i ♥ feminism

If the title of this post scares you, I would ask yourself: “Do I believe in human rights?” Read on to find out why.

A lot of people who “believe in” gender equality and sexual freedom and blah blah blah are prone to say “I’m not a feminist, but…” And who can really blame them? When you’ve got people like Madonna and Camille Paglia calling themselves feminist (or worse, when they’re both happening at the same time), is that really an entity you want to associate yourself with? Before actually reading books and stuff from feminist theorists, most of my exposure to “feminist philosophy” came in forms that seemed to reiterate sexism, misogyny, hierarchy, and inequality, which was a major turn-off. These are the “brands” of feminism that are generally popularized or seized upon by mass media or discussed by the public at large. That’s probably because it a) is easy to digest (i.e. not intellectually challenging) and b) validates rather than challenges their cultural beliefs about sex, gender, etc.

Then there are the brands of feminism that are popularized not because they’ve been deemed tolerable, but because they are fodder for critics who like taglines and oversimplification. They become infamous, in other words. Take radical feminism: radical feminists are portrayed as man-hating, anti-sex, lesbian, and have an aversion to certain undergarments. The agenda and philosophies promoted by radical feminists, aka “feminazis“,  are not as important as the caricature we can make out of them. Caricature= = fun, serious discussion of hierarchal privilege = major downer.

And if you buy any of those stereotypes, then obviously feminism sounds like garbage– as it did to me for most of growing up.

So what, then, is “real” feminism?

Alas, as it has often been said, feminism is hardly definable. There is a multitude of “schools” in feminism, or brands as I prefer to call them– sort of like Christianity (minus the ritual and patriarchy). You’ve got your Baptists and your Catholics and your UUs, and then there are those “non-denominational” folks who opt out of association with a particular brand. I guess you could say I’m a “non-denominational” feminist. I do have a definition of feminism that I subscribe to, which is dynamic and evolving, but first let’s see how some other people have defined feminism…

bell hooks said in her book Feminism is for Everybody that “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says: “the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”

Cheris Kramarae: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”

And the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says “Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms.”

Feminism has been called a theory, a movement, a belief, a sisterhood, all of the above. When I get around to it I’ll post some quotes defining feminism that I don’t have on hand at the moment.

The thing about most definitions of feminism, though, is that they are unavoidably narrow, simplistic, or far too broad. Perhaps it’s impossible to define such a diverse, multicultural, and ever-changing entity. I can talk about what feminism means to me, however.

My feminism is descriptive, prescriptive, inclusive, diverse, and is both theory and action. Feminism as a theory explores culture and the systems of hierarchy rooted in culture, some of which are based on class, race, sex, age, ability, location, occupation, and so on. As action, feminism means the deconstruction of these hierarchies and the promotion and celebration of certain ideals, not for some persons or groups of people, but for all individuals. The ideals of my feminism are also what I consider to be the most essential human rights: freedom of choice, freedom of self-expression, bodily autonomy and integrity, and informed agency which does not violate the human rights of any other individual.

See? I did it too. Oversimplified, too broad. Whatever. I like it. And I like feminism. There, I said it. Maybe this is also a good time to say how much of a crock I think the idea of “post-feminism” is. @#%^#$ and that’s all I have to say about that…for now.

3 thoughts on “i ♥ feminism

  1. When people explore how their doctrine is ok they like to focus on the nice non controversial bits. They don’t like to talk about how they repeatedly voice stereotyped opinions against groups they dislike- masculine males, in feminism’s case. They don’t like to talk about how they favour one law for their people and another law for everyone else- with domestic violence laws that always cast men as the aggressors say. While there may be some brief reference to some radicals they’re rarely condemned as they are little different in opinion, just in intensity.

    If i was to guess, you as a feminist believe gender is a social construct, want to expand the definition of rape massively, believe nice guys are mostly evil, and never focus on problems that men face such as homelessness, suicide, workplace deaths. Your worldview from feminism is probably so far beyond the norm that if you talked about it in public people would be shocked. It’s no surprise people dislike feminism.

    • You’re right, I loathe masculine males. What does that even mean? No really, what does “masculine” mean? “Feminine”? Yes, I believe gender is a social construct. I also believe binary sex is a social construct, disguised as Truth through the Validation of Science. I am very much in favor of expanding the definition of rape, but personally I don’t think it would affect the legal situation much.

      I kind of assumed this would happen (i.e. people commenting without actually having read the post). So first I would suggest that you read the post. Next I will clarify that my definition of feminism desires and promotes human rights for all persons.

      But you’re right. When I talk about my worldview in public people are pretty much shocked. Or they just want me to shut up. They might be embarrassed, angered, frightened, amused. My worldview is pretty much craaaaaazy when juxtaposed with “the Norm”. Considering that society has the power and control to define “normal”, “deficient”, “sane”, “crazy”, “deviant”, “ideal”, et cetera, I can tolerate most of the labels society tries to apply to me. For instance, I tolerate being called “female” even though binary sex is desperate mythology. I tolerate being perceived as straight because queer people are freaks. I tolerate being called a lesbian because I have short hair. I tolerate people trying to rip me off because all White People are rich. These pictures are projected onto me, but that doesn’t stop me from shaping and exploring my own identity. Relativity of perception, right?

      My guess is you are probably also not going to read this comment. I have been trying to figure out why you would post at all. I imagine you are probably pretty angry about feminism and gender equality and stuff. You expressly mentioned DV, rape, aggression– maybe these are issues that you have encountered/struggled with in your life? Once my very conservative (another socially constructed label! gotta love em) uncle gave me the autobiography of Ronald Reagan to read while I was in college. My first [socially preordained] inclination was to shelve it or return it. But I’ve been lucky enough to have mentors, teachers, parents, friends in my life who encourage me to explore, even what is considered “enemy territory”. So this is what I would suggest to you: read some feminist theory. You might still hate some kinds of feminism at the end of the day (when I first read Catharine McKinnon I was furious– at her), but I think you will have a better idea of what many feminists are trying to achieve, which is ultimately equality and freedom for everyone. everyone.

  2. Pingback: Feminism « No Worries

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