Feminist vs. Humanist

I was visiting a couple of friends that I’ve known since childhood this week and my feminist identity came up. My friend’s husband, a small business owner, generally pretty conservative guy, asked me how I defined feminism. When I explained (“genuine equality, educated choice, and authenticity”) he was a bit stunned. “By that definition, I’m a feminist,” he said, incredulously.
“Yup,” I said, smiling.
“But if feminism has such bad connotations in the mainstream media and in so many parts of the country, why do you use it? Doesn’t that just alienate you from people that you’re trying to influence?” he asked next.
It’s, of course, not something that every feminist who cares about being effective hasn’t thought about. I explained that I use it strategically. For example, in my book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, I obviously use a feminist lens, but don’t spend much time explicitly talking about feminism. When I go on The O’Reilly Factor to defend Helen Thomas, they slap FEMINIST under my image, and while I wouldn’t mind them using an actual professional title as is customary in the industry, I’m loud and proud about my identity. I’ve always been of the mind that if using the word means the difference between me reaching someone with a feminist analysis or turning them off to the point that they won’t even hear me out, then I’ll bypass using it. I’m strategic, and maybe, a bit of a sell-out in this regard.
Another friend brought up that she’s more comfortable with the term “humanist,” which Webster defines as “a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values.” Okay. Sounds good. But it feels like the fact that it doesn’t hold any controversy, that there’s so much ambiguity in the terms, makes it less powerful. Plus, it seems to invisibilize the fact that various humans (i.e. women, people of color etc.) have gotten a disproportionate shake at dignity. Somehow “humanism” sounds neutral to me, like we are all on a level playing field and just need to protect that.
Plus, a huge part of feminism, for me, is about community. Where would I find my humanist roll dawgs? With feminism, I know just where to look.

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47 Comments

  1. Vivica
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    For myself, I would add that using the word Feminist honours the rich history of the movement and helps me feel attached, respectful, and grateful for all the struggles that came before us. Like sending love to our foremothers.

  2. Marcus
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I consider myself humanist rather than feminist, because I don’t feel I’m a full member in feminist debate. I can debate the pros and cons of porn or sex-positivity, but if an appeal is made to how someone, as a woman, feels about a particular image or article or issue, there’s nothing I can really say. Occasionally, when I see feminists debating something, I feel like a kid watching my parents argue, because there’s nothing in my experience as a white male that is going to settle the debate.
    More than a humanist, though, I consider myself an anti-patriarchist. I am specifically of the demographic patriarchy is supposed to benefit – which means if I don’t like it, then there’s really something wrong with it. I feel in those debates my personal experience has merit, particularly because I’m conscious of the benefits I’m seeing for being singled out. I also feel that whether something perpetuates patriarchy is more relevant than whether it is offensive, even if the offense is taken for legitimate reasons.
    As a whole though, I think it’s a worthwhile existential question: what is the being of a feminist who is not (or does not have the day to day experience of being) the Other?

  3. JoanOfArc
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always thought ‘humanist’ was awfully weak term. It still has associations with Thomas More and other writers from the 1500s as well, most of whom were not really for the rights of everyone. So I dislike it for that as well. Feminist is a controversial term. But I find that it sparks debates and discussions. I say “I’m a humanist” and people nod, smile and move on. I say “I’m a feminist” and people ask questions, debate issues and generally want to talk. And isn’t that part of the goal of any social movement: to get people talking and thinking about the issues? The term ‘feminist’ does that.
    Joan

  4. SarahMC
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Furthermore, humanist is taken. It already has a definition and implied in “a way of life centered on human interests or values” is “as opposed to supernatural / religious interests or values.”
    Co-opting the term and pretending all humans exist on an equal playing field is disingenuous and lazy. There is inequality in this world between men and women (and women themselves), and the feminist movement seeks to rectify that.

  5. lezbianthezbian
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Humanism is a school of philosophy (and is very related to humanistic psychology). The psychological aspect is related to existentialism. Within humanism there are different schools of thought. I don’t think attaching the name to what is currently a feminist agenda would work because you already have a rich history of humanism and the two schools may not agree on all issues.. For example, humanism tends to reject theistic principals, so religious feminists might have trouble. Two cents from the phil/psych major.

  6. lezbianthezbian
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Humanism is a school of philosophy (and is very related to humanistic psychology). The psychological aspect is related to existentialism. Within humanism there are different schools of thought. I don’t think attaching the name to what is currently a feminist agenda would work because you already have a rich history of humanism and the two schools may not agree on all issues.. For example, humanism tends to reject theistic principals, so religious feminists might have trouble. Two cents from the phil/psych major.

  7. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    when i was younger, everyone at school (junior high school) used to call me a “feminist.” I was proud of it, but I had no idea that it was supposed to be an insult until some people in my 8th grade biology class told me.
    LMAO.

  8. aleks
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    By the definition “genuine equality, educated choice, and authenticity” almost anyone would consider her or himself a Feminist. The issue is what that really means, and that’s where you end up disqualifying most people. Did you discuss trans-inclusive ENDA, affirmative action, white/male/hetero/thin/etc. privilege and state funded abortion services with conservative guy, and if so do you still both consider him a Feminist?

  9. Comrade Kevin
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Feminist has become such a polarized term and it’s become a pejorative in certain conservative circles. Like any label, it describes a general set of beliefs, but it doesn’t define any of us in totality. The problem is that its original meaning has been perverted by hypocrites and radicals to the point that it isolates as much as it unites.
    “Christian” has become another label that will often win one few friends in certain liberal circles and ends up being problematic for the same reason. Eventually, Humanist might end up the same way and then one decides whether one needs to keep finding different words to describe the same message or to cling to the original ones, even if some use it inappropriately.

  10. Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    “an appeal is made to how someone, as a woman, feels about a particular image or article or issue”
    -Making such an appeal is in itself a profoundly anti-feminist act. Being a woman doesn’t make me feel, think, or act in some special way that I share with every other woman in the world. I am a feminist precisely because I live in a society that sees me primarily in terms of my genitals and keeps assigning me some special feelings, beliefs and behaviors on that basis.

  11. Jacob
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Frankly, I think the negative connotations of the word lend it a great deal of power, in that if someone is willing to identify as a feminist, you know they really are. Same with, for instance, liberalism – who is more likely to adhere to liberal values, a person who proudly declares they are a liberal or a person who dances around the issue and tries to pick a less controversial word?

  12. Ryan
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    I’ve thought the same thing as Aleks above, since I understand it’s a premise held by some feminists that most people are already, in fact, feminist, but simply don’t realize it. I understand this is one of the assumptions underlying Jessica’s first book (which I admit I haven’t read). If you’re simply talking about basic issues of gender equity, such as the fact that women deserve equal pay, equal job opportunities, and overall equal participation in society, then this premise is probably true. On the other hand, some of the other ideas native to feminism (though not necessarily shared by every self-identified feminist) – such as the notion that gender is entirely a social construct, or that abortion is morally licit, or that marriage is an institution that oppresses women – are by their nature going to be far more controversial.
    Do those of you who identify as “feminist” view feminism primarily in the basic terms Courtney outlined above – notions that all decent people ought to be able to agree on, even if they disagree on the specifics? Or do you believe that calling yourself “feminist” entails taking specific, controversial stances? To put it another way, could someone believe in “genuine equality, educated choice, and authenticity” and still not be a feminist?

  13. Jacob
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, those specifics all stem from the broader notions in some sense, but I’m certainly not going to adopt the “if you really thought about this stuff, you’d be against it” line of argument (see the recent post on the anti-sex-positive approach to porn). Feminism is a general way of thinking, not a set of rules, as anyone who observed some of the ridiculous more-feminist-than-thou comment wars on this site can attest.

  14. uberhausfrau
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    dingdingding.

  15. jellyleelips
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Of course there is no one set of “specific, controversial stances” that every feminist takes. Feminists are as varied and diverse in their beliefs as any other group of people.
    I think most people would consider themselves in favor of “genuine equality, educated choice, and authenticity.” However, to use abortion as an example, some people believe that “educated choice” means sending a girl to a crisis pregnancy center in order to dissuade her from aborting, whereas true “feminists” would give her all the information about all the options. I would say that the difference between feminists and non-feminists is how each understands choice.
    A good example of this on a policy level would be the common conservative (and anti-feminist) trope that increased government spending on health care would take away citizens’ choice over what health insurance to use. The feminist perspective would be that by spending money on health care, the government CREATES choices for people who otherwise have no access to healthcare. In other words, without real, accessible options, there is no choice. Or, for another example, 87% of US counties do not have an abortion provider. Do women really have full reproductive choice if they do not have ready access to the abortion procedure?
    I know all my examples were healthcare and repro rights related, but that’s just because it’s on the brain right now.
    As for “genuine equality,” for anti-feminists, this means “no free government handouts” or “no affirmative action.” These people fail to understand that some people NEED the government to protect them and give them a level playing field in the first place. The right would call this victimology; feminists would call this a fair shake.
    And I honestly have no idea what Courtney means by “authenticity.”

  16. Marcus
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    “I live in a society that sees me primarily in terms of my genitals and keeps assigning me some special feelings, beliefs and behaviors on that basis.”
    And such is also the case with gays, lesbians, and transgender people, but there’s nothing special about the feelings, beliefs, or behaviors assigned to straight men, they are normal by definition. ‘Special’ behaviors assigned to other classes of citizens who, in a patriarchy, are defined as not ‘normal’. Again, I have trouble reconciling my views with someone who doesn’t experience gender assignment the way I do.

  17. jason_
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Two points about the term “humanist”–
    Fist, it’s plenty controversial, as it’s easily associated with the narrower concept of “secular humanist,” which the religious right, generally speaking, probably loathes and attacks even more than the term “feminist” (not that it tends to understand any of these concepts very clearly); and
    Secondly, “humanist” is a valuable term in part because it is conceptually inclusive and emphasizes values diverse constituencies may have in common. If a history of exclusionary application is enough to justify abandoning an otherwise valuable term, we’d also have to jettison “liberal” and indeed “feminist” itself. In general, I think successful politics involves earning a better reputation for the ideas and labels that describe our views by engaging in thoughtful, inclusive activism in the future, rather than letting fear of criticism from the left or right render us hesitant to draw important conclusions for fear that we won’t get what we’re saying exactly right. Politics is about drawing out under-represented voices and concerns, yes, but it’s also about recognizing widespread problems and building consensus around our common stake in addressing them.
    Sometimes these goals are presumed to be in tension, as when centrist Dem pols avoid promoting apparently unpopular liberal causes, but the two approaches also depend on each other. Without finding common ground with others, no constituency achieves critical mass for any of its goals; and without a commitment to listening widely to people’s current concerns, a powerful political movement becomes irrelevant and loses its following.

  18. Courtney S.
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    “And such is also the case with gays, lesbians, and transgender people, but there’s nothing special about the feelings, beliefs, or behaviors assigned to straight men, they are normal by definition.”
    But they are “normal” in a specific, prescribed way. Straight white Christian men are also given specific behaviors, feelings, and beliefs that they must adhere to or risk being characterized as outside the norm. Part of being feminist is realizing that experiencing the world as a male is not to live outside of the patriarchy or outside of a gendered and racialized world.

  19. SarahMC
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I agree with some other commenters that “genuine equality, educated choice, and authenticity” is far too broad. That says nothing about sex, gender, sexuality or patriarchy. Nothing about systemic oppression. Plenty of anti-feminists could get away with claiming they support “genuine equality, educated choice and authenticity.” They are operating under a different definition of “equality,” and believe certain choices should only be options for certain people. You’ve got to break it down further.

  20. jane
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I am a Feminist and a Humanist. They are not substitutes for each other. A Feminist believes in the equality of women. I guess I am a secular Humanist because I believe that it has more to do with siding with humans over gods and religion.
    I am also an Atheist and a radical Liberal, non of which negates the Feminist and Humanist labels.
    People who freak out at the Feminist label are not going to listen to any of us about anything. You are not turning them off with your label, but rather with your demand for equality and an unwillingness to admit you already have it.

  21. Posted August 27, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Courtney S. completely. Turn on the television and you’ll see a whole set of behaviors, ways of feeling and thinking ascribed to hetero men. Have you never heard “women are emotional, men are rational”, or “men are more competitive”, or “a man needs to be a good provider”? An emotional, sensitive, non-competitive man who is not a “good provider” feels like he’s not really a man according to these stupid stereotypes.

  22. Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    “to use abortion as an example, some people believe that “educated choice” means sending a girl to a crisis pregnancy center in order to dissuade her from aborting, whereas true “feminists” would give her all the information about all the options.”
    -”True feminists” would leave this WOMAN in peace to make her own decision. Running after people to give the information they didn’t ask us for is actually what those who protest in front of Family Planning centers are doing. Anti-choicers firmly believe that women need to be shown pictures of fetuses because without this “information” they don’t understand what they are doing.

  23. SarahMC
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Twinsies!

  24. Shy Mox
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Not to mention more harmful statements, like “men are always horny and don’t care where they get it from”, which sadly can lead to claims that men can’t be raped. For example, a while ago there was over in Europe somewhere (I think Russia but I’m not sure), a hair dresser was robbed, but she overpowered the robber, threw him in a closet and raped him repeatedly for three days, force feeding him viagra. When he escaped he had to be hospitalized. I put the article up on a forum and all the comments I got were things like “She must have been ugly for him to file rape charges” >:(

  25. jellyleelips
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Okay, please get off my case. I’m sorry I typed “girl,” but in my mind at that moment I was picturing an actual girl. You know, 15 years old. A girl. Sorry to offend you.
    And, I don’t fucking mean that true feminists chase after women handing them pamphlets. Nowhere did I say that feminists should go “Running after people to give the information they didn’t ask us for.” I think it’s fairly obvious that I meant if ASKED a feminist would discuss all the options. Chill. Pill. You need one.

  26. Lisa
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Often I feel that people who shun the feminist label and instead adopt humanist label tend to downplay the much heavier burden women face. There is no doubt, sexism hurts men. I regularly argue against the gender roles men are stuffed into as well. But the truth is, society’s hierarchy places men above women. I feel like smugly saying, “Oh, I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist” ignores a long history of oppression and fails to look deeper into the misogyny of modern society.
    That said, most feminists I know don’t advocate a female-dominated world and most of us argue fervently against the trappings of masculinity that men suffer under.

  27. Zailyn
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    One of the things I really dislike about the “well, you’re a feminist you just don’t know it yet!” attitude – feminism is a movement, not just a set of beliefs, and people should be allwed to choose whether they want to identify with that or not. Because there’s a difference between holding the beliefs that underlie a given movement and identifying as part of it. Movements have subdivisions, movements have history, movements hurt people and marginalise people and piss people off and people leave them. There is no “sorry, because you hold this belief you’re automatically enrolled”. For example, my beliefs about sex and sexuality are quite in line with sex-positivism but I do not identify as sex-positive because there are things I am distinctly unhappy with in the sex-positive movement. Or, more obviously (and the reason I wince whenever I see the “anyone who believes X is feminist” come up), womanism exists. I don’t recommend going up to a womanist and telling her that because she believes in gender equality she must be a feminist.
    And as you point out, it’s more complicated than just “gender equality”. Suppose someone is firmly in favour of gender equality, but believes that’s already come to pass and any further work on women’s rights is unfairly favouring women (which is a pretty common attitude, I think). Can that person call themselves a feminist? I mean, if we simply go by the gender equality measure, there are probably MRAs who could identify as feminist. I can’t help but think that the absolute minimum requirements for being a feminist are at least to believe that men and women deserve equal rights *and* that society is currently slanted in favour of men, which is unfortunately not as snappy when it comes to converting people.

  28. TeenMommy
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Nice post.

  29. Lily A
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    (derail alert, skip if you’re not interested)
    I’m genuinely curious, what does it mean to you to be a “radical liberal”? I’ve never heard anyone describe themselves that way before — my understanding is that those two terms are contradictory, and that most folks to the left of political center who consider themselves radical would call themselves “radical left”… but I’m curious what that phrase means to you and how you would define a “radical liberal.”

  30. ohmyheavens
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I agree.
    Feminism is similar to Christianity. First there are many subsets of Christianity just as there is with Feminism and some people don’t know where they fit in, and don’t want to put themselves in a box. Second Christianity has a bad rap just as Feminism does. The bulk of it comes from the most radial of the bunch who make statements such as “God hates gays” or “All men are rapists”. Most people believe in God or some type of higher power, just as most people believe women should have equal rights, but having so many schools of thoughts and outspoken radical leaders keep people away.
    I’m sure everyone here has preconceived notions about a person who presents themselves as Christian, just as someone else will have preconceived notions about someone who presents themselves as Feminist.

  31. Napalm Nacey
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    The Humanist movement doesn’t involve any sort of spirituality or religion, so I am sad to say I couldn’t be a part of the movement. (Though I believe in balancing spirituality and concerns on Earth. I live by that silly joke about God and the guy stuck on the roof in the flood. He prays to God to save him. He ignores several boats going past and even a helicopter, telling them that God would save him. He drowns, and when he gets to heaven, says to God, “Hey! I prayed to you to save me! What happened?” And God says, “I sent you all those boats and a helicopter! Isn’t that enough?!” I don’t believe in bothering God for every little thing, but I’m digressing madly here. Point being, I don’t place spirituality above real human concerns on Earth).
    And I just want to second the awesome things everyone’s been saying in this thread.

  32. somebody42
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    This is not appropriate. Women have long been referred to as “girls” in order to belittle us. Referring to a generic female person as a “girl” is anti-feminist. You should expect a negative reaction when you do that in a feminist space. When you get called out, apologize, don’t attack.

  33. Brandi
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    My partner and I say “radical left” and do shy away from the term liberal because we feel it has become synonymous with what we consider armchair liberalism – folks sitting around *talking* about how bad things are but not really doing anything about it. Plus, we’re just much farther left than the mainstream liberals in the US, but I’m wondering if the original comment wasn’t from someone who isn’t using a US-based political ideology delineation.

  34. Brandi
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    genuine equality, educated choice, and authenticity”
    I don’t think this definition is a complete one for the term feminism. I’ve always felt that to be feminist, one must believe first that we currently *have* unequal status, and my guess is that’s where you would lose the support of someone like the conservative man with whom you were speaking.
    As a radical feminist, I believe that patriarchy is the root cause of oppression and that it exists over time and geography for all of known history. The goal for me is to eliminate patriarchy, but bland definitions of feminism (what does “authenticity” mean in this context, exactly?) allow for only incremental change that really doesn’t bring us closer to true, total equality.
    As for being a feminist, I would argue that it’s a lifestyle choice as well as a philosophy. There are some groups of feminists who seem to talk the talk but are virtually unidentifiable from conservative women in terms of how they live their lives. For me, the feminist club is more exclusive than that; you actually need to *do* something to be a feminist.

  35. beccihiggs
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    I made a little mental choice recently that when I talk/rant about various issues to people, I’m going to start avoiding use of the word “feminism”. I’m not ashamed of being a feminist or having that title – not even slightly, ask anyone who’s ever talked to me while I’m drunk, I don’t fucking shut up about it – but I really do think that unfortunately people either sort of switch off or just plain start ridiculing you if they’re prickish enough when you mention the f-word. I do feel, as you said, like a bit of a sell out, but currently I’m more concerned with spreading the values and ideals and just trying to get people to see the world around them through a feminist lens, even if they don’t explicitly realise that that’s what they’re doing.

  36. mikearthur.co.uk
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    In the UK the title “Humanist” has already been adopted by Atheists like Richard Dawkins so people would tend to assume you meant that if you used it.
    Being a Christian, this is why I wouldn’t use the word “Humanist”. However, I don’t feel “Feminist” sums me up quite right either because the whole movement seems to about achieving equality rather than pushing some female-only agenda (which many, and formerly I used to, believe).
    I’m not really sure what I’d call myself in this regard, I guess just Liberal and Progressive is probably enough to encompass it for me.

  37. liz
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I think that you are right to point out that humanism has a specific history all its own and that asserting that “women are human beings” is really feminist, not humanist. Humanism requires a certain universalizing that replaces / cloaks its unique male experience “as if” it is human experience. It is the liberal humanists who created and supported a white, male, Christian canon of literature that used women, people of non-European descent, the animal world, and the poor (among others) to define what it is to be human, thus, male, and to take humanity away from many groups. The issue of same-sex love was completely left out of this tradition or disguised in it. Humanism is deeply conservative, and to make it more applicable to more people, we need the voices of women, non-European traditions, LGBT people, and many more.

  38. liz
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    These are good questions, Ryan, and they prompted a great discussion. I think of feminist thinking as being a continuum. To some extent, a person who believes that all people are entitled to a basic human respect is “feminist.” However, it is not long before the idea of “human” starts to be more specific than what it seems. For instance, demonizing emotion or sentimentality, as “feminine” traits, is something that can quickly show how a male-centered perspective takes away honest feelings that members of both sexes have. A person who is more consciously feminist will spend time to explain exactly how humanity is denied to women, and, also to men, by a male-dominated / patriarchal ideology.

  39. The Flash
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    “Feminist” became a loaded term in large part because of a lack of discipline in the feminist community and leading feminists deciding they wanted to throw an instersectionality party every time someone says the word “feminist”. If the leading strains of modern feminism didn’t treat feminism as requiring a socialist state, and focused on specific elements of existing structures rather than interpreting all existing structures as intrinsically gendered, feminists wouldn’t have a bad rap, and a lot of people wouldn’t be so hesitatnt o call themselves feminists.
    The movement has lost a lot of people because its focus became academic and mushy instead of being narrowly tailored to identifying artifacts that impede the equality of the sexes and genders in areas that do not need to be intrinsically gendered, and removing those artifacts. Removing class barriers and racial barriers shouldn’t be feminist causes– they should be allied movements, but they’re not feminist causes. Feminism should be focusing on making sure racism and classism don’t affect women disproportionately from how they affect men– not removing those forcees entirely.

  40. Peepers
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Thank you.

  41. Peepers
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    “Almost everyone” in some regions and not others, aleks. Where I live, the first 2 of those 3 points are still considered insidious liberal hooey by a lot of folks.

  42. JessWin
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m more for advocating feminism than identifying as feminist. So much emphasis on feminism as a lifestyle (“if I do x, am I still a feminist?”) has the potential to distract us from doing feminist work. We’re also vulnerable to stereotyping because people with more resources (and more willingness to utilize the mainstream in ways feminists are against by principle) usually control the representations.
    I’ve also seen how persistent use of the term “feminist” represents feminism as a self-contained thing that doesn’t recognize when anti-sexism occurs out from under its banner. Then we have people saying, “You don’t know it, but you’re a feminist.” I’m for recognizing anti-sexism as anti-sexism, not as feminists-doing; and recognizing sexism without calling people “sexist,” as if they are never anything else.
    People embody more contradictions than can be safely kept in these neatly-boundaried titles.

  43. aleks
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Ok then, can we agree that a lot of people would say they’re for “genuine equality, educated choice, and authenticity” who wouldn’t get the Feministing seal of approval? Those sound good even to me and I’m called a misogynist and an MRA here.

  44. aleks
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    What is the “radical left” doing about things?

  45. MikeT
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Most of the negative baggage associated with the word “Feminist” is the result of deliberate smear campaigns. If we started calling ourselves “cute fuzzy puppies”, Rush would start calling us “Puppinazis”.

  46. Lisa
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Co-signed. The popular characterization of feminists as man-hating, humorless women who are too ugly to get laid was created very deliberately to steer people away from uniting together.

  47. trooper6.livejournal.com
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I am a humanist…but like others have mentioned that has to do with a philosophical stance separating myself from theism on one side and scientism on the other. But then, I work in the Humanities.
    Anyway, as for feminism. I used to identify as a feminist proudly and loudly. Then I transitioned FtM. And I still identified as a feminist proudly and loudly. Then I got a lot of negative attacks from women who maintained that men could not be feminist and that to identify was fundamentally appropriative and an assertion of patriarchal oppression. For them, feminism wasn’t about equality between the sexes, it was about women’s liberation–as such, men had no place in the movement.
    I’m not particularly pleased with that position politically, and I know that not all feminists feel that way. But as a man, I really have no right to say anything about feminism anymore and when someone tells me that I am offending them (as long as they aren’t offended by the very fact that I’m trans–or going against a fundamentally political belief I’m prepared to be thought of as an asshole in order to defend) I tend to stop doing what is offending them regardless how I feel about the matter personally or politically.
    Now, since I never know if the woman I’m around is the sort of person who is offended by men identifying as feminists, I just don’t identify that way anymore. I use the phrase they told me wouldn’t offend them: pro-feminist or feminist ally. It makes me sad, but the word isn’t mine, and who cares how I feel anyway. No tiny violins for the guy with male privilege.
    Now, to be completely honest, I also tend to identify as pro-feminist more around men than I do women. Mostly because whenever the topic of male feminists show up on feminist message boards, there are always a good number of women who say that men who identify as feminists are jerks, untrustworthy, and opportunists. So, I don’t identify as feminist/pro-feminist around women unless I know them very well and have sussed out where on the feminist political spectrum they sit.
    And of course I have reduced the amount feminist activism I do since transition, because of negative views about men working in feminist organizations from my radical feminist friends. So my co-ed activism tends to be queer activism nowadays, though my scholarship remains feminist. My feminist activism tends to happen in male only spaces.

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