so, in the comments section in an earlier post, where i linked to a post about feminism and humanism at shake’s sis , toast brought up the issue of terminology (well, actually, he brought it up in the comments over there too, and what i think they call “shit hitting the fan” ensued). shit does tend to hit the fan when this topic comes up, because it is so complicated, and while toast and i discussed it briefly in the comments of my post, i wanted to say a few things and then solicit some more opinions.
toast’s main query is:
“Why is it important that male progressives embrace the Feminist label? Why isn't it enough to say ‘I support equal rights for women’?”
i think this is a voluminous question, and i’m certain that i can’t answer it comprehensively here. in truth, i can’t ever answer it comprehensively, because that would mean i was claiming to speak for all feminists, and that would be dumb. and that gets to my general disclaimer around the question of the term "feminism," and its inevitable sister question, what is "feminism" anyway? i wrote in the comments of the earlier post:
“i think…that whenever people get into a group discussion about what Feminism-with-a-capital-F means, there's going to be trouble. because Feminism-with-a-capital-F doesn't really exist. there is no monolithic school of Feminist thought, no bootcamp or basic training or anything like that :) as problematic as it can make things, i think ‘feminisms’ is probably a more apt term.
so, while one woman might define feminism as ‘equal rights for women,’ another might define it as ‘subvert the dominant patriarchy paradigm,’ and yet another might say ‘lesbian separatists rule!’ and of course, i imagine more women fall into the first category than the latter, but you get my point.
all this makes it very difficult sometimes to talk about what ‘feminism’ is. and that can often bog the broader discussion down.”
so, that being said, i want to throw out there why i personally cheer when progressive men embrace the label feminist. plain and simple, it’s because i’m tired of arguing about it. there are so many practical realities that need addressing, so many savage injustices and insidious prejudices that women face each day – i want to deal with those, not semantics.
and i know the retort to this is “it’s not just semantics, words are important.” well hey, i have two english degrees, so you won’t find me arguing that language isn’t powerful, and that we shouldn’t be mindful of that fact. however, i think there are times when it’s more fruitful to have that fight, and others when it’s more productive to prioritize agreed-upon goals instead of agreed-upon terminologies. and for me, i just don’t see what all the fuss is about with men who hesitate to call themselves feminist.
so maybe we can open this up into a discussion in the comment section. i’ve never really attempted one of these before, so it might fall flat, but if you’re so inclined i’d love to hear your thoughts (men and women alike) about the term “feminist” and your reticence (or lack thereof!) to wear the label. is it because of some of the ugly connotations “feminist” has taken on in popular culture? is it because “feminist” is inherently too hard to define, and you’d rather categorize yourself more particularly? is it because you disdain the letter “f”?
please, do share, and we’ll continue the conversation (or, if no one else feels like it, at least toast and i will)…