Thursday, March 08, 2007

Feminism 101

with Sage, of Persephone's Box

Some feminists, like Ilyka, believe we shouldn’t have to explain ourselves, and we don't, really. Yet it might be useful in the grand scheme of things. Feel free to add on as you see fit or argue with a section or more. I’m not speaking for all feminists (see question #1), just one. It’s a start. And, sure, this could also be called “Human Beings 101” except that I’m most interested in the actions that affect women and have been affecting women for a really, really long time.

I’ve compiled the following 8 questions from a variety of ideas I’ve gathered around these parts from a few simply curious or seriously confused people:

...2. Why do so many feminists hate men?

a. Because some of them are scary and mean now or historically.

Many women have suffered at the hands of men. Many have been sexually abused or assaulted, battered, or verbally shoved into a corner. That’s scary. You probably would never think of treating a woman like that, but we can’t know that for sure. As a rape survivor, every guy I meet is a potential threat, guilty until proven innocent. My intellect tells me that most men are kind and won’t think of harming me. My gut says be ready to run. I try to override my instincts with reason, but if I have a few drinks with you, and you sit a bit too close or look at my boobs for half a second too long, I might calmly make an excuse about needing to get home, when it’s possible I’m actually scared out of my tree.

It’s my own baggage. I know, rationally, it has nothing to do with you. And sometimes it helps when the man I love reminds me, “I’m not the one who hurt you, and I would never think of doing anything like that,” but he’s still suspect. His muscles are bigger than mine, and he’s got a dick, so it’s possible he could cause me pain. That's just my reality.

So if a woman appears fearful of you, don’t be annoyed or discouraged. It probably has nothing really to do with you. Back away and reassure her and give her space. Go out of your way to let her know she really is safe. And maybe she won’t hate you so much.

b. Because some of you don’t recognize the privileges you’ve come to expect.

Here’s just one example of this: It’s a very common, normal thing to want to hang out with people who are like you. So when someone’s in a position to hire another person, he’ll likely, naturally, choose someone similar to himself. Because of blatant oppression and discrimination over the centuries, white men have ended up as the bosses, and, on average, they keep choosing other white men to follow in their footsteps. And that sucks for the rest of us.

Recognize you do have a step-up in many arenas. Sure it’s not always the case. Women have an easier time getting custody of the kids, for instance. But it’s often the case. Often enough for some bitterness to creep in there once in a while.

This point also serves as a reminder why it may take a while to be accepted (if ever) by some men and women of colour. Guilty until proven innocent is a good survival mechanism for people who have trusted and burned before.

The key is to stay on track and prove your allegiance over and over basically by being a good person. Of course it’s not your own personal fault that people weren’t treated well in the past, but it’s your own fault if you refuse to acknowledge that reality and expect everything to be on a level playing field for you with everyone you meet. The abusers and invaders looked an awful lot like you (and me), and that’s something that just has to be accepted...

...
I’m writing this today, on the 98th observation of International Woman’s Day, because I love women, and because I love men. We can only move forward if we can somehow be understood by one another. I hope this helps.


(more)

38 comments:

plain(s)feminist said...

Right on, indeed.

Eli said...

Sounds reasonable to me. I find that assuming I am not God's gift to women really helps me get along with them...

Unsane said...

Unfortunately so much of the anti-woman abuse looks like common sense to the unwitting misogynist. That is to say, a great deal of misogyny is culturall conditioned into the unconscious mind, rather than being consciously embraced. So much so that when I say that I have written my autobiography in a certain way so as to head off any interpretation of myself as a woman-child, I am then patted on my head by my would-be advisor, and told to stop being so hysterical. In other words, "but of course you are a women-child. When you include ideas that show that you are not, then these don't make any sense and are pointless. now, shut up and listen to what I'm telling you, you silly little girl."

Steve said...

Belladame - I saw your posts on Feminist Critics and I thought you handled yourself quite abely! Keep up the good work!

belledame222 said...

Hi, thanks, Steve, and welcome!

Tom Nolan said...

Belladame - I saw your posts on Feminist Critics and I thought you handled yourself quite abely! Keep up the good work! - Steve

BD handles herself ably wherever she posts - known for it, you might say.

But I don't think that FCS is a particularly hostile environment for her to operate in. She's had a far harder time of it on 100% feminist blogs in the past than she did just now amongst the gentlemanly critics.

belledame222 said...

well, depending on how you define such things. DB had me ready to gnaw my arm off. and then there's miz MotherHen or whomever...

thanks for the props tho'

mostly? I Blame The Fuckwits.

o, i've had a week, i'll tell you...

Nanette said...

I still waffle on the "am I a feminist" stuff. Every time I think I'm ready to declare, I come across yet another thing that makes me think, "oh no no no... to say 'I am a feminist' means I'd have to add too many qualifiers and then I too would wind up as a Starbucks order feminist!"

Also, if you haven't read R. Mildred today...

belledame222 said...

Also, if you haven't read R. Mildred today...

Ooh. Ahhh.

Me, eh, I'm a feminist same way I've been a feminist all along: I'm for womens' rights; there is work to be done in that area (as so many); QED. the rest is gravy.

Central Content Publisher said...

Come on, it wasn't THAT bad. And uh, mother-hem certainly isn't MY mother. She's had me ready to retire on an almost daily basis.

belledame222 said...

she is just totally freaking me out. I think her kids must really be Cabbage Patch Kids or something.

Central Content Publisher said...

Mother Hen or Mildred?

belledame222 said...

Mother Hen. Mildred does other things with Cabbage Patch Dolls. I may not speak of them here.

Central Content Publisher said...

Yeah, I actually sort-of enjoyed the rant. It took me awhile to plod through it though.

But yeah, Hen...

She actually reminds me of my grandmother, so maybe the mother-hen thing is appropriate after all.

I always described my grandmother as a passionately wounded authoritarian propelled by an unnamed desperation. It seems appropriate here.

Cassandra Says said...

It's an interesting question, though, to what extent feminists should be willing to educate. I get why so many people respond with "fuck that, get off your ass and go to the library", but on the other hand...there are a lot of negative stereotypes and distortions out there and if we don't counteract them who will?

Alon Levy said...

I still waffle on the "am I a feminist" stuff.

Drop off the feminist blogosphere. Don't ever be tempted to go back here or even to softer feminist blogs like mine or Lindsay's or Echidne's. Ignore the feminists for a month and immerse yourself in mainstream culture. Join forums for ordinary men and women talking about their love lives. Talk to average people about their views on family, on sex, on motherhood. Read crappy bestsellers, mainstream or genre.

That's how I became a feminist. It wasn't through reading Majikthise; at the time, it didn't have anything approaching the radical control it has today, so any dissent from the party line was greeted with accusations of male privilege. Nor was it through having to patiently explain to pseudoscientific racists and sexists on Pharyngula that no, women are not innately worse at math than men, though it helped.

Rather, it was through participating in a forum populated by bored housewives who incessantly bitched about their husbands while not doing anything about their situations and never failing to conform to the most idiotic social mores. They bestowed the title "Feminist" on me because I formed an equal relationship with one of the few non-robotic forum members, because I had non-patriarchal views of sexuality, because I expected that everyone should have a life outside home, because I didn't care about my penis as much as Real Men ® should. If that was how the average unthinking person called me, I thought, it was likely that was what I was.

R. Mildred said...

I may not speak of them here.

Well say them somewhere ffs, leaving a comment then deleting it just leaves me paranoid and scared that I've turned into a monster who's too scary for people to feel easy enough to tell. If you're seeing htat I've got a problem tell me about it NOW before it becomes more of one later.

If that was how the average unthinking person called me, I thought, it was likely that was what I was.

It's a good theory, but did they ever call Hillary a socialist/communist/progressive/far-left-loony?

Because they don't actually think about what they say or what labels they throw around to any large degree - hence being "unthinking", often times they're trying to insult people but don't understand that for an insult to work it must, you know, actually insult the person its being thrown at rather than just themselves.

Which is the trouble with emotional sophists, if they think something is icky and wrong and insulting, then everyone else must find that icky and wrong and insulting ergo calling you a feminist - deep insult to your manliness more than anything else - and anyway, it's like how ren calling herself a capitalist doesn't work by any standard of the word capitalist, unless she's got a small sweat shop shoved up her and part of her floor act involves shooting small exploited third world children across teh room using nothing more than her vagina.

Which I'd totally pay to see btw.

But sometimes words mean stuff, and stuff.

That's how I became a feminist. It wasn't through reading Majikthise

Well... umm... yeah, yeah! yeah... *sighs*

R. Mildred said...

If that sounds too demanding, sorry.

antiprincess said...

part of her floor act involves shooting small exploited third world children across teh room using nothing more than her vagina.

the Aristocrats!

Nanette said...

Heh. Thanks Alon.

Actually, I'd considered myself a feminist of sorts for decades, but it was reading the various mainstream feminists online that caused me to rethink the label. It's just that my focus is so very different than many of theirs - by necessity and life experiences, no doubt.

At one of the largest "liberal" (but not feminist) blogs recently, one of their resident theory trained feminists was asked what she thought was the biggest issue facing young feminists today. Her answer was something to the effect of "that young women can have sex and pleasure without being shamed for it".

Jeebus. I mean, nothing against sex and pleasure and no shame, I'm all for it. But if that is the biggest issue facing young feminists today... sigh.

Anyway, then there is always bfp to restore my faith in an all inclusive feminism.

I think I may need more coffee, too.

Sage said...

Hey Belledame, thanks for the mention! I'm so flattered!

Mandos said...

Hi Belledame222! I have decided that you're going to be today's Generic American Jewish Person. What do you think of this short thread?

http://politblogo.typepad.com/politblogo/2007/03/pork_peace_and_.html

Thank you,
--Generic Canadian Muslim Person.

belledame222 said...

RM: sorry. I make ze leetle yoke. i just kind of dug the idea of you doing unspeakable things to Cabbage Patch Dolls; I didn't speak 'em because then they wouldn't, you know, be unspeakable. Nothing more meant by it, really.

belledame222 said...

--oh, the comment you're referring to: I wrote something about the Vomit Monster and then thought better of it. reasons having nothing to do with you. I didn't wish to attract the attention of the Vomit Monster any further or give her anything to latch onto (there was something rather specific in it); i'd cleaned up quite enough puke this week already.

belledame222 said...

i.e. it dragged a third party into it by implication, and i decided it just wasn't worth it for a whole bunch of reasons.

belledame222 said...

Mandos: I'm too generic to really get it, I think. I like pork sausages. (OO ER MISSUS) I like religious progressives. I like vegans who don't cast me into a eternal damnation for my sinful animal-carcass gnawing ways. I like the photo of the dog with teh pig outfit even though it really does constitute cruelty to animals to dress 'em up in costumes. The T-shirt: kind of "eh." The idea that doing away with religion would solve the world's problems: also kind of "eh."

dammit, now I'm all hungry.

belledame222 said...

sage: de nada.

belledame222 said...

Hey, Nanette, you're always welcome here, you know. sometimes we talk about things other than feminist-related drama, really.

belledame222 said...


Jeebus. I mean, nothing against sex and pleasure and no shame, I'm all for it. But if that is the biggest issue facing young feminists today... sigh.


Well, yeah, exactly.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nanette said...

Ack, belle... it never even occurred to me that I might not be welcome here ;). I was just thinking yesterday (or so) that I found this one of the more comfortable sites for me to read daily and to (very occasionally) comment at. And, of course, ask questions. I am a champion lurker, though, most everywhere.

sometimes we talk about things other than feminist-related drama, really.

Yep, no worries. I don't mind feminist-related drama at all, cuz usually I learn things... in my earlier comment I was just thinking 5am thoughts, and sort of continuing a conversation no doubt begun elsewhere.

R. Mildred said...

RM: sorry. I make ze leetle yoke.

oh, bum. I still haven't broken cuntensquirten in with a proper blog war.

Donna said...

I always described my grandmother as a passionately wounded authoritarian propelled by an unnamed desperation. It seems appropriate here.

Your grandmother is my father???

Donna said...

It's an interesting question, though, to what extent feminists should be willing to educate. I get why so many people respond with "fuck that, get off your ass and go to the library", but on the other hand...there are a lot of negative stereotypes and distortions out there and if we don't counteract them who will?

I still feel obligated to educate on racism. Maybe I'm naive, but I still have hope that if you give a well meaning person just enough that the light bulb switches on they will educate themselves on the rest. But damn, sometimes I wonder if someone superglued their switch in the off position...

Donna said...

I don't mean to embarrass you with my mushy sappy declarations and all, but I LOVE YOU R. Mildred! (You too Nanette for sending me over to read that post. I LOVE YOU!)

Cassandra Says said...

"But damn, sometimes I wonder if someone superglued their switch in the off position... "
And that's why I stopped educating, because some people seem to have their ears sealed up with wax to such an extent that it's pointless, really.
I do kind of wish that there was a blog that was willing to take on the task, thankless as it is. Or multiple blogs, even.
"Feminism for Dumb People"
"The Complete Idiots Guide To Why Racism is a Very Bad Thing"
"Gay People - Fact Versus Fiction"

Alon Levy said...

It's a good theory, but did they ever call Hillary a socialist/communist/progressive/far-left-loony?

Oh, no. They were all politically liberal; in the whole forum, there was only one person or two who voted Bush in 2004, out of around 20 regulars.

Mind you, the label only alerted me to what was going on. If they'd said I was a communist, I'd have scoffed at them. But although I hadn't read Betty Friedan I knew what her main points were, so once I saw that there apparently were a lot of people who needed to be smacked on the head with The Feminine Mystique, fully embracing the label "feminist" wasn't a huge step.

Mind you, that was already almost a year after the Summers brouhaha and several years after I first learned of the wage gap, so the stumbling block was not agreeing with the idea of furthering gender equality but identifying as a feminist.

Sage said...

Cassandra said,
And that's why I stopped educating, because some people seem to have their ears sealed up with wax to such an extent that it's pointless, really.

That's exactly why I don't stop. They need to hear it over and over and over again before they really get it. So, I'm willing to say it over and over and over.

It's just like giving instructions in a real classroom with real, well-meaning students who aren't quite paying attention, as people are want to do. I tell them what to do, then I write it on the board, then I go person to person to make sure they're on the right track. It's an effort, but it's well worth the outcome if a few more people get with the program. I mean, I could do what some teachers do and just give oral instructions then refuse to elaborate when questions arise because they should have been listening. But how useful is that to the students' education? Will they learn more if I refuse to help? No. The reality is they won't help themselves at that stage without some guidance. But as soon as they start getting it, as soon as they see the value in what I'm teaching them, then they're well on their way and no longer need my help.