Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Just What Kind of Feminist Are You?

Yeah, so I'm still irritated about this piece of business over at Kleinheider's*. Feminism is not some monolithic well-articulated philosophy hell-bent on ruining the lives of men**. (That's just a happy side-effect***.) For me, feminism is about promoting a belief that women have worth, that our experiences are valuable, and that we should have opportunities to make the most out of our lives. I don't believe that there should be any places that are off-limits to women; I think we should have the right to self-determination; and a right to free self-expression, especially sexually. I don't believe that feminism is a moral position and I get irritated with people who do. Feminism ought to mean that we are recognized as fully human, as capable of evil as the next person. But at heart, I'm selfish, and there's certainly a way in which much of my feminism is not about changing your mind: do what you want; just don't get in my way. So, obviously, if I want folks to get out of the way of me doing the things I want, it does sometimes become about changing your behavior. There are a lot of ways that y'all--men and women--are fucked up, and it gets in my way****. I don't want to be a man or be like men, because I don't think men are better than women. I don't think how y'all are is something I should aspire to. I also don't think it's something I should shirk from. I'm not in competition with you. I don't want the things you have because I think you've had them for too long and now is my turn. I want the things that would make my life easier. I just want space to be myself, fully. But at heart, I'm a feminist because it makes me happy*****. And, the more I talk to some of you, the more I think I've waited too long to articulate that. Being a feminist makes me happy. It makes me happy to believe that I have inherent worth and that I ought to be able to do what I want when I want with whom I want and, as long as I'm not hurting anyone, I shouldn't be punished for it. I like knowing that I can support myself and sometimes splurge on my friends. I like having roll models who resemble me. I appreciate efforts to see facets of the sacred as feminine because I feel that being a woman has facets of the sacred inherent to it. I like being able to read and write and vote and drive and go to school and speak openly in public. It's true that things are different than the used to be and that negotiating relationships is tricky. But isn't that kind of cool? Here we are, kind of freshly birthed into this new paradigm, and we get to try together to figure out what it means. I think that's cool and, though at times painful, bound to be fun. I think feminism is inherently optimistic, advocating, as it does, for the belief that there are people of value everywhere. *And not just because, if it's true that we feminists are singlehandedly responsible for ruining marriage, I'm getting cheated out of my exciting social life full of leading poor married people astray. If you are a married person who needs to be led astray by a feminist, I guess drop me a line. I'm not sure how we schedule this crap and to whom we report my success at ruining your life, but let's have fun first and figure out the bureaucratic nightmare later. **Many of us feminists are hoping that our Marxist tax structure will ruin the lives of rich people and since most rich people are men... Voila! Two oppressive birds with one stone. ***I'm kidding, obviously. ****To return to Kleinheider, I'd like to have a discussion with him about the ways in which both feminists and anti-feminists trade on this notion of the moral superiority of women and how that's detrimental to men, especially when it comes to deciding who gets kids, but the piece he quotes has such a fun-house mirror definition of feminism that I feel defensive from the get-go. If Kleinheider would stop endorsing idiots without comment, we could have an intelligent exchange of ideas, but instead, I'm loathe to admit the ways in which I might agree with him, because I don't want folks to mistakenly believe I endorse all that nonsense. *****This must be very shocking to the folks who believe that Maureen Dowd is the epitome of feminism. Take a moment to recover. [Edited to add: I love you, Fritz. You are totally my internet boyfriend. Or son. How old are you again?]

19 Comments:

Blogger Exador said...

How come ya never hear about Masculism?

11/29/2005 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous brittney said...

I like how Kleinheider completely ignored your response to his post. Sometimes, I guess, you gotta know when to fold 'em.

P.S. Being a feminist makes me happy, too. Thanks for reminding me of that fact.

11/29/2005 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Masculism? Um, I think that's historically been the mode through which all thoughts and experiences pretty much worldwide have been filtered.

Being a feminist makes me happy too. It confounds and perplexes some people, to be sure, but it makes me proud and happy.

11/29/2005 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Boy Scout, I swear, to hear you talk, you are the most burdened white man in the long history of burdned white men. If you like, you can come over here, and put your head in my lap and I'll run my fingers through your hair and feed you home-made chocolate chip cookies until you feel all is right with the world again.

11/29/2005 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

For me, feminism is about promoting a belief that women have worth, that our experiences are valuable, and that we should have opportunities to make the most out of our lives. I don't believe that there should be any places that are off-limits to women; I think we should have the right to self-determination; and a right to free self-expression, especially sexually.

What you said. Plus. I definitely don't believe that feminism involves a political checklist. I think you can be a feminist and a republican/libertarian/socialist/democrat, whatever. I've been told repeatedly by other feminists (including our own Egalia) that I don't count because of my political beliefs. To me, that is NOT feminism. Feminism to me is facet of inclusionism. Exclusionary principles (we hate men, we hate pro-lifers, we hate republicans) are contrary to true feminist spirit.

11/29/2005 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger ripley said...

"Exclusionary principles (we hate men, we hate pro-lifers, we hate republicans) are contrary to true feminist spirit"

I have a question. The last two of those categories are chosen political positions. Is it not possible that some political positions are incompatible with a feminist approach?

I'm not saying either pro-lifers or republicans are by definition not feminist. But rather, that it makes feminism pretty useless if it has no political critique.

In order for the stated goals in this post to be a reality, there has to be some idea of what it would take for women to be valued and have the opportunity to make the most out of our lives. What if one's position is that "the most" for women is different from men? i.e. staying out of public life, raising babies etc, and that women who do otherwise are not making the most of their lives? Is such a position still feminist?

If feminism can basically absorb all political positions, it seems to me, that can make feminism totally apolitical, which would miss the point.

11/29/2005 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Exador said...

B,

I'm simply the spokesman for oppressed white men everywhere.

That would make me feel that all is right with the world again.

11/29/2005 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger SuperGenius said...

In addition to feminism, your last line before the footnotes makes me happy.

11/29/2005 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

"Just What Kind of Feminist Are You?"

The crying on the inside kind, I guess.

11/29/2005 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Boy Scout, you just let me know when, and I'll get the oven warmed.

Super Genius, I rock. What can I say?

Sarcastro, no, that's just the kind of person I am. I'd be crying even harder on the inside if my dad had sold me to you for a couple of goats.

11/29/2005 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Freedman said...

"Feminism is not some monolithic well-articulated philosophy hell-bent on ruining the lives of men?"

You could have fooled me!

11/29/2005 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

1) I agree with Katherine.
2) According to this quiz, I'm a "100% Gender-Abolitionist, 40% Sexually Liberal, and 20 % Socialist" and "feel the best way to destroy patriarchal oppression is to rid ourselves of misguided gender roles, and instead live in a society that does not make such marked assumptions about gender differences." Eh, that's fair.
3) Being a feminist makes me happy. Basically, I want people to understand that want I earn, believe, think, accomplish, read, listen to, watch, or do is not pre-defined based on the stuff between my legs.
4) People who think feminism is just about man-hating make me angry, because it's such a blatant lack of understanding. No, it's about us remembering that our grandmothers weren't thought worthy enough to vote, and trying to leave some good stuff to ourselves and own granddaughters as well.

11/29/2005 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Your dad would have to throw in a couple of goats, four chickens and a chest of leprechaun gold to make that deal worthwhile.

Would you be crying that your family is now deprived of their precious goats, or that I found the goats to be better conversationalists?

11/29/2005 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who think feminism is just about man-hating make me angry
It really is about that to some people. And a lot of those people call themselves 'feminists'. To some it really is about the old 80's maxim 'for me to succeed, others must fail'. Which is why you have a bit of a backlash.

W

11/29/2005 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Gary, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but it's not all men--just you. And only through the end of 2007, after which, we've decided to ruin the life of on one Sam Rivers.

Sarcastro, considering that goats usually symbolize virility, I probably be crying over the cruel irony.

11/29/2005 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger SuperGenius said...

Well, you could say you were rocking this feminist party eight days a week, but then we'd have to grapple with the inherent problem of the day counting in that statement.

11/29/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger TVonthefritz said...

I'm 21, but I pretend to be 19.

11/29/2005 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

Not all feminists are man-haters.
But
All man-haters are feminists.

11/29/2005 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Supergenius, how I love the Beastie Boys reference!

Fritz, well, since there's only ten years between us, you're much too old to be my internet son. You'll have to be my internet boyfriend. Don't worry. It's just an honorary position and requires no extra explaination to your current lovers.

Boy Scout, show me your sources. Or at least explain yourself. Are you saying that all misanthropes are feminists so that we get Nietzsche and Stalin? Or just the female ones?

11/29/2005 03:47:00 PM  

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