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October 13, 2005

Comments

Rayven

I'll admit that you would probably think of me as one of these anti-feminist women... though I've read a lot of the literature on my own, love your blog, support goals like equal rights and empowering women, and don't think we live in a perfect, non-mysogynistic society -- feminists and feminism usually, for lack of a better word, squick me out. (Note that I'm NOT saying it's their fault, or it's the right reaction to have; I'm just trying to describe my perspective so you can get an idea where an "anti-feminist woman" might be coming from, and so we can have a dialogue so we understand each other better).

The "squick" is there even though I've tried to not have that reaction. Because I'm queer and moderately successful, I've been approached a number of times to join feminist groups or go to woman-only events or take feminist classes. With the exception of classes (no room in my academic schedule) I have often joined a few times, or done one-shot things, only to find myself wanting to leave.

Why? While I agree that much of feminist thought doesn't emphasize victimhood -- or, to the extent it does, is also very focused on solutions -- I found that many groups consist of a number of people who either (a) spend the entire time complaining about men or the patriarchy; (b) whose entire identity is focused on "I am woman!" or (c) at the least, they are generally groups that like to give strangers hugs -- aack! squick! :) I'm not explaining myself well, but I'm trying to say that for me personally, this type of person or group is not the kind of person I am comfortable hanging out with. (I'm kind of an ultra-rationalist, scientist, aggressive rugby player type). I'm not saying this sort of a group is bad or inappropriate - certainly enough people get enough out of them that I would never, ever deny that they do a lot of good... for some people. In the same way, I would not say that "feminist" is not a good thing to be -- but I resist giving myself the feminist label basically because I don't really feel like I'm in a group with them, and giving the label seems like lying to say I do.

Not sure what my point is here. Partially I'm writing so you can maybe understand why at least one apparently successful, feminist woman resists being a feminist. Maybe also to suggest that you might be making a mistake in assuming that a woman who doesn't like feminist classes or groups is anti-feminist in a deep sense. I share most of the goals of feminism and try, in my own way, to advance those goals: I mentor women in science, but not "as women" -- as scientists -- and I think that if they can learn to be confident in their abilities there or in other spheres, it will spill over into their being able to reject damaging cultural and societal messages. I mentor all the students and young people I meet, including guys, in this way. The point is, I think more is to be gained by giving people confidence and skills generally, so that's what I do.

evil_fizz

whose entire identity is focused on "I am woman!"

Rayven, I find that this is my problem with signing on for a lot of "isms". I don't think of myself in a one-dimensional way, so it seems odd to define myself in terms of only one characteristic. Certainly my age, race, political leanings, education, and so on shape as much of my life as my gender.

Having said that, I think that there's tremendous value in thinking about myself as being part of a group. The trick is not to assume that the group is monolithic. When people talk, for example, about abstinence only education, a lot of different lights go on for me: my feminist light, my liberal light, my pro-education light, but feminism helps me to focus on my "how does this affect me as a woman" questions. It's not that issues raised by gender are the only questions, but it's an important lens to look through.

Out of curiosity, do you think labels can help us define ourselves better or are they just limiting and incomplete representations of our views?

Mr. Bad

Hi Hugo, interesting post.

When challenged over at StandYourGround, both you and Barry (ampersand) were unable to come up with even one example of how women are (if I remember correctly) "oppressed" and/or "exploited" and then when pressed on the issue both of you disappeared. It was quite disappointing because Dr. E. was truly sincere and gracious with his invitations, etc., to the point of dedicating a special space for you and typhonblue to debate without interference from 'the peanut gallery' - just you and she could post. However, we've had an ongoing debate with some feminsts there (yes, there are some intelligent, articulate feminist women at SYG who aren't afraid to debate this issue with us) and they have yet to offer up even one good example of discrimination against, exploitation of, oppression of, etc., women that is worse or even comparable to that which men currently endure.

Don't get me wrong, I don't deny that some (few) women are discriminated against sometimes. But life is hard for everybody, and indeed, when looking at our society and world at large in a rational, objective manner, it becomes clear that men endure at least as much discrimination, exploitation, etc. as women do, so IMO it's at best a wash. And in fact, IMO in Western First World nations, it's pretty clear that it is men, not women, who endure both informal and formal widespread institutional discrimination and exploitation that is not only condoned by society, but in some cases encouraged (e.g., affirmative action). This is simply not the case for women in Western societies - discrimination against, exploitation of, etc., women is not only not condoned, indeed, when it's identified it's immediately addressed and eliminated, or at the very least greatly reduced. Therefore, I think that's why feminists are seen as tiresome, self-absorbed whiners by many women, ordinary and "anti-feminist" alike.

So with that intro, would you care to take up the challenge that typhonblue offered up over at SYG and provide some examples of "the ways in which our society still discriminates against and exploits women?" Because IMO it is men, not women, who on-balance are far more disadvantaged by gender-based discrimination than women are, so I'd like you to provide some concrete examples of "the ways in which our society still discriminates against and exploits women" that are not also imposed on men.

Jeff

Rayven - the thing about judging feminism by college extracurricular groups is that, in large part, you're taking things that are particular to these sorts of groups and not necessarily to feminism. I think in any of these groups, you get the sort that complain about those outside the group, tie their identity closely to their group affiliation, and the sort that are more interested in just being social than in any of the group's stated goals. I also think there's a difference between people who say "I'm not willing to call myself a feminist because I don't want to be associated with these other people calling themselves feminists," and those who say "I'm not willing to call myself a feminist because I have problems with the ideas behind feminism."

Mr. Bad - what would be the point? You and the other MRAs have shown time and time again that you would only gainsay, rebut or deny anything that was said, and the actual thread would be drowned out (as you pretty much try to drown out every thread on this blog).

Hugo

Mr. Bad, for starters, the enormous pressure on women to meet an unrealistic and destructive standard of beauty. Though men do suffer body image anxiety, women's self-loathing is maintained and perpetuated by a consumer culture that turns that self-loathing into mammoth profits. It's not a trivial issue, it's a vital one.

I'd also argue that the pressures on women to be both devoted SAHMs and successful career women create an impossible and misery-making double-bind.

And I'm leaving out rape, sexual harassment, and pay inequity. But let me guess that most MRAs would say that men are more likely than women to be victimized by the first two, and the third is a fiction created by the socialist Department of Labor!

Hugo

Rayven, my post was directed more towards the explicitly anti-feminist stance that certain young women take, rather than the kind of discomfort with feminist community that you express.

I realize that as a raving Extrovert NF (Myers Briggs), I tend to like groups where folks talk about their feelings and give hugs to strangers. This may have affected my decision to go into gender studies work!

Mr. Bad

Hi Hugo, this from Dr. Evil: "Please let him know that the "Ring" is still open for him and that maybe he and TyphonBlue can agree to some ground rules and we can get back to what we started."

And Jeff, no, we would not drown out Hugo. As I said, Dr. E. has set aside a special forum for just him and typhonblue to debate - no others are allowed to post.

What do you say Hugo?

Rayven

Out of curiosity, do you think labels can help us define ourselves better or are they just limiting and incomplete representations of our views?

That's a great question, evil_fizz, and one I've wrestled with a lot. The best answer I can give is that I think labels are necessary evils. Even though they are limiting and incomplete representations of our views, they can help us define ourselves better - but only if we use them as a starting point. Too many people take them as an ending point, both in figuring out their own identity and in communicating with other people, and I think that has really pernicious effects. On the other hand, we can't exactly communicate or have a starting point without labels, which is why they are necessary.

So to bring this back on topic: I guess I'm not super comfortable with labels in general (including things like scientist, queer, liberal, etc). No label fits exactly right, but I'm more comfortable with some labels than others, to the extent they better approximate an underlying reality. To the extent they don't, I find they preclude understanding and communication rather than enhance it (cos everyone assumes all sorts of wrong things and most of the conversation winds up slamming up against the wall of assumptions). I feel like attaching the label "feminist" (and being part of many feminist or all-woman groups) is counterproductive to communication and progress, for me at least, because so many connotations don't fit. I know it's not monolithic, but are you really part of a group if you only really agree or gel with 5% or 10% of what goes on? Where to draw the line is rather arbitrary, but feminist groups are somewhere below my line.

Mr. Bad

Hugo wrote: "Mr. Bad, for starters, the enormous pressure on women to meet an unrealistic and destructive standard of beauty. Though men do suffer body image anxiety, women's self-loathing is maintained and perpetuated by a consumer culture that turns that self-loathing into mammoth profits. It's not a trivial issue, it's a vital one."

If we're talking about societal pressures dictating behavior that has a negative impact on our bodies, the comparison isn't even close. Men are under "enormous pressure" to take one.g., the dangerous, life-threatening work, and this that eclipses all issues re. women worrying about being 'too fat,' 'not skinny enough' or whatever. For example, the rescue workers in NYC on 9/11 - how many of those who died were women? Uh huh, thought so. Besides, feminists are fond of writing off violence experienced by men because other men perp it, so let me offer this perspective: Most of the fashion designers driving women's fashion and body image are other women and gay men, so where in all of this is it ordinary men's fault?

Hugo continues: "I'd also argue that the pressures on women to be both devoted SAHMs and successful career women create an impossible and misery-making double-bind." And men are compelled to do the same thing and always have been. The myth that only women work a "second shift" is just that, a myth. I've always maintained that if women would just swallow their pride they could learn a lot from about how to balance work and family life. After all, men have been doing this for years.

Like I said, life is hard for all of us - suck it up and get on with it.

Rayven

Whoops, Hugo, sorry if I took the comments off in a direction of your post you didn't intend. :) There are explicitly anti-feminist women of the sort you're talking about -- I guess I was just thinking that I could have said the exact words your student said to you, and without the benefit of having my long rambling comments on your blog you never would have known where I was coming from. The point: there might be a lot fewer truly anti-feminist women than you think; probably most just have some discomfort with the community. One can't necessarily assume from the fact that someone has mostly male friends or doesn't like/go to feminist events that they are explicitly anti-feminist.

And, yeah, I'm an INTP. Hugs, bad! :)

Rayven

Jeff, I've definitely gone to non-college groups also... sorry if I gave a wrong impression. You're right about there being a difference between the two reasons for not wanting to call oneself a feminist. I guess I'm just saying (a) it's not so easy to tell which reason is responsible for any given person unless you know them fairly well; and (b) it gets a bit mushy. "The ideas of feminism" are mixed up in a lot of people's minds with the connotations about the people who call themselves feminist. So any one person might not call themselves a feminist for reasons that are really a combination of the two.

evil_fizz

And men are compelled to do the same thing and always have been. The myth that only women work a "second shift" is just that, a myth. I've always maintained that if women would just swallow their pride they could learn a lot from about how to balance work and family life. After all, men have been doing this for years.

Then what do you make about all of the studies that document how much more time women spend doing housework, taking care of children, etc.?

Sure, it's a myth that men don't ever "work a second shift." But it's equally a myth that this is a problem that affects men and women equally.

Keri

Rayven, as someone who does identify as feminist, I can completely relate to what you're saying. It sounds like you're uncomfortable with the social aspects of feminism, but not the ideological aspects; I consider myself in the same boat. I'm not a "let's go out and march with signs" kind of person, I don't particularly enjoy most explicitly feminist music/art/literature, I consider the fact that I reside in a female body about on the same level of significance as the color of my eyes, and I'm definitely not on board with the "sisterhood" (sorry, Hugo!). I participate on feminist blogs and forums, but I'm not interested in "making friends" with the people I interact with; I just enjoy the opportunity to debate with people who have vaguely similar ideas about gender and society as I do.

For a long time I rejected the label, both because I was uncomfortable with the social side of things and because of the "victim language" stuff Hugo talks about above. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to think of herself as "oppressed," and some of the more second-wave rhetoric about heterosexual relationships being inherently exploitative, about women being unable to freely choose their sexuality, and so on infuriated me. Over time I came to realize the nuances in those arguments, and that I didn't necessarily have to accept them in full in order to be a feminist. Basically, I originally decided to take on the label because I thought I could be a "moderate voice" to offset the radicals in the movement; over time, I began to see more value in the radical position and stopped defining myself in opposition to them, though I still consider myself more moderate than some.

I'm not saying anyone should take on the label if it doesn't feel right to them, particularly if they behave in ways that are compatible with the ideology of feminism anyway. Just sharing my experience, because that comment resonated with me.

Mr. Bad, I think by "ordinary men" in that last comment you meant "straight men"-- surely you're not trying to set up a dichotomy between "gay men" and "ordinary men"? I'm also curious as to why "life is hard for all of us - suck it up and get on with it" applies to feminists, but not to MRAs. If you truly believe in that philosophy, why do you spend so very much time outlining all the ways in which men are allegedly victimized and demanding that feminists/pro-feminists answer for these perceived wrongs? I'm not sure why it's okay for you to crusade for your particular cause, but everyone else needs to "suck it up" and go away.

The Happy Feminist

"The other aspect of this anti-feminism I encounter among my students is a disturbing refusal to see any sense of responsibility for and towards other women."

Hugo alluded to this idea in another recent post, and I am not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, ever since I was a little girl, I viewed it as my duty to PROVE that girls and women are just as tough and capable as boys and men. By my own conduct I still strive daily to buck negative stereotypes about women. And I am grateful to my predecessors who, by doing the same, paved the way for me and other women to thrive in traditionally masculine arenas.

But is it really my place or the place of the feminist movement to tell other women that that they have an obligation to behave similarly? If a woman leaves the career track to become a homemaker, is she letting the "sisterhood" down by confirming prevalent beliefs that women professionals will just "opt out" eventually anyway?

If I'm interpreting the notion of "responsibility towards other women" incorrectly, what does that term mean exactly?

ms. b.

I totally agree about the idea young women are taught that feminism is about being a victim. I usually counter it with "do I look like a victim, or do I look angry?"!

Mr. Bad

evil fizz wrote: "Then what do you make about all of the studies that document how much more time women spend doing housework, taking care of children, etc.?"

Almost all of those studies are flawed in at least one of the following ways, and many times in others: They 1)only ask women about housework, so they don't get equivalent info about and from men, 2) use sexist definitions of "housework" so that men's work isn't counted, and/or 3) double-count housework, e.g., counting laundry and vacuuming as two seperate and exclusive tasks when in fact one can vacuum while the washer or dryer is running.

Continuing: "Sure, it's a myth that men don't ever "work a second shift." But it's equally a myth that this is a problem that affects men and women equally." No it isn't. On balance the difference beween men's and women's contribution to "housework" is approx. equal.

Mike

Mr Bad-

Men are under "enormous pressure" to take one.g., the dangerous, life-threatening work, and this that eclipses all issues re. women worrying about being 'too fat,' 'not skinny enough' or whatever. For example, the rescue workers in NYC on 9/11 - how many of those who died were women?

I don't know of many men who are in such professions who chose it due to societal pressures. Most men I know in such professions did it beacause they enjoyed the work, and they get personal satisfaction from helping others. They are also extremely brave.

The myth that only women work a "second shift" is just that, a myth. I've always maintained that if women would just swallow their pride they could learn a lot from about how to balance work and family life. After all, men have been doing this for years.

This is true in recent years, but does not seem to have always been the case. The men of my grandfather's generation were expected to work and support the family financially, but did not seem be under the same expectations in terms of domestic work, and performing actual child raising tasks. Even today, most two income families I know of still divide household duties along gender lines- Mom may work, but she is still expected to clean, cook, etc.

Like I said, life is hard for all of us - suck it up and get on with it.

Indeed it is. But all of us, regardless of gender, need help from time to time.

Mr. Bad

Keri wrote: "I'm also curious as to why "life is hard for all of us - suck it up and get on with it" applies to feminists, but not to MRAs. If you truly believe in that philosophy, why do you spend so very much time outlining all the ways in which men are allegedly victimized and demanding that feminists/pro-feminists answer for these perceived wrongs? I'm not sure why it's okay for you to crusade for your particular cause, but everyone else needs to "suck it up" and go away."

The difference is that discrimination against men is accepted and promoted by our society both formally (e.g., in the law via affirmative action, VAWA, Title IX, selective service registration, law enforcement and the courts, etc.) and informally (e.g., women-only health facilities, programs,etc.; women-only scholarships and loan programs; etc.). No such discrimination against women is accepted, let alone condoned, making discrimination against women trivial and insignificant as compared to men. When discrimination against men becomes as rare and trivial as discrimination against women is now, then I'll gladly reitire as an MRA. But not until we reach that equality.

Jendi

Interesting post, Hugo. I agree with Rayven that the feminist/antifeminist template is too simplistic. I don't call myself a feminist because: (1) the label has become so closely identified with certain political positions I don't share (I am pro-life, support abstinence ed, chastity before marriage, etc.) that it would be misleading; (2) my female gender is not a big part of how I define my identity; and (3) perhaps most important, I think that breaking free of oppressive gender roles and ending the "battle of the sexes" is a *people's* issue and not just a *women's* issue. (I know Hugo thinks so too!) It's like the difference between "gender studies" and "women's studies". The label "feminist", for me, leaves out half the picture, and suggests that I've taken sides in a battle that I just want to end.

sophonisba

I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to think of herself as "oppressed,"

I take it you've moved on from this position, but for the many who haven't, the answer: Some oppressed women care more about telling the truth than about making themselves feel good and 'empowered', that's why. Nobody wants to be a victim, as the saying goes. Nobody wants to be poor or depressed or unemployed, either, but sooner or later you figure out that pretending your problems away is not helpful or honest.

Hugo - women who boast about only having male friends are not shirking their imaginary sex-specific "responsibility to women." Rather, they are embracing misogyny and sexism, and their responsibility to reject that tainted and idiotic propaganda is a responsibility fully shared by men.

Mr. Bad

Mike said: "I don't know of many men who are in such professions who chose it due to societal pressures. Most men I know in such professions did it beacause they enjoyed the work, and they get personal satisfaction from helping others. They are also extremely brave."

Sure, but men are also are pressured by society to take up these jobs in the same way that women who have free will at the same time feel pressured to accept norms re. body image, and enjoy the attention being 'beautiful' provides them in the same way that men enjoy personal satisfaction from dangerous work. The difference is that society is pressuring women into risk-taking behaviors that are far less severe than for those it pressures men into. An example of men being pressured by society to things downright deadly is the "white feather" campaign in England during WW-II, where women went around giving white feathers to men who hadn't enlisted in the military as a way of trying to shame them into joining up by designating them as cowards. This is but one example and the bottom line is the matter of degree. As I said before, it's not that women don't have to endure these things, the issue is that men do so too, and frankly, for men it's almost always worse.

Continuing: "This is true in recent years, but does not seem to have always been the case. The men of my grandfather's generation were expected to work and support the family financially, but did not seem be under the same expectations in terms of domestic work, and performing actual child raising tasks. Even today, most two income families I know of still divide household duties along gender lines- Mom may work, but she is still expected to clean, cook, etc."

Apples and oranges Mike. Your Grandmother, like my mother, also had the luxury to stay home and be a full-time housewife, so she didn't have to work outside the home and thus no "second shift." Back then, men and women agreed on that kind of division of labor and it worked for them. Unfortunately, while feminists recgonize tht women's roles have changed, they seem to refuse to recognize that so have men's and we indeed do our share of the housework. Contributions to home and family have always been approximately equal, it's just the specifics re. division of labor that's changed.

Hugo

As interesting as this discussion is, Mr. Bad, this is thread drift. The thread is not about whether or not discrimination against women exists, but why certain women resist the label feminist. The topics overlap a bit, but I'd rather folks stick tightly to the young women/feminism thing.

Hugo

Happy, I don't mean that women have a responsibility to walk a specified feminist path for the benefit of other women around them. I strongly reject the notion that a SAHM is an unacceptable life for a feminist, though I think only a small number of feminists really have a problem with women choosing to be SAHMs.

But feminism isn't only about maximizing one's individual happiness and increasing one's own individual autonomy. It's also about understanding that how we spend money, dress ourselves, use words, and so forth -- these actions have repercussions in the broader world, often particularly for vulnerable people, and often particularly for women. We've got to balance our micro-concerns for ourselves and families with a broader social concern for others. For feminists and pro-feminists, that means being particularly attuned to the sexual repercussions of our choices.

Mr. Bad

Sure Hugo, no problem.

As I said, I think that young women resist the feminist label because for the most part feminism has achieved its goals and now has devolved into a small group of people either pushing for more special rights and privileges for women or complaining about non-issues that most women and men recognize as trivial, especially when compared to what men endure (there's the relevant link to the side discussion - it's not irrelevant, but I'll let it go at your request). That and the history of and increasing intensity of outright and shameless misandry and general intolerance in the movement of anyone who is not like-minded is IMO why young women reject the feminist label; I see this on my campus all the time. Interestingly, I actually hear more women use the term "feminazi" than I do men, and from my point of view this is quite encouraging.

mraboy

As interesting as this discussion is, Mr. Bad, this is thread drift.

Of course, it's 'thread drift' when Mr. Bad makes some comments that challenge feminist dogma. Oddly, Hugo doesn't challenge feminists about 'thread drift'. Also, I suppose the following is not 'thread drift'.

Mr. Bad, for starters, the enormous pressure on women to meet an unrealistic and destructive standard of beauty. Though men do suffer body image anxiety, women's self-loathing is maintained and perpetuated by a consumer culture that turns that self-loathing into mammoth profits. It's not a trivial issue, it's a vital one.

I'd also argue that the pressures on women to be both devoted SAHMs and successful career women create an impossible and misery-making double-bind.

And I'm leaving out rape, sexual harassment, and pay inequity. But let me guess that most MRAs would say that men are more likely than women to be victimized by the first two, and the third is a fiction created by the socialist Department of Labor!

And what about the self-loathing of 'pro-feminist' males? Where does that fit into the puzzle?

Finally, catty comments about MRAs don't become you, Hugo.

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