Thursday, July 31, 2014

Debate Club: Lets Talk about Feminism




I know I've shared this story before, but for this post it bears repeating.  When I was applying to my BFA program in college I had to ask a professor to be my advisor and at the time there was only one professor I was working with, so it was a no brainer.  Sometime after submitting my application he said in class, "So we were reviewing applications today."
My ears perked up.  "Yeah?"
"Do you want to know what they said?"  He asked with an unflinching smile across his face.
"Yes..." my demeanor dropping slightly...
"They said, 'Are you sure you want to work with her?  She likes to argue.'"
"They did not!" I said.
"Oh yes they did." He countered.
"How would they even know?  I haven't even had classes from any of them?"
"I don't know...but that's what they said."
(Long pause)
"Well...did I get in?"
He nodded.

I tell this story because on the blog I don't think I really show this side of myself, mainly because I don't usually talk about controversial subjects here.  But the truth is I love a good debate.  As I was once told, I like to argue.  For me its not about contention or stirring the pot, it's about uncovering truth.  With political, philosophical, and even religious issues I try to look at an issue from all angels--I examine, scrutinize, and question before coming to conclusions.  I do this in my own mind all the time.  This is how my mind works to process information.  However, doing this with people hasn't always been a positive experience and it's taken me a while to realize that when I question and play Devil's advocate, I should let them know beforehand that I'm actually undecided on this issue and would they mind if I asked them some pointed questions--Ha!  That may have avoided some debates turned actual arguments.  

The funny thing is that often, I don't come to conclusions.  Probably why I'm a registered Independent.  Sometimes I think an issue comes down to perspective--and I have a hard time saying my perspective should determine the choices everyone makes.  I'm getting off topic...but the point is, I like to debate.

Today's topic:  Feminism.  It seems like there has been so much talk about feminism in the media lately.  Everything from #yesallwomen, to Kate Kelly's excommunication from the Mormon church and her Ordain Women movement, and lately the flack a Women Against Feminism Tumblr where women post pictures of themselves with written reasons they don't need feminism.

So here's the deal--I've really been embracing the label 'feminist' lately.  For many reasons it's taken me a while to embrace this label, mainly because 'feminist' is a moving target--it means different things to different people.  I was afraid if I identified myself as a feminist others would make assumptions about my beliefs.  But the fundamental believe that women are equal to men--of course I'm a feminist!  In that sense, most of the people I know are.  In the past couple of years I began seeing feminism it in a new light--like the story on NPR where a gaming programmer was being asked why there is still such a huge lack of female characters in the gaming world when almost half of gamers are women?  When you think about it--that's ridiculous!  Or the recent videos making the rounds about how we teach society to view girls like this video by Always showing what it means to do things "like a girl."  Yes why would we ever make being a girl an insult?  And while I don't subscribe to Kate Kelly's OW movement, I've been grateful for the conversations it's opened and some of the cultural changes I'm seeing within the LDS church.

So when I finally clicked on the Women Against Feminism Tumblr I was shocked.  First, I expected to see very conservative older (think 60+) women making ridiculous reasons they didn't like feminism.  So many people were making fun of this Tumblr page, insisting that they just "don't get it" I assumed these were women who were missing the point.  After all if it wasn't for feminism, where would we be in regards to voting rights, education, job opportunity and on and on?

But you guys that's not what I saw. In fact I agreed with a lot of these comments, from young often alternative/hip looking girls.  

I know.  

Yes some of them are ridiculous and backwards reasons for not 'needing feminism,' but some of them aren't.  If you want to throw a rock at your computer screen right now I ask you to take a few minutes and read some of the more thought provoking quotes from this feed.


"I don't need feminism because I'm a humanist!  Who believes in equal rights for all humans!"

"I want my 9 nephews to grow up feeling like they deserved to be loved, cherished and respected by women...and that the do NOT deserve abuse anymore than a woman."

"I don't need feminism because the culture has become cannabalistic.  A movement embraces differing ideologies and intelligent debate. A CULT rejects free-thinking and insults nonmembers by calling them "uneducated," "misunderstood," and "sexist."  Look at the difference between [Martin Luther] King and Hitler.  No matter how much you want to throw me under the bus feminists, I won't stop working to make the bus easier for all of us--men AND women--to ride."

"'Modern Feminism in western states looks pathetic when compared to real mysogynistic states, especially the Arab world.  Women shouldn't be fighting for superiority in the Western world, they should be fighting for equality where it is absent."  

"I don't need feminism, I just need HUMAN rights." 

"I don't feminism because:
--I'm not a victim.
--Equality includes men.
--As a rape victim I know not all men are monsters.
--It's freaking 2014."

"I don't need "modern feminism" because...I don't want boys to be born apologizing for their gender because of bitter people and victimized attitudes." 

"I don't need feminism because feminists are TELLING me I'm oppressed--I'm not--then they go on to oppress me."  

"I don't need feminism because it's hurting men AND it's not helping women."  


OK so the list goes on and on.  The thing is I could probably argue either way on many of these issues.  I don't agree with every single post...but I agree with or at least see the point of many of these posts.  What I'm finding myself thinking more and more is that it's the label that is problematic.  For instance, one of the things I didn't want to align myself with by calling myself a 'feminist' is being a man-hater in any form.  Which begs the question, then why is it called FEMINism?  If it's about equality, shouldn't it be HUMANism.  (ps--I thought that before the Tumblr feed).  So yes a lot of these women in the Tumblr feed are perhaps dissing the views of radical feminism--but it also seems some aren't.  For example the couple of women who have talked about "western feminism" likening an uncomfortable situation like being cat called on the street for example to actual abuse or rape in a country where woman are truly oppressed.  And now that you mention it, I DO see a lot of victimized attitudes prevailing in much of the feminist related articles and viewpoints being shared.  Not to mention the bullying many of these women cite from the feminists themselves.


So what do you do you think?  Are you a feminist?  Why or why not?  If so, what do you think about this Tumblr feed?  Do you think any of them make good points at all?  Feminist vs. Humanist?   OR is it all semantics?  Yes there are extremes on both side, but for most of us are we all just talking about the same thing?  I.E. women are equal, we deserve to be teated as such and yet we don't hate men either?  I honestly am reconsidering this label... what do you think?


art Blue Window by Michael Carson

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:31 AM

    WORD. I have a family member who represents a strong feminist position and a wife who feels like her sister looks down on her or doesn't think she gets it. It breaks my heart that my wife, who loves her siblings more than just about anything in this world, feels this way. None of my words hold any weight because I'm a man. Her sister acts lovingly and they are close, but when she goes off on concentrated feminist rants she pushes my wife away and it's a source of great sadness. It's a hard thing. I wish she could see that the fears she has about men being emotionally oppressive are often things she projects on those she loves. She's almost become the thing she fears the most, and it breaks my heart.

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    1. Wow! You just described how my twin sister treats me when it comes to my faith (she's an atheist). It's sad and it hurts.

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    2. Anon--"She's almost become the thing she fears the most." Yes! And this of course isn't limited to feminism. I think it's easy to become narrow sighted for a cause when the cause because the only thing you see. And I think the word 'fear' plays a huge role as well. When we are reactionary out of fear, things just seem to go wrong. Taking a stand for something because it's the right thing to do vs doing it out of fear, seems to create a more internal balance, that will then emanate outword as well. Does that make sense? Anyway, thanks for sharing.

      Kiki--I think the same thing can perhaps apply here. Maybe your sister is so AFRAID of religion being push on on her, feeling oppressed, etc. that her response is also pushing back, emotional oppression, etc. It's so hard not to overcorrect.

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  2. I am also a registered independent. I can (usually) see both sides to an argument. I was always a strong feminist but after I had two sons, I started to see how the current view of feminism hurts men. I totally agree with you. I will refer to myself as a humanist.

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  3. HeidiAnn11:40 AM

    I totally get how you feel on this, and about the arguing thing, too. And we miss y'all in SA :)

    Love, Heidi

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  4. I have been following this a lot myself. I think there is a need for feminism, even in the Modern Western world. I think the word Feminist will always be a trigger word and evoke strong emotions on either side. If people (women included) think things are equal now and that a change is not needed or immanent then to me that is proof of the problem. I am made aware of disparities daily. Do I label myself a feminist? not really. I try not to label myself or prescribe to one way of anything. A humanist? Maybe. Egalitarian? Perhaps. I think #yesallwoman was important and it impacted me a. lot. It made me remember things i have experienced and blocked out, it made me aware of things that are not acceptable that I have grown and have learned to accept as normal. Those things are not ok and there needs to be education about that. I think we absolutely live in a society where there is a rape culture and where woman are still objectified. I think women always will be. I am not a man basher, I am very fortunate to have a wonderful supportive father who has pushed me my whole life to have a voice and a wonderful supportive husband who only sees me as an equal. I also have a daughter who I want to raise to be strong and to not have to worry when she is running alone or biking alone that any man she sees may be a predator. I have a son who at 3 1/2 I remind daily that women and men are different but equal and deserve respect as workers, athletes, friends, competitors- everything. It is a hard fight, but a fight i take on proudly because I think the best way to be a feminist is to lead by example and teach the next generations that anything is possible for anyone. Not to be angry, but to be strong. To say no with confidence and not apologetically when you disagree with a man, to not say sorry instead of excuse me, to not be meek, to go after what you want, to wear whatever you want to wear that makes you feel beautiful, to laugh out loud. So many things. Sorry A. This turned out to be a lot longer than a intended. :) I just have so many thoughts on it!!!

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    1. Ylrac--I total;y agree with you. There IS a need for feminism in the sense that you've described.

      I too remember #yesallwomen as eye opening for me to realize the ways I've been impacted by experiences that are not OK, yet have come to be seen as normal and acceptable. Probably the biggest thing for me is just the idea that I can't go out running at night (or even being anywhere at night, alone) without always feeling vulnerable. I carry pepper spray and have learned that's just what I have to do as a woman...and that is crazy. And it may seem impossible to achieve, but it's not. Proof: When B and I went to the Cook Islands a couple summers ago one of the things I was most surprised about was how safe it was there. When we asked the managers about keys to lock the bikes up, they just laughed and say--no one will take them. And no one did. Even the scooter we rented--we drove that baby all over the island and when we'd park we just left the keys in the inanition as is customary and never a problem. An English ex-pat living there told us that it's very safe and occasionally there is a petty crime, but even women can walk along the beach at night alone and have no problems whatsoever. Having lived in Hawaii, I know it's not "an Island thing" as that is not something you can do there. But I really thought that was amazing. Anyway, I love your thoughts and am glad that so much good has come from "feminism" but does it have to be the label of "feminism" to achieve these goals? (Just playing devil's advocate here). Personally I think I could accomplish more good for men and woman as a Christian. Not necessarily in the confines of Mormon cultural norms necessarily, but as a true disciple of Christ. I say this in part because I have strong doubts about anyone in the Cook Islands calling themselves feminists, but over and over again we heard about the many denominations of Christianity on the Island. Thoughts?

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    2. I agree completely. I cringe at the word feminist. When I hear someone say out loud that they are a feminist it does irk me a little. Even if my actions and thoughts are in line with being a feminist I think the label is misleading an carries negative connotations for men and women. As i was riding my bike home from work tonight I was thinking about your experience at Cook Island and although I have never been there I have been to other countries that were less frightening- for lack of a better word- than here, a possible reason for the ease of places like this struck me very hard. We as a nation demonize sex so badly and make it such a closed, taboo, dirty subject that our natural thoughts, urges and questions regarding sex are made to be shameful. We do not have a laissez-faire approach to sexual anything and that creates a terrible sexual energy. Look at children, any time they are deprived of something, they crave it more. Their curiosity is spiked and they can become sneaky in a way to get it. I think this is part of the problem. If we were more open about sex and taught sex as a normal healthy thing then I think our society would be a little different. I'm not saying through sexual morals out the window, just don't shame it. ALSO, I think that we are such a young nation that is mixed with so many different cultures from all around the world that we do not have strong ties, respect and appreciation for the culture of our land. It is great that we are mixed but some small villages around the world have such rich history that women are seen as powerful for ages. Even Native Americans. Ancient Egypt. Woman are respected and admired. Yes, there are villages too where women are spit on an forced to have genital mutilation, but that is a different story all together. I digress. Back to your question - Do we need the word feminism to achieve these goal? No, we don't. I don't know what we need, but I know one single word is not the answer. I love what you said about being a Christian. I think that by being true disciples of Christ, stripping the gospel to it's purest form, forgetting all philosophies of men would change more than just gender inequity.

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  5. I relate to you. Even the arguing part ;) I like the idea of humanist vs feminist. L will like this new "movement"/website. He feels the backlash and hates it. Just as much a we women hate it our way too.

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  6. *stands on soapbox*

    You know I have many strong feelings about feminism, so here's my take. Like you said before, we wouldn't have voting rights, property rights, or even be in the workforce at all if it wasn't for feminism. Feminism is truly defined as believing in equal rights for women. Equal pay, proper laws and punishments for assault, abuse, etc. We still do not have these things today, so yes we still need feminism. There are very radical off-shoots to feminism, as there are in any organization/religion/ideology. But in regards to true feminism, we don't have to pull men down to make women equal—we need to raise women up. There needs to stop being a zero-sum mentality. We need male feminists, female feminists and we need to do it with love and support, not vitriol, division and dissolution.

    An NFL player gets suspended for 6 games for smoking weed, but another one only gets suspended for two for being caught on tape completely knocking out his fiancee and dragging her out of a casino by her hair. Women are still not valued or treated the way they should be by society (as a whole). Not to mention things that are happening in other countries that are one thousand times worse than what happens here. These women still need our voices and for the world to value them, their education, their bodies and their lives. We need feminism for that.

    I think the term "Humanism" assumes that it is an equal playing field—which it clearly is not. There are always a few circumstances that are exceptions to the rule, but on a whole, there is no way you can look at the world objectively and think that women are on an equal playing field. And just because one woman hasn't experienced some of the more oppressive things the happen to most of the women of the world, doesn't meant that it doesn't exist for the rest of the world and it should not absolve her conscience from worrying about her sisters—or to put it more broadly—other humans. And to say that other women are playing "victim" is so dismissive and maddening that I will leave that for an entirely different soapbox.

    It's extremely unfortunate that feminism has such negative connotations that it pushes people away. We need to all work together to help the female cause—for the benefit of the entire human race. There are countless studies and reports on how societies who have higher regard for female life, education and advancement are higher functioning societies—which includes a better economy, higher life expectancy and a more peaceful community.

    If anyone doubts this, please read Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

    I have so many more thoughts, but I'll leave it at this.

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    1. Care--See, i love this comment. And so many others that are fully in support of feminism in, what I would call, it's purest form.

      And you're right--the reason we don't call it humanism is that there isn't an equal playing field. That makes a lot of sense and I get that now. The world has been so grossly off-balance for so long that the need for FEMINism is a way to create that balance, stabilize it. I too like your point of "just because one woman hasn't experiences some of the more oppressive things that happen to most of the women in the world, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist..." We DO need to lift women up. I like what Oprah said, "When you educate a woman, you educate a generation." I would never want to be considered as someone who doesn't want these things for women around the world. I Do! Holy crap I do... I have three daughters. I can't even imagine the horrors of being a woman in some parts of the world (let alone a disabled woman). And I didn't know that about the NFL players--ridiculous. I really agree on about all of that. Especially "We need to all work together to help the female cause--for the benefit of the entire human race." All great points--thanks for taking the time to comment.

      My only concern--and this applies to many ideologies--is when an idea gets taken too far, overcorrects if you will and new errors in thinking/judgement/action replace the old errors. I know that most people don't believe in radical feminism or many believe it doesn't even exist, but I guess that's one thing that struck me about many of these comments was that so many expressed feeling bullied, looked down on for their choices, etc. But again, that's something that happens in many nobel endeavors.

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    2. I don't know you Caroline, but I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said here.

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  7. I do believe in equality in a marriage but I think by promoting the push to be pushy, we have made men weaker as spouses. We have convinced them we can do it all and a lot of them (my husband included) have decided to let us do just that. We have eliminated the men's duty to be a caregiver in physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of the marriage. After 35 years of being the caretaker of the house and marriage, I would like to be "taken care of" for a few years!

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    1. Promoting the push to be pushy is not equal. Pushy is never equal. Even in an equal marriage you can still feel protected physically, emotionally and spiritually by your spouse. You can come to each other when you need/want to be held, to cry, to laugh to ask for help, to learn and love the Lord and God as a unit and individually. Help and love is always there, you just need to ask for it. I want to take care of my family and myself but I also know that to make it work they have to take care of me. Having feminist views doesn't make you not vulnerable to emotions and wanting sensitivity.

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  8. I always have been hesitant to define myself/associate myself with any label. I feel boxed in-like there is no room for new ideas or progression, or room for dissent or differing ideas once the association has been made.

    Concerning feminism, although I obviously agree with many of the defining values, I feel that the movement overall has damaged families and men. I have seen a lot of good and change that has come from the movement, but as with most groups it seems that they have gone too far and lost sight of some of their original intentions. I still support women who define themselves as feminists, and am grateful for groups that push for change and awareness, but the moniker is not for me.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the issue-it is something that needs to be discussed more!

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  9. I'm not sure how I feel about feminism as a label, or calling myself a feminist. I'm like you, I can see a lot of sides to the issue and on any given day I'll side more with one than the other. I think mostly I'm smack dab in the middle. I do believe that feminism as a movement when it started was entirely necessary and brought about important policy changes and changes to the cultural norm that I'm very grateful for. I do believe that there are still improvements to be made in terms of making women and men equal, but I also think that the search for equality for both genders goes both ways. For example:clothing choice. Women, especially young girls often dress in clothes that are more traditional for men (pants, jeans, basketball shorts,etc which were all once considered inappropriate attire for women) and no one thinks anything of it in my experience. However if a man or young boy wishes to wear a dress, he will often be teased and bullied because he likes to wear "girly" clothes. That's just an example where men are also oppressed in different ways than women. If we were truly equal we could wear whatever clothes we wanted. That's why I say I'm not a feminist because I think it focuses too much attention on bringing women equality but ignores the challenges that men face. But I am definitely a humanist and an advocate for respect for both genders.

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  10. Anonymous4:01 PM

    I am a feminist, I'm not ashamed to say it out loud.

    I wish I could write an articulate comment, but my English is too poor, so I subscrive everything carolinesbakeshop wrote, that explains what I think better than I could do. The fact that "women aren't on an equal playing field" is pivotal.

    Some of the stataments of that Tumblr you quoted make sense, but none of them is a reason to be against feminism. I think that they are missing the point. The aim of feminism isn't to oppress men and to give women superiority (!) nor to deny men face changelles (everyone does) but to fight discrimination, oppression and violence against women. I've never been affected by sexism, but millions of women suffer everyday because of it. Feminism and humanism aren't opposites, you can't be a feminist without be also an humanist. Feminism is humanism that highlight that women are human too. If this last notion seems so obvious nowadays in the western world (so that those women on tumblr can say that they don't need feminism) is because of feminism. Even when women will conquer equality in the whole world (sadly I know that I won't see that day...) I will still be a feminist as I will never stop to be an humanist.

    The "not all men" argument is misleading. Obviously not all men are misogynists, but it’s not fair to silence who point out the misoginy that exists in the world (it’s real!) in order to not offend them. Making a comparison with a matter that I suppose near to your heart, it is like if I, as a person with an able body, took offence at the claims of people with disability that fight for their rights because “I don’t discriminate them”, as they didn’t face discrimination at all! It would be childish on my part. I believe that a better reaction would be to check my own ableism (sometimes we are so accostumed to our own prejudices that we don’t see them) and then to try my best to be an ally for them.

    Please Miggy don't throw over feminism just because the word is misunderstood, as you (and I) don't resign the label "Christian" despite the prejudices and misunderstandings attached to it (partly thanks to those Christians that have done and are doing very un-christian acts, even in the name of Christ).

    Sorry for my poor English (I hope that is understandable) and the lenght of my comment, I don’t intend to be mean, it’s just a matter I am really fond of. :P

    Liseli

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    1. Liseli--

      Thank you for your comment--and rest assured I am definitely NOT jumping ship on feminism. Yes the word IS misunderstood, but also misused just--as you pointed out--Christianity is.

      See....I really feel like this conversation was good for me because there were some points I had not thought all the way through. Especially when made with the comparison to Christianity.

      Thanks for all the good conversation everyone!

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    2. Liseli, you made awesome points and your English is great!

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  11. First of all, in many ways we could not be more different although we are of a generation. You are a Mormon wife and mother who works at home in the Midwest. I am a professional single woman (who works with kids with disabilities of Lamp's age) in the PNW who lacks a religious label but feels comfortable letting people do their thing. And I love reading your blog because you are awesome--you examine life, and don't shrink from either the happy or the hard stuff. Well done, you. The women in my mom's family have been outspoken feminists as far back as I'm aware, which is my great grandmother, who was a doctor and primary breadwinner as a wife and mother, part of the first class of women physicians to graduate from the University of Chicago. The women in my dad's family have been underspoken feminists back to the greats, too, whether or not they were aware of the label. I feel like I'm still becoming aware of the ways in which feminism is still so necessary. There's still a wage gap. As a single woman in my 30s I'm pitied and looked down upon whilst my single male friends are accepted as status quo. I don't work in a male-dominated field but I have friends who do and it's still difficult. I think the expectations of women are what needs to change. Just because I'm showing emotion or taking charge doesn't make me histrionic or nagging--it makes me a humanistic leader. Our culture is in desperate need of an overhaul in the area of maternity leave, something that never really got figured out in the hectic race to allow women into the workforce outside the home. Again, I feel like I'm at the beginning here...but I will always, always call myself a feminist.

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  12. You should listen to this. Really. :)
    http://feministmormonhousewivespodcast.org/archive-episode-21-feminism-wants-what-you-want/

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  13. I'm a feminist. And I have no qualms about saying that.

    I believe that a woman deserves to chose what is right for her. I don't care WHAT a woman does, just that she feels it's the right decision for HER. I hold stay at home moms in the same regard as women who work. I believe if a woman wants to have 6 kids or no kids, that's her call. If a woman wants to be a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, it's up to HER. Because she gets to make those decisions. That's what my feminism is about. I'm a feminist because I don't want my male children to feel like they can't cry, and I don't want my female children to feel like they can't become engineers. I believe that feminism helps men, because I don't think men should have to ascribe to any specific stereotype because of their genitals just like women shouldn't. I don't think men are incompetent parents and I hate when tv and films make it seem that way.

    On the anti feminism page, people would post "I love men, I don't hate them" (Cool me too) or "I love being a SAHM" (Awesome, you made a choice you are comfortable with and to me, THAT IS FEMINISM!) "Guys can compliment me nicely" (Yeah, my boyfriend and guys I KNOW definitely do that, but the guy who whistles at me and grabs his crotch on the street isn't complimenting me...he's harassing me) Someone else posted "because men should not be considered more disposable than women" (I agree. no human being should ever be considered disposable, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, etc..) I'm just a little perplexed at what's happening over there...

    One post suggested that all feminists were bitter and ugly people. (But if they're saying not all men are rapists-which, duh-, shouldn't the logical step also be that not all feminist are bitter and ugly people?) I'm not a bitter and ugly person. I take umbrage at that. I'm actually a joyful, happy, vivacious human being who genuinely loves people and believes the best of them. I work my butt off to help others because I believe it's the right thing to do. Why would wanting equality and safety for women make me ugly? I don't get it. They call feminists out for "name calling" and then say I'm ugly because I'm a feminist? That doesn't make sense...

    This post made a lot of good points: http://jezebel.com/5992479/if-i-admit-that-hating-men-is-a-thing-will-you-stop-turning-it-into-a-self-fulfilling-prophecy

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  14. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Hi! What a great conversation! So many excellent things have been said so I won't add too much. I am a Feminist and proud of it. Humanist is also a great term and I embrace that as well...of course, we are working for everyone to be equal.

    For starters, the argument about our female problems not being as great as those in the middle east is...well, I can't find a word for it. Who says being an American feminist means you're only fighting for women within the boundaries of the US? And just because your problems are smaller than your neighbor does that mean you say, "Oh, gee, I have nothing to complain about as compared to them so I"ll not work hard to make my situation any better." That argument is just silly!

    I'd be interested to know how feminism hurts boys. I have no experience with that.

    At the end of the day calling someone "a girl" is an insult. When that changes, maybe we can call ourselves humanists;) Great post, great discussion! I wish we could have it at a table together!

    xoxo
    Ashley Pettey Merback

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