1. Don’t alienate, educate. Not everyone identifies as a feminist, or actively tackles sexism. Many people don’t know what feminism really is. If you feel people at your university/college don’t understand feminism, don’t allow yourself to become a clique – hold discussions, organise meetings, and make sure the message is out there: ‘if you don’t like sexism, you’re welcome here’.
  2. Be inclusive, anti-racist and pro-sex workers’ rights. Be public in this stance, and actively seek out any organisations local to you which deal with racism and discrimination against sex workers. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
  3. Invite speakers from local organisations, or from further afield. For example, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape, who helped to organise Slutwalk London and spoke at the event (rather brilliantly, I must say), would be glad to speak – as long as you can cover their travel they’ll be there. If you find there are differences among organisations, ask them to speak at a public debate, so people can make up their own minds.
  4. Organise a speak out, where individuals can speak out about their experiences of rape and other violence. The NUS has found that a shocking amount of students have experienced some form of sexual assault, and that only a tiny percentage tell anyone or see a doctor. Events like these can help change that. (Click here to read the NUS report).
  5. Root your demands for change in women’s experiences, and target the authorities who have the resources and power to change things. Slutwalk London publicised the dismal UK conviction rate for reported rape of 6.5%. Thousands of rape and sexual assault survivors used the occasion to speak about what happened to them – not just their fury at their attacker but at how the authorities (the police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts, local authorities, medical staff, housing officials . . .) were dismissive, hostile, blamed them and sabotaged their efforts to get their attacker brought to justice. Look at what demands and campaigns can come from those experiences to challenge and hold the authorities to account.
  6. As far as we at SMSU are concerned, feminist and gender-equality groups should welcome everyone. Including men. Women-only groups/meetings have a time and a place, and that should be respected, but men should not think that this is a ‘women’s issue’ that has nothing to do with them. Patriarchy affects us all, and if we want real change, we need everyone on board.
  7. Some feminist groups are also cis-women only. Don’t be one of those groups. Just. Don’t be. It is hateful, pure and simple. And hating minorities is not what feminism should be about.
  8. Make sure that feminist issues are top of your SU’s agenda. Give ‘em hell. If the lighting is poor on campus, protest. Make it policy that students are given free rape alarms. Push for the NUS’s campaign against sexual harassment. Challenge sexism in SU publications, and investigate your union’s sponsors (Dominoes has a particularly troubling track-record – Exeter I’m looking at you). Get your union to affiliate with pro-sex worker, anti-racism and anti-sexism groups. You could even get them to affiliate to us!
  9. Go to the NUS women’s conference – learn from the other women, but also call them out on racism and anti-sex worker sentiment when you see it.
  10. Run for sabbatical positions! We need more feminist student unions. You can make that happen.
  11. Join the anti-cuts movement. At the moment it’s visibly white, male & not very feminist. Remind groups that women are the first to suffer under this government, and that Black, immigrant and other groups facing racism and other prejudice are the hardest hit, while being ignored when they/we campaign. Support your local rape crisis centre and/or sexual assault referral centre when local cuts come around. Make the economic connections clear – (student) poverty makes women more vulnerable to sexual violence.
  12. Fundraise. Organise a gig, have a raffle, go down the oh-so-traditional and yet oh-so-delicious route of the bake sale. Raise money for yourself and other organisations, here in the UK and abroad. Fundraise for the next Slutwalk London – we’ll need around three grand to pull off another one, and there’s certainly a lot of people keen to come again!
  13. Circulate information about practical help, like the Women Against Rape’s self-help guide available free at: http://www.womenagainstrape.net/resource/self-help-guide-survivors-rape-and-sexual-assault (or order a paper copy), or make your own.
  14. Keep your members updated on what’s going on in the world. Write a regular newsletter. Set up a feminist zine and get your fellow students to contribute. Who knows, it could be the next Bitch!
  15. Set up anti-rape groups, self-help groups, support groups for victims of racist and sexist abuse, and make sure that all the local and university-based support services are widely publicised.
  16. Organise your own Slutwalk, and/or a Reclaim the Night march. The great thing about events like these is you can make them specific to your local community as well as to the international issue of victim-blaming. Is your local council openly anti-women? Are your street lights being switched off? Incorporate it into your march and bring it to the attention of the locals in an inventive and exciting way.
  17. Encourage students to write to the local papers – they will print them if you make a good argument and/or write from personal experience. This can help shape public debate and make your demands for change visible.
  18. Send us details of your upcoming events! We’ll share them online with fellow SMSU supporters.
  19. Make sure that you record your events – film them, take pics and write reports to publicise what you have achieved (respecting participants who want to remain anonymous). Let us know what you’re up to, too, and we’ll share it with followers of SMSU. Publicise anything you achieve – we’re all used to bad news, make sure your good news travels!
  20. Most importantly, stand up for what you believe in, never back down when you know you’re right but admit it when you’re wrong & be proud of your achievements. Go out there and shake things up. Goodness knows the feminist movement needs it.

- Caitlin & The Crossroads Women’s Centre

Cross-posted from Slut Means Speak Up

I performed this at the Exeter Reclaim the Night and was asked to make a copy of it. This was therefore recorded at the end of the night, and is probably a bit rubbish as I was KNACKERED from organising everything. Still, here it is.

Short Fuse:
Let me ask you this.
If I bend down, can you see my pants?
Now what makes you think you stand a chance
just cos my skirt is short?
Well so is my fuse
Anger my muse in this tiny town of
No-can-dos
Where if you shout fire people run to your aid
But if you shout rape the price is paid
in fame
and shame
and blame
Where your name is driven into the dust
along with your trust in the moment that thrust the light out of your eyes
Your demise won’t be mentioned in the local news
Because you choose to keep breathing
A hundred deaths in every breath and all they can say is
‘How short was your skirt?’
Like they can measure the hurt in a plunging neckline
or how much wine you were drinking.
‘Girl, what were you thinking?
Were you walking alone?
Well next time stay at home, like you did before with those other men…
how many was it again?’
And they’ll reel them off
Memories tainted
tainted
tainted
and recall how you fainted that night in the station,
drunk no doubt,
chicks these days, huh?
No, I’m talking about DICKS these days
and the power to choose how you use your body
so if I bend down now what do you see?
My choice, my right, my liberty
To act and to speak and to dress as I please
So keep your sleaze, your thoughtless shout
Cos I have NO doubt that a change must come
and as I stand on your stage
and speak my rage
I can see it’s already
begun.

On Sunday 13th March, Exeter is holding a Reclaim the Night march. It will commence at 7pm in Bedford Square, and will culminate in music and speeches in the Exeter Phoenix. Everyone is welcome.

In Britain, Reclaim the Night Marches began on 12th November 1977, in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, London and many other cities.  Women walked in their hundreds through the city streets at night to highlight that they should be able to walk anywhere and that they should not be blamed or restricted because of male violence. Over the years the marches evolved to focus on rape and male violence generally, giving women one night when they could feel safe to walk the streets of their own towns and cities. One key focus is now the shockingly low national rape conviction rate.

Exeter’s march will also challenge local cuts to ‘Against Domestic Violence and Abuse’ (ADVA) and to street lighting.

Caitlin Hayward-Tapp, the President of Exeter University’s Gender Equality Society, said “We are marching in Exeter because this is still relevant, and important. Women are still blamed for rape and male violence. The national rape conviction rate is one of the lowest in Europe. Women still don’t feel safe at night, in the town and on campus.” She also highlighted the fact that now, more than ever, women need to be standing up for themselves, saying “It has been shown that the Government’s cuts are disproportionately affecting women. In Exeter this has certainly been the case with the Council’s 42% cut to ADVA. We need to challenge this, and the mentality throughout the country that women’s safety is less important than saving money.”

It is a proud moment for Exeter to join the long tradition of Reclaim the Night marches in this country. That the march is open to everyone is also significant, as many such events are women-only. It is the belief of the Exeter Gender Equality Society that the fight for women’s safety is something that everyone should engage with, regardless of gender.

via Small Town Gay Blog

A Florida judge awarded custody of a 1-year-old boy to the foster family he’d been living with, saying the boy was “happy and thriving.”

The adoptive parents, however, happen to be gay.

And that didn’t sit well with the Florida Family Policy Council of Orlando, who sent out an alert to its members about the judge’s “arrogant judicial activism.”

On the left is the picture that the Policy Council used to illustrate the gay couple that was awarded custody. On the right is the actual couple.

(from The Orlando Sentinel)

I completely agree with the majority of the sentiment in the Orlando Sentinel, especially this section:

That judge’s ruling — which focused solely on the child’s well-being — enraged some on the religious right.
Why? Because the little boy’s adoptive parents are gay.
So now those who profit from division are pouncing.
They aren’t the people who have cared for this little boy, who have nursed his wounds and tucked him in at night. In fact, they haven’t done a thing for him.
They haven’t consulted the experts — everyone from a child psychologist to a Guardian ad Litem — who say the parents provide precisely the loving environment that this child needs.
All these critics know is that they don’t want gay people to have the same rights as straight people.

HOWEVER their attitude towards the other photo is distressing. I don’t agree with using that photo to represent a completely different couple. But I also don’t agree with the judgement that the first couple would be bad adoptive parents based solely on what they look like. It was this that worried me:

The couple look so odd (you literally can’t tell whether they are male or female) that one might wonder how any judge could place a young child with such a disturbing-looking duo.

That androgyny is still scary is sad. That, just because this couple don’t look like ‘normal’ people, it is okay to assume that a judge would deem them bad parents is sad.

An otherwise very accurate and well-meaning article thus manages to contradict it’s main point (that, regardless of who you are, as long as you love the child you are raising you shouldn’t have that right taken away from you) by saying that actually, that’s only true if you look “more like J.Crew models: all-American with catalogue clothes and smiles.”

Yes, it was a sly move on the part of the batshit crazy folk trying to spread intolerance. They knew that a lot of people are scared of difference. But articles renouncing their claims should be ashamed to conform to their frame of mind when it comes to judging people, declaring them a ‘caricature’, rather than seeing that this couple, too, is being discriminated against.

The New York Daily News have reported that Roman Polanski has been ‘freed’ after Sarkozy intervened on his behalf. Of course, it’s not as black and white as that. They later point out that actually,

After initially balking at his release, Swiss authorities agreed to let Polanski move from a cell to his luxurious Alpine chalet once he puts up $4.5 million bail.

So he’s on bail. He could (SHOULD) still face US courts.

But I still can’t help but feel an overwhelming desire to scream ‘what the fuck?!’ at these empty skies, in desperation. I do not understand how people can help this man. If it were your average Joe who had raped a 13 year old, the public would be baying for his blood. But because he’s a wealthy, arty man with ‘good’ connections, he can get away with rape.  He can have celebrities calling for his release, claiming he’s been treated unfairly, believing that his (admittedly horrible) past excuses in some way the heinous crime he committed.

This is the President of France, supporting a rapist. What message does that send to the people of France? What message does it send to the rest of the world, about how France responds to such incidents? He is in no way acting as an individual, he acts as representative of the people of his country, and he has just bailed a rapist.

It sickens me. It sickens me that I should even have to be writing this, that people could even go so far as to support this man. And it makes me feel so helpless, when all these bigshots get to twist the law around their little fingers. And it frightens me, that you can get away with rape if you are rich and famous. That is terrifying, and wrong.

All of this is so wrong.

I have just returned from meeting Emma Thompson. While I would love to dwell on the experience – how friendly she is, how compassionate and how incredibly driven she is, there is a more important issue I need to address.

I took Emma the petition I had drawn up about Roman Polanski, with the 410 signatures and everyone’s comments. Any comments that I was aware of that didn’t show up on the petition, I took as a separate document. I also took the wording of the petition she had signed, and information about another petition (to be found here) which has over 3,000 signatures supporting Polanski’s arrest. (For anyone who doesn’t know about Roman Polanski, all of the information is in the petition I’ve linked to above)

Emma did not have much time between meetings, but she gave me all of the time that she had. I asked her why she had signed the petition, and she explained about how well she knows Polanski, how terrible his life has been, and how forgiving the survivor of the rape all those years ago now is. She said she thought the intentions of the judge were unclear, as were the intentions of those who arrested him recently. She told me that a lot of her friends had rung her up asking her to sign the petition, so there had been a certain amount of pressure. She said that she had already been thinking a lot about the petition, as others had expressed their dismay at her signing it.

I handed her our petition and the comments. She read them both through thoroughly, and came back to me. She said, while she supported Polanski as a friend, a crime is a crime. I don’t know whether she had realised the extent of Polanski’s crime, but she is now fully aware. She will remove her name from the petition – in fact, she said she would call today and sort it out. Even though, she stressed, Polanski has had some truly terrible experiences in his lifetime, experiences that we couldn’t even imagine and which should not be taken out of the equation, she agreed that she could not put her name to a petition asking for his release.

Assuming that she will be true to her word, her name will be removed in the very near future. Hopefully the press will pick up on it.

She left me with this, to pass on to everyone who has signed the petition/raised awareness of this issue: “Know that I will remove my name because of you, and all of the good work that you have been doing. I have read your petition. I have heard you. And I will listen.”

I hope that this will encourage others to do the same, as I really do believe that many of those who have signed the Polanski petition did so not knowing what it was that they were signing.

The last 2 emails of the correspondence:

Hiya,

 

Yes of course a lot of men want to support Feminism, and of course women’s rights are human rights, so they are issues for us all, both men and women.

 

I am fortunate enough not to have been involved in prostitution, but I still campaign on this issue – so I think that answers your question about whether I would campaign on these issues if it was men who are affected. Indeed I think men are affected by patriarchy – look at the numbers of young men in prison, look at the high rates of suicide for young men and the great numbers of men affected by violence and homicide from other young men. However, no one person can do everything, I don’t have time to campaign on issues that used to take a lot of my time – animal rights and against child abuse – however, this is only because we can’t all do everything, so we pick our battles. So at the moment I’m committed to women’s rights, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about things that affect men, and it doesn’t mean I’m not involved in lots of wider mixed political campaigns, such as against the war on terror, and against racism.

 

We involve men through having a mixed rally at the end. As I said, last year we held a men’s vigil along the route of the march so they could be involved actively that way too. However, this year the young man that organised that has moved and doesn’t have time and we don’t have time to organise it either as we have far too much to do organising the march!

 

I think women’s space is important, and women’s action as a political class is important. I think pro-feminist men should understand and respect that. I was at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival a few years ago, they have a specific and seperate Womyn Of Colour tent and area within the festival grounds, I did not find this exclusionary, it did not offend me, I fully understood the need and desire for such a space and in fact am glad to see the self-organisation and self empowerment of poltitical groups defining themselves by their own terms – that is their right.

 

As you say, we could go on and on about this!

Yes, this is me Finn – thanks for your kind words! Really glad you enjoyed the conference on Saturday, the women organising it did a fabulous job.

Thanks for your support,

Bestest,

finn

My reply:

Hi Finn,

I appreciate your views, and accept that this is something that we will clearly differ on. I wonder whether, in future years, it could be put to some kind of vote to decide whether the march is mixed?

Thanks,

CHT

 

So I ran out of steam on this somewhat as I felt I was fighting a losing battle. Perhaps this is something that needs to be changed from the bottom up? Finn is clearly unshifting in her views, but if the majority of march attendees were to complain then I think she’d have to make a change. I’d be interested to hear what others think of this!

Just to clarify, there were certain other Qs I asked and had answered in these emails that aren’t relevant to the point we’re making, so I’ve cut them out.

Email 1, from me:

Hi there, I am hoping to bring a group of students from — University to the London Reclaim the Night, and wondered – are men allowed to the march also? Am I correct in believing it is only the first part of the march that is women-only?

Email 2, from the London Feminist Network (LFN):

Hello,

Brilliant that — University will be represented on the march! Do bring a banner from your group so that people can see where you have travelled from.
The whole march is women-only, this is historical and also is to make the point that women usually feel unsafe if they are on their own or with another female friend, and as the old saying goes we are told to get a man to walk us home to protect us etc. So the point of the march is to highlight that women should not be seen as ‘fair game’ for harassment and abuse just because they are on their own or with female friends and that they should still have every right to feel safe. So to raise awareness and make the point the march is women only. Then there is a mixed rally and disco at the Camden Centre to which men are welcome. We were working with White Ribbon Campaign on organising a men’s vigil again like we had last year, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to organise this in time now.
But if men are coming with your group they would be more than welcome to volunteer at the rally venue at the Camden Centre, where people are setting up stalls and stage gear etc! While the women go on the march.

Email 3, from me:

Hi there,

Such a shame that men aren’t allowed to march – I fully understand the reasoning, but loved the fact that the Bristol reclaim the night had a mixed section at the back of their march. It managed to include the men without denying the point of the march. I think we can all agree that it’s an issue that everyone should be involved in changing. I would normally be offended if someone spoke about street safety for women as a ‘women’s problem’, as though it’s only up to women to deal with it, so men showing support is important too! Perhaps it’s something that can change in later years, as the argument that it’s ‘historical’ seems to sound like saying ‘it’s tradition, so why change it?’. Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on the matter. We’ll hopefully encourage some of the guys to come along…what exactly takes place at the rally afterwards?

Email 4, from LFN:

Hello,

It is not simply tradition that the march is women-only. Male sexual violence against women does not affect men in the street, it affects women. Men are not raped in the same numbers as women are. All the British Crime Surveys and Fear of Crime Surveys show that men do not fear sexual violence from other men, whereas women’s greatest and most commonly reported fear is the fear of being raped. From very young girls to pensioners, women say their biggest fear is rape. Whereas fear of crime surveys commonly show that men’s most reported fear of crime occuring to them is car crime. Strange – because young men under 25 are actually more at risk of violence than any other group, they are of course at risk from other young men, not women.

But this march is not a general people’s march for peace on the streets for all. It is a distinct political march with a distinct political angle. We don’t insist that the marches around Gaza also protested about the Congo, Sudan, Tamils etc etc. Groups are allowed to have their own marches about their own political issue, and I don’t understand why this right is often so denied to women.

This is a women’s march about male sexual violence against women – sexual harassment, taunts, propositions, assaults and rapes etc as well as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, prostitution, trafficking, honour killings, etc etc. These things simply do not affect men in the same way, that is a fact.

The rally after the march has speakers, stalls of a variety of organisations, not just women’s organisations. Then speakers from different groups and then a big disco with both male and female DJ’s playing retro and poppy tunes until 2am.

Email 5, from me:

Hi there,

I’m assuming this is Finn by the way – if it is, then I just wanted to express my admiration after hearing you speak yesterday. It made getting a coach at 2am worthwhile, as did the event generally. If this is not Finn, please pass on the sentiment!

The rally sounds like good fun, and I assume the stalls will be similar to those at Feminism in London event which I found really inspiring. The parties also sound brilliant!

I agree with all of your points about women and safety on the streets. I would never claim that violence against women, be it genital mutilation, rape or otherwise (of course the list is long – there’s a reason marches like this need to exist), affects men in the same way. I fear you got the wrong message from me if you think that I disagree with you, or the message that this march holds. However, I’m not sure it’s right to discuss this as a ‘women’s right to a women-only march’ – rather, it is a march to express the view that violence against women is wrong. Any men who wished to attend it would not do so in order to say ‘don’t forget about me, I was hit by a girl once, poor me etc etc’, but rather to show their support and awareness of an issue that should be acknowledged and fought by all. By denying men access to a march like this, it surely discourages the (few) men who are passionate about women’s rights for the sole reason that women should have these rights from being involved, from identifying as pro-feminist/feminist (depending on your view of men and feminism, a discussion for another time!), and from being vocal about these issues.

I do not argue that the march should be completely mixed. I appreciate that there will be women who have experienced violence, that there will be women who do not want to march alongside men. I simply suggest that there be a separate section at the end of the march (in Bristol it was separated by a marching band, which did the trick without too much policing!) which is mixed. That way the majority of the march will retain the status of women-only, but it would not prevent men from being involved in such an important political issue.

I hate to be the one who is always bewailing ‘but what about the men?’ – really, I get sick of hearing this question when discussing violence, sexism in the workplace, abortion, etcetera etcetera, but I do believe that when it comes to political campaigning, actively seeking change, especially change around the sexism that is so embedded in our society, to be sexist against men seems hypocritical. We cannot tar them all with the same brush, and there are men who want to support feminism and what it stands for. As for marches about Gaza – was it said that only those from Gaza, only those directly affected by the issue, could march? Would straight people be turned away from a gay rights march? Are/were white people turned away from marches for racial equality? What makes this an issue that we have to fight on our own? It’s a heavy enough burden to bear, and one that, I agree, men cannot fully understand. They are not affected by it on a day to day basis. But they can help tackle it, they can show their support, and to turn our backs on that is to turn our backs on a changing society, one in which men are becoming aware of their privilege, and of women’s suffering, and wishing to speak out too.

I really don’t want to come across as confrontational, as this march is something that I feel is so valuable, so important. The fact that the London Feminist Network has revived Reclaim the Night is inspirational (in fact, it’s provided me with the groundwork for potentially holding one in Exeter, for which I am very grateful) and I do not seek to undermine this achievement. All I want to do is say how I feel, and put across the feelings of the men I know who were interested in the march. I run a Gender Equality Society at my university, which attracts men and women who are keen to discuss gender and society, as well as get involved politically. In the majority of our discussions, we get a mix of opinions, but one thing that everyone unites on is the issue of violence against women. The men in our group, as with the women, were excited by the idea of a Reclaim the Night march, to bring this issue into the public arena and start a dialogue about it. They were saddened to know that they couldn’t be a part of it. I will still encourage them to come for the rally and the parties, but they have expressed concern, feeling unwelcome, feeling dismissed and judged purely on their gender. Yes, this is something women have to face on a regular basis and it’s all to easy to say ‘see how we feel, now’, but as feminists we have to be bigger than that. We are fighting for equality, we have to set the precedent. Just as we argue that it is wrong for women to be judged purely on gender, to not be seen as individuals, we must argue that men should not be judged in the same way.

Out of interest, would you be campaigning as actively if this were an issue affecting men, if they were the ones suffering from regular violence? I would hope so, as it is a human rights violation that must be stopped regardless of whether women or men are affected by it. Yet, if that were the case, how would you feel to be told that actually, you don’t get a voice in this? Even if people of your gender were the main cause of the issue and you wanted to speak out against that, even if you were not violent towards men and sought to discourage fellow women from being violent (in this alternative universe, of course), even if you committed much of your time and energy to fighting said violence – if even then, you were told that you were not welcome at marches against this issue because you didn’t experience it first-hand, how would you feel?

It just seems wrong to me, I don’t know how else to put it to explain my point of view. I agree entirely with what the march stands for. I am a feminist, I set up and run a Gender Equality Society that is currently campaigning for a Rape Crisis Centre in Devon, I am the Gender Equality representative for our Union and the student rep for our Women’s Network. I am trying, with all of my might (and much of the time I should perhaps spend on my degree) to be heard in this town, and to get people involved. I am trying to fight feminist fights in the university, on a local basis, and I try to get to as many events elsewhere as possible. But if even the feminist events are exclusive, if they do not allow me to involve the men that I have got on side, how can I explain that? How can I respond discouragingly to ‘oh feminism, that’s just man-hating’, when I know that the majority of feminist marches do not allow men? That certainly sends out the message that men are not allowed to be involved with this, that feminism is a women-only arena, even an anti-men ideology, loud and clear.

I will still be attending the march in November, hopefully with a good number of us to represent Exeter. But I know that the experience, however empowering and significant it will be, will be marred by the knowledge that the men I have brought with me have had to be left behind, setting up the rally, behind the scenes, not allowed to join us.

So thank you, thank you whole-heartedly for holding this march. Thank you for being there, for providing women with this network and for fighting for something that is so incredibly important. I just hope that, if not in this year, then in future years, I will also be able to thank you for your inclusiveness, and your understanding.

With the greatest respect,

What are your thoughts? This seems straight-forward for me, but is clearly not a black&white issue, as the LFN have been quick to point out…

This is something I read on tumblr, and responded to there. I thought I’d share it here because a) it’s relevant and b) I haven’t posted in an AGE.

Interesting responses found online:

“As to why feminism requires a distinct agenda within the equalist movements? The special and distinct problem of misogyny both oppressing and directly harming women, pure and simple. Unless misogyny is directly addressed and acted against, general equalist activism will not be enough.”

“Frankly I agree with everything you said; there are ways in which individual feminists – or groups of feminists – can go very wrong, and you clearly gave some examples how.

I still don’t believe, however, that those things explain away the need for feminism. While there is no possible way for all of feminism to suddenly agree on everything, and do everything correctly, there is still a need for feminists to highlight women’s issues (and even trivial things like a 13yo girl winning a spelling bee) because often, no one else will.

More importantly, I quoted the portion of the answer that I did because I do believe the whole feminism vs. equalism vs. humanism argument in the answer is a bit flawed, and you essentially explained why (and davenj touched on below as well.) It kind of seems like that debate is one that has run itself in circles: it inevitably starts because someone finds out that textbook feminism isn’t about women being better than men but rather equal to them, so the newly enlightened person helpfully suggests a term which *more accurately* describes what feminism is. Except that feminism can’t be synonymous with humanism or equalism – there is no possible way that one movement can include everything and everyone! So to me, frankly, that whole debate is kind of a red herring. “Humanism” and “equalism” are NOT more accurate terms to describe what feminism is about, which is why I think the true answer to the question was revealed in the quoted portion.

And granted, that statement itself is certainly open for agreement or disagreement, which is why I would like to officially re-iterate that I’m not trying to state anything as factual – I’m just trying to offer my interpretation of the argument presented in that answer. :) I think that portion of the answer is the threatening part to a lot of people – the humanism bit softens the blow by saying “We can be humanists! We’re not man haters! Being a humanist means we love everybody!” But saying that feminism is important because …Unless misogyny is directly addressed and acted against, general equalist activism will not be enough…. gets to the crux of the issue for me. We need to call it feminism because there are women’s issues which are sidelined in the media and in society, just as every marginalized group has issues that they think are important. If all of these groups can work together to bring more awareness about those issues, then collectively we move closer to *equalism.*” (mandoir on Feministing.com)

“Being a male and also being somewhat of a feminist I can see this from both side of the fence.However…How many of you would like to participate in or support something termed “Masculinism?” Gender equality, equalism, humanism, are all gender-unbiased terms that can mean (depending on the person) pretty much the same thing as what Feminism means today.” (sh0ck on Feministing.com)

“Because of its history. It’s always been called “feminism”. I’m not bothered about being equal with men – I am worried about women being treated as second class citizens.” (Emily Hobhouse on Yahoo Answers)

What are your thoughts? Is Feminism as a word still relevant? Does it exist as a word just to distinguish what kind of oppression we’re talking about, or its history and meaning deeper?

I find this one really difficult. Not because of how I feel about the term, but because of the necessity of finding a suitable language to embrace the desire for gender equality. Language is so powerful, it can change things. The way people are perceived, the way they perceive, so much of it comes down to the words that we use. But as well as using terms that work for us, as far as a political movement goes we need terms that work for everyone.

Personally, I call myself a feminist. I talk about the feminist movement, I look back on the feminists before me, and the term ‘equalist’ doesn’t seem to hack it. Because while feminism means, in effect, a belief in equality, it is not as straight forward as that. There has to be a focus upon those who are ‘less equal’, to bring them up to a level playing field, and that minority is women.

Calling it equalism feels like dismissing women-specific issues, denying the difference between how the genders are viewed socially. I would be the first person to argue that feminism is an issue for everyone, yes. I would say that men’s issues are a part of feminism, and that everyone on the gender spectrum can benefit from feminism. But I think that our society, and people all over the world, need to acknowledge that there is a real problem with the way that women are treated. To side-step such an issue with terms like ‘equalism’ is to deny the fact that the issue is gendered, to deny the fact that it is women who are the subjugated minority.

That said, the term feminism scares people. They are scared of the stigma, they are scared of the implications of such a label. These may be people who believe women should be treated better. They may be people who benefit from the toils of feminists of generations past. They may be people who genuinely want to improve things. But they are scared of this word. If one word is all that stands between these people and activism, between silence and making a stand, then perhaps using the term equalism isn’t such a bad thing after all.

An example – I set up a feminist society at my university with a group of friends (don’t get me started on the fact that there wasn’t one already…) and we spent a great deal of time working on the name. I fought for The Feminist Society. Straight forward, does exactly what it says on the tin, attracts people who give a shit. And then The Gender Equality Society was suggested, and I felt that to choose that name was to disregard the ‘feminist’ movement. It felt like giving in somehow, especially with arguments like ‘cos feminism is a dirty word’ and ‘would you really want President of the Feminist Society on your CV?”. But I was out-voted, and I am glad of it. Because we have a group of people who are interested in what we’re doing, people who give a shit, many of whom found the term feminism intimidating. Of course, when they come to the society they meet me, so they get the ‘feminist perspective’, and a lot of people seem to understand the term better than before. But they would never have come to the society had it not had a name that made them all feel included, women and men alike. And we get to have ‘Hit the G Soc’ as our slogan…

So really, I don’t know. I don’t think feminism should be renamed equalism because it feels like a betrayal, and a defeat. It seems to deny the very nature of the philosophy of feminism. And yet, I think feminism should be named whatever the hell people want to name it, as long as the job gets done. While words are powerful, sometimes to disregard the necessity for a term in favour of action is the most powerful thing of all. Call feminism jealousy, call it lesbianism, call itequalism, call it brilliance, call it anything, just as long as women and men can rise above that term and fight for what is right. That’s what it comes down to in the end, and that transcends every word, in every language.

I just wanted to say thank you to Shakesville. I don’t know what I would do without them. Especially without Melissa. I would feel so lost. They give me faith, give me reason to go on every time I get close to giving up.

Melissa has just posted a very inspiring piece, here. Check it out.

Highlights:

Eradicating any kind of bigotry is, by definition, an unreasonable expectation—because institutional bigotry is deeply entrenched. Prejudice is ancient. Only a fool would imagine it can be overcome.

Except, of course, that it can be. Bit by bit. Particle by particle. Teaspoon by teaspoon. Person by person. Prejudice is ancient, but it dies with its every carrier and must be taught again. And it can be unlearned. Bit by bit. Particle by particle. Teaspoon by teaspoon. Person by person. “

“Thus, every time someone asks me, greets my bellicose display of unreasonable expectations with, the exceedingly un-progressive question, “What do you expect?” I will answer the same as I always do: I expect more.”

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