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oh ffffft.

Said it before, probably shouldn't bother to say it again, but, in response to this:

It's no great news that "feminism" -- the word and, by extension, the movement -- has an image problem. Women of all ages and colors have, at turns, bristled at the term, embraced it, lauded it and disdained it, practically since it was coined. However, after years of soldiering on under the burden of a heavily loaded word, a new crop of progressive and politically active women are finally addressing the problem. Some are looking to reinvigorate "feminist" by laying claim to the word -- a new magazine and a recent book are both cheekily titled "The F Word" -- while others are contemplating new words and phrases to employ in the fight for women's equality. After years of quiet debate, women are tackling their own labels with the energy of a movement anxious to make itself fresh again.
I'm not scared of the word. I got fed up with the people who seem, so easily, to become its public face. I got tired of being told over and over "if you believe in equality, then our word applies to you, and you must stick it onto yourself and be proud of the label, no matter how uneasy your alliance is with us. You're allowed to disagree vehemently with us on some matters, of course. We promise we're indulgent. But the moment you decide our word is not for you, you label yourself a hater of your own freedom, fool."

Why do these people never ask how much being condescended to a person can take before she leaves? Why not ask whether it's more important to her to be recognized as a freedom fighter -- or at least, to parade around like an idiot using the phrase freedom fighters are supposed to use, while doing nothing more than smugly blogging from behind a wall of (usually) white privilege and class privilege -- or more important to her to stand in solidarity with her sex worker friends, kinky friends, femme friends, SAHM friends? Or to stand up for herself, should she fit into one of those categories? I've seen people in all of those groups critiqued for insufficient slavish loyalty to some official concept of women's "liberation," and more than a few of them called enemies of women's freedom. And, as I've said before, I am so done.

I'm loyal to my people and my principles. Not your names. As I've said a thousand times, call me a feminist if you want. You won't be wrong. But hearing "but if you believe in basic decency, you're a feminist" for the thousandth time won't make me don the badge again.

Also, it quite honestly demeans feminism when you claim that anyone who believes in equality is a feminist. Plenty of people "believe in equality" from their couches. I don't think they should get to count alongside actual activists, simply because we'd like more people to like the word "feminist" better.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
erin_c_1978
Oct. 24th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
I got tired of being told over and over "if you believe in equality, then our word applies to you, and you must stick it onto yourself and be proud of the label, no matter how uneasy your alliance is with us. You're allowed to disagree vehemently with us on some matters, of course. We promise we're indulgent. But the moment you decide our word is not for you, you label yourself a hater of your own freedom, fool."

WORD. I honestly can't agree with this enough. There's too damn much of "If you believe in equality and common decency you're feminist" in one breath, followed by "If you don't agree with us on 'the essentials' (as determined by us) you're not a feminist" in the next, neatly declaring anyone who doesn't call herself a feminist for whatever reason as the enemy of equality and common decency. I'm not entirely sure what I think about the label as applied to myself, but whatever the case, the game you identify is not one I'm going to play anymore. None of this is to say there aren't plenty of awesome feminists out there who manage not to do this, but I am so done with the big feminist blogs.
sweetconcord
Oct. 24th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
I think the logic there is either very calculated or, if not, then remarkably indicative of the mentality of the people who spout that kind of thing.

Those two seemingly contradictory statements add up to "If you don't agree with us on any points we consider important, you're an enemy of basic human decency and equality." The outward appearance compared to the eventual "agree with us or face the scorn of Decent People" statements seem like a kind of PR bait and switch.
erin_c_1978
Oct. 24th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
I think the logic there is either very calculated or, if not, then remarkably indicative of the mentality of the people who spout that kind of thing.

Those two seemingly contradictory statements add up to "If you don't agree with us on any points we consider important, you're an enemy of basic human decency and equality." The outward appearance compared to the eventual "agree with us or face the scorn of Decent People" statements seem like a kind of PR bait and switch.


Exactly. It is well and truly fucked up.
fierceawakening
Oct. 24th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
Those two seemingly contradictory statements add up to "If you don't agree with us on any points we consider important, you're an enemy of basic human decency and equality."

This.

Thing is, I've never minded being e-insulted too terribly.
makomk
Oct. 27th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, pretty much - certainly that's the basic conclusion I came to not too long ago. Technically, the statement "if you believe in women's equality, you're a feminist" isn't even untrue or contradictory - as long as you accept that branch of feminism's definition of "women's equality", and the myriad nasty assumptions and ideological restrictions packed into it. Which, of course, the person making the statement always does. As you say, bait and switch, and the perpetrators may not even realize it.

Also, thank you trinityva for writing this post. It's good to know that I'm not just imagining things, even though they are so unpleasant. (Besides, you're a much better writer than me!)
fierceawakening
Oct. 24th, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC)
I honestly can't agree with this enough. There's too damn much of "If you believe in equality and common decency you're feminist" in one breath, followed by "If you don't agree with us on 'the essentials' (as determined by us) you're not a feminist" in the next, neatly declaring anyone who doesn't call herself a feminist for whatever reason as the enemy of equality and common decency.

This, yep.
roykay
Oct. 24th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
>I've seen people in all of those groups critiqued for insufficient slavish loyalty to some official concept of women's "liberation,"

I pretty much use the term "women's libber" to describe myself, simply because of the connection of liberation to liberty, i.e. an absence of control. "Feminist" seems to have taken on rather a regimented control freak, loyalty oath sense. I also note that a lot of anti-Patriarchy(R) seems incredibly like paternalism.
sentso
Oct. 24th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
Mrs. Senator hates the F-word. "If I wanted to be part of some clique of females who told me how to behave, what to think, who to hate this week because of some real or imagined slight - I would have stayed in the 4th grade."
etana
Oct. 25th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
"I'm loyal to my principles and people, not your names" - YES.

This is succinctly put. Thank you. I too am frustrated at being labeled a "hater" because the label of feminist does not work for me. Since when were labels supposed to be synonymous for a movement?! Since when was the goal of liberation to increase membership in the ranks of workers?!

niyazi_a
Oct. 25th, 2009 12:06 pm (UTC)
Excellent point, and I think it has something to do with third-wave feminism. I'm old, so I'm actually second wave, the one that ran headlong into the impossibility of 'having it all'--as a woman, you cannot have a career and a family without one or the other of them suffering. I see my female peers either put their promotions and advancements on hold to have families, or writhe in guilt about leaving their children in the care of others while they work.

I don't think that anyone should throw the f-word around even on themselves unless they've actually had this kind of moment of struggle. See, I have the opposite problem: my female students think 'feminism' means they can dress provocatively yet no one should look or comment, but they all still think the ultimate goal of their life is their wedding day, followed by spawning, putting their lives on hold to raise their kids, and spending their husband's money. They call themselves feminists. I do not. Not that there's anything wrong with them and their chosen future, but to me the title is something you earn through introspection--not something someone else applies *to* you, and not something you apply to yourself to make yourself sound edgy and cool, when in truth you're a conformist. Feminists should be outsiders, agitators, provocateuses. Feminists should get under your skin and make you rethink what you know. That's how I apply the term to myself; that's what it means to me. As a second-waver.

Third wave feminism got swallowed and then torn apart by Post Modernist pastichey hip-itude. It tried to be all inclusive, but let's face it, my experience as a white middle class woman is much different from a white lower class woman, or a black woman or...you get the idea. Third wave feminism really tore itself apart by trying to insist they were all the same in lived experience, and thus fell either factionalized (black feminism, academic theory feminism) or became, as you lament, so shallow that it's pointless. "human decency"? Really. :(
fierceawakening
Oct. 25th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
Not to start another aggressive debate (unless you'd like one *grin*) but I always thought it was second wave feminism that shot itself in the foot. While I do think second wave feminism did a whole lot of good, and I think it was in some ways more effective than the third wave, yes, pastiche we've got now, there's a lot about the second wave that really bothers me.

It's been belabored to death and twisted all kinds of ways, but I do think there's something to, for example, the criticisms of Dworkin that say she makes it sound like consensual sex is rape. She does have a fair amount of ideological daughters who have turned what were originally cogent, if creepily stated, observations about the cultural playing field on which sexual interactions occurred into... well, have a few links. (The second is particularly horrifically wrong.)

And, you know, this is perhaps a bit personal, but I really get tired of being told that real feminists understand that my kinks are a threat, or even that it would perhaps be a good idea for me -- or at least for a man with the same kinks as me -- to kill himself.

And, while I'm not saying there don't exist perfectly sensible good people who were around during the second wave and prefer what things were like then to the, yes, bewildering hodgepodge of "feminisms" we've got now, many of which don't deserve the name (I'd be dissing you and several good online friends if I said that -- who are, at the very least, treasure troves of information for younger folks like me who were not there in the day), it seems that the people I and my friends run into who identify strongly with radical feminism are, sadly, all too often these sorts of people instead.

As far as tearing itself apart... hmm. I always thought that third wave feminisms (particularly if you consider the folks like Lorde who are famous for rebuking white feminists for this) were the ones who really called attention to intersectionality. Sadly, I also think that that attention to intersectionality very quickly became lip service. *sighs*
niyazi_a
Oct. 25th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
Hey, I'm not saying second-wave feminism is the shiz-nit. Dworkin drives me crazy, for example. As does...Susan Jeffers, I think her name is? She argues that the only TRUE feminism is lesbianism. Whuh? So now I'm not only supposed to feel bad because I wear makeup, but because I like having sex with guys? Sleeping with 'the enemy'? (Ummmm, not to mention that robot kink I have) That's just ridiculous stuff.

Second wave, remember, though, were all raised by moms who were raised in the 50s. Uptight about sexuality much? Oh yeah. You younger women might have been raised by women who remember the Free Love of the 60s, and thus don't have my generation's shame attachment to ANY kind of sex, kink or no. In a sense, Dworkin and her other rabid friends came out of at least an exploration of sexuality. A misguided and narrow minded one, perhaps, but it was a start. Most women I know read and react against Dworkin. That's how you grow as a person, no? Reacting to thoughts you don't like, and figuring out why you think they're wrong? In that sense, she at least deserves some respect. I love to hate her, but I admit I had to re-evaluate my stance on things, A LOT, because of her.

I'm not a 'real feminist' in a political sense--that's where the second wave really went off the rails--they were trying to unify to create political power. My notion is that as a woman, you should enjoy whatever kink you enjoy (so long as it doesn't involve children, okay? I draw the line there unapologetically). My 'feminist' stance just wants women to realize they have more OPTIONS than missionary position with one man for the purposes of procreation. And that they keep hold of their dignity and self-worth in the process.

When I was in the military, my guys would disparagingly refer to a girl as 'three hole qualified', meaning she did it orally, vaginally and anally. They meant it as an insult. She might have felt it was a positive statement about her sexuality. As a woman, I am frankly confused, because I see that the guys do not share her vision. How do we deal with that? (Yeah, I realize that's a tangential issue, but.... I'm sure you have a more updated perspective on this than I do).
fierceawakening
Oct. 25th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Dworkin drives me crazy, for example. As does...Susan Jeffers, I think her name is? She argues that the only TRUE feminism is lesbianism. Whuh? So now I'm not only supposed to feel bad because I wear makeup, but because I like having sex with guys? Sleeping with 'the enemy'? (Ummmm, not to mention that robot kink I have) That's just ridiculous stuff.

Sheila Jeffreys.

And your robot kink CLEARLY excludes you from the sisterhood! *laughs*

Dworkin and her other rabid friends came out of at least an exploration of sexuality. A misguided and narrow minded one, perhaps, but it was a start. Most women I know read and react against Dworkin. That's how you grow as a person, no? Reacting to thoughts you don't like, and figuring out why you think they're wrong? In that sense, she at least deserves some respect. I love to hate her, but I admit I had to re-evaluate my stance on things, A LOT, because of her.

Yeah, I feel the same way. I hated her at first because I completely didn't get what she was saying about how sexuality is presented by the culture. I thought she was just picking on people she thought were too kinky or too sexual or too fond of pornographic imagery. Once someone explained to me that she was making a larger point, and once I actually looked at some older pornography, I found myself realizing that she did have a point. now I'm pretty much back to rolling my eyes at her ;-)

My notion is that as a woman, you should enjoy whatever kink you enjoy (so long as it doesn't involve children, okay? I draw the line there unapologetically).

*agree*

When I was in the military, my guys would disparagingly refer to a girl as 'three hole qualified', meaning she did it orally, vaginally and anally. They meant it as an insult. She might have felt it was a positive statement about her sexuality. As a woman, I am frankly confused, because I see that the guys do not share her vision. How do we deal with that? (Yeah, I realize that's a tangential issue, but.... I'm sure you have a more updated perspective on this than I do).

I think they might and they might not. I think that even if you like something, you can tell when somebody is looking down on you for it. for me, the thing is, whether guys are looking down on someone for being "too slutty" or "frigid," they're still behaving badly because they're assuming it's up to them how someone should behave at what someone should want. IMO in an ideal world, everyone would be able to do or not do what they wanted (as long as it did no harm to anyone, of course) without being mocked for it.

Edited at 2009-10-25 02:42 pm (UTC)
miz_evolution
Oct. 25th, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
Fuck pez dispenser words...other than awesome..that one applies.
valeriekeefe
Oct. 26th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
Well, knowing that there are quite a few feminists who don't seem to believe in basic decency and equality, as Sandy Stone could attest, I'm very much inclined to agree. Being in favour of a reduction of restrictive gender roles and in favour of Equality before the law, bodily soverignty, and redistributive income measures that make it easier to raise children, as just a few examples, do not make one a feminist. Warren Farrell can attest to that.

(On a tangential note, the poor guy could not have gotten a worse set of vocal allies if he tried. When it comes to facepalming in one's grave, he's our generation's Harry Benjamin.)
numb3r_5ev3n
Oct. 28th, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
THIS. Thnk you. I am also sick of being condecended to, with the caveat 'BUT IT WOULDN'T BE CONDECENDING IF YOU JUST SHUT UP AND TOE THE LINE YOU AWFUL PERSON' subtext.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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