I used to post in the Feminism Forum when I was a teenager, and I was disappointed when it went away. I think a thread is a great idea!
Now it's women's turn. Most women I know -- powerful, independent, wondrously self-defined creatures of talent and intellect, sex and love, insight and intuition -- are fully helping co-create the new female empowerment. But then they read about Sarah Palin endorsing Carly Fiorina with a wink and a rifle shot and a claim of "new" feminism, and they cringe straight down to their ovaries.
Reading this commentary, I realized how much I missed the Feminism Forum from years ago. So why not a thread?
I used to post in the Feminism Forum when I was a teenager, and I was disappointed when it went away. I think a thread is a great idea!
Today, Australia gets its first female Prime Minister! Go for your life, Julia!
While I think the article was a good spark of discussion, it bothers me a lot. Like I don't want to get feminism lessons from a man. I know that sounds sexist, but I don't. Support? Sure. Ideas? Great. Rules? Um, that to me by definition is what we feminists are against: men telling us silly little girls how to be. If maybe the guy was like "This is what I think," I might be a little less turned off, but he was very emphatic and I don't need to be told what to do by yet another guy. And that would be regardless of my agreement with the writer. I don't entirely agree with this guy.
My feminism philosophy is very inclusive. I think most people are feminists to a certain extent. I believe as long as you think women are equal and deserve to be, that makes you a feminist. I don't like people accusing others of not being enough of a feminist because they don't follow the traditional feminist line. Giving it an issues litmus test isn't fair. I am pro-choice. But you know, I can understand how someone wouldn't be. If someone wanted equal rights, equal pay, tougher rape laws, subsidized day care, pretty much every other "party line" feminist issue but isn't pro choice (but doesn't protest it either), why should she be ousted from being called a feminist?This is the rule: You do not ever get to say you're any kind of feminist or champion of women and mothers everywhere, and in the same breath add that you also believe no woman should have control over her reproductive powers and, by the way, poor immigrant women should be sent back to Mexico and guns should be legal for all.
If being a feminist is letting us women self-determine, isn't telling women "you have to support this issue or you're not one of us" contradictory on its face?
Now, people like Palin who occasionally refer to themselves as a feminist, where the only thing I can see is that they are working mothers, yeah, maybe they shouldn't be included. But I hate to say "You disagree with my political views. You can't be a feminist." Telling women you have to be pro-choice really alienates a lot of people and is part of the reason why the feminist movement is so feared and hated as a bunch of man-hating baby killers. While that is wrong and people are idiots, we don't need to encourage that either.
To me, Palin isn't a feminist because she renounces it herself and because she's hypocritical and too stupid. She brags about how she and her idiot daughter didn't abort, but seems to overlook that when they chose that route, THAT THEY HAD A CHOICE. Pro-choice isn't pro-abortion. I mean, I am against abortion for me personally. But I don't want that choice taken away from others just because I don't want one. If she had said "We never considered it because God tells us it's wrong," at least she wouldn't be hypocritical, but by talking about their choice, they're actually endorsing a movement that they decry.
Well, we have a whole thread relegated to they idiocy and hypocrisy of her, so I'll stop ranting about her now.
But as to the rest of the guy's quote, what do immigration and gun controls have to do with feminism? I'm sorry, but I didn't realize my uterus means I have to chuck out the 2nd amendment and support illegal immigrants. Now, I don't necessarily disagree with the author on those issues' importance and that changes need to be made. We might even have a lot of the same ideas. But I don't like things that aren't feminist issues becoming issues. Immigration isn't simple. I don't want my very conflicted and confused thoughts on immigration tied to my very clear sense of "men and women are equal, dammit." Immigration and gun control to me are people issues, not solely women.
Another thing that bothers me about some feminists is that if a woman wants to be religious and a stay-at-home mother, that somehow she's some Stepford wife instead of that maybe that is what that individual woman CHOSE. To me, feminism is about choices. If you say to me I can't choose a "traditional" role, you're just as bad as the throwbacks who say I can't have anything BUT a "traditional" role.
Pornography and prostitution are another seemingly litmus test issue. God forbid you think it's ok or low on your list of issues.
I know not every feminist leader promotes that litmus test thinking. I just get frustrated that those voices are the ones that are heard and if i disagree, I can't possibly an intelligent person who disagrees. I must still be indoctrinated by the patriarchy and need to be deprogrammed. That kind of attitude is elitist and condescending.
Feminism is about equality. What things make us equal? Well, that's different to all of us and we should be careful about telling people that their equal is less equal than ours.
However, the decision on whether or not to have an abortion is a uniquely female experience. The idea that one could take that choice away is so entirely anti-feminist that I don't even know where to begin. Like you, I hesitate to say, "You're not a feminist because you don't agree with me!" but being pro-life means taking rights AWAY from women, and I just don't see how that fits into any feminist agenda.
As to the rest of your post Scarlet, all I can say is that there are many "feminisms." However I think there are certain principles that would apply to just about any legitimate brand of feminism. For instance, the treatment of ALL women is the issue, not just a subset. Corporate boardroom feminism where women collude in the oppression of other women is not a legitmate form of feminism, even though it's one of the most frequently evoked. As in - wow, Carly Fiornia was a big high powered CEO, good for her, a woman can run a profit hungry oppressive corporation just as well as any man... That kind of thing. I hear so often this statement of "choices" or not "judging other women's choices," but I don't accept it. Those are individualistic arguments. You can't truly support the equality of ALL women if you contribue to the demonization of Latinas, or to women from the global south, as in your example of the immigration issue.
Anyway, these are just my opinions, I don't want to start an argument or anything. And I do hear what you are saying with regard to pushy people who want you to accept their entire political philosophy and not think for yourself. But feminism and the work it has done is such a rich legacy - and it has mapped the terrain very well. It's because of feminism that we've learned you have to approach things from a multi-faceted perspective. And that's why certain "choices" - choices that are supportive of capitalism, patriarchy, anti-reproductive rights or other things that oppress ALL women, are not IMO valid choices. We could not hail them under the banner of feminism.
I've always felt like the "to be a feminist you must pass this litmus test" or "to be a feminist you must also be liberal and believe this, this and this about gay/racial/class/international issues" is ultimately more divisive than it is useful, but I also say this as someone who falls as much libertarian as I do liberal. I feel like feminism ought to look for common ground between women - between the libertarian feminists who think the government has no place in a woman's reproductive choices, the fiscally conservative feminists who believe women should have equal pay if they work equally hard, the capitalist feminists who believe greater representation of women in the boardroom and in the media will pave the way for others, the Marxist feminists who believe that women should have start with the same opportunities as men, the womanists who believe that the oppression of women of color and of white women manifest themselves differently, and the liberal feminists who believe all those things as well. The idea that feminists should all be of a certain political persuasion, even if it doesn't have much/anything to do with gender, is really only a barrier to collaboration. It's part of why feminism is such a dirty word among young women and men of just about any age. Because we can't just turn everyone in our government liberal. We have to be pragmatic in the promotion in women's rights and speak to our shared values.
So basically, I do think you can be a Republican and a feminist. It's much more difficult, as so many Republican positions run directly counter to feminism, but it's possible. As for pro-life feminists, if you really believe that terminating a pregnancy is killing a life, then I can understand the idea that a woman's right to bodily autonomy does not supersede someone else's right to life, despite the fact that I disagree.
Anyway, this thread is awesome.
I hope that I didn't sound like "no man can have an opinion about feminism," because that's not right. What I don't like is men saying "This is how feminism needs to be." The guy in the linked article said "This is the rule." I don't want rules from a man. Hell, I don't want rules from a woman. Opinions and perspective and insight are necessary, but a guy declaring "these are the rules for feminism" really pisses me off.
I hope this isn't a bad analogy, but I'm white and I believe in equal rights for people of every color. While I might have my opinion as to say... what the NAACP should do, it's not my place to TELL them what to do. I can offer my opinion, but when I start acting like I know better and making up rules, then I'd be a jackass. To me, there is a world of difference between "This is what I think should happen," and "These are the rules that you need to follow."
If we all agreed, what would be the point of a message board? Just saying "me too" and giving each other green dots? *yawn* I like to hear what people think, even if it's not the same as me. Maybe I might learn something, maybe I might teach someone.
So a feminist can't be a capitalist? That to me is just inconceivable. Sure, capitalism screws over women, but I can't think of an economic policy that DOESN'T due to the inherent sexism in all governments. There are for-profit businesses run by women that don't exploit women and I would call that capitalism. Sure, socialism in theory would be equitable to everyone, but theory and practice don't really match up.
We all come from different places with different priorities. There are lot of issues that fall under the feminist umbrella. No one can support them all. Something somewhere is going to cheese you off. You believe what you believe and try to change what you can change. Just because I disagree with someone doesn't make me an oppressor either. It's that "my way or the highway" that makes it hard for us all to get along. (not us here in this thread, but in the feminist community at large) We fight with each other over semantics and small differences and get bogged down in details instead of working together on what we DO agree on to make that better.
Log Cabin Republicans exist. Why can't there be pro-life feminists?
Because having dominion over one's body is a non-negotiable tenet of feminism. I mean, at a certain point, if feminism becomes this all-inclusive thing where everyone does their own invidividual thing and nobody "judges" another person's "choices," then at a certain point haven't we rendered the term "feminism" basically meaningless? What political/ethical framework do Angela Davis and Sarah Palin have in common? The mere fact that they are both women? Isn't that just identity politics? And I think for some women this seems to be the case. Who can forget when Hillary Clinton was defeated by Obama - all these women who were excited about the possibility of a female in the White House suddenly wanted to support Sarah Palin? Leaving many of us scratching our heads as to why or how you could make that switch, other than just because of a blind allegiance "to women" or to those without a Y chromosome.
And I don't agree with the comparison to Log Cabin Republicans (who I of course loathe and disavow). Being gay is just a part of who one is. Being a feminist is a political/social ideology. In other words, like you point out, we can't assume that just because a person is gay they will be liberal or a Democrat or whatever. You should have said, "Log Cabin Republicans exist. Why can't there be pro-life women?" In other words, one's gender or one's sexual orientation doesn't determine one's political outlook. But feminism and happening to be a woman are not interchangeable.
I agree that we don't just want to all green dot each other and silence oppositional voices, I wasn't suggesting that. We're sort of disagreeing right now, right? : )
As to being a feminist and being a capitalist, I do find them to be incompatible in a sense. I mean, we all live in the world as it is - so in that sense we can't really penalize people for playing the game in the system in which they find themselves. But from a Marxist feminist perspective, it would be impossible to run a profit-driven company without expoliting women employees. Profit = exploitation. But of course one could try to minimize explotation or pay a living wage or offer robust benefits and all that.
Anyway, again, I'm just offering my perspectives. In spite of my current avatar (a song lyric), I'm not an expert on feminism or the history of feminsim. But I do agree with the feminist philosophy that challenges indivualistic notions - where the victory of an individual woman - Condi Rice being made Secretary of State for instance - is conceputalized as a positive step forward for women. The appointment of Condi Rice to Secretary of State was a disaster for women - for millions of Iraqi and Afghan women (and men) for instance, just to name one example. And yet many would say that Condi Rice struck a blow for women, or is a fine feminist role model. And I reject this kind of thinking.
Last edited by NUHN; 06-25-2010 at 04:10 PM.
This is mainly about women in the public eye - I just find it hard not to be judgemental towards women who claim to be bold new thinkers for the sisterhood but who are really working with the Good Ol' Boy network to bring women down. The only reason they are in a position where they have enough power to sway peoples' opinons is that feminists paved the way for them.
Sarah Palin, the Tea Party's Red Queen, is the personification of the two strands in right-wing thought and politics. And Palin is the mistress of the art of claiming moral standing as a result of what she does with her reproductive system. Remember all the times she exhibited her Down syndrome son on the campaign trail in 2008? Fiorina's repellent attempt to bolster her anti-abortion credentials by lamenting her own infertility is directly inspired by Palin's message, "Look at me, I'm a wonderful woman because that I had a child with a mental disability. And you women who had abortions in the same circumstance are bad, bad, bad. "
Born-again right-wing women like Fiorina, who was actually born in 1954, and Palin, born in 1964, are just young enough to have benefited from all of the opportunities that the feminist movement fought so hard to open to all women in the 1970s, without having had to contribute anything. The anti-government ideology of these women is particularly hypocritical, since they would be nowhere without the anti-sex discrimination laws that opened doors in education, employment and business to women of their generations. Palin wouldn't have had a high school basketball team to play on, or have made it onto local TV, without the legislation inspired by the women's movement. Fiorina wouldn't have become a CEO without the women's movement. Of course, the shareholders of Hewlett Packard during her six-year tenure would have been better off without Fiorina's stewardship. She was sacked by the board in 2005 after HP stock (which has now largely recovered) lost two-thirds of its value under her leadership. She left with a $21 million golden parachute, thereby proving that at least some women in corporate America can be rewarded for doing their executive jobs just as incompetently as men.
These right-wing women politicians are anti-feminists who have benefited personally from feminism. Now they are allying themselves with the Good Old Boys of right-wing religion and right-wing economics and calling themselves pro-life and "free market" feminists. And right-wing male blowhards, whose mouths are more accustomed to saying "feminazi" than "feminist," are eager to anoint these women as standbearers for the cause of Bible-based government intervention in Americans' private lives and government neglect of the public good.
Here's a real problem. So obviously rational, intelligent people aren't going to look towards Palin as a good female role-model.
Who then should we have be our flag-bearer? Who should we look up to?
Gloria Steinem, Helen Gurley Brown, Jane Fonda all seem to be pretty quiet nowadays. Naomi Wolf lost some of her credibility. Maybe Palin (for those people who look up to her) is filling the void because there isn't anyone else?
Personally, I love Hillary Clinton. A lot of people don't though, some for good reason, some for stupid ones.
Powerful women performers are powerful in a sexual way (Madonna) and while that's fine, we all can't draw our power from that. Meryl Streep is one of the only ones I can think of. TV has progressed a lot, but there isn't a Murphy Brown or Roseanne on now.
So who do have to admire so Palin looks like the idiot that she is? How we can say "Don't follow her" if we don't have someone else to offer up?
(I could be missing someone completely obvious too. I'm really tired.)