“Real” Feminism

In my time, I have seen lots of arguments about who or what is really this or that. You’ve probably seen them too. So-and-so is a RINO (Republican in name only). Or someone else is a DINO (Democrat in name only). This politician isn’t a real conservative. That politician isn’t a real liberal. And arguments about what constitutes who qualifies as a real libertarian go on far more frequently than they should. You know how this works. Some person expresses an opinion, and someone else decides that opinion means the person isn’t really X because if he was, he wouldn’t hold that opinion. Most of the time, this complete nonsense.

What I find amusing and sad at the same time is when people who insist they are all about empowering people try to make these kinds of arguments. You’ve probably seen this before too. Some pundit or other who claims to speak for equality for this group or that group, claims to be for empowering this or that group to overcome some social barrier or other so they can be free, decides that some person of the group who isn’t toeing the ideological line is therefore not allowed to be part of the group. Like people calling Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” or “not really black”, as if his ideology was supposed to be determined by his skin color.

Apparently feminists are subject to this sort of thing also. I’ve seen some people arguing that Sarah Palin, and basically most women who agree with her, isn’t a feminist apparently because she isn’t pro-abortion, doesn’t constantly fear patriarchal oppression, and doesn’t like the influence of politically left-wing ideology. Feminism, according to some people, is defined by a belief that patriarchal oppression is everywhere, that abortion is a fundamental right, and supporting left-wing ideology is the same as fighting for women’s rights.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to defend Sarah Palin. One, she doesn’t need me for that, and two, I do disagree with a lot of what she has to say, if only because I think she seems to say one thing and do another.

However, I don’t buy the arguments by people like Jessica Valenti that Palin is a “fake feminist”. Apparently Mark Morford, a person of the male persuasion, thinks he gets to determine who qualifies as a woman. He considers the Sarah Palin types to be “pseudo-women.” Got that? If you’re an adult female and don’t agree with the right folks, not only are you not allowed to call yourself a feminist, you’re not really a woman. Pardon my sci-fi slang, but who the frak do these people think they are? Who made them arbiters of womanhood and feminism?

The arrogance of people like Valenti and Morford should be drawing more public ire, in my opinion. They should be openly laughed at and ridiculed in public. People should be pointing fingers and trying to say “You think you get to define feminism for everyone?” while they laugh out loud at these people.

Why do I object to their comments? Because they, as much as any oppressive patriarchy or social stereotype, are attempting to put women into neat little boxes and proclaim who gets to be what and when. They are trying define the roles women are allowed to have and what women are allowed to think. Here is Morford doing it:

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.

And here is Valenti doing it:

So is it possible to exclude women such as Palin from feminism if we don’t have a conclusive definition?

Absolutely. If anyone — even someone who actively fights against women’s rights — can call herself a feminist, the word and the movement lose all meaning. And while part of the power of feminism is its intellectual diversity, certain things are inarguable. Feminism is a social justice movement with values and goals that benefit women. It’s a structural analysis of a world that oppresses women, an ideology based on the notion that patriarchy exists and that it needs to end.

What is most ridiculous is just a few sentences before that, Valenti insists there is no “grand arbiter of the label”, and yet clearly she intends to play arbiter. If you don’t agree with her idea of feminism, you’re out, baby, out.

So here is a question. What is feminism? Is it the narrowly defined ideologies proposed by people like Valenti and Morford, or is it actually something broader (no pun intended)? A woman I respect once asked me if I believed women should be allowed to pursue their own interests and be given the same opportunities to prove themselves as men. I said yes (and I still do). This woman told me that meant I was a feminist. I confess, I was a little surprised by the idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it made sense. I’m not saying you have to accept that as the definition of feminism. I’m saying, ask yourself what is feminism, and really consider the matter. Put aside your initial emotional reactions and think about it.

Now, please take note, while I am criticizing Jessica Valenti’s comments, I am not saying she is not a feminist. I am sure she is one. She just happens to be a narrow-minded one. As for Mark Morford, well he seems to just be little more than a braying ass. Whether he is a feminist or not, I could not say. Can a man who wants to define—based on ideology—who is and is not a woman be a feminist? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

5 Responses to ““Real” Feminism”

  1. thedreamingsub Says:

    Why aren’t you a journalist or writing for a magazine?

    Your mind. wow.

    I can hear you in this piece.

  2. Labels, we use labels to classify everything, the problem with labels is there are always exceptions. It is like trying to fit a square into a round hole, it never fits perfectly, sometimes it slips completely through and sometimes it gets stuck because parts don’t fit in the round hole. Feminism is no different. Nor are all the political labels. I only just learned I’m apparently a libertarian after reading your earlier post and yet I lived for 53 years not applying that label to me or any other political label which in my opinion wouldn’t have changed anything because my views would have remained the same regardless of what label anyone would try to apply to them. I’d rather toss the labels and make decisions by observing a person’s actions to see if they match the words they speak. Or comparing their words and finding how often they contradict themselves. Labels are used to try and fit us nicely into a pine box when the only time that is possible is when we die and even then some of us prefer an urn. I am so enjoying your perspective. For the first time in my life it appears I found someone of a like mind (at least so far). I say appears because no two minds are ever alike but I am enjoying yours so far.

    • Thank you. I think you and I will get along just fine. Just so you know, I intend to check out your blog later today.

      • Thank you Sir for your kind words. I hope you enjoy my blog, there is a second that can be reached from the menu, one is for over 18 to adhere to wordpress guidelines and the other for everyone.

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