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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.

…is the name of this article. It was written by Alex Gibson, a modern history student at Magdalen College, Oxford. Apparently, “He is very proud to add feminism to a list of ‘isms’ he cares passionately about, and is quite fond of making his friends uncomfortable in the pub by talking about it”. Go him – I’m glad that there are men out there that identify with feminism. But while I’m happy for him that he can add feminism to his impressive list, I had a few issues with his article.

In essence, it was fair enough. Men have to face gender stereotypes and that sucks for them. Poor things. But right from the title, I was perplexed. “Why Men Should Care About Gender Stereotypes”…well, why should they? The message is clear – because it affects them, too. In fact, some stereotypes about men are “allowed to flourish in – dare I say it – a much more brazen way than the stereotypes about women”. Of course, if it only affected women then, one is led to assume, men shouldn’t care about gender stereotypes.

While I agree with him over several of his points, this overall principle, that the reason men should care is because it affects them too, marred my opinion of the whole article. Not only this, but also his attitude to feminism as though it were purely for advancing women. While there is a clear focus upon women within feminism, as it is, more often than not, about equality and women being treated equally to men, his article seemed to suggest that feminism only rejects the ludicrous ideas held about women and that, indeed, there is nothing that addresses the issue of supposed ‘masculinity’.

The problem is, while women are encouraged to reject the ludicrous ideas that are held about them, men are supposed to embrace them.

The idea of all women rejecting gender stereotypes is a wonderful one. What bliss, when all women are raised by feminists who ensure that they shed gender stereotypes and consider themselves as individuals. But that is not reality. When so many women and men are brought up in the clutches of gender stereotypes, it is not right to say that women reject gender stereotypes while men are expected to embrace them. Both ‘genders’ are expected to conform to the stereotypes that are rife in modern society, but I would never go so far as to say that stereotypes about men are allowed to flourish more than those about women. When the ‘worst’ swear word in England, cunt, describes the female anatomy, when women are portrayed on tv, in programmes and adverts and films and in books, cartoons, and games as conforming to ‘stereotypes’, when there are still ‘girls mags‘ which expect women to only care about make-up, clothes, shoes, and, of course, men, when feminism comes under ‘life & style‘ if acknowledged at all in national papers, when to ignore the advances of other men makes you a ‘slut’, how can you say that stereotypes about men flourish more?

I’d love to know.

Yes, Alex isn’t an anti-feminist. And he wouldn’t want to undermine the wrongs done to women – I appreciate this. However the way that he has approached the issue is deplorable, as he not only sees it as an issue for men just because they are also victims of it, but also seems to think that men have a harder time than women when it comes to gender stereotypes

I would never dare to suggest that men have a harder time than women in general society, because that’s just patently untrue, but in terms of stereotypes we fail utterly.

Yes, he has some good points. The main one, of course, is that men also suffer from patriarchy.

Men are often characterised as spoiled, helpless brats utterly unable to perform simple household tasks, too stupid to remember anniversaries and appointments and completely unable to understand these strange female creatures and their hysterical emotions. We’re base brutes ruled by our overactive sex drives who simply can’t help being crass and immature, because that is the way God made us. Basically, we are mentally deficient lumps who require a female carer to function in society.

But to then say that

This is precisely the kind of ridiculous stereotype that, if applied to women, would be torn to shreds in intelligent debate.

seems rather naive. Yes, in intelligent debate it would be. But so would ridiculous stereotypes about men. However, more often than not we aren’t dealing with intelligent debate. We’re dealing with one-sided views, we’re dealing with people who have grown up being told what girls do and what boys do, so have been socialised into accepting these stereotypes. We’re dealing with anti-feminists who believe the stereotypes that they have been fed with.

Also, to assume that the stereotype of men as ‘mentally deficient lumps’ is the prevalent one could also be misguided. There are a great deal of stereotypes that say that men are more intelligent, more capable of achieving, better at academic studies while women are supposed to flourish creatively. However, Alex clearly hasn’t experienced these as he believes that male academics aren’t celebrated.

Let’s stop putting sports stars on a pedestal and start celebrating poets, writers, scientists and artists.

Actually, male poets, writers, scientists and artists are celebrated widely. Hell, the new freebee with the Guardian is ‘Great Poets of the 20th Century’ and guess how many women poets were great?

One.

Out of seven.

Of course, Plath was amazing. But anyone would believe she’s the only woman that’s ever written decent poetry.

Anyway, I feel that I have dwelled on this for too long. Basically, I agree that gender stereotypes are wrong, both logically and morally. But to suggest that male stereotypes are almost worse than female? I have an issue with that. Also, to suggest that the only reason men should care is because they are affected by it is ridiculous.

I’d be interested to hear what y’all think of the article, and, to balance it, look at this un:

Yay

She talks about supposedly ‘sexist’ feminism, and about the ideas put forward by Alex about male stereotypes. And there are some good links to male ‘movements’ at the end 🙂

And on that note – Adieu!

…But first, allow me to explain. I write this kind of thing occasionally, and this time it’s inspired by this TOTALLY AMAZING book that I’m reading. It’s called “Who Cooked The Last Supper?”, by Rosalind Miles, and is a woman’s history of the world. I’m about half way through it and it is literally changing my life. I shall no doubt be recounting the most interesting bits on here, but really – buy it! And read it!

It is inspirational, life changing, mind altering and both joyful and deeply depressing – for the history that we learn nowadays has nothing to do with the women of the past, but is totally male-centric. The only women I’ve studied really have been queens, in power only because they had no brothers to take power in their place. It has made me resent my study of Early Modern History a little, but at the same time given me greater motivation to attend the lessons and get involved, so that I can help my class mates see that women aren’t a recent invention, but the heart of civilisation and existence.

Anyway, this is turning into a rant in itself. Have the creative one – I call it ‘All We Have Owned is Lost’:

 

This feeling, that all we have owned is lost, circles my mind. It burns a ring of fire into my dreams. It burns away the ideals I have built up, the optimism that held my head up, face to the world. It is the fire that encased my sisters, that held us back, that burnt the hand that built it. It is the fire of discovery and knowledge and it has cooled. It is the fire of despair and of anger, and it sears a line through my sight and sends me back, back, through sorrow and out the other side, to the correct setting, the right stage, to how it was and should be. Oh history, history, the story of men and how distant, how far it all feels to me now. How I spark sorrow when I hear of you, oh my forgotten women! How the silence of my peers tears me apart, to know how loudly you once spoke! Oh, to hear your words, to feel your knowledge flow through accepting crowds. Oh to have known, to have prevented your pain, your untimely deaths, to warn the men that turned their backs on you, to warn them of their loss. The loss of your fire has lit another and this fire, this feeling, circles my mind. All that we have owned is lost. All that we have lost is owned.

Forgive us, as we take our first shaky steps after centuries of shackled feet, that we claim them as The First Steps. We have been deprived our history, we have been deprived our selves, and all we can do now is beg forgiveness. We never meant to lose you. We never knew we had you to lose.

They have made sure of that.

The seeds they planted strangle your already flourishing fields; the doors they slam were opened by you, built by you from your own aspirations. They live a lie and we learn it, accepting blindly at first then questioning, too late. Where are you, my ladies of learning? On the written page you are every space, and I shall learn to read you. A language of silence speaks so loudly, for it is yours and once you were heard, once it was your words they listened to. So how can we possibly not hear you now? Your voices join the others on the winds, in the sighs of the disillusioned sea and the cries of the birds above, so how can we possibly not hear you now? You, who gave us our language, you who shaped our minds, you who healed and you who knew, how can we possibly not hear you now?

Our ears have been trained, our senses dulled. It is only the 6th that sees you, it recognises your work, your worth, and fills every space on every page with your praises. It sings them in the trees, it lays them at the feet of travellers, it lines our veins with them and still, somehow, we are blind to you. It takes strength to take the steps that lead us to you. We must fight through so many lies.

I have fought.

Now, only now do I see and still all is hazy. Your faces mere fragments glimpsed through the fog, your words muffled. Oh, to see you clearly, to have learnt from the start. Then, perhaps, this sorrow would not pierce my mind, my eyes, my being. Oh pity us, women of the wilderness of days gone by. We are all missing something and we were blind to it. It is only now I know you that the hole gapes in my side, that the emptiness has a name and it is yours. Oh, women of fire, burn your circle brighter in my mind. I fear this sorrow, but I fear losing it more. I cannot lose you again; I cannot lose the knowledge of what we once owned.

Oh my people, all we have owned is lost.

 

Happy, no? 🙂

And on that note – adieu.

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