On Feminism and Gender Egalitarianism
My post “SlutWalk NYC is pissing me off with its DSK protesting” is getting a fair number of hits from a Tumblr post that calls it, a “terrible post snarking on Slutwalk NYC organizers for protesting the dismissal of charges against DSK.” (If only I had AdSense, they’d be making me money. That’d be satisfying.) Mostly I was commenting on the accusatory rhetoric of the event’s Facebook page, which rifled my general sense of justice.
The post wasn’t all that snarky, considering snark is an intrinsic style of the blog, and my responses to the lady commenter were pretty tame. I’m usually not very kind to people who don’t have their reality in the upright and locked position, but she was doing a good job of characterizing her own crazy.
To preface this post’s main points, I want to note that I’m very familiar with feminism. I attended a formerly all-women’s college soon after it went co-ed in an area with a strong sense of women’s studies, where I served as the Women’s Resource Center liaison to the Health Center. I consider myself a strong gender egalitarian and if it wasn’t obvious from the rest of my blog, my politics are liberal and supportive of individual rights.
I also don’t want to debate the semantics of “feminism” since there have been so many differing women’s rights organizations and sub-cultures, so I just want to clarify I’m referring the general social movement that promotes gender egalitarianism under the presumption that women’s freedoms have been historically suppressed.
I do identify as a feminist, but when describing myself as such, I normally add a clarifying sentence involving the word “gender egalistarianism” after it. And here’s why: In feminism, as in every progressive movement, there will be extremists with whom mainstreamists will be reluctant to associate themselves. I believe that there are feminists with reasonable expectations of society and there are also (characterization of a small minority) the belligerent misandrists who honestly feel that the collective male zeitgeist is consciously trying to impose its giant phallus on all their childhood hopes and dreams.
The best analogy I can think of for this reluctance to associate with the word “feminism,” despite its positive past, would be “animal activism.” Certainly I feel passionately about animal rights, but some of PETA’s hypocrisy and ALF’s blatant terrorism makes me want to go all Jon Stewart and scream at the self-declared activists: Stop, stop hurting America.
I don’t want spend a lot of time delineating what I deem “reasonable expectations” for feminism, but I think that the first step in an honest conversation about women’s rights is agreeing that the goals of First Wave feminism have largely been met, at least in the US and Industrialized Europe.
Yes, sexism still exists. It should be handled seriously and on a case-by-case basis. I believe, much to some libertarians’ chagrin, anti-discrimination laws are generally a good idea and should be enforced when violations occur.
Stereotypes also exist. Some of them are funny. Some of them contain statistical truths. Some of them create preconceptions in a society that can result in unfair treatment. Again, stereotypes and sexist jokes are things that don’t necessarily normalize or condone societal injustice and should be judged on a case-by-case basis.
This doesn’t mean progressive movements should cease their work or that I feel that feminist is a shameful title. But for gender egalitarianism to exist properly there needs to be an open dialogue about men’s rights, and this is something that I’ve found to be lost in women-oriented gender studies.
The collaborative writing project No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz, has some pretty good posts on male-centered sexism that I would recommend as good gender-issues reading.
As a feminist, I feel that the best ways I can promote gender egalitarianism are: Vocalizing about sexism when I see it, supporting and promoting women’s reproductive rights and LGBT causes, being knowledgeable and active in political issues, and setting a strong role for myself in academics and work as an example of a confident, independent-minded women.
And to the misogynists, the misandrists, and the gynocentrists that completely ignore male issues: Stop, Stop Hurting Feminism.
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