Feminism Explained

Growing up, I equated feminism with selfishness, child abandonment, and a desire to destroy the family. I believed that feminism was destroying the country by elevating women at the expense of men, leaving men emasculated and the family in shambles. Feminists were, I thought, man haters who mocked motherhood and the family, pursuing instead their own selfish dreams of worldly fulfillment. It wasn’t until college that I learned what feminism actually is. According to Wikipedia,

Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women.

That’s it. Feminism is simply the desire for female equality, politically, economically, and socially.

With the bogeyman stripped away, feminism doesn’t seem so scary. There’s nothing in there about hating men, or about not wanting children, or about being selfish. It’s simply a call for equality, not raising women above men. Put this way, the development of second wave feminism four decades ago makes sense. Just as the civil rights movement demanded equality for blacks, the women’s rights movement demanded equality for women. Who could be against this?

Today, the vast, vast majority of American women – and American men – are feminists, whether they claim the term or not. Ask nearly any college-aged woman (or man) whether she (or he) thinks women should have political, economic, and social equality, and the answer will almost inevitably be “yes, of course!” Today, feminism has made incredible inroads in American society to the extent that the core tenets of feminism are held so universally that they seem obvious and beyond need of stating.

Furthermore, feminism transcends religious boundaries, finding its place both within Christianity and outside of it. Today there are even Muslim feminists who are also calling for equal rights for women. Feminism is not anti-religion, and it’s not anti-family. Feminism is a universal to which any human being who believes in true equality can lay claim. Feminism is something to which men should, and do, lay claim alongside women.

Two questions arise from this discussion. First, why do we still need feminism if most people are feminist? Second, why are there anti-feminists?

Most Americans today believe in racial equality, but that doesn’t mean that actual racial equality has yet been reached. It’s the same with feminism. Just as there is structural racism, even so there is structural sexism. For example, women still suffer from income inequality. Part of the reason is that women enter who enter stereotypically female jobs (teacher, secretary) are paid less because, well, jobs that have been historically held by females pay less. But it’s more than that. There is still inequality of pay between men and women working the same jobs. Why?  An excellent blog post explains by quoting an article:

The reason they don’t keep up, from where I sit, is simple. Often, a woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I’ll tell them a number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around $45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview simply take this offer. It’s insane, I already know I can get authorization for more if you simply refuse. Inversely, almost 90% of the men I interview immediately ask for more upon getting the offer.

Some might say that this is the women’s fault; they should just learn to negotiate! First, though, I’d point out that women are socialized NOT to negotiate but rather to compromise in order to ensure tranquility. But there’s more than that, too, as the blogger points out, quoting a study:

Their study…found that women’s reluctance [to negotiate] was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did….”What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not,” Bowles said. “They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not.”

Thus today, sexism is largely off the books, ingrained in culture rather than enshrined in the law or in employment handbooks. Thus while the vast majority of Americans believe in equality for women, it has yet to be achieved.

There is another reason full equality has yet to be achieved. Women have for the past two hundred years been the primary caretakers of children, and even with the increasing involvement of fathers in the last two generations, women still bare the brunt of the childrearing. Unlike Western European countries, there are very few social structures to support motherhood and parenting. We don’t have paid maternity leave or subsidized daycare, for example. The result is that mothers who work have to play a balancing act that fathers who work simply don’t have to play. What we need is greater parenting equality and more support systems for working parents. This is another area where feminism still has work to do.

There’s more too, of course. Women still face a sexual double standard and have to worry about rape. Women’s reproductive rights (which while I am pro-choice, I see as starting not with abortion but rather with birth control) are continually under attack, and without being able to control their reproduction, women cannot achieve full equality.

But enough about why feminism is still needed even though most Americans are feminists. It’s time to move on to the second question: If the man-hating feminist is a stereotype and feminism is merely a belief in female equality, why are there anti-feminists?

 

First, there are still misogynist pricks who makes rape jokes and think it’s funny to talk about women’s place being the kitchen. I seriously don’t understand what’s wrong with these people.

Second, there are women who should identify as feminists but don’t because of misinformation. They don’t understand that feminism is about equality and think it is about man hating or about sexual promiscuity or about abortion (again, I think the starting point and rallying cry of feminists at a fundamental level is, or at least should be, about birth control – the ability to control reproduction – not abortion). If these women understood what feminism actually was – a belief in women’s economic, political, and social equality –  they would surely identify as feminism; after all, we’re talking about women who already completely agree with these core tenets of feminism, they just don’t recognize it by that name! What we have here is misinformation, but also, I think, a failure on the part of those who identify as feminists to properly articulate the feminist message. And it’s unfortunate, because it robs the movement of those who should be allies.

Third, and this is where I have most of my experience, are those anti0feminists who actually disagree with the core feminist goals, and for religious reasons. Put quite simply, religious anti-feminists don’t believe that women should have equal rights with men. They believe that men should be in charge, and women should follow, and that this is the natural order of society as ordained by God. I said earlier that feminists are not anti-family. They’re not, but they are against the patriarchal family. Feminists envision a family built on mutual cooperation and equality; religious anti-feminists envision a family built on a divine hierarchical order that prizes authority and obedience. I said earlier that feminists are not anti-religion. They’re not, but they are opposed to any religion that teaches that women are to be subordinent to men. Feminists in the conservative religious traditions that teach this sort of hierarchical gender order usually either jump ship (generally for a more liberal religious tradition) or work to reform that religious tradition by advocating for equality within it.

For religious anti-feminists, feminism does quite literally does mean the dissolution of the (patriarchal) family and the undermining of the divine (hierarchical) social order. Religious anti-feminists believe that women’s role is in the home, as wives and mothers, not outside of it, and that men’s role is in the workplace, as protector and provider for his family. Any change to this family order is a threat to their view of the family and the divine order of society. In this sense, feminism is a threat to the very core of their beliefs about the world and how it is meant to work. It’s important to remember that these religious anti-feminists would never say that women are less than men, but rather simply that men and women have different roles to play. These roles, they say, are different but equal. But since one of the roles is to be beneath the other role, I call bullshit on the supposed equality. My point is simply that they don’t advocate “oppressing women” or “keeping women down,” but rather “adhering to the God-given family order with everyone fulfilling their proper roles.”

Furthermore, religious anti-feminists believe that they can point to feminists destroying the family before their very eyes. Feminists are often charged with causing high divorce rates, and to some extent this is true. What happened was that in the past, before women had the measure of equality gained through the second wave feminist movement, women in abusive or unhappy marriages had no choice but to stay trapped in them. They had no other options because they were financially dependent on their spouses and divorce would have meant social suicide. Once these abused and unhappy women had other options, many of them chose divorce, and understandably so. Recent statistics show, though, that divorce rates are on the decline, perhaps in part because marriages founded on equality from the beginning are more likely to be happy and fulfilling.

It’s really no wonder religious anti-feminists are so concerned about feminism. Feminism quite literally does undermine everything they believe in. The stereotypes of feminism I grew up with were wrong, but even if I had understood what feminism actually was, I would likely still have opposed it. When you believe that women are always to be under male authority, endorsing female equality isn’t exactly a priority.

I wonder, though, if the women of Christian Patriarchy would be quite so happy to lead lives as submissive “helpmeets” if they were forced to do so rather than doing so by choice. After all, two hundred years ago the law stated that women had to obey their husbands, and that if they didn’t, their husbands were legally free to beat them into submission. My guess is that choosing to be submissive is much more pleasing than being forced to be submissive. In this way, perhaps Christian Patriarchy has a symbiotic relationship with feminism, because without feminism it would not exist as it does today, with its leagues of women happy to voluntarily embrace their own submission because, they believe, through their choice they are serving God.

So there you have it: feminism, the reason it’s still needed, and the source of its religious opposition, all in one post.

Disclaimer: This is just a collection of my thoughts as a feminist, I don’t claim to speak for feminism as a whole or that every feminist would agree with me on every point of my analysis.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Nathaniel

    The fact that women should have legal equality is still controversial is a sad comment on our society.

  • Anonymous

    This this this! Thanks for an insightful post. As a Christian feminist, I am appalled by the lack of communication between the feminist camps and the church. Simply appalled. Especially when the issue is not all that difficult to grasp (as you have demonstrated by spitting out a very coherent overview in a short amount of time).I would offer one push-back though; I know a lot of Christians who do not have abusive, patriarchal relationships, who still disagree with feminism. For many of them, it's not because they want women to stay downtrodden in the mud, or because they're terribly worried about the hierarchy. It's because they've been told that 1.) Feminism encourages sexual promiscuity, 2.) Feminists hate men 3.) Feminists disrespect moms, dads and kids, and 4.) Feminism promotes abortion (Christians don't see abortion as being primarily about women's rights, so I don't know that you can claim their conscious motivation on that point is to keep women down).I believe that many of these people, if they learned the truth about feminism, would not have such a problem with it. The fundy patriarchs in this nation, however, still would. But the majority of churches that are against feminism are only against it because of misinformation and/or some differences over reproductive rights.That is just my two cents, having grown up in the church.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and by the way, whether Christians SHOULD see abortion as being about women's rights is a whole other topic. I was only trying to point out the reality that most Christians DON'T see it that way, so please don't read that as me trying to open THAT whole can of worms!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Anonymous – This is why I didn't mention the word "abortion." Believe it or not, there are women who identify as feminists AND are pro-life. The issue isn't about abortion, it's fundamentally about the ability to control one's reproduction, which starts with birth control. You can be a feminist and be against abortion; you can't, however, be a feminist and be against birth control. Or at least, that's how I see it. As for the rest of what you said – you're right about the misinformation. This is a big part of why so many people who really ARE feminists don't identify as such!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    I think another part of the hostility towards feminism is the normalization of the status quo, as exemplified by this picture:http://www.ebaumsworld.com/pictures/view/81364737/"It doesn't matter if you are black or yellow or brown or normal!"I think in the case of feminism, this has the effect of people thinking that the wide variety of ways in which women end up being kept from equal rights are just "normal". They don't see just how damaging these behaviors, attitudes, and traditions are. They just see them as being the way things are, and so when a feminist comes out and says, "We should change this!" they often rebel: "What are you talking about? Women are paid less because they don't really want to be in a job, they want to be at home!" (for example)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05668478675953390231 Merbie

    This topic has been on my mind a lot today after reading this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcia-reynolds/why-we-need-to-support-me_b_1127886.html(Also interesting reading: her link within the article to her article in Psychology Today about the new relationship dynamics.)The comment sections of both articles show how far we've come…and how far we have to go.

  • Nathaniel

    Man o man this is probably not the time for. Suffice to say, If we were to get into it I would argue that whatever the conscious cognition justifying it is, an anti choice position is anti women and anti feminist in its effects.

  • Wendy

    Maybe part of the strong reaction against gay marriage is that it conflicts with the patriarchal view of family.Also, I find feminist men enormously (!!) appealing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10329947206142706470 Peter and Nancy

    I think one reason more Christian women don't identify themselves as feminists is precisely because of the issue of abortion. I go to a church that has women pastors, for heaven's sake . . . but especially in college, it was very clear that I should not be a pro-life feminist. With the exeption of the group Feminists for Life, there is very little room among feminists for those of us who think differently from the feminist mainstream on this issue. We may give lip-service to the idea of every woman being free to choose her road in life (paved by the very real gains of suffragists and feminists in earlier decades), but if that road includes being pro-life (and I do believe in birth control, BTW), they don't really want to claim you.Nancy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Nathaniel and Peter and Nancy: There are some feminists who think you can't be a feminist if you aren't 100% pro-choice, this is true. I think this is problematic only because it alienates and pushes away a lot of women who otherwise would be feminists, as Peter and Nancy points out. I think part of the problem is the hijacking of the conversation into "don't kill babies!" rather than an examination of what a first trimester fetus really looks like and is, as that is when almost all abortions occur. The problem is with allowing a ball of tissue, or something that resembles a tadpole, with no actual brain function or anything we consider necessary in those we call "persons," to be classified as a "baby." We've lost the conversation, and need to retake it. That said, I really do think that if you have to ask which is most important – birth control or abortion – birth control wins out. The trouble is that many of those who are "pro-life" are also anti-birth control. You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT be a feminist without being in favor of birth control. The thing is, having grown up pro-life, I have to give pro-lifers the benefit of the doubt. I was pro-life not because I thought women should be forced to have babies if they have sex or any such thing, but rather because I truly believed that an embryo was a person. That's why I say we've lost the conversation. I think you CAN be against abortion without being anti-woman. That's why I think it's such a shame to alienate women who truly do believe in women's equality but are against abortion because they are convinced that personhood begins at conception. Rather than alienating them, I say we work together with them on birth control and sex ed and try to take control of the conversation away from the radical anti-choice leaders who are currently framing the debate. The comments here have made me realize one more thing: I think it's a shame that "feminism" has been so equated with "abortion." Feminism is about achieving political, economic, and social equality, and that equality can't be achieved unless women can control their reproduction, and that starts with birth control and is augmented with abortion when birth control fails. But so few people understand this relationship, and so instead it's all "oh those evil selfish man hating baby killing feminists." There's one more aspect of the conversation that we need to take back. One in three women have an abortion in their lives. One in THREE. This means if your friends are a random sampling, a third of them will have had abortions. When you walk down the street, a third of the women you pass have had abortions. Of your female relatives (if they're a random sampling), one in three have had abortions. This reality humanizes abortion, but it is a reality we don't see because women don't feel like they can be honest about their history with abortions without being called sluts or baby killers. I think this needs to change to change the conversation. However, I haven't had an abortion, so I can't help. :-P

    • Rilian

      A 0-3 month old baby in the womb may not have anything meaningful in common with a 9-month old baby that has just been born, but … except it can have something meaningful in common, that being the feelings of the woman who is carrying it. She could love the baby in the womb as much as she loves it once it comes out. It doesn’t have anything meaningful and *objective* in common, that I grant. But that doesn’t mean that people should be chastised for calling it a baby. They might just be expressing their love for it. Or they might be using “baby” as a generic term for one’s offspring. I mean, it’s a lot faster and easy to just say “baby” than it is to say “zygote-embryo-fetus-neonate-infant-toddler-child-pubescent-adolescent-adult”. When someone says something about killing babies, and you respond by saying “it’s not a baby”, you’re just arguing with their definition, which is a stupid waste of time because all they’ll be thinking is “uh yes it is a baby you moron, don’t you know that babies come from their mother’s womb?”. Instead you should say, like, “But babies of that age don’t have brains or nervous systems. They can’t feel or experience *anything*.” I would have become pro-choice a LOT sooner if it had been put to me like that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    And with that, I just wrote a whole blog post in the comment section…maybe I'll have to turn it into the basis of a future post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17500128753102750833 Mommy McD

    You're right, we have lost the framework and that is partially because the far right "religious" leaders (quotes because they use religion as a weapon and I don't want to lump all religious people with them) have been able to dominate the airwaves. Yes this isn't about abortion, but as you say 1/3 women will have one in her lifetime yet it is rarely talked about in a personal way. It is usually abstracted, a theoretical pregnant person and her vs "baby's" theoretical rights. If a protagonist in a movie or a show gets unexpectedly and inconveniently pregnant, she probably won't even say the "a" word, let alone decide to make that choice. I think the majority of people who are neither self proclaimed feminists or anti-feminists simply think feminism is done (as you say like racism) especially women who are otherwise privileged and don't see the systemic inequality elsewhere. And the faux feminist trope which creates the idea that feminists are irrational and just want to be mad about something.Then there's the men's rights activists who are a whole other can of worms. There are feminist men's rights activists (gender egalitarianism I think it is) but the typical spearhead MRAs are just old fashioned misogynists. Some of them are religious but not all of them (quite a few atheists actually from some of what I've read anyway).

  • Wendy

    I have three daughters, and we've had the "one of us is statistically likely to have an abortion" conversation. Probably not me, as I'm in my 40's and hubby's had a vasectomy. My oldest daughter assumed as a married woman she was in the clear; this is not necessarily true, though.

  • Anonymous

    The symbiosis between religious fundamentalism and feminism is an important idea- in the book Reading Lolita In Tehran, one of the women (out of the entire group) wore the veil by choice. But when it was legally mandated, then her choice became meaningless, and she felt betrayed by her government. If the symbols of piety are forced on people then the choice to be pious becomes meaningless.Point about abortion- one of the cases that people don't think about is a married couple who realize that another child would create financial difficulty in raising the ones they already have. This is the opposite of quiverfull, but is a choice between actual children versus a potential child. I'm sure it's painful, but it is a real choice that people face.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Precisely I was talking with my boyfriend about this topic 2 days ago prompted by something I had read on this blog. He is completely pro egalitarian roles and actually he does way more than 50% of the chores in our house because of circumstances and has never considered it unfair.Still, as it has been exposed in this post and comments, he has several strong missconceptions about feminism and the actual situation of this issue in society right now. the fact that he is a good person university educated who believes in equality makes it more stricking.-Feminist women=feminist activist=only talk and think about feminism=radicals and extremists. This happens for example because the Minister of Equality person in charge in Spain spouts extremist nonsense and pushes for riddiculous staff (she could be doing real good instead OTL) or because feminist are usually caricatured (sp?).- Gender equality is more or less done except in extreme right-winged or religious enviroments. He doesn't seem to realise that women still get paid less for the same positions or that they aren't hired directly because the employee will believe they are the ones who are going to stay home if the kid is sick. There are more examples of course… sadly…- Woman are now regarded as more intelligent in general.He bases this off on television series of all things *bangs head against wall* where he says that woman are usually portrayes as sensible people and men as beer-chugging morons. Although I agree there are plenty oh examples of stupid men on TV, women aren't presented usually on a bright light either… especially on sticoms where everybody is bashed for laughs one wya or the other and IT'S TV! Women are still viewed as inferiors in many segements of society and even if Tv reflects some aspects of society… *sighs*Anyway, I don't want to write a treaty on this on a comment :) I think my boyfriend got out of the discussion a bit more informed even if I'm not an authority ^__^

  • JeseC

    Most feminists I know object strongly to the portrayal of men on TV and in media. As do a fair number of men I know, feminist or not. Witness a recent furor in the feminist blogosphere over a scifi piece published in Nature. One comment put it something like this:"We're supposed to accept that a grown adult man can't even manage to buy a pack of underwear for his daughter, and rather than this being simple incompetence and refusal to ask for help on his part, it's portrayed as some mysterious ability women have to pull things from alternate dimensions."The portrayal of men as overgrown children hurts both sexes. It's the same thin coverup that the Christian right uses – women are just naturally better at housecleaning and childcare, so they should get to it and not leave us poor stupid menz with the chores, amiright? And they accuse feminists of being misandrist – I can't think of much more misandry than the Christian right displays by downplaying men's abilities.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04545027010391647781 this One’s for the girls

    JeseC, I'm smiling, because most of the Christians I know also object strenously to the portrayals of men in the media. They are capable of so much more (compassion, intelligence, strength, tenderness, etc.) than these depictions, as are women compared to the way many programs/movies show them. I'm tempted to check out the piece in Nature, except I'll probably pull my hair out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06401440551873070129 Elin

    I agree with your definition and I agree that birth control is a more important factor in women being able to choose to live life the way she wants than abortion. I am pro-choice but I see not getting pregnant as what should be the first choice if you are not ready to be a mother, and if that fails examine all options before deciding on an abortion. Personally the only reason to have one would be if the child is already dead inside me but I recognize that other women feel differently but I do think they should not jump from failed birth control to abortion directly without considering all options.

  • http://inappropriatemetaphor.com Colleen

    @Wendy, significantly upthread, I absolutely think this ties into gay marriage. They see a man "subjugating" himself, because obviously, someone has to be the submissive in every relationship, right? So one of those two men is *shudder* playing the woman.As a lesbian, I get less of this. I suppose it's because people just dismiss us as "uppity?" There's a lot of discomfort in the oddest of situations. Take going out to eat. Where do you put the check? As a waitress, my answer was: in the middle of the table. But a lot of people think that when faced with a couple out on a date, you give the check to the man. Because it's again obvious that he's the keeper of the finances.When faced with two men or two women acting in a romantic manner, what does this same server do? Usually, they'll hand the check to the more "masculine-appearing" individual. Which, in my case, means I have to reach over and get the check from my partner, since I'm the one that does the budgeting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12414420272263327779 Antigone10

    Count me in as one of those "unreasonable" feminists who thinks that if you're anti-choice, you're not a feminist. I don't care if you'd never, ever have an abortion- the second you say that I, or any other woman, doesn't have the right to my own uterus you don't care about women. You are demanding that I have no right to not be sick, destroy my life, and have life-long responsibilities for no pay, no support, and very little recognition. If you choose to be a mom, you're making a huge sacrifice, and I can respect that. But if you are demanding that women risk their lives, and livelihoods, you don't care about women.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02851254020566558895 E. A. H.

    I appreciate the work of Feminists for Life- http://www.feministsforlife.org/ They refuse to frame the debate as a conflict between woman vs. her unborn baby. They focus their efforts on changing our society and breaking down the structural sexism that forces women to make difficult choices in the first place. If a woman has to choose between having a baby or going to school, or having a baby and being shunned by her family, then what kind of "choice" is that? If a woman makes a choice because of a lack of resources or pregnancy discrimination, then that is not a true choice. Efforts by the pro-life movement to outlaw abortion are misguided simply because they don't address the underlying problem at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Antigone10 – Well how about this: You can be a feminist and be personally against abortion, but not be a feminist and want to ban it for all women. Does that work out? Because the reality is, whatever you think of abortion, banning it is a REALLY bad idea and will do a LOT more harm than good. If you want to decrease abortion rates, seriously, what you need to do is support comprehensive sex ed freely available birth control and fight poverty. And you can do all those things and be TOTALLY feminist – even if you personally would never have an abortion. How does that way of thinking of it work for you?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12414420272263327779 Antigone10

    I don't care about your personal beliefs. I completely, 100% support your right to give birth if that is what you want to do. But, if you don't want to ban it, you're pro-choice. There's no group of feminists (or anyone else, for that matter- except for sweatshops) that are going to force you to have an abortion. Feminists for Life is a joke. They aren't for birth control (in the FAQ they say they don't need to address it because it's "preconception"), they repeat lies about how traumatic abortion is (statistically, pregnancy is more traumatic for more numbers of women, and adoption is the most traumatic), they tell lies about birth control and abortion causing breast cancer (it doesn't) they believe in criminalizing abortion. And I sure don't actually see them out there saying "we need to raise welfare benefits". Fah on them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Antigone10 – Ah, I see what you're saying. I think what is unfortunate is that women who personally oppose abortion but don't want to ban it can equate feminism with "rah rah we love abortion!" and thus shy away from feminism. You see what I'm saying? That said, I'm not sure how many women personally oppose abortion but don't want to ban it. I also absolutely ABHOR misinformation, as you say – and there is so much if it out there being spread by those who want to ban abortion! THAT makes me mad, and THAT is why I say we need to retake control of the conversation. It's just unfortunate to me to see women who would say they support equal rights for women also see feminists as some sort of evil man-haters or something. I think that sort of intra-women tension has slowed feminism's progress down.

  • AzuraRose

    For me, being a non-religious non-feminist, the main point is not the core goals of feminism but the actions of some feminists. I get that 'man-hating' is a stereotype and most feminists are not like that, *but some are*. There are feminists who believe that heterosexual sex is rape, who are transphobic, who see misogyny everywhere even where it clearly isn't, who are anti-porn and anti-kink. There are some feminists who are heterophobic and racist towards white people. These are not all feminists to be sure, but they are a very vocal minority. I took a Women's Studies class last year in university, and all it did was convince me that these problems in feminism are way too much for me to claim the label. I chose humanist instead. Especially since most feminists I've talked to at school completely erase the issues that men have. And don't tell me they don't have any, because seriously, all you have to do is look at how men are considered guilty right away if accused of rape. Honestly, I know that academic feminists aren't representative, but that's the voice most people hear, and it's a voice that we object to. When you (generally, not you specifically) point to how girls stand in advertisements as a legitimate problem and make sweeping generalizations about men, whites, straights, and then attack trans people, you do not gain me as an ally.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12414420272263327779 Antigone10

    @ Libby AnneThis is something that I feel is pretty definitively about. I mean, it is a big tent philosophy, and reaching the ideal state of "Women's Equality" is going to look different for each person. I'm not going to "No True Scotsman" feminism and say that if you don't agree with me 100% about everything, you're not a feminist. For some, their vision of equality is one where there is no porn. For others, their vision of equality is one where the porn is just not humiliating to women. For others still, equality is when there is porn where The Gaze is female instead of male, instead of all being for Men. For some, porn isn't an issue at all. (For instance. Porn is just one of the many issues that are under debate in feminist circles.) But, much like I don't think you can call yourself Christian if you don't actually believe in Christ, you can't call yourself feminist if you don't believe in rights for women. I cannot see how you can believe in women's equality if they don't believe women actually have the right to their body, unless they believe men also are supposed to involuntarily give up their body to another life form (which would make you anti-liberal, but not anti-feminist). @AzuraRose,Either you had the worst Women's Studies 101 class in the world, or you weren't paying attention. I'd like to put that old canard to rest about "All heterosexual sex is rape"- it isn't even what Andrea Dawkin SAID. And not paying attention to how the patriarchy, specifically how masculinity is constructed, hurts men is sure going to be a shock to every feminist I know.Are there problems with racism and transphobia in some circles of the feminist movement? Abso-fucking-lutely. But do you know who's calling them out on it? Other feminists. Feminists of color. Transgendered feminists. Feminists who actually care about moving forward as a movement.I will say this, though: I am going to believe a rape victim before I will believe the person accused. The reason for this? Rape is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States, and under-convicted. If you come forward with a rape accusation, you're going to be met with high levels of suspicion. If you are accusing anyone famous, you are guaranteed to be called a slut, and every single one of your actions will be scrutinized. Despite the fact that the false rape accusations are no higher than false reportings of any other crime, people are going to act like you are the one that did something wrong.So I will stand with the victim until there is evidence that that person lied (I do mean person- men are raped too). They have enough people standing against them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Antigone10 – Ah, I think I see where we're talking past each other! You say this: "I cannot see how you can believe in women's equality if they don't believe women actually have the right to their body, unless they believe men also are supposed to involuntarily give up their body to another life form." But the thing is, I think (contingently, of course) that a woman CAN believe in women's equality AND believe abortion is wrong. It's because for these women a fetus is a person. The fact that only women can be hijacked by their uteruses is unfortunate, but they would argue that the fathers in these situations have their lives hijacked too, because now they must be fathers. These women would say they support women's reproductive rights because they fully support birth control, but they would say that once pregnancy occurs, even accidental, a new human life has been created. So in their minds it's not at all about suppressing women's rights. I mean, you don't have the right to go out and murder someone, and they'd say abortion is the exact same thing.Of course, I think these women are wrong in counting zygotes and fetuses as people, and I think that's one place we need to win the debate. A first trimester abortion is NOT murder. But simply saying that anyone who thinks it is is against women's rights is, I think, alienating to those who are on the fence or could be potential allies. I mean, rather than just declaring such a woman anti-female equality, perhaps the more effective route would be to try to explain WHY being against abortion is against women's equality. I mean it might seem obvious to you, but when I was pro-life I literally didn't see opposing abortion as having ANYTHING to do with opposing female equality.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    @AzuraRoseI get where you are coming from and some of those people you mention should be ashamed of being so close-minded but I don't really think that the fact that there are some extremist in one group, no matter how vocal, is a good reason to decide if you are or not in favor of female equality or if you are or not a feminist. Especially if it's your main reason.I don't share the same views of all atheist around (there are some who call people stupid to their faces and I think that's a rude thing to do if unprovoked) but I'm not going to sop being an atheist or identifying as one for that. I will simply not follow their example.Also, there is a constellation of position inside Feminism like any other movement as Antigone 10 have said in her post. My personal position is that I don't have anything against porn although but enjoy more reading porn than watching it (save exceptions). I believe men are discrimated against too but women are worse off and we need to work so that no discrimation occurs. I am pro social care, pro birth control and pro abortion (although I sure hope not to have to have one myself because it's not precisely nice ut the damage of having a kid in a bad situation is way worse). It's true that some women do awful things like lying about rape and abuse but Antigone10's statistics and reasoning are also true so I'm pretty glad I'm not the one to have to decide which claims are true in a court. I had never ever heard of anyone who thought heterosexual sex was rape… so I'm still too shocked to form a coherent answer to such stupidity. I support LGTB rights and I feel attracted to girls as well as boys although I'm a comitted relationship with my boyfriend of 9 years. I'm a tomboy who doens't believe in gender roles and who would never wear skirts or anything pink as a child. I hate when people generalise about any topic or assume I'm weak because I'm a woman (although I'm less strong than the average adult man, I'm stronger than my boyfriend and my best male friend and I've done a bit of rugby, martial arts and boxing). So I'm a feminist but I wouldn't want to be thrown in with the bunch you've mentioned. I'm me and I like to think I'm unique in a sense (and I must also be pretty narcicistic to write a whole comment about me… *bangs head against wall*) but I hope these posts we are writing help you see there are many types of feminists out there wether or not you feel identified or not by that tag.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I just read this article about a town that drove away a 14 yo girl when she reported her rape even after the offender confessed exactly what she had told the police: http://www.thelocal.se/25750/20100326/Someone posted a link in the Friendly Atheist.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed your piece, but I think feminism today encompasses a broader agenda in that it focuses also on social justice in general, especially for people of color.

  • http://bunnystuff.wordpress.com/ Jaimie

    The discussion of abortion is a great way to negate a belief system. Have you noticed they just throw that one in hopes that the wayward ones will abandon their progressive belief systems in their fervor in telling us just what side we are on. Oh your a feminist? You must love abortion!It is a con job and yet works for many women who want to escape the clutches of misogyny. By the way, I think women are much better than men and every moral, criminal, and U.N. statistic would agree with that.

  • http://fromtwotoone.blogspot.com from two to one

    Hi Anonymous, I'm also a Christian feminist and agree with your analysis. Unfortunately, I have felt for the past few years that I am part of a very small camp as a Christian feminist. Let me know if you'd be interested in chatting!

  • http://fromtwotoone.blogspot.com from two to one

    Hi Libby Anne, I think you can be a feminist and be against birth control, but it depends on what you mean by birth control. Many Catholics I know are pro-woman and feminist, as well as pro-life, meaning that they don't use birth control, but practice healthy and proven natural family planning. For me, being a feminist and pro-life (as well as pro-choice…I don't agree with this false dichotomy), means that a feminist can't be against access to birth control, even if she herself doesn't use it.

  • CD Smith

    So many people have falsely accused Christianity for problems women have faced in Western cultures. The real culprit has been the distortion and mispresentation made by men that failed to understand bibilical principles due to ignorance or selfishness. The hiearchy established in the bible in regard to men and women were set in place NOT based on the superiority of the sexes but for “accountability”. God is placed women in subjection to man and man was in subjection to God. Just like in the workplace, you have a CEO and President. No where in the bible did it state that a woman was in subjection to “all” men. This is a man created model. Reading Ephesians 5 : 21-33 we see that a husband is care for his wife to the point of death if necessary. 1 Peter 3:7 states that man should honor his wife and by extension, should show honor and respect to all woman. I belive that today’s Feminists have done more harm women than what was done to them by men in the last century. Feminist claim that abortion rights empowers women to compete economically and politcally with men. In reality, what feminist have done is relinquished the responsibility of men to accountable to women to care for their children. It also diminishes the “power” and “peception” of woman as being capable to achieve, make wise choices and to persevere. The feminist plays the same game of valuing women based on material things instead of uplifting woman based on the intrinsic esssence of womanhood. Instead, feminist are attempting to re-fashion women into the image of man. If I were a woman, that would be an insult.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      Uh, see, even your version is very problematic. I’m not subject to anyone. I’m a citizen of the US, so I of course have the duties and obligations of a citizen (pay taxes, follow the laws, etc). But I have absolutely no desire to be the property of any man- not my father, not my theoretical brother, and not my husband. I’m a person, not a chattel broodmare, and I’d like to be treated as such.

      I want to be treated and respected as a person, just like you would treat any individual. I am me. That means you look me in the eye, you speak to me civilly and not condescendingly, you listen to what I say without interrupting, you don’t brush off my observations without considering them, and you don’t call me hysterical when I say that I don’t want to be “taken care of” because I’m a fully competent adult, thank you.

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