Monday, 3 March 2014

Feminism Redux

You can't have missed by now that I identify as a feminist and I am well aware that some of you don't. In fact some of you are not all that keen on the idea of feminism. And I understand, I actually do.

There was a time I would have agreed with you. It took me a long time, in fact to realise that I was a feminist, and the problem was mostly to do with definitions. Basically I didn't understand what feminism meant, and clearly still a lot of people don't.

And wouldn't it be great if I could just give you a definition now, and you'd read it and shout "OH HO! I misunderstood all along! I AM a feminist". But it doesn't work like that.

I arrived on the internet in 1997, and prior to that my entire worldview and education had been extremely limited. If you are young and don't remember a world pre-internet you wouldn't understand just how much difference the situation was regarding access to information and differing opinions. I used to go to the library frequently, as a voracious reader sometimes 3 times a week, and I read all sorts of books, most non-fiction. But without any real guidance or anyone to share it with, I mostly avoided the ones that would have led me to understand such issues as feminism. I simply didn't think it applied to me.

Despite all the information available on the internet, many people have yet to stumble across this, and they have never been persuaded to seek it out. Alternatively they may have read articles and opinions that have quite put them off looking further into it.

One way and another, it is 2014 and we still have people who think feminism is a bad thing.

But this wasn't the only area where the internet led me to an understanding. I learned about definitions, and how useless they often are.

It was a man - yes, A MAN - who first threw out his definition of feminism, that began my understanding. So, in fact I learned two things at once, I learned right there that men can be feminists too. That concept becomes obvious when you understand what feminism is all about. So what's it about then?

Well, his definition was this:

Feminism is the idea that women are people too.

Sounds simple enough, is that really it? Obviously it's a bit more complex than that. But he had heard that somewhere, he had grokked it, and he was sharing it around. It's a very good starting point.

Unfortunately, there are people who call themselves feminists, whose demands are excessive, and who are misandrists.

It's strange that in all other groupings, we cry stereotype or prejudice if we lump everyone in with the obnoxious extremists, be it by religion, race, profession, nationality, political compass, or whatever. It's well attested that a minority within any grouping does not represent the whole group. But for some reason feminists are not afforded this understanding. There is a lunatic fringe therefore all feminists are of that ilk. Very odd really, because it is intelligent people falling into this trap.

No, the misandrist extremists in feminism do not represent feminism, any more than Fred Phelps represents Christianity.

Once I had understood this much, I needed to understand what the objective of feminism was.

You have to understand that I was married young, and I took a very traditional role in that marriage. For most of it I have not worked outside the home. I raised a large family and I am skilled in all the domestic arts, cooking, sewing, etc. Does feminism look down on that?


Feminism doesn't insist on women doing men's roles. Feminism says that the idea that there are gender roles at all is purely cultural, points to exceptions in other cultures, and questions their validity.

Most importantly, feminism says that all human beings deserve to be treated as human beings first, and we'll worry about the roles afterwards.

Unquestionably there are biological roles. Women are the ones who give birth and lactate. Men tend to be bigger and stronger. So, when we lived in stone age times, using spears to hunt food, it made a lot of sense to divide roles up along biological lines. There is nothing wrong with women staying in a safe place with the children, while men go hunting. It's logical, it's practical.

It's been a long, long time since the vast majority of humans lived like that. There is no actual need in the modern western world for even the most basic gender roles, and while women still give birth, men are perfectly capable of caring for babies, and women can hunt to their hearts content.

Which is not to say they want to. Which is where choice comes in. A fundamental aspect of feminism is choice. So, if a woman and her partner are happy with the old arrangement, there is no problem.

I won't bore you with the development of agriculture and the history of patriarchy. We are here, NOW. And that was a long time ago. We are also 100 years beyond women's suffrage, in a world where we dress as we please and if a girl wants to be a soldier on active duty she can be. So we've come a long way. It was feminism that got us here, but it's not enough.

As I have posted before, there is still plenty of inequality faced by women, and therefore feminists still have a lot to say.

Here are some of the things we say:

Women and men should be given the same pay for the same work.
Women and men should be given the same level of of medical care.
Women and men should be free to wear whatever clothing they wish to wear.
Women and men should have the same educational opportunities.
Women and men should have the same legal protection.
Women and men should be equally represented in authority.
Women and men should enjoy equal respect when their opinions are presented.
Women and men should have the same expectations of morality.

If you agree with all of these, then you may be a feminist.

Still not sure? Still don't like it?

I'm not going to repeat myself here, but I am going to refer you to some older blog posts that you may have missed, or would benefit from seeing with fresh eyes.

And here's one for those of you who say the fault also lies with women, which was never in dispute. Just as men can easily be feminists, and many are, some women are not:

And my whole series from last year. If you are too busy to read them all, read the last one.

Some of you will still not understand, and I will just persevere.

Some of you will state  "I'll never become a feminist." No, you won't. That's actually quite rare. What usually happens, in fact is that you realise you already were a feminist.

If, on the other hand, you are quite content with women being treated as inferior, you can just bugger off now.


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  2. I could get quite depressed about the need for this conversation, in the year 2014, in a Western country. "Most importantly, feminism says that all human beings deserve to be treated as human beings first, and we'll worry about the roles afterwards." EXACTLY. Which is what anyone belonging to a suppressed group wants. How do you know when a group has achieved equality with the dominant group? When the behaviour of one member is no longer held against others of the group.