginalised and attacked for their sexual orientation.
The Act could not have been passed without those allies; it would be ludicrous for me to turn up my nose and insist that gay people should have disdained their allies because they were straight. The people who answered the question of whether civil rights should apply equally with ‘Hell, Yes!’ are the ones who got the Act through with large majorities, and I have no interest in seeking to impose purity rules which damage those who are already disadvantaged…
“Still, exclusion is what feminist fights against, yes? Excluding people based on gender?…”
No, not necessarily. Feminism is fighting the oppression of women, and exclusion is one of several tools used to oppress women. But that does not mean the fight is about exclusion.
Exclusion is a tool that feminists have used effectively and necessarily. Women’s discussion and consciousness-raising groups have often excluded men for very obvious and good reasons.
So, no, it’s not “counter-intuitive.”
You may muster an argument for men calling themselves “feminist,” but arguing that it’s only logical because feminism always opposes exclusion fails.
pax / Ctein
Stevie: it would be ludicrous for me to turn up my nose and insist that gay people should have disdained their allies because they were straight.
Except that’s exactly what some feminists are doing. The rant on the rolereboot.org link is from someone getting their doctorate degree in feminism and expressing outrage at the heforshe being ludicrous by saying imagine the civil rights movement of the 60’s having a “WhitesForBlacks” campaign. Well, blacks comprise only about 15% of the total population in America, and there is no possible way blacks could have overturned segregation and voter suppression without the help of at least some whites.
I’m all for feminist allies, for what it’s worth.
This time rephrased in question format: what is the fundamental difference between a man calling himself a feminist and me calling myself a womanist?
XtinaS: Well, “womanist” is as much a cultural term as anything else, isn’t it? (I seem to remember Alice Walker at least implying that Black men could be womanists, if that’s relevant.) In the sense that the term requires a shared experience–no, white women can’t be womanists and men can’t be feminists (because white women lack the experience of being woc, as men lack the shared experience of being female). But in the purely political sense of someone who believes 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,” then I think a man can be a feminist. It’s more than being an ally, because allies aren’t part of the army, so to speak–but it is a very limited concept of feminism. I don’t think womanism has such a limited politics-only sense–does it? My understanding is that it’s been a broader term, right from its inception.
To speak more generally, one of the things I appreciated about the OP is that Scalzi isn’t claiming to be a good feminist, and he acknowledges that he has problems of male privilege that he has to work with, and through, and probably always will. He’s just decided to identify himself as a feminist, according to this definition of the term, rather than passively accepting other people’s labels.
Hm. Suddenly occurs to me that I might find the OP attractive at least in part because I have a personal horror of letting other people define me–so anyone who stands up and chooses even a part of his own identity is someone I’m going to find appealing. I’ll have to think about that . . .
I take your point, and I’m reminded of Martin Luther King’s comments in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’
‘Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”’
Strangely enough, there were quite a few people who advanced similar arguments during the course of the Equal Marriage legislation here; admittedly, only after it had dawned on them that they were in deep shit because they had lost the battle for the principle, and were trying to frantically row backwards in a parody of St Augustine’s plea that God grant him chastity, but not yet.
I do not challenge anyone’s right to express themselves in their own terms; I do, however, retain my right to critique what they have said, just as I possess the right to express myself in my own terms. People are perfectly free to accept or dismiss my views; that’s what freedom of speech is about.
Interesting question, but it takes me back to my profound aversion to playing word games when the lives of many are at risk…; .
Stevie: When many lives are at risk… in the comment thread… on this post? I admit, you’ve lost me.
Stevie:”the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice”
Yeah, I run into this regularly when discussing the isssues of systemic police racism that the deaths of Brown and Garner brought attention to. The “dont break the law and the cops wont shoot you” response prioritizes order above justice because it ignores all the cases where innocent civilians were doing nothing wrong. There is never a “convenient” time, because convenience is another word for status quo.
“I do not challenge anyone’s right to express themselves in their own terms;”
The issue is that language is a collective property. It’s not up to Scalzi to define feminism for all and apply the label to himself any more than it is Ann’s to define a different definition for all and hand out negative cookies to anyone who use a different definition.
But collectuvely speaking, there are two fundamentally different definitions being forwarded by significant sized portions of people. The “men cant be feminists” group isnt like the “all cops are evil” group. Pretty much every major leader against police abuse make a point to say that not all cops are bad, that the job cops do deserves respect, and at the same time say that there are systemic problems with police that need systemic solutions. The “all cops are evil” view is forwarded more often as a strawmman by pro-police and denounced by civil rights leaders and is most often only rears its head from the fringes.
The “men cant be feminists” isnt like “all cops are evil”. “Men cant be feminists” is not a fringe view. Some leaders in feminism embrace the view. Doctoral students in feminism embrace the view. Seminal papers within embrace the view. It is not a fringe view.
I dont think folks can simply use a word to mean what they want it to mean. The meaning is held collectively. The problem here seems to be there are two clearly different meanings in the collective.
Greg: It’s true that there’s long been self-described feminists who try to police who can use the term, including declaring that a man cannot be a feminist axiomatically.
I think that this is at odds with the idea of feminism itself.
It’s not called feminism because it’s exclusive to women, nor because it’s in opposition to masculinity, nor because it’s to promote kyriarchy with women ascendant rather than (white) men. The reality is that the gender norms in most cultures across the world result in deleterious effects on the life choices, mental health, emotional health, and autonomy of both men and women, but the by-far greater share of the burden of this pain falls on women. Thus, it’s called feminism, in recognition of that fact.
Feminism isn’t just about equality; it’s about choice and self-determination. Being equally oppressed is not, in fact, true equality, and identity policing is, ultimately, incompatible with feminism. I acknowledge that Christina Hoff Sommers describes herself as a feminist, but the statements she’s made and positions she’s taken over time have made it clear that she’s an apologist for hegemonic toxic masculinity, and that despite the label she uses for herself she does not represent any sort of feminist ideal. Similarly, self-described “trans-critical feminists” (better described as TERFs, or Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists) such as Cathy Brennan deny the gender identities of trans people, women and men alike, which is at odds with the ideal of self-determination (i.e., identity policing). (That TERFs aggressively attack trans women, in particular, seeking to out them as trans, silence them, and mock them, is just an extra layer of vile.)
I would not look at Ann Somerville’s statements above, attempting to deny John’s decision to call himself a feminist, as a meaningful reflection of feminist ideals, but rather an attempt to exercise power to silence someone, which is rather what feminism is supposed to be against. (But then, there’s been some issues with this sort of thing in the genre sphere over the past few months. I shall not get into that here, however, out of respect for our host.)
In Finland, conscription isn’t that controversial like it is in USA, majority of population are for it. We have 1000 kilometers of border with Russia, so in our view(as we are small nation), conscription is the only way to defend the whole country. Soviet Union tried to occupy Finland twice in WW2 (failing both times) and that created kind of martial legacy that has kept conscription going as people think that the defence of the country is duty of all men.
In general to the discussion that is going on:
I think men are necessary component of the brew if we want to see results in faster pace. Most of the issues that feminism wants to correct are the result of conservative social thinking by men. When you get men to be part of feminist movement, they automatically spread the thinking to their social circles, offices and communities. Shutting out men from the process only makes the goals much more difficult to achieve, why do that? If you are actively being part of the solution for women to get equal rights and privileges, in my view, that makes you a feminist, there are no other qualifications needed.
Soviet Union tried to occupy Finland twice in WW2 (failing both times)
Uh, they didn’t fail. The USSR only wanted the Karelian Isthmus as a strategic buffer for Leningrad. After initial setbacks, they forced the Finns to hand over that and more.
Speaking as a feminist here — and someone who’s pretty goddamn serious about it — here’s what that means to me in terms of who is a feminist and who gets to identify themself as such:
1. Feminism is the political and social movement that aims at liberating all people of all genders from patriarchy. This is, of course, to the disproportionate benefit of people who are not men, but, as feminists have been saying for literally years now, The Patriarchy Hurts Men Too.
2. My feminism is a big tent. People of any gender who are committed to dismantling patriarchy are fine by me to call themselves ‘feminist’.
2a. I am also fine with men (like Scalzi in a former iteration of his beliefs) who, out of respect for the feminist project as a movement that is driven and steered by non-men, prefer to call themselves “pro-feminist” or “feminist ally”. What i actually care about is that you are working alongside us to dismantle systemic oppression related to gender and gender roles.*
2b. Some of my sisters do not agree with me that men can reasonably call themselves ‘feminist’. While we disagree on that, i reject categorically the idea that i should throw them under the bus in order to make myself look reasonable. (“Look, I’m not one of those angry, man-hating feminists!”) The question of men calling themselves ‘feminist’ is, fundamentally, an in-group argument, and like many in-group arguments, it’s used by people who are not on board to create and foster division and undermine the goals of the movement. Fuck that shit.
2b. (There are people my tent isn’t big enough for. These include collaborators like Christina Hoff Sommers, whose ‘feminism’ is basically a policy of appeasement; and TERFs, because trans women are women, and if you don’t agree then you’re not on my side even if you think i’m on yours.)
3. Since men have a great deal of privilege in the general run of things, and it is really goddamn easy for them to end up “speaking over” non-men even when they are trying not to, I believe that the primary role of men in the feminist movement needs to be working with other men. If you’re a man and you call yourself a feminist or a feminist ally: are you criticizing toxic norms of masculinity? Are you standing up to your male family, friends, and colleagues when they say sexist bullshit or act according to patriarchal norms? Are you amplifying the voices of non-men, and working to create spaces where they have room to be fully-realized human beings?
* I find my thinking on the subject of ‘allies’, and people in general who are peripheral to a movement but in support of its goals, is very admirably summed up by a quotation from the book Scout’s Progress by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller:
I can get behind that. I still don’t want men calling themselves feminists, because it remains far too easy for them to use/abuse their power (even unintentionally), and get defensive about it when called on it (which makes them extra fun). But so long as they’re useful, I suppose I won’t freeze them all in carbonite.
XtinaS: I do understand the reasoning that leads to some women not wanting men to call themselves ‘feminist’. I don’t agree (although I certainly agree with your premises — it is very easy for men to talk over non-men and get defensive, because of privilege, which is why i think their primary role in feminism needs to be working with other men.)
But as I say, to me that is fundamentally an argument for women who are feminists to have with each other, you know? It just plain pisses me off when people who are not feminist, who clearly just want excuses to foster dissent, start trying to play the “let’s you and her fight” game about it. Your position isn’t “too angry”, and my position isn’t “appeasement”, but that’s how outsiders would like us to think.
Yeah… I’ve even internalised that “too angry” label somewhat, because apparently my position is about Hating And Excluding Men Omg, and not, say, being suspicious of the traditional power-holders wanting to horn in on feminist territory.
The delightful aspect of all of this is that men who wish to foment this particular dissent need only say “I am a feminist”. At that point, they’re at least provisionally on the inside, which muddies everything right up.
adrienne: Some of my sisters do not agree with me that men can reasonably call themselves ‘feminist’. While we disagree on that, i reject categorically the idea that i should throw them under the bus in order to make myself look reasonable.
For me, it isn’t about throwing anyone under any busses. It’s that there is a subset of feminists that say men can’t be feminists that is a sufficient number that I avoid self labeling as a feminist. I’ll use #heforshe or say I’m for gender equality.
In contrast, I’ll use #ferguson or #icantbreath because while there are fringier folks who use that tag in a way I don’t agree with, (an extreme case, Ismaaiyl Brinsley used #ferguson) but the leadership and main body fighting police abuse make a point to denounce the fringier stuff.
Handing out negative cookies for men calling themselves a “feminist” is not an uncommon thing. talking about sexism against men was part of Emma Watson’s heforshe speech, but its not uncommon for the highlighting of sexism against men to be labeled as a form of sexism against women and a function of male privilege. The heforshe campaign is hated by some specifically because it is enrolling men into the feminist movement. That is a significant subset of the whole set called feminism. It’s not fringe. It’s a large component. Part of the leadership of the movement endorses that view. It’s not like “kill all cops” is a fringe of “blacklivesmatter”. It’s more like Protestent and Catholic versions of Christianity. Except. both groups want to use the label Christian (feminist) rather than having their own denominations protestent/catholic (big tent feminism / women-only feminism, or whatever).
I’m for gender equality. I support heforshe. I support equal pay, abortion rights, and the idea that no one was ever “asking” to be raped because of their wardrobe, among other issues. But I don’t identify as a “feminist” because there seems to be a good chunk of feminism that believes all that PLUS the idea that only women can be feminists.
I suppose I could take on the label “feminist” like Scalzi is doing, make myself part of the collective and redefine the term to be “big tent feminism” and move it away from the “women only feminism”, but something about that rubs me the wrong way. If we were talking about some label that I felt was already defined to fit me, for example the word “geek” defined to mean “a big fan of something”, and I thought someone was trying to change the definition to mean “a male fan of something”, I’d hate that person and would resist their attempts to redefine a term I identify with. So, I feel disinclined to try to change what feminism means so instead I go with terms like “gender equality” or heforshe.
Moving the border was probably the first idea, but aims changed when Finns didn’t agree. If you only want to move border in one small place, you don’t create quisling government and attack on the whole border of the country(in our case, 1000km, the border issue concerned about 50km of the border).
We were on the road of getting same treatment as baltic countries.
I don’t want to derail this thread of comments more than this, so if you have more questions or points of view, please mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We were on the road of getting same treatment as baltic countries.
If you had been on that road, you would have been flattened in 1944-45. If the Red Army — which was in the process of eviscerating a much more powerful army than that of Finland — had really wanted to occupy Finland, they would have occupied Finland. They negotiated peace with Mannerheim in 1944 because they had other pressing engagements, including a reunion in Berlin.
Greg: A couple of things I wanted to address from here:
its not uncommon for the highlighting of sexism against men to be labeled as a form of sexism against women and a function of male privilege.
sexism against men: The way I, and many others who talk about power structures and kyriarchy, prefer to use the terms “racism” and “sexism” exclude — deliberately — the concept of sexism against men, or racism (in the West, at least) against white people. Not because we argue that people aren’t capable of being bigoted against men, or against white people, or any other dominant group, but because e.g. sexism is prejudice + institutionalized power. Women don’t have the power to systematically exclude men in a way that results in gender wage gaps, or glass ceilings, or victim-blaming in cases of sexual assault, any more than African-Americans can systematically bias education and law enforcement against Caucasians, or LGBTQ+ can systematically bias social systems around relationships and gender identity to invalidate cis het expressions.
I do know what you mean (bigotry against men, and e.g. constraints on behavior of male-assigned/identified individuals that marginalize them if they’re insufficiently manly), but I just want to help you be aware of how people use these terms so that we don’t wind up talking past each other.
a function of male privilege: No — male privilege expresses itself in many ways, but it’s the benefit to people who are perceived as male that support and act in agreement with masculine hegemony. (There’s also a social capital benefit to women who support misogynistic culture and masculine hegemony, but it’s considerably more limited than male privilege.) The deleterious effects of patriarchy on people who are assigned, identify, and/or perceived as male fall under the umbrella of toxic masculinity, by which we mean things like men being chastised and ostracized for emotional expression, for resisting dominant gender norms for men that reinforce endemic misogyny, for expressing traits and behaviors that are marked by society as feminine (because patriarchy treats “feminine” traits as being inferior to “masculine” traits), and so on.
I’m going to echo Adrienne on the role of men; as in all of the efforts to address and redress kyriarchy, the best way for members of the dominant group to support is to (a) talk to other members of the dominant group, and (b) signal boost but do not talk over the words of the oppressed group. Much of the racially-charged issues in the genre world (such as Racefail ’09, or that ugly mess last fall) was made so extremely damaging because a number of white people chose to take the lead on the public dialogue, often shouting down and silencing POCs who expressed criticism of the way said dialogue was happening, and sometimes, more disturbingly, “correcting” POCs who took issue with the dominant narrative. And there have been just as many events and controversies around sexism in the genre world where men shouted over and shouted down the women who were trying to speak up.
Greg, if you’re not comfortable using the word “feminist” to describe yourself, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. I wish you didn’t feel that way and I hope that you’ll one day be more comfortable with it, but as long as you’re not supporting the misogyny and oppression we’re seeking to end, I’m okay with you calling yourself whatever you want.
seredee: Thank you for taking the time to civilly engage on this, BTW. Talking about anything with nuance is _hard_ via text and as someone who feels that (as far as I can tell from the posts in this thread) Greg mostly echos my views, I appreciate the effort you’ve put into responding.
Greg: I think it is interesting to point out that historically speaking the idea of big tent feminism, as you call it, is at least as old as second wave feminism. It was one of the points of disagreement between NOW and Radical Feminism.
This, of course, may be one of the reasons women are leery of men inviting themselves into feminism, because often the result of allowing men into feminist groups was to end up giving those men power over the group.
I think part of the problem is that there is a conflict between the needs of individuals in the here and now and the long term goals of a feminism movement. It is extremely difficult for women to create safe spaces for women while allowing men into those safe spaces. It doesn’t matter how exemplary the male is, it still breaks the feeling of safety for all too many people. The creation of those safe spaces was and is vital, especially as the world remains a place that does a great deal to make women not feel safe in it.
However, to win the long term issues people who identify as men have to get onboard. So long as much of the population is abusing its inherited power a total victory of feminism remains out of reach. Masculinity needs to be redefined so as to not be abusive to finish the job. #Heforshe is one way to do that, but I can’t help but think it reinforces the binaries more than I personally am ok with. I would prefer a much more gender-fluid world (in part because that is the world that has room for me personally, my hostility to binaries *is* admittedly self-serving).
Instead I prefer the idea of identifying as feminist, but recognizing that the task of a male identifying feminist is not to shape (or really even join) feminist groups, but to change masculinity to be compatible with feminism. Part of this is stepping back when you aren’t welcome, because it would be an absolute tragedy if feminist men destroyed the safe spaces that second and third wave feminism have fought so hard to create.
Last, I wanted to say that I *really* like adrienne’s formulation: “3. Since men have a great deal of privilege in the general run of things, and it is really goddamn easy for them to end up “speaking over” non-men even when they are trying not to, I believe that the primary role of men in the feminist movement needs to be working with other men. If you’re a man and you call yourself a feminist or a feminist ally: are you criticizing toxic norms of masculinity? Are you standing up to your male family, friends, and colleagues when they say sexist bullshit or act according to patriarchal norms? Are you amplifying the voices of non-men, and working to create spaces where they have room to be fully-realized human beings?”
Seredee, I understand some define sexism as discrimination plus power. I dont buy it. I have been arguing with a bunch of people about reining in abusive police power, highlighted by the deaths of Garner and Brown. Systemic police racism is blatantly obvious in the statistics involving stop and frisk. But I support reform because the cops who beat Kelly Thomas to death were acquitted of all charges. Thomas was white.
I think the difference for me is that systemic bias or abuse still occurs on an individual basis. It wasnt all cops who beat Thomas, it was specific individual cops. It wasnt all cops who choked Garner, it was Pantaleo. And while there is systemic sexism against women, each case occurs at the individual level. So while police systemically abuse blacks, they also abuse whites like Thomas, even if statistics show abuse against whites isnt a problem. The final thing is that it doesnt really matter to me if its against blacks or whites, its abuse, and the solution is the same: real in the cops. While there is systemic abuse against women, there is also sexism against men. And again, the solution is the same: fight the sexists.
So, i understand the notion that some define sexism as discrimination plus power. And this might be at the core of why some feminists insist that men can never be feminists and that fighting sexism against men is really male privilige. But that would only reinforce for me that I dont fit the definition of feminist because I would focus on equality for all individuals, not just those who are members of some particular group.
Again: Waaaaay too general a discussion regarding what feminism is or is not for the actual topic of the post. As this is the second time I’ve had to say this, consider the topic wrapped. Mallet is out.
If the topic is why or why not label oneself a feminist, it seems the fundamental question to ask is what is feminism. And what it IS seemed to be fairly clearly demonstrated by the dichotomy of Ann saying that no man can call themselves a feminist, that a man can only be granted the title from a woman; and you saying it means what you say it means.
How does anyone discuss feminism and whether they fit the definition without somehow acknowledging this fundamentally different approach to what feminism even means?
Given you say this is way off topic, I can only conclude I misunderstood the topic somewhere along the line and apologize.
Sorry. Moving along.
[Deleted for basically trolling, there, especially at the end of the post. Really, now, Scorpius. Do better. That said, I’m leaving the responses for now, including Scorpius’, because they were better than the original post – JS]
Scorpius has presented himself yet again. I predict that he will still not be banned because Reasons. Such is what I have come to expect from male feminists.
There’s nothing wrong with calling yourself a feminist. There’s nothing wrong with people criticizing how you operate as a feminist, as long as it’s reasonably civil and not obvious trolling. (I am not tone-policing here; you don’t need to be polite or deferential; you just need to avoid slurs, hate speech, threats, trolling, astro-turfing, etc. Not that anyone in this thread has done this; even Anne Sommerville’s comments were “civil” under this definition; though she skirted the line with “bros before hos” and no specific examples to back it up.) There is nothing wrong with some feminists creating spaces where only certain people are invited. There is something wrong with people telling you that you cannot self-identify as a feminist because of your current physiological make-up.
I call myself a feminist; I have for decades. I always had the impulse to gender equality even in elementary school. It’s my nature and quite frankly, what other people think of me cannot change that. I have done academic work in feminist theory and gender history. None of my class mates objected to me being there. If I had taken a teaching position, I am sure that there would have been objections, but that’s a moot point. I am not under the delusion that I should be on the Board of NOW or that I should be a rape survival counselor. I do realize that I need to police myself in a discussion to make sure I am not abusing my privilege and I do realize there are discussions where I should not be a major participant. But that’s true for anybody regardless of gender. I don’t accept that I should be mute on issues that affect everyone and excuse me if I am not overly sympathetic to how much energy people have wasted saying I should not exist. You want to discuss how I fit into the discussion, fine. You don’t personally want to talk to me, fine. You want to dictate who I am and what my proper place in the universe is, very not fine.
I am a feminist. I was one yesterday. I will be one tomorrow. Your freedom- and ours.
Scalzi or Scorpius, XtinaS? Because my experience is that Scalzi has a fairly tolerant policy about using the Mallet on all genders. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen Scorpius get malleted in the past, though I could be wrong about that. However, he does seem to have a good sense of just where the line falls–enough to stay on the side of “polite discussion with people who profoundly disagree with him,” at least. I might l put the line elsewhere at times, but Scalzi’s blog, Scalzi sets the boundaries . . .
Scorpius, I really can’t see how Scalzi’s identifying himself as a feminist “helps out” the Gender Feminists’ “Motte and Bailey” Strategy, either–he certainly hasn’t responded by “retreating” from the OP, I don’t think. So, helping out by giving “Them” an opportunity, rather than giving Us (both the group of readers of Whatever and feminists in general) an opportunity to discuss his stand? Nope, don’t see it. (Even allowing for the fact that I can’t see “Motte and Bailey” as a conscious strategy in any group of feminists, which you seem to be implying–but that’s a different issue.)
Zachary D: Thanks :). I don’t think it’s anything but a simple observation that Internet conversations tend towards the hostile; as we’ve seen here, this is in no small part because it’s not discussion with the goals of revealing nuance and promoting understanding, but combative debate with all parties holding an a priori assumption that their position is statistically indistinguishable from being 100% correct.
I do not believe that this is productive, and I’ve no doubt that it’s one of the primary reasons the Internet can become such a toxic, damaging place for so many people. Thus, when I put forth my points which contradicted those of other commenters here, I tried to do so in a way that provided information and context without implying some sort of moral and/or intellectual failure on their part for failing to agree with me.
I’ve been around on the Internet for over two decades, and I’ve engaged in vitriolic, strident behavior of my own, as recently as about two hours ago. Sometimes I think vehement castigation is an appropriate response, but far, far more rarely than one sees online. The same can be said of passive-aggressive hostility, or derisive snark.
This particular handle is a new one for me; my using it here was a sort of happy accident, but it matches the tone and approach I want to be more of the norm in online discussion. (I think someone already has this handle on Twitter, mind, but that one’s not me.) I’m going to try to keep to these principles under this handle, and leave the more … impulsive, shall we say … responses to my established handles. (I don’t expect them to never be connected, but even should that happen that won’t change my commitment.)
seredee: You’re welcome. I, too, have been around the ‘net for a long time, and have found that the most productive conversations tend toward what I consider ‘deconstructionist’: both parties tend to spend a lot of time defining the words they use, often because (and this is one of the strengths of the ‘net, I think!) they come from very different backgrounds that include (or don’t) various subsets of technical jargon. For instance, if a mathematician starts talking about imaginary numbers around someone who’s never heard of sqrt(-1), they’re going to be talking past each other until they start defining terms. Same if they’re talking to CS students about trees, heaps, and stacks, or gender studies folk about privilege, gender, etc. Those words don’t mean quite what someone without that technical knowledge might think.
I said he helped out the “motte and Bailey” strategy; not that he used it. Gender Feminists (GFs) (along with religious extremists; but that’s nearly redundant with GFs) constantly use the Mott and Bailey strategy (M&BS) among others (calling people “sexist”) to shut up reasoned debate or any debate on their issues.
And XtinaS: can you point out anything I wrote that should get me banned? Or does the fact that I’m providing an alternate viewpoint (*any* alternate viewpoint to yours) offend you so much you want me to “SHUT UP!” or be shut-upped?
scorpius: I said he helped out the “motte and Bailey” strategy; not that he used it.
So, just to be clear, the entire point of your post was that Scalzi “helped out” these terrible, terrible “motte and bailey” people by merely declaring himself a feminist.
I must say this is extremely weak sauce. Still hung over from the holidays, scorp?
Scorpius: So a man who identifies himself as a feminist is actually, or also, “helping out” (quotation marks because I’m not quite sure what you mean there, and I’m trying not to put words in your mouth) those feminists who believe that men can’t be feminists? That’s seems sort of circular reasoning to me–sort of, “men shouldn’t declare themselves feminists, because if they do they will only (or mostly, or at least in part) be helping those who want to keep men from declaring themselves feminists.” Which . . . nope, can’t see the point myself, I’m afraid.
John in the past has promulgated the idea that “feminist” means you simply believe in equality for women. That is the motte part of the M&BS where you try to defend your position. When you’ve fooled the person you’re trying to lie to that “feminism” just means desire for equality GFs usually go back to pushing the Gender Wage Gap myth, the 1 in 5 women on campus are raped (which leads to advocating for men to have no civil rights WRT rape of sexual assault charges on campus), hating on the mens movement etc.
I have to admit I’m not precisely following Scorpius’ logic here either, but okay, fine.
The irony is that I chopped out Scorpius’ initial post before I read your prediction. So you lose that bet. The issue was not especially his thesis, which while I don’t get was perfectly fine to be discussed, and people seem to be handily taking it apart in any event. It had to do with the fact that he rarely avoids the temptation to snark along the way, and he’s not especially good knowing when snark tips over into pointlessly obnoxious.
That said, I’m not sure the discussion will end up being any more fruitful than it already has been.
Scorp: “John in the past has promulgated the idea that “feminist” means you simply believe in equality for women.”
You realize that everything after this sentence is still simply more “guilt by association fallacy” stuff, right? Repeating weak sauce only dilutes it further. Perhaps you don’t understand what a fallacy is? To put it in more vernacular terms, you’re shooting blanks, Scorp. Swing and a miss. Missed the boat.
That said, this is the best Johnny O’Connor impersonation I’ve seen in a while.
Vis: ” Gender Feminists (GFs) (along with religious extremists; but that’s nearly redundant with GFs)”…
So long as you are gratuitously dismissive of and insulting to folks who hold an “alternate viewpoint” to yours, why in god’s green universe do you expect them to accord you any respect?
Why shouldn’t they just call you a sexist and tell you to shut up? You’re not engaging in reasoned debate when you toss insults. You’re just being jerky.
Behaving with respect to your opposition does not mean they will treat you the same, but failing to do so pretty much guarantees they won’t. And it pretty much establishes that you’ve got no reason to complain about being treated dismissively.
Frankly, if you were using such tactics to my face, I’d tell you to shut up and feel entirely at ease doing so. You don’t get carte blanche to be obnoxious.
pax / Ctein