Is “#Feminism” a politically useful label any more? #FeministFriday Discussion

If not, can we revive it? Or do we need to get creative?

(I’m not arguing that feminism is dead; it’s alive, if a little unwell. I’m asking: If  we all decided to get together and make a real push for women’s rights, would it be smart politics to brand that enterprise “feminist?” And what would our alternatives be? )

First, I’ll tell you a story, then I’ll explain why I’m asking this question.

I’m not sure when Diana hooked up with Gretchen of Drifting Through My Open Mind, but it was very early The Monster’s career. I realized sometime in January that Gretchen was a blogger I wanted to keep up with. She has a real talent for the sort of writing I enjoy: long-form posts that relate her personal life to larger issues. Whether she does it consciously or not, her posts are emotionally engaging, and that is a quality I greatly appreciate in writing.

At this point I consider her a friends, and the three of us tweet together a bit. Our relationship started with a series of conversations at Part Time Monster and Drifting Through that touched off a running discussion of feminism and its problems. We pick that conversation up whenever one of us is inclined to. Today I am inclined.

Here’s a series of links which will help make the problems that I, personally, am thinking about clear.  An early PTM post about Internet sexism. There’s a series of comments on that thread in which Diana and I attempt to pin down when Feminism fragmented to the point that it lost the ability for sustained, coordinated political activism, and we discuss what to do about the issue of the label. We both eventually conclude that it’s not practical to try and build a movement and label it “feminist;” and that if we want political results, we need a new brand.

Only speaking for myself, that’s not such a strongly-held conviction I’m willing to argue about it. It’s the result of off-the-cuff political analysis done without proper research, but I know enough about the importance of labels to political movements to think it worthy of serious discussion. For me it’s a question of costs and benefits. I think it would be easier at this point, in terms of time and effort, to create a new brand than to restore the political viability of feminism, and I’m ready for some results.

Gretchen, on the other hand, was ready to reclaim the label a few months ago. She said so on the thread to this post that discusses the stereotypes associated with the label, and the need to identify oneself assertively as a feminist if you believe women should have full equality. I’m down with that, and I should point out that she wasn’t talking specifically about the practical politics there.

I am a feminist. It does need to be taken back. It’s a powerful cultural identifier, and the values I associate with it are overwhelmingly positive. People shouldn’t be stereotyped just for using it. I’m just not sure whether taking back the label will help us with the other issue – that political feminism is too fragmented to wield influence, and no one’s been able to figure out how to put it back together. That’s mostly because I think it’s going to take a long time to make feminism popular again – longer than we want to wait for social and political progress – but I am willing to be persuaded otherwise.

Now for the fun part of the story. On Jan 20, Diana wrote a post on the teaching of white privilege to children, and it was Freshly Pressed.

Three days later, Gretchen published a post about women and the Internet. She really dug into it. Her post was Freshly Pressed, too. And she told me later that post was informed by her conversations with Diana and me about sexism and feminism. How cool is that?

Here’s why I want to talk about the political usefulness of the label. I know an awful lot of women who feel that they are treated unequally in a way that disadvantages them, both by institutions and in day-to-day social life. More than half of my blogging friends and professional colleagues are women, I’m sure.

I think some progress is in order. I have all these friends who want some things to get done. They’re tired of waiting and so am I.  We’re already at a disadvantage. We’re working against several different forms of privilege, we have to take the fragmentation of feminism into account, and we have real adversaries whether we like it or not. So the issue of the label is a problem.

I think we need some sort of movement to advocate for women’s equality, but I don’t think we should ever call it a movement. I’m talking about an affiliation based on common interests that a lot of women and equality-loving men can get behind. A group capable of setting an agenda, forming alliances with organizations and benefactors, doing awareness-raising campaigns, and engaging in electoral politics.

So how does that start? What do we need, politically speaking, and how do we conceptualize it? A Fourth Wave of Feminism? Post-Feminism? Do we just need to identify ourselves more assertively as Feminists and get it done? Or, do we need to take account of what Diana says here about changes in the cultural and political landscape over the last 20 years, and get creative:

With our ever-evolving definitions of gender and gender fluidity, a term like “feminism” that seems so concentrated on the binary “male/female” seems more a hindrance than an aid.

That’s from the thread to that first PTM post I linked to. Somewhere on that thread, she also told me that every attempt to re-unify Feminism in the last couple of decades has failed spectacularly.

What do you think? What’s the best way to go about it if we want results?

118 thoughts on “Is “#Feminism” a politically useful label any more? #FeministFriday Discussion

  1. I think the point made towards the end of this great post concerning the binary nature of male/female expresses my instinctive reasons for NOT wishing to revive ‘feminism’ as a word, let alone any kind of movement. If we are all connected – and I firmly believe that we are, or, at least, have that capacity within us – feminism just seems, to me, to be yet another variation upon the global Us and Them theme. It hasn’t worked in our race history thus far, and I doubt if it will in the future.
    I am a woman and I want equality as much as the next person – but not in a way that demeans others.
    My feeling is this: go lateral; think creatively and outside the box – there will be a word lurking somewhere in the Collective Unconscious which, once plucked from Dream Time, will prove to be the perfect choice! Ali x

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    • I would tend to disagree that it hasn’t worked. It worked in getting women voting rights, property rights, and a host of reproductive rights that weren’t viable without feminists of the first and second waves. I still hold to my “it’s too binary” label, but I think that feminism has absolutely worked for an underrepresented, systematically oppressed group here in the U.S. and in England. Sometimes, when the “us” doesn’t have fundamental rights, there has to be an “against them.”

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      • Apologies, Diana, I can see that, by forgetting to put inverted commas round the word, it made it look as if I thought feminism didn’t work! What I meant was that, for me (and maybe other women of my sort of age!), the word itself has proved to be a bit of a liability in some quarters. But I totally agree with you about the great strides ahead in terms of equality. The battle continues.

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        • Ah. I totally understand the liability in some quarters. That’s one of the reasons I started this conversation originally, was, how do we fix that so people can work together on the issues?

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        • LOL! Punctuation is a tricky beast.

          And yes, I agree that it’s become a bit of a liability. I think there are lots of reasons for that, some stemming from opposition in general (we’ve managed to let opponents brand this, in many ways) and some from identity politics (women of color have been underrepresented in feminism and non-cis gendered people often feel left out of the label, too).

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      • Very well argued, Diana. Your comment made me wonder whether it may be useful to write a post (or indeed a series of posts) that illustrates the history of feminism and the changes it brought about.

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          • Thank you, Gene’O. If that is the case then I will endeavour to write an overview to begin with and expand in several articles thereafter. It may take a little while. I will have to decide on the best way to approach this and organise the information in a way that would be both interesting and informative. “User-friendly” comes to mind – it must be due to the “rebranding” discussion. Will keep you posted.

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            • I would read them too… I have read history of feminism but sometimes the media focus on extremes if you know what I’m talking about, and modern feminism we are talking about today and trying to revive, give meaning to and pin down its most vurnerable points needs to be up to date with history but in correlation to today events and problems upon women.

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              • I will keep that in mind, thank you Ivy. There is also another issue that we have skirted around but have not taken on explicitly as yet and this refers to the context of the discussion itself. There is a distinction between how feminism is regarded in Europe and the States which I think influences how one will need to prioritise the problematics at hand. I get the impression that feminism is viewed in a much better light in Europe, and although I am not certain why it encounters such a negative response in the States (relatively speaking), it would be an interesting disparity to address.

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                • Just from talking to people from outside the U.S., I think there is a disparity. It would take an entire post to untangle the negativity. The short answer is that historically, the extreme right has attacked feminism as an electoral tactic, and a big part of that attack is representing all feminists as militant man-haters. That’s worked all too well. People who operate from feminist positions tend to take clear sides on a long list of issues that put them at odds with religious and cultural conservatives, who have a lot of political and cultural influence.

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                  • Thank you for your reply, Gene’O. It certainly explains some of the disparity. It would be an interesting topic to delve into deeper, but if the case stands as you describe it, perhaps the source would fail to offer a solution. I doubt that a marketing campaign could undo decades of denigration, and yet it may raise some awareness of it and make newcomers take such views with a pinch of salt. Always the optimist me.

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                  • Yeah, I’m an optimist, too. I think generational change will will help it a bit. Most of the movement toward more equality I’m seeing is driven by people 30 and under. And the culture wars, especially the fight over LGBTQ equality, have taken a toll on the religious right, though it’s not apparent yet if you only look at election results and the mass media. I think the movement conservatism that started in the 70s in the U.S. has peaked and is in the process of losing its cultural vitality.

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                • I wasn’t aware of it… But maybe you are right. Here it is also frowned upon a word “feminist” and people disslike to be called that, but I had my mind made up (I wouldn’t have to “wrap my mind” around something if it is welcomed and understood) about telling people when asked. It is laughed upon, more from women than men, because they “don’t want to be the angry maneater”…And then they see someone like me, and my boyfriend having a blast for having me and they have a big question mark above their heads… :) I am sure that the history will clarify some things up…as I think the first suffragettes of feminist came from US? And they were pretty radical, so that they divided the feministic movement.

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                  • I love your mention of “radical”. Will write a post about this in the weeks to come. Liberalism is now a hegemonic ideology, in the West at least so we think of it as mainstream, but it did not begin that way. They too were considered radicals in their time, and with good reason. Thank you for the prompt, Ivy.

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                  • You are more than welcome, and I look forward to read what you was inspired to write. Please do leave a link on my blog, since I can’t follow everything that goes on…

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                  • Yes. And the word “liberal” has been warped in the U.S. I could geek out on some early liberals and radicalism in a weekend post at any time. I try to stay away from that stuff, because who cares about Locke, Rousseau, et al. these days? But it is a real danger, hehe.

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                  • Haha! Please don’t say that: I’ve spent three years at undergrad writing essays about their contemporary relevance and am not ready to have that bubble burst just yet ;) They may be forgotten by the many, but their works have laid the foundations of the laws, norms and values we still follow today. Yep, they’ve certainly done a good job on me – can’t help it.

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    • I agree with Diana about it working in the past; but I’m really on the fence about whether it’s useful for the future. I agree with you both about the problem of binary labels; but I’m not sure feminism, in particluar, has to be as binary as society has made it. I can see it being one of a number allied perspectives on the need for equality for everyone. That’s why I don’t have a strong conviction one way or another about the label issue at this point.

      Thanks so much for this comment, Ali.

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    • Dear Ali,
      While I agree with the sentiment of your argument, I don’t believe that feminism is in any way about demeaning others. Will it stand firmly against those who would deny others the right to engage politically and have a voice in the public sphere, to work and be remunerated fairly for that work, to have ownership of their own body and to be treated as an equal in society? Of course it will. But I think rather that feminism was a movement that dared to rise up against the biggest bullies of a society out of touch with the needs of half of its population – something which I think you would very much support :)
      Warm regards,
      Vic

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      • Thanks very much for your response, Vic. I seem to have expressed my initial comment with less than my usual clarity (brain going!) – because I can see that I have given a somewhat misleading impression of my feelings.
        I am a passionate advocate of any rise against bullies – and, indeed, any movement which seeks equality.
        What I was trying to say, as someone who was young (ish!) in the great heyday of Feminism is that the name has become, with SOME people, synonymous with man-hating militancy which I have always felt to be counter-productive.
        It is for this reason that I wanted to suggest a revamp of the name – though not of the need to create/recreate such a drive towards true equality.
        It is such a thorny one, I think – and I am delighted that Gene and Diana have flagged it up through their blog. It is grabbing people by the proverbials – no bad thing, that! – and making them THINK!
        I do feel that something is shifting globally: that we are, perhaps, finally beginning to acknowledge that we ARE connected one to another – and that we need to push for that connection to be strengthened.
        We are, as a race, out of alignment – physically, sexually and spiritually. We have rejected the Goddess (not all of us, but many of us) and this has created imbalance – but this is going off topic rather!
        Ali
        xxx

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        • Thank you for the clarification, Ali. I couldn’t agree more. Aligning feminism with man-hating has certainly been counter-productive to its ultimate aims. Of course it is a matter of the context that engendered such feelings. It rather makes me think of a favourite quote: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

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  2. This is an excellent post. And I’ll be back to check on discussion and see what other folks have to say, but first things first–midterm grades.

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    • I’m glad you think so. I spent a bit of time on it. I’ll be back this afternoon. I have something at work that has to be attended to first thing, so I won’t even be able to check in for a couple of hours.

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  3. I just want to say how grateful I am to have connected with both you and Diana, I am honored to be able to engage with people like you guys who care and want to have these conversations! I’m looking forward to the Twitter and WordPress discussions today! Your and Diana’s posts have my mind churning and hopefully we can get some involvement!

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    • Oh, yay! I’m glad we all found each other, too. Of course, I guess Gene’O and I didn’t have to look far to find one another. lol

      I’m looking forward to seeing what more happens on this thread–it’s distracting me from writing my own Feminist Friday post!

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    • I’m honored, as well, Gretchen, and I love how this thread’s going so far.

      @Peeps: I’m in the house now. I’m going to catch up on this thread, then go see what I can do with some Tweets. Thanks for coming out for this!

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  4. I think it feminism lost some ability for sustained political clout soon after Rush Limbaugh started labeling people Feminazis in the early ’90’s.

    The problem is there are indeed some feminists who think that women are better than men in general.

    And I stand for equality.

    So with that in mind, I tell Vic I am not a feminist, because it is a loaded term here in the States.

    Snd Vic tells me I am indeed a feminist.

    And my answer to that comes from Eminem. Haha.

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    • Given the way you feel about equality, I’d side with Vic, but certainly understand your point. The important thing is that we agree on the equality. ;-) I’ll catch up with you in a bit.

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    • To me feminism stands for nothing more nor less than equality, an equality that goes both ways. The fact that men in the UK will be able to take paternity leave and be more involved in the upbringing of their children – an opportunity denied to them before feminist ideas flourished – is an example of a positive move towards equality that has benefited men as well as women, not to mention the new generations of children who will bond with their fathers and have a more rewarding childhood and overall upbringing as a result.
      This is why I believe you are a feminist, Kavalkade, whether you adopt the label or not, because you stand up for equality and defend anyone who finds themselves oppressed, irrespective of their gender.

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      • I agree with you on that.

        Unfortunately there are feminists here in America that happily want supremacy.

        And that is part of the definition in the political landscape.

        And didn’t you once tell me that everything is politics?

        And not what I wish to be identified as a part of.

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        • I think this is part of the reason for the splinters of feminism. As with any type of movement there will always be extremes. Unfortunately the popular media prefers to focus on a vocal minority that will sell papers, rather than the day to day work undertaken by moderates and which is positive both in content and outcome.

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  5. I think people have too many preconceptions of what “feminist” means for it to be the lead concept. Use another term, or describe the argument first, or bring out some of those statistics, and THEN say “See, this is feminism,” and more people will go “Oh, in that case, of course I’m feminist.”

    People tend to think it means a vary narrow idea of femininity, not wearing a bra or not shaving your legs or wearing makeup or being heterosexual or whatever. I know girls who say that — “I want to be able to do what I want and be equal to men, but I’d never be a feminist, I love my makeup.”

    Maybe the answer is to focus on specific aspects, rather than trying to lump everything together under “feminism.” Argue for equal pay, AND reducing violence against women, AND better representation/combating body image issues, and whatever else. In Amnesty International they tell us to focus on the message, not the fact that it’s AI or that it’s human rights activists delivering that message.

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    • Thanks for the comment (and for you help getting the word out), Hannah.

      Agreed about focusing on the message. Let me delve into this. Some of those things on your list require help from the government. Like equal pay and reducing violence. Just for example, it would be smart to take stock of employment practices and review federal discrimination policies. They’ve done a lot of good, but we still have too much discrimination.IMO, they’re doing all the good they can as written. They’re helpful, but not enough.

      The government isn’t going to do that unless prompted. The two easiest ways of prompting that I see are lawsuits and making them election issues. The primary system, in particular, allows small, vocal groups to wield a lot of influence. Both take a lot more coordination, and money, than I’m seeing being thrown at the problem.

      I’m aware that a lot of people will read this and think I’m talking like a crazy idealist. I don’t think I am. Just because something might take 10 years to achieve doesn’t mean it’s impossible. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about this.

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      • Yep, agreed. I guess I feel like the “movement” has already happened. There are a host of specific issues to change, and maybe those “in the know” realize that “feminism” means working on those issues, but I’m not sure packaging it as “become a feminist” is the right way to package it now that feminism as a movement has basically happened already/is so splintered now. I wouldn’t mind using the term for myself in certain circles, but I do perceive the movement itself as a subculture from the past, not a “group” I’d just go out and join. Other young people may feel differently, but I just feel like if we want to use the term to attract new people and get public sympathy, we really need to lead with something other than that term. Using it in terms of actual lobbying/a unifying label once people are actually involved — that could work. Short version: feminism is what it IS, but a particular movement today may need a new name. Personally I’d have different “wings” for different issues but be up front that they’re all feminist issues.

        Personally I just say I’m for equality. I’ve actually had less confusion using a general term – it’s easy to explain what I mean (examples of gender inequalities are easily understood and extended) and it also encompasses my desire for LGBT equality, racial equality, and all other discrimination issues. People seem to get it that way, and in general people want to get behind “equality” in America.

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        • I think we’re on the same page, both tactically and philosophically. See my responses to Christina below. I think the way you feel about this is a pretty common perspective among young people, and that’s another reason I posted this. I feel as though if these issues are ever going to be addressed, people who are in the 18-30 age range right this minute are going to have to make them a priority, engage in some politics to get it done, and bring younger people to our side over the next decade. (That’s a demographic thing – I’d have to write you a post to explain why I feel that way).

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    • I agree, Hannah, that the message is more important than the label. Unfortunately the feminist label has come to be used as a derogatory term in some circles, but I don’t think that this is due to the message, but rather to the fact that many are unaware of what it stands for.
      One of my teachers asked me to join a feminist group after I defended women’s rights and argued for their equal treatment in society and at that time her request baffled me. I didn’t think I was a feminist because I did not know what feminism was as such.
      The opponents of equality have spent a lot of time and effort to denigrate the label, because that was an easier way of drowning out the message. Unfortunately they have been rather successful in that respect.
      Nowadays, any effort on behalf of women’s rights will be labeled as feminist militancy whether they claim that label or not. This is why I think it would be difficult to “rebrand”.

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      • That’s very true. That might be a good reason to focus on reclaiming the term “feminist,” so those attacks don’t have any meaning and don’t sound so negative to outsiders.

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        • Thank you, Hannah. Your reply made me consider another related issue. Nowadays many believe that feminism has accomplished its goals and is no longer necessary. Their argument is that we do have equality and should move on to other more pressing issues. Of course, the equality they refer to does exist – in legal terms women have achieved near-parity to men, at least when it comes to the right to vote, own property and to work, for example. Yet there is a difference between equality inscribed in the law and effective equality that has to do with how the law is interpreted and applied, and here I believe there is still a lot of work to do.
          Will leave it at this for the moment, but this discrepancy is something that I will have to return to, perhaps in a later post.

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  6. This is going to be rough, as I am on ALL the cold medicine (in the WORLD) right now. I was raised as a feminist by a feminist mom in the late 70s/early 80s. I was pretty involved with Third Wave feminist stuff during the 90s as I worked on a gender studies minor, and I continue to call myself a feminist and study women’s writing (especially contemporary feminist poets) as a grad student. I think there’s room within feminism for a lot of different branches, and I certainly understand the difficulties of the traditional movement’s lack of openness to non-white, non-cis women (though I tend to think of that problem as reinforced mainly through corporate feminism–the women with the loudest voice and often the most conservative agenda). I don’t think there’s the potential for a monolithic Movement for a lot of reasons–largely because of how varied and diverse the population really is, and the intersectionality of so many issues surrounding equality. But I think we can all work together, concentrating on specific pieces of the big problem. Feminism is, for me, a helpful label because it lets me define the part of the problem I’M working on–I’m an ally for every other branch of the movement, but I’m mostly involved in issues that are traditionally “feminist:” body image, violence against women (both rape & domestic violence and the larger culture that makes this kind of violence possible), portrayal of women in the media, and reproductive rights.As those intersect with other people’s issues (representations of race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.) I work to incorporate as many viewpoints as I can into what I’m fighting for.

    Even more than the evil people like Limbaugh have done to feminism, I think the co-opting of feminism by the media has hurt the ideals of the movement. By creating “girl power” as a selling point, by the media’s focus on “mommy wars,” and by countless other small encroachments, portrayals of feminism have largely trivialized or misrepresented the aims of feminism, so that often, the signal is so complicated we don’t know where to look for real activism and communication. On the other hand, the internet has made it much more possible to connect with others and get the word out–so I’m not entirely hopeless.

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    • Thanks Christina. It wasn’t that rough. I was hoping for a comment like this, because I’m to the point where I need help from people with a better handle on both the history and the issues than I have.

      In the early 2000s, I kept up with hundreds of left-oriented blogs for several years, many of them feminist-oriented. There was a period about the middle of the decade (’06, maybe?) where the lack of inclusion you mention got to be such a big issue it created the sorts of bitter disagreements that end relationships. I’ve always wondered if that was indicative of something going on with feminism.

      Thanks for your comment on the role of the media. I didn’t notice that stuff in the 90s, but I’ve seen what you’re talking about with the “girl power” for a long time. My problem with it is it takes something serious and makes it cute. Or, to put it another way, it’s trivializing empowerment to sell consumer goods.

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    • One more thing. Meant to include it, but that was a long comment. I agree with you about a monolithic movement being impossible. I think that for the most part, those days are over, at least for awhile. That’s why I advised against even using that word for what I’m talking about.

      But I do think more coordination – and more money being put into lobbying on some issues that might be improved by policy changes (like discrimination in employment) is in order.

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  7. Feminism is about freedom, whether to work, have a career, or stay home and raise kids. In that respect, we still have a long way to go. Yes, it’s still a fight, in my opinion, so the term is useful useful.

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    • Thanks, Sylvia. I agree that it’s still a fight, and for me, it’s about the right of every woman to make her own choice about the work/stay at home thing. If a woman chooses to work, she should get equal pay, and equal consideration for advancement. And if she wants to both work and have a family, she shouldn’t have to wonder if she’s putting her job at risk when she’s trying to decide whether or not to have children.

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  8. I don’t use the word feminism unless I know I’m talking to someone who thinks of “feminism” as a movement about equality, and even then I don’t always feel comfortable with the label. Usually I just say something like “I support equal rights,” because calling it “feminism” lends itself too easily to ideas about exclusion of anyone who isn’t female. (Whether that’s a misconception or not, a lot of people –not just extremists–hear “feminism” and think “exclusion” or “us versus them.”) So, at this point, no I don’t think the word feminism is a politically useful label.

    I try to focus on a specific issue and talk about that first before connecting it to a label, and I try to use words that emphasize inclusion.

    I do understand why it’s important to have political labels. Grouping “issues” together under a label gives people something to connect with on a larger scale.

    I understand Gretchen’s POV, but I was in my thirties before I was able to grasp that “feminism” was supposed to be about equality rather than reverse sexism. (And that had more to do with fragmentation inside the movement than people like Rush Limbaugh.)

    I understand the historical significance of the feminist movement. I’m grateful to live in a time when more women are able to participate in their governments, make choices for themselves, hold good jobs, and be on (closer to ) equal footing with men. When I was first interested in Disability Rights, I got involved with what’s known as the Independent Living Movement. The term emphasizes what it WANTS for people with disabilities rather than emphasizing who the movement is “for.” I’d rather spend my energy creating something like that (and acknowledging a social/historical debt to feminism) than trying to reclaim a label so heavily loaded with negative connotation.

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    • This is helpful, on the question of the practical politics, Rose. Thanks for taking the time out of your crazy Friday to explain it.

      That’s a good point you’re making about emphasizing what we “want” rather than who it’s “for.”

      I think I was in my early 30s before I understood feminism, as well, But I really have never been connected to it as a movement. It was more about the propaganda with me (late 70s to early 90s were my formative years).

      As for reclaiming the label, culturally, and making it positive. I’m happy to do try and do it, but then, I’m a man in my 40s. I don’t get the same reaction when I say I’m a feminist that women or younger people do when they say it, and I respect that. I’m happy to write posts about equality and post them to the feminism tags until the end of time, and happy to correct perceptions about feminism in personal interactions where I can. And that’s really the only two ways we have of changing the definitions – through mass communication and personal conversation.

      Give the way this thread is going, I don’t think I’d use the label do political advocacy.

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      • You’re welcome. I’m glad to help, and I agree about political versus cultural applications of the label. IL started as a grassroots campaign that had ties to several civil rights movements and came out of a larger associated Disability Rights movement. Feminism is probably big enough and broad enough to accomplish something similar with the right leadership–and that’s where my knowledge ends, unfortunately.

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  9. I just want to say the discussion on this is great. I am really enjoying reading all the different perspectives. Some of the problem that I see is that the goal of equality is great, but no one agrees how to get there. Also, people have areas that they focus on because that is what they are passionate about. There have already been a multitude of issues listed, none of which are simple. There is no single answer to any of these issues. Some of it might be political, but other parts are cultural. My mom, sister, and I are really focused on education. The studies that show what educating a child can do but particularly a girl is astounding. (If you have not seen Girl Rising I highly recommend it.) Sorry I am a little all over the place. Too many things to say and not enough time. Got to get back to work, but look forward to reading more of the discussion.

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    • Thank you, Holly. I don’t read you as all over the place at all. I’m a little busy at the moment myself :-) and I agree. This is going very well. I’ll be reviewing this thread for awhile, and I agree with you about education.

      Some of it is definitely political, at least in the sense that we could do some political things to make it better.

      And thanks for mentioning girls specifically. I do not think we have enough trustworthy knowledge on the experience of girls. I look at that as an area where a person who has research skills and is interested in these issues could help themselves and contribute toward solutions to these problems at the same time.

      Like

      • I am torn. I don’t want to give up the fight for the word and all it signifies. I don’t want the likes of Rush Limbaugh and others to have succeeded in making it a four letter word (in the minds of the masses). But from a practical point, a “rebranding” could take away the stigma. I think it would be great if it allowed more men to be a part of the discussion and the cause. Something more along the lines of Gender Equality could be broad enough to include everyone, men, women, LGBT, etc. Even though a larger umbrella can dilute things, the cause for Feminism is already quite diluted these days, as CompGeeksHolly stated above. But giving people something to attach their particular cause too gives strength in numbers and a sense of inclusion for so many people who maybe don’t feel like they can be a part of Feminism. I feel like I spend so much time trying to defend the definition of Feminism and I fear that for the people who really don’t get it that argument is in vain…

        Like

        • I think your suggestion would work, Gretchen, precisely because that is what feminism stands for: gender equality – and because by including the message in the name you can bypass some of the more simplistic forms of opposition, those based on a lack of prior knowledge of the movement and have come to view feminism through the trivialised image promoted by popular media.
          I agree as well that it would be a more inclusive term, although like you I am torn when it comes to abandoning the feminist label.

          Like

  10. A comment on my blog today: A very important post! Our feminist high school group has had to wrestle with a lot of antagonism due to the modern stigma on the word ‘feminism.’ The response we’ve articulated again and again is that we are the new generation of feminists, so ‘feminism’ will be what we make of it. If we refuse to engage with the movement based on false, negative assumptions about it, we forfeit the opportunity to harness its power.

    Like

    • Two things are awesome about that comment: “A new generation of feminists,” And”refuse to engage . . . based on false, negative assumption about it.”

      That tells me you’re talking to young people who are smart enough to question the underlying assumptions instead of accepting the disadvantage that comes along with accepting the flawed premises and trying to correct them. Those are very good signs.

      We’ve done good today, and it’s not over yet. You supporters gave me enough links and comments to tweet to the #FeministFriday tag for a good two hours today, and this thread is already so good, I’ll be coming back to it months from now.

      Like

    • That is a good find. She’s right, sort of. There are a couple of areas there where I have to ask questions (like, ok 1 in 11 women own their own businesses. What’s the equivalent number for men?)

      Still, worthy. The things that she’s saying about where feminism needs to go are on target, I believe.

      Like

  11. Pingback: Weekend Music, and Thoughts on Feminist Friday | Sourcerer

  12. I do hope all you good people realize that I was not just starting a conversation here.

    I’ve handed you the first chapter of a narrative.

    If you want more of this, write the next chapter.

    Like

  13. Reblogged this on vic briggs and commented:
    “If we all decided to get together and make a real push for women’s rights, would it be smart politics to brand that enterprise “feminist?” And what would our alternatives be?” asks Gene’O Gordon.

    I am not sure that feminism as a movement has always been popular as such. It started as a grassroots movement and its history is one of struggle, with each generation facing new challenges.
    Feminists have always encountered opposition, either from sceptics or worse, and yet their ideas have been at least in part appropriated by the mainstream and women have gained certain advances in terms of effective equality as a result.
    Is Feminism fragmented at present? Yes. Yet this fragmentation was perhaps inbuilt into the very nature of the project, since women worldwide belong to different types of communities, themselves divided, and therefore face different types of issues in their everyday lives from those experienced by the originators of that movement.
    Would a different label fare better? Perhaps. Yet rebranding would no doubt fail to eliminate opposition on the basis of embracing a new name alone. Those who assert that women’s role ought to revert to pre-feminist times will no doubt continue to do so.
    My question is, whether a new movement or association that would be feminist in ethos, but differ in name would be able to overcome the difficulties feminism encounters today?

    Join the discussion on Sourcerer’s blog.

    Like

    • Thanks for the reblog, and for your comments. You’ve definitely given me much more to think about than I had when I write the post.

      Like

      • I am glad to contribute. I thought your post opened up the discussion in a very good way and it certainly made me consider the difficulties of contemporary feminism in a new light. Look forward to read more of the comments over the next few days. We all benefit from engaging with one another. I have said this before, but not in this context: we think best when we think with others.

        Like

  14. Enjoyed the thought-provoking post. Thank you, as this is a subject of interest of mine.

    I’ll be arguing over the course of two books that feminism is a gender narcissistic phenomenon, and that as such it is a subset of what the late Christopher Lasch wrote about in his contemporary classic of social criticism “The Culture of Narcissism.”

    Although it purports to be, feminism is not genuinely about equality or rights, when critically analyzed. That a woman (or man) has to wear the label of “feminist” to believe in genuine justice and reasonable equality is indefensible. I do, and I am not a “feminist.”

    Feminism exists to create and maintain the fraudulent social perception of patriarchy being “true.” I recommend the following books as reference:

    – “Who Stole Feminism? – How Women Have Betrayed Women,” by Christina Hoff Sommers, Ph.D.
    – “The War Against Boys – How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men,” by Christina Hoff Sommers, Ph.D.
    – “Legalizing Misandry,” by McGill University academics Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young
    – “The Myth of Male Power,” by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.

    Like

    • The idea of feminism being “indefensible” as a label of gender equality is laughable. The entire movement came about because of systematic, centuries-long, transnational oppression of women–in voting rights, property rights, and the rights to their own bodies. It’s always been about providing everyone, of every sex and gender (which are different, mind you) with equal opportunity and protection under the law and in a society (and a world at large) that devalues womanhood.

      Like

      • You have the better of this. I didn’t respond directly to that comment because the assumptions are so flawed I refuse to discuss feminism on those terms.

        And nowhere in the post, nor anywhere on this thread, is anyone saying this:

        That a woman (or man) has to wear the label of “feminist” to believe in genuine justice and reasonable equality is indefensible.

        It’s pretty clear that we all believe in genuine justice and reasonable equality. Many of us identify as feminists.

        This is a discussion about the political usefulness of the label, not about whether feminism itself is really about equality. I almost ruled it too far off-point to post on this thread, because the discussion is so focused.

        Like

    • I think that you are ignoring the historical reality–the culture that created feminism. You are responding to the historical construction of feminism through a modern lens. And while I think it is useful to analyze the current need for feminism, it seems very problematic to project modern views and social relations onto the culture of the past.

      One could ask, “did we ever need feminism to begin with?” And the answer to that, I believe, is yes. Women did not have the right to vote. They could not hold jobs. They did not even own their own bodies, their husbands could legally rape and beat them. Saying that would should not have focused on these atrocities–that they should have instead talked about how men and women should not be forced to conform to gender norms–is ignoring the historical reality that created the feminist movement.

      Like

  15. I think you very unintentionally made a great case against feminism in your opening paragraph.

    Are “women’s rights” really the issue in modern western countries? Can gender equality be achieved through rights and only rights for women and only women? Because this is feminism. Feminism needs to die so that a gender egalitarian movement can get started talking about both rights and responsibilities for both men and women.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are “women’s rights” really the issue in modern western countries?

      YES. Absolutely, yes.

      Look at the number of laws passed/attempted to pass that have to do with women’s reproductive rights versus men’s this year. That tells me all I need to know about “equality” in “modern Western countries.” The supposition here, too, that I’m only working for me and mine in my little corner of the world is off. I advocate for women worldwide, not just here.

      Like

      • So because men have no reproductive rights to take away, there isn’t an issue with men’s reproductive rights?

        Also what needs to change and how and why varies greatly by location. Just because Feminism may be useful and needed in third world countries and Theocracies does not mean it’s needed in the western world.

        Like

        • The idea that men don’t have reproductive rights is ludicrous.

          The term third world against Western civ is also ludicrous. So what, we’re all either Western or third world? Sorry but no.

          Like

          • That is true. All humans have reproductive rights. And actually, feminism has done men some good in a different, but related area: family leave. That was mentioned upthread somewhere. And I don’t think any honest feminist who wants genuine equality would begrudge me my family leave just because I’m a man.

            Like

    • As to the issue of whether women’s rights are really and issue, what Diana said. And I don’t put them in quotes when I talk about them.

      The only way your second sentence works as a serious question is if I assume that feminists have to be only feminists and nothing else. I can be a feminist and still work for racial equality, and economic justice, and any number of other types of equality. And if you look at the other comments on this thread, you’ll see that nearly everyone who’s joined in this discussion understands that.

      Like

      • Your right that feminists can talk about racial equality and economic justice and the environment and such. What feminism can’t address are men’s rights issues. To talk about gender equality, not benefits for women, the discussion on gender needs to include Rights and Responsibilities for Men and Women. Not just rights for women.

        Like

        • Ok. We have a difference here that it might be best to just agree to disagree on. Women are, in fact, unequal to men. In the West. That inequality needs to be addressed.

          We are talking about the best way to address it here. In other words, we’ve made our decision about where the inequality is and we’re talking tactics and strategy.

          So – and I’m saying this as respectfully as I can – whether you intend to or not, throwing the issue of feminism addressing men’s rights into this is a way of derailing the conversation. Not going to allow that on this thread, because it is focused and we are trying to be productive. Since you’ve already communicated your opinion that feminism needs to die, I don’t see how anything further you have to say can possibly be productive in this context.

          So I will kindly ask you to step off, and if I want to discuss your views on feminism with you on your terms, I’ll come to your blog and find an appropriate thread to do it on. You’re welcome to read and comment here any time. You are not welcome to derail a conversation I’m having about practical politics.

          Like

          • Have you read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? He did a great job of describing the issue we are having. He talked about Management Vs Leadership. Management is making sure things are done, done well and done efficiently. Leadership is making sure the right things are being done. The analogy he used is building a Rail Road. It doesn’t matter how well managed the construction is, if it’s laying 20 or 200 miles of track every day if the track is going North, but it needs to be going east.

            Doing a better job of building N/S rail lanes will NEVER connect NYC to LA.

            In short, yes, I’m derailing the conversation. It is a conversation that NEEDS to be derailed.

            Like

            • Ok. You were warned, and very politely at that. You’ve just admitted you’re trolling. Derailing is a form of trolling, and derailing this conversation isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. So, basically, I’m reading you as a person who either have some weird fetish for debating people you disagree with just because you like to wank, or an intentional troll.

              All you had to do was say “o.k.” to that last comment and move on. This sort of stuff is a small part of what we do. We are good bloggers, and our network is only getting bigger. You just lost your posting priviliges here.

              I banned you, and if I didn’t do it well enough to keep you from getting through, I’ll delete your comments without reading them. That includes the comment you left while I was banning you.

              If you’re smart, you’ll take a lesson from this.

              Like

            • You need to stop attempting to communicate with me. I’m sending your comments to the trash without reading them. If you have more to say, say it on your own blog. And if you choose to comment on anything from this blog, be very sure that you’re representing us accurately before you publish it.

              I was just going to let this ride, but since you’re still sending me notifications, I guess it’s ok for me to say thank you for allowing me to put a link to this discussion back at the top of my front page, and publish it to the LOTR tag.

              http://wp.me/p44GO7-Bb

              You’re only digging the hole deeper, dude.

              Like

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  21. Follow up comment on my blog:
    It is obviously a tricky issue. Our feminist club is technically called STAGE: Students Taking Action for Gender Equity – because we thought gender equity was a more universally appealing umbrella term than feminism – but most of our members embrace the name of feminist. Personally I think that “baggage” (some of which is legitimate – there were and still are instances of racism, classism, and misandry carried out in the name of feminism) is overpowered by the vast strides the feminist movement has made for the advancement of women. And if we acknowledge the mistakes made in the past and act towards their correction, the feminist movement will only become stronger.
    My co-founder and I kicked off our blog with a mission statement post that addressed a lot of these questions, if you’re interested: http://stagebhsec.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/setting-the-st…nist-discourse/

    Great to hear about others having similar conversations to ours!

    Like

    • Had to go look at the whole thread. Thank you for for sharing it with me. The combination of attitude and insight in those two comments impressed me so much I responded and followed that blog. Those comments might be the best thing to come out of this conversation yet. Even if they don’t respond back, I saw something there that needed encouragement, and I did my best.

      It’s almost Tuesday and we’re still talking about this – isn’t that awesome? There may be more posts coming on other blogs. I’ll be sure and let you know if that happens. This is good.

      Like

    • This is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind when I was talking about using a different term first and then incorporating feminism. My college is well known for its large LGBT+ population, and my friends are probably the kinds of people who would understand the term “gender equity” anyway, but yeah. I feel like a lot of college-age kids would be on board with “gender equity,” and then be open to incorporating “feminism” into that because when you know the facts of the situation, you know women are the ones being harmed the most by that lack of equity.

      I know Amnesty International links LGBT and women’s rights because a lot of homophobia comes from devaluing women and traits associated with women. The gay-straight alliance at my school kind of does it the other way around, incorporating feminism because they advocate for acceptance of all genders and sexualities. Either way, people can get behind it because it’s a term they understand, and it’s not exclusively supporting one group. They can jump on board from whichever issue affects them first, and expand to the other one.

      Like

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  33. I’m very proud of feminism but I think equality can only be achieved if everyone is involved. Emma Watkins recent speech that suggests that it’s everybody’s job to change the inequality. All discrimination is benefitted when everyone challenges the habits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed that everyone should be involved.

      We started out discussing whether or not feminism was even a politically useful label anymore, or whether talking about gender inequality as feminists was a bad move. We discussed that one to death.

      What we came up with was: Everyone’s welcome whether they identify as a feminist or not; but, we have to be firm that while we recognize that feminism is fraught with negative connotations, we’re still going to talk about the inequality, and those of us who identify as feminists are going to talk about it from a feminist perspective.

      We went around in circles on this one all spring. We’ve profited from several discussions that included folks who aren’t comfortable with the term but see the problem.

      Like

  34. Here’s a good one.
    A friend of mine posted this on Twitter: Dear lazyweb, looking for blog posts on “common things men in tech do that are sexist without being intentionally so.” — Matt Laroche (@mlroach) October 9, 2014 I really respect the amount of self-awareness it takes to ask that question! It’s easy to disavow the trolls sending […]

    Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist
    feminism

    http://notapattern.net/2014/10/14/ways-men-in-tech-are-unintentionally-sexist/

    Liked by 1 person

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