FF: Rational Discussions About Feminism
I love our blog. I love our writers and readers and the amazing conversations that can be sparked from a single post. I’m sharing two great ones today, because I can’t stand to write about Weiner’s wiener or Castro’s crazy or anti-abortion nut jobs or anything else that’s happening because it makes me want to cry. So, instead, some back and forth within the community about feminism and it’s many forms and functions. It gives me hope when I remember that for all the assholes out there, we have as many amazing people who believe in equality and rights for all. I think that’s something we all need to remember when the news gets us down.
This is an abridged version of an email conversation I had with Delaney. [This has been changed from the original conversation posted – if you were confused for a minute, you’re not insane!] This is actually a pretty typical exchange for us. Sometimes feminists don’t agree on things!
D: I think he’s been reading my Feminism books when I’m not looking. I told him about Jared’s post, and he writes “How the hell can one be a ‘male feminist’ anyway?” And I’m like, “Uh, well, I guess some men can call themselves that if they are dedicated to eradicating women’s oppression…” So then he comes back and says “Hmm. I feel like the word ‘feminist’ belongs to you guys.” Anyway, we text back and forth for a bit and I kind of expect him to…I don’t know what. What I did NOT expect was this: “We’re the reason sexism and racism exist in the first place. We’ve already taken enough. We don’t get to use cool terms or join cool clubs. We just get to “not an asshole” by NOT continuing to perpetuate this.” AND THEN “Like, the whole fucking reason that any pro-gender or pro-race group or term exists is because WHITE MEN have spent hundreds of years making LITERALLY everyone else feel “less than” and, so, terms like “feminist” come to be and how fucked up is it for us to use that term to DESCRIBE ONE OF US?! Sorry, bro, but again you get to be “Not an Asshole White Guy.” We’ve spent centuries giving ourselves special names and clubs. You don’t get to have theirs.” But yeah. He tapped into what he says is his “inner Louis CK.”
E: That’s pretty rad, though I don’t really agree with the premise of his argument. Feminism is a set of beliefs based on the idea that neither gender is superior and all should be treated equally. If you subscribe to those beliefs, you are then a feminist. I don’t see it as a defining label reserved for women, first because there are plenty of female misogynists, second because the premise is equality among the sexes and having labels that one side can use and the other can’t seems to be a pretty bad way to start off.
D: Well, the thing is, I know a lot of feminists who share his argument. Like, “men can’t ever be feminists because they are perpetuators of the problem.” I’m not saying I agree. But I know a lot of ladies I would qualify as feminists who would say “Don’t call me that” either because of “man-‘” stereotype OR because they feel like the feminist movement in general has marginalized them due to race, trans issues, etc. I appreciate his sentiment though because, I hate to admit it, but it’s difficult to explain to a white dude why white dudes suck. I have sympathy though, because, duh, I used to be a political asshole who finally (FINALLY) saw the light after many moons of you and Rachel wanting to beat me. So yeah.
E: But I’m right about this. As always. The whole men can’t be feminists because they’re men is idiotic and one thing I can’t stand about the…more militant feminists. First, society as a whole perpetuates misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc, etc. Second, believing and fighting for equality should be inherently equal, otherwise it’s fucking pointless. You’re straight, and white, does that mean you can’t be homo-friendly or un-racist? Third, any move towards equality needs to be as inclusive as possible while not watering down their agenda. The whole idea of who can be a feminist, or don’t call me a feminist weakens the push toward equality. Partly because if we’re spending time and energy fighting amongst ourselves, who’s paying attention to the big picture? And partly because it’s easy for the anti-feminism movement to latch on to squabbles and use it as a wedge to further alienate and degrade the cause. The feminazi stereotype comes from feminists that are more concerned with the label than the issue. Lastly, there are some amazing men who believe and push for equality and it’s not right to refuse them feminist status. Obvious example: Ryan Gosling. Other example: MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who is amazing and always highlights really important feminist stories and explains clearly why the misogyny be reported on sucks and what needs to be done to change.
It’s hard to explain to anyone of privilege why it sucks. Especially if they’ve never really spent any time thinking or observing it. Chris Hayes is a white dude who rocks the explanation.
(I got in a tiny Internet disagreement over “chivalry” earlier and I’m still annoyed.)
D: Ughhh, chivalry. JUST BE POLITE.
Yeah, I see your point. I see his, too. His argument is that a dude can be a feminist ally, or a supporter of feminism but a man using the word is…well, according to him “just another fucking thing we claim for ourselves.” So. I dunno. Critical thinking is hard on Friday afternoons.
E: And, I’ll say one more thing. For me, the way I see it…I was born and raised Christian. Later in life I adopted a different set of beliefs and now I call myself Jewish. Yeah, there are plenty of fundamental Jews who would say I’m not really Jewish and can’t call myself a Jew. And I call bullshit on that. So it is with men and feminism in my book.
And, again, I’m always right.
This second bit is a portion of a comment left on our Facebook page. It turned into a really interesting back and forth – I love when we have a male POV. This is the beginning, you should go to our page and like us, then finish it up.
An interesting perspective. I find myself asking myself the same questions sometimes. It is hard to be a progressive thinking male when you occasionally catch yourself acting just like the man you don’t want to be. There is a fine line between admiring feminine beauty and ONLY valuing a woman for her beauty.
Unfortunately the later is deeply ingrained in our culture. We teach it to our sons from a young age. If you want to get the respect of other boys, you date the “pretty” girl. When sexual desire comes into play in the teenage years your value as a young man is based on the attractiveness of the girl you “score”. During those years (and well before) males are conditioned to value certain features on a woman. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit additions to Playboy we see the same body types and features over and over again. We are told by our fathers, older brothers and mentors that “this what a man should want”. We did not grow up sneaking off in the woods to look at pictures of normal women being independent or showing their intellectual skills (Oh man… look at the way she reads that book and does her taxes…)
However the blame does not just fall on our early male role models. We are told the same things by the women in our lives and our female caretakers. I specifically remember an experience where my mother (and sisters) commented on how “plain” my date to a dance looked. I assured them that I was only going with her because all my friends asked me to. This stilled their uncertainty. My son/brother shouldn’t be dating such a plain looking girl, he’s better than that. Our grandmothers find out we are dating someone new and what is the first question they ask “Is she pretty?”
You can use that little “like” button on the right side of your screen to get to our FB page and read the entire reply and discussion that follows. It’s Friday afternoon, you know you’re not going to get anymore work done.