What Is Feminism?

Let’s talk about feminism.  What is it?

According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, it has two non-medical definitions:

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

Look at that #1 definition.  Equality of the sexes. Nowhere does it list misandry, man-bashing, or the destruction of family.  So guess what?  If you believe in political, economic, and social equality that crosses sex and gender lines, congratulations!  You are a feminist!  Wait, don’t run away!  Did I make you uncomfortable just now?  Why is that?  Do you associate the term feminist with “feminazi?”  Are you afraid of being seen as an activist?  Causing a fuss?    Well guess what?  Activism is NOT a part of the primary definition.  Of course, we appreciate activism, but being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to go to marches, get abortions, burn your bra, or practice kicking men in the testes.  I can honestly say I have never done any of those things, and I run a feminist blog.

feminist poster copyNot exactly

So why is it such a loaded term?  Why are so many powerful women wary of calling themselves feminists? Look at almost any celebrity magazine interview.  Whenever a female celebrity is asked about her cultural and financial power, she will almost certainly respond something along the lines of “It’s great being seen as a role model, and I love that I can do that.  I’m not a feminist, but I do think that women can do anything a man can.”  Guess what, famous ladies?  You’re probably a feminist.  Your PR rep would flip if you ever said it publicly.  Why on earth is that?

It would be far too easy to blame this on the right, especially considering Rush Limbaugh coined the term “feminazi” in 1990.  We are constantly assaulted by pundits, authors, and news anchors telling us that feminists are out to destroy the American family.  That they want male subservience and abortions for everyone.  We are painted especially by the Men’s Rights Movement (yes, it’s a real thing) as vindictive harpies who want to eradicate sex, accuse all men of rape, and create a world run entirely by women.  Feminists have been blamed for gang violence, unemployment, the divorce rate, and healthcare costs.

 Anita Sarkeesian basically nailing it.

Another avoidance tactic is to say “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”  Really?  You want to work to revive classical literature and stress the worth of the individual over religion?  Ok, that’s fine and dandy for you, but frankly doesn’t have a lot to do with the disenfranchisement of one gender for the benefit of another.  Also, using the term humanism in place of feminism implies that everything is fine right now and we need to work together to keep the status quo.  Unfortunately, the status quo is grossly unfair to women, especially women of color.  White women still make 77 cents on the dollar to men, and black women make closer to 55 cents per dollar.  Many women still face the (illegal) question “do you plan to have children in the next five years?” in job interviews.  There is also the fact that women are trained from a very early age to be quiet and submissive.  Part of the reason we make less money is because we are too afraid to ask for it, and with good reason.  Women who negotiate salaries are more likely to be seen as “difficult” and “bitchy” while men who do the same are “go-getters.”  The system is flawed in a multitude of ways.  On a side note, this is why the NAACP haven’t changed their name to NAAAP: National Association for the Advancement of ALL People.  Because some people have enough of a head start.

There is also the idea that women often require a modifier unnecessary for men.  A recent brouhaha in feminist circles was over Wikipedia’s new American Authors article.  Due to spacing concerns, women have been removed and placed in a Female American Authors section.  While this in itself isn’t problematic, the fact that the now entirely male author section wasn’t renamed “Male American Authors” is.  Given the lack of that modifier, it appears that all American authors are men.  Inspiration is based in part on visibility.  We aspire to be what se see.  If we don’t see female authors, fewer girls may think it’s possible to become one.

Feminist juddSo much love for these two

Reproductive issues, rape, and child custody are all seen as “women’s issues” when in fact, they affect everyone.  The notion that women should automatically get custody of children in divorce cases is rooted in the idea that women are naturally better caregivers than men.  Obviously this slightly veiled sexism is exactly the kind of thing that feminists are striving to eradicate.  Teaching girls to avoid rape instead of teaching boys not to rape is another huge problem.  It assumes that all men are sexual monsters and that it’s up to women to put on the brakes.  This does a huge disservice to both men and women.

The fear of the MRA that women are out to feminize America implies that there is something inherently wrong with being female.   If the struggle for equality makes you fear that you will become female, you have “othered” women.  You’re saying that you see women as less than men.  To become more like a woman would lower you in some way.  Arguably, this is a contributing factor in assaults on gay men.  Seen as feminine, they were therefore less than human and should be punished for lowering themselves.

Iggy Pop

This kind of attitude is exactly why we still need feminism.  Yes, we have female CEOs now.  About 1 in 100.  Yes, a woman has finally won an Oscar for Best Director.  One.  Things are not “fixed.”  If you think that you might have a problem with any of these issues, well guess what?  You may just be a feminist.  Welcome.

Now, here’s something really awesome for you.  Author, feminist, philanthropist, and all-around great woman J.K. Rowling discussing why having strong women in Harry Potter was so important to her.  Thank you, Jo.

15 thoughts on “What Is Feminism?

  1. “The notion that women should automatically get custody of children in divorce cases is rooted in the idea that women are naturally better caregivers than men. Obviously this slightly veiled sexism is exactly the kind of thing that feminists are striving to eradicate.”

    Feminists institutionalized this bias!!!

    “The fear of the MRA that women are out to feminize America implies that there is something inherently wrong with being female.”

    Women being used here in place of feminists (both women and men) which actually only make about 12.5% of the population. I love how feminism uses feminism=women to defend itself from valid criticism. Feminize has nothing to do with females but instead refers to attempts to make feminism the only accepted ideology and suppress any others. Something truly terrifying given what garbage feminist ideology is.

    feminism=/=women
    feminism=/=women’s rights
    feminism=/=gender equality
    feminism=male oppression
    feminist theory=misandry
    feminist jurisprudence=sexism written into law
    feminist advocacy=lies and misandry
    feminist government=fascism

  2. It’s not trolling if it’s a valid contention of a serious nature. Dismiss those who disagree with you as trolls all you like. Since you can’t defend feminism’s fragile ego, it seems the only solution is to dismiss and censor dissent. No. Fuck feminism.

    • Not dismissing him because he disagrees with me. Dismissed him because he had no apparent interest in having a debate. If you have a question for me, ask it politely and I’ll be happy to oblige you with a civil discussion. Considering you ended with “Fuck feminism,” though, I doubt that a friendly and educational discussion is what you’re here for.

      • At least he didn’t end with “fuck feminism”. That’s the guy you should have chanced. His post was civil, rather than incendiary.

      • You’re very welcome. You probably need it, despite what your dripping sarcasm and venomous snark may say otherwise. I concede, though, that I am used to being censored or shouted down, so that I didn’t expect that I’d simply be dismissed with vague snark. (Is that a man giving his opinion over the internet?! Patriarchy! Rest assured, I can hear the gears in your head readily chalking it up to patriarchal oppression.) And anyway, how about some of those points? The fact that public education has been “feminized”, or shaped to better suit the needs of girls and women, at the expense of women, is readily evidenced.

  3. It has nothing to do with “something wrong with being female”, and everything to do with the demonstrable fact that boys and girls learn differently.

  4. Great blog and informative post! Just as there are multiple sides to every issue and debate, so are there a multitude of different opinions about what constitutes feminism. It is not so black and white, and not every person who labels her/himself a “feminist” subscribes to a womanly bible of rules. Making overarching, rude assumptions is what is annoying and truly not worthy of debate. Geralt, if you feel that you were blighted by the public school system as a result of your being male, might I suggest that you become involved in your public school district as a school board member. Or become a teacher yourself and work hard to effect the change you seek. If more men wanted to step up to the underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked plate that is elementary and secondary public education (a field that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, is dominated by women at 76%), maybe you would feel that boys’ interests and needs are being better served.

    • I was not slighted by the public school system. My conservative Christian mother removed me from public education. I henceforth rejected Christianity as a valid worldview. When I look at feminism, I see crosses and Satan all over again, and hear the voices of the Christian parents shaming me and admonishing me “in Jesus’ name”. I am told that I am inherently worthless or sinful, as an atheist, and as a man. I am an ugly sinner or a potential rapist. The reaction is instinctive; cringe and withdraw, punctuated with a few incendiary remarks.

      The “change” necessary to correct the deterioration in the school environment for boys and men should never have been necessary in the first place, if it just hadn’t been mucked with by the government. While I am for a reversion to earlier models that worked in favor of boys, I am also not against women doing well scholastically or financially. Sure, go ahead and have equal education opportunities, and do well in school and business as women. However, to do so at the expense of men reveals that feminism was only ever all about women, and no-one else, despite claims to the contrary. This is why women-only colleges are acceptable, but no such men’s colleges exist anymore. The environment is pro-woman, at the expense of men, and feminists don’t seem to mind.

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