Has “Feminism” Outlasted Its Purpose?

6 01 2008

 

The word, not the concept!

I ask because of a discussion I had with some friends tonight, and to elaborate on my “What is Feminism?” page.  As you probably know, the word “feminism” has become associated with all sorts of things that do not actually represent what feminism is.  It has become not exactly a dirty word, but definitely a word with some sort of stigma attached to it, so that many people who have feminist values will not or are scared to label themselves “feminists”–because it has become a label for something other than it should.  The following conversation is a perfect example:

Friend 1: I’m not a feminist, but…
Friend 2: No, I know you’re a feminist.  Let me ask you something: Do you believe men and women should have equal rights?
Friend 1: Yes…
Friend 2: Then, you’re a feminist.

Because that’s all “feminist” means–it means you believe that men and women are equal, should be equal, and should have equal rights.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

This is why I don’t actually like the term “feminist” or “feminism”.  I don’t think these terms should exist at all, because they imply that you are particularly for equality, more so than what’s normal.  Well, who normally isn’t for equality?  It’s as if you were to call someone “contact lensist” for believing in “contact lensism” because they insisted people who wear contact lenses are equal to and should have the same rights as people who wear glasses.  It’s just a given!

My friend made a good point, which was that when the idea of feminism originated, equality wasn’t at all a given, which is why the term originated–because back then, “feminists” really were people who were in favour of equality between the sexes to an unusual degree (within the context of the mentality at that time).  So back then, feminism was a term for an “extreme” belief or movement, and in a way (as my friend said), it’s good that we’ve now come to the point where the term does seem pointless and redundant.

The thing is, it seems as if while the movement has progressed, the extremity implied by the word “feminism” has progressed along with it–no longer does “feminism” just mean equality, it means female chauvinism and misandry.  Equal does not mean imbalanced in the opposite direction.  It’s detrimental, this perversion of what “feminism” means, because people only see the latter, louder “meaning”, and it affects their thoughts and views towards the former, maybe without them even knowing it.

Which brings us back to the original question.  I almost feel like we should give up on the word “feminism”, that it’s time to cut our losses and part ways.  No one likes feminism?  Fine, we don’t like feminism either.  Throw it out, let it die; it’s not what we want.  What we want is women’s equality, and that’s all; it doesn’t matter what you call it.

Picture source: http://images.jupiterimages.com/common/detail/01/49/23404901.jpg

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4 responses

8 01 2008
adam narcross

There seems to be an insistence that Feminism means gender equality, despite the fact that its well-documented practice indicates the inverse. Feminism in practice is sanctioned Misandry. Feminist are surprisiongly silent or indifferent when it comes to exploring female culpability for social issues, while all too pleased to remind the country that most social ills are solely attributable to men.
Feminist advocate views, which gives an impression that men in general are either rapist or potential rapist. Feminist have either advocated male castration or encouraged images and behavior where men are victims of genital violence (kicked or kneed in the groin for humor or entertainment) Feminists, while advancing long prison sentences for rapist, are mysteriously silent when it comes to issues of punitive damages/punishments for women whom falsely accuse men of rape.
Feminist are adept at using misleading and purposely distorting data to bolster their statistics to present a consistently negative view of men. And Feminist rarely, if ever mention the accomplishments of men.
Feminism isn’t the sole definition for anyone believing in gender equality. To declare so is to decide for someone the length and breadth of a personal choice by making it synonomous with a belief that in word means all other views must be anti-equality. In practice, feminism advances equality when it benifits women and encourages mass inequality when men are equally considered at the disadvantage of certain women.
More and more reliable statistics are providing a coherent picture of male-female relationships that reveal major flaws in feminist ideology. And before the typical derisive male blame is issued, most of these flaws have been uncovered by female researches that owe nothing to the Republican party.

Personally I believe in gender equality but I refuse to be classified as a Feminist because I’m a man and not a woman. And I do not believe one statement about equality is a determining definition for something that is solely a product of my own personal choices.

You may say Feminism is about gender equality, but I’ve seen nothing like equality in its practice. And before it is assumed that as a man, I’m anti-woman, I’m proud to know many, many diverse women, whose friendships I feel priviliged to have. Moreso because they accept me without the labels and political agendas usually associated with feminist ideology. In fact they would disagree with being labeled feminist, not out of fear or shame, but out of pride. They would say, “no I’m not a damn feminist because I know how to do my own thinking.”

8 01 2008
Joaninha

Hmm, I don’t know enough to argue about what you said feminists in general do or don’t do, but out of curiosity, can you give some specific examples?

The only thing I’ll say for the first part, where you said feminists hardly ever mention the accomplishments of men–if that’s true, I would say it’s because the rest of the world is already doing that well enough, so feminists might choose to spend their time/energy on recognizing women instead, who historically would have less chance of being recognized for their accomplishments (and I’d like to add in present day as well, but again, I don’t know if I can strongly assert that here without hard evidence). If you’re interested enough, I wrote briefly on this seeming “double standard” in my “Feminist Catch-22” post (https://mandingueira.wordpress.com/2007/12/05/why-write-about-female-mestres-the-feminist-catch-22/ —you can skip the first two paragraphs if you decide to read it).

I agree that “for gender equality” doesn’t necessarily equal “feminist” as things are now, and believe you’re right about what it would mean to state that. What I was trying to say was that for me, “feminist” means or should mean “women’s equality”, nothing more than that, and I certainly wasn’t trying to restrict the definition of “for gender equality” to the grounds of “feminist”. (And I do realize the conversation I excerpted suggests otherwise, but I will get to that.)

The thing is, every part of what you just said, from feminism being misandry to not wanting to be classified as a feminist to doing your own thinking, is what I was saying feminism has become, to the world. It’s the perfect example of why the whole point of my post was to raise the idea of separating the word “feminism” from its original movement, because maybe it really has become everything you just described, which wasn’t the point of it originally.

That is why I used the conversation excerpt as an example, because if you take “feminist” without ANY of the modern day connotations it has, and just look at its *original* meaning (or dictionary meaning, in fact), it did mean purely “for women’s equality”. I was trying to emphasize the idea that feminism should be so stripped down to meaning only that and nothing more, that the terms could be interchangeable. Or not interchangeable, because you’re right, “feminism” would still be a more limited word/idea than “gender equality”, since it would mean only women’s equality (even though equality inherently means it goes both ways, so the disjoint there is interesting). Then, “feminism” would actually be more than a redundancy, it would be redundant and signify less, which again as I mentioned is what we (okay, I) want, because that would mean gender (so both men’s and women’s) equality was truly, completely, in reality (societally, economically, politically) a given.

8 01 2008
Joaninha

P.S. If any of the above was confusing, I think part of it got a bit messy because, I just realized, your premise seemed to be I wanted to equate “feminism” semantically with “for gender equality”, when I really was talking about just equating it with “for women’s equality.” Maybe the line in the conversation should have been “Do you believe women should have equal rights as men?”, which might have made that clearer.

8 01 2008
Joaninha

P.P.S. (sorry): This will do a better job than I can of responding to what you said about feminism being “sanctioned misandry”: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/06/03/faq-arent-feminists-just-sexists-towards-men/

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