Monday, May 19, 2008

Feminism For Men

Talking about feminism can get confusing because the word has so many different definitions and connotations. Two useful definitions I have distilled for the purposes of this post are:

  • Advocacy for the rights of women
  • The collection of movements and philosophies concerned with gender difference and advocating equality
I know this doesn't cover all areas of feminist thought but it will do for now. Separatist feminism, individualist and anracha-feminism, etc. are beyond the scope of this post.

If we look at the definitions above and say that at the core of feminism we find the idea that women, as a group, are treated unjustly relative to men and that this should change it all appears quite simple. You either believe that or you don't. If you do, you are are a feminist. If not, you are not.

If it is that simple why is it relatively rare [1][2][3] to find people who self identify as feminists?

Partly it is that pushing for change, in general, makes people uncomfortable. Americans like individualism but activism, radicalism, zealotry and stridency (all words commonly associated with feminism and other social change "ism's") are things we like to keep in check. Just like a lot of Christians in mainline denominations believe almost the same things as people in evangelical churches but don't identify as "born again" lest they sound like a zealot.

The open hostility toward feminism by many on the US political Right is well known. Rush Limbaugh and many others have worked tirelessly to marginalize feminism. They have various motives. These include specific issues like restricting abortion and opposing marriage equality. The leaders who set the Right's agenda also have a strong interest in maintaining class and gender power differentials. For the most part, power currently lays right where they want it and they are not interested in sharing.

OK. There is the background. What does this have to do with men? So, Rush is a guy. He doesn't even like feminism, so no way is he a feminist. Why should I, or any other guy, want to be one? I'm not going to benefit from it. It's about women looking out for themselves, right?
To answer that question I could just send you all off to read Backlash and Stiffed by Susan Faludi, but that's kind of a big time commitment.

Let me answer that with another question. Are there any women in your life that you care about? Mother? Sister? Daughter? Boss? Are you at all effected by what happens to them?

I'm just going to assume you said "yes" to that. Now, do you believe there is any inequality or injustice in how women are treated?

There is. These links represent a tiny scratch in the surface of the overwhelming evidence [1][2][3][4][5][6]. (The link concerning the FLDS may appear to describe something isolated, but it doesn't. Their teachings about submission are not that different from many other Christian and psuedo-Christian groups.)

Do you give a shit? Congratulations. You are a feminist.

5 comments:

Hahn at Home said...

My girlfriend was a separatist feminist back in the 70s. She's mellowed. I, however, have always felt that winning the war alongside the "enemy" whom I've always been kind of fond of in a brotherly kind of way, was important.

Between the two movements, we've come a long way, with a long way to go.

Too bad more men aren't as enlightened as you.

DJ Dual Core said...

Thank you.

Separatism makes a certain amount of sense, but it assumes a lot about differences between men, women and individuals. It is true that avoiding relationships with men is an effective way to reduce the risk of being abused by them but it's not a panacea. It doesn't protect you from being abused by other women, for example.

Enlightened isn't a word I use to describe myself. I like to think I pay attention, however.

karen said...

DJ, This is a great post. You are special guy, for sure.

DJ Dual Core said...

Thank you. My wife seems to think so.

Habladora said...

Hey, good post. I think you hit on something I've ignored by acknowledging that many people are simply afraid of change.