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Will the sane women represent? Please? - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Will the sane women represent? Please?
Okay, so I left the movement called "feminism" in college when I realized how deeply entrenched in victimology it was, how hostile to things I cared about, and how adversarial to men. Most important of all, I left it because it was going on and on about "women's ways of knowing" and how women who succeeded in traditional ways were selling out to (or brainwashed by) the patriarchy, and the real goal of feminism was to tear down all these patriarchal inistutions (aka, nearly everything I value in life--marriage, family, religion, work ethic, so on). This was not a movement I cared to be associated with.

So I hang out in the conservative world, where over the last couple of years, I've been hearing shriller and shriller cries--from women--about how radical feminists are trying to diminish the difference between men and women. Huh? Those would be the traditional moderate feminists who just want a level playing field--aka, the movement I do consider myself part of. The radical feminists are all about la difference. The chicks who tried to sell the idea that a world run by women would be a collectivist paradise in which the earth is respected (because women are, you know, closer to nature than men, who--the subtext whispers--are all rapists of the natural world and therefore exiled from it) aren't exactly operating on the idea that men and women are interchangeable, ya know?

Psychological differences between men and women may be a natural XX vs XY thing, they may be selected traits which will breed out in a couple of centuries, or they may just be overreported. I honestly don't care in terms of policy, because not even the most rabid Mars/Venus type would argue that every woman and every man fits the pattern. Therefore, while it's interesting trivia in some ways, it's irrelevant when it comes to the law, to job descriptions, or to anything that's not directly physical (we do tend to have less upper body strength... though in a fight between Cher and Woody Allen, my money'd be on Cher). It's certainly irrelevant to judging any individual person who happens to show up for a job interview, and since we tend to interview individuals rather than genders... shrug. If the numbers don't shake out to exact parity and that suggests a difference in priorities... so what? As long as the men who are interested in being kindergarten teachers aren't discriminated against (or socially sneered at) and the women who want to become construction workers are treated fairly by hiring laws and their co-workers, then I am satisfied.

I do have issues with some of the ideas promulgated by modern feminism, especially the hostility toward boys and men. I think those ideas are harmful, and will argue with them. I'm also appalled by the feminist idea that being dependent on anyone at all is a bad thing--it's part of how human society works. We lean on each other, and we need each other. Championing a world where people can casually leave one another without any emotional consequences is not a good thing. Telling other women what they should think and believe in order to be "authentic" women is not a good thing. I don't think that rampant unattached sex is an especially good idea for women (or men, but we seem to end up with the consequences of it more often). I also believe that "patriarchal" structures like marriage and family are good, healthy things for society. I will continue to argue on those points, and that is my absolute right.

But you know what? Other people have the same absolute right. As long as they don't actually try to abolish marriage (thereby removing it as an option for those of us who disagree), or threaten harm to men and boys, or try to silence dissent by threatening with expulsion from school--or legal sanctions--then they are perfectly within their rights to believe anything that makes them happy. Or unhappy, if that's their cup of tea. They even have the right to be completely wrongheaded about things, as long as they aren't trying to incite violence and hatred. They have the right to try and sell their point of view, just as much as I have the right to try and sell mine. (Both sides drive me crazy when they start complaining that the other side is "trying to sway people"... well, duh. Of course they are; that's called the free marketplace of ideas, and the whole object is to get your idea-product to appeal to people. At root, it's not that different from trying to get people to drink Pepsi or Coke.) People are ornery; we're never all going to agree, and if it started to look like we were going to, people would get uncomfortable and start looking for things to pick at.

Now, of course, when it's all in fun, then hey, go for the win. Score points where you can and have little victory dances. That's part of the fun of the aforementioned marketplace. It's one of life's little joys. That's why we bet on sporting events and argue about books and movies. But Seahawks fans don't have to pay special taxes because their team lost, you know?

Sigh.

I guess what I'm saying is that even "women who make the world worse" (to use O'Bierne's book title) make it better by taking part in it at all. If you don't like the ideas they're promulgating, then get up there on the campaign trail and promulgate better ones and get them to appeal to people. The more we do it, the more "normal" it will become, and the less our first female president--whenever she comes along--will seem like a curiosity.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 9th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think that a world run entirely by females would necessarily be any better than what we've got now; there would just be different problems.

I'm not even sure they'd be different. The nature of running the world requires a certain kind of behavior and would still be dealing with the whole ornery population, so I think the problems we tend to have are inevitable no matter who's in charge. I think the main reason we haven't seen mass atrocious behavior from women in power is that there hasn't been a very big pool to draw the crazies from.

I don't get bra-burning, either. I like my bra. It makes it less uncomfortable to be mobile.
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From: kathy_elaine Date: February 9th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I consider myself to be a feminist in the same sense you do, I think. It's ridiculous to say that women are better than men and try to swing the inequality back the other way. It's hypocritical, actually, and if there's anything I can't stand it's hypocrisy. Doing away with the institutions of family and marriage and the like isn't going to help anything . . . they're institutions that, as you said, help satisfy the human need to lean on others. I live a very lonely life . . . I have had maybe one or two friends in my life that I feel I can depend upon, my family support system is nonexistent, and I have never had any type of boyfriend to whom I can go when my daily stresses and bigger problems, or just general companionship. I can't imagine what it would be like to go through my entire life like this. I actually respect the women who have those high-ranking jobs and make tons of money and are icons of the Feminist movement, then step down to have a baby and start a family. That is a female instinct, much more than this "women are closer to nature and therefore RULE" crap. We used to call them "Feminazis".

In short, I highly agree. Equality not just for women, but for men, too. I'm all about destroying stereotypes, but that doesn't mean that women who want to stay home, raise a family, and be housewives should be bullied about their choices. I'm too young, but I'm certain that the ideas behind the feminist movement originally intended equality and a woman's right to do whatever she wants . . . so if she wants to be everything the feminazis stand against, she has that right.
From: gunderpants Date: February 9th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Come to the middle, Fern. We either like - or hate - everyone equally.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 9th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm already in the middle. That's why I'm a Republican in Massachusetts and a Democrat in New Mexico without ever changing my positions. ;)
moonlitwoods From: moonlitwoods Date: February 9th, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
...
Excellent post, Fern, and I agree entirely.

I personally don't care for the word feminist as the distinction itself seems divisive and confrontational to me. Throughout my career I've worked solely with men in a male-dominated field and I've never had a problem or felt the need to beat a drum in order to represent my sex. In fact, if I'd ever tried to it would have been counterproductive.

Of course there are loads of good old boys out there, but I haven't encountered as many of them as I have combative, pushy women with chips on their shoulders.
...
greyathena From: greyathena Date: February 9th, 2006 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Word to the wordth degree. One of the weirdest things for me transitioning from a fairly uber-supportive women's college environment to the coed and uber-competitive law school and politics world(s) was that although I have had some condescending attitudes from a handful of men, the biggest competition seemed to have been created by female colleagues and classmates who took the "in order for me to succeed, you have to fail" attitude. Feminism needs to start worrying about how women in the professions treat each other, IMO.
corbaewench From: corbaewench Date: February 9th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been trying for /years/ (and not well) to put my feelings on this matter into words. Here you go, summing it all up. (Sometimes it creeps me out how other people can see what I want to say, even if I don't know them).

I rejected the idea of being a "womans studies major" in college, mostly becasue I /liked/ men and was tired of being labled as a "Lipstick Feminist". Wonderful closing paragraph IMHO.
keridwen From: keridwen Date: February 9th, 2006 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

My two cent ramble.

So I hang out in the conservative world, where over the last couple of years, I've been hearing shriller and shriller cries--from women--about how radical feminists are trying to diminish the difference between men and women.

Well, you have to remember that this is the same general culture where far right-wing christians are called "conservatives" rather than "radicals", which would be more appropriate.

I consider myself a feminist. I was also an anthropologist, which gives me a very wacky perspective on the whole idea of "traditional" or "biological" roles for men and women.

It's funny, but whenever feminism is brought up, I think of an episode of The West Wing, wherein the young, beautiful, very Republican, female junior counsel (played by Emily Proctor) rants about why she's against the Equal Rights Ammendment. To paraphrase, she's against it because there shouldn't have to be a law in the United States that says that she's the equal of any man.

I agree with that sentiment, which of course makes me anathema to a lot of feminists. <shrug> I'm also practical enought to understand that the ERA is necessary to bring about the kind of societal thinking that would give us, as a society, the same opinion eventually.

Anyhow. I agree with you that deciding that half of the human population is inherently bad is just plain stupid. And a bit self-defeating.
greyathena From: greyathena Date: February 9th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: My two cent ramble.

I considered that entire episode a shout-out to me because (1)well, her argument totally made sense, and (2)she mentioned Smith College, my alma mater (actually I was still a student there when that episode aired), like fifteen times. And many of the people I knew would totally have hated Ainsley for being a southern Republican.:)
jadeddiva From: jadeddiva Date: February 9th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess what I'm saying is that even "women who make the world worse" (to use O'Bierne's book title) make it better by taking part in it at all. If you don't like the ideas they're promulgating, then get up there on the campaign trail and promulgate better ones and get them to appeal to people. The more we do it, the more "normal" it will become, and the less our first female president--whenever she comes along--will seem like a curiosity.

Amen. I agree completely with this. I guess my theory on feminism is that there's Feminism, the "dirty word" which you define as radical feminism, then there's feminism which is everything that women do that means stepping outside silly gender constructions on a daily basis (like female engineers, or in my case going on for advanced degrees in history, which is a man's field still). I do think that a lot of norms are constructed by societies, but I guess - to avoid rambling more - what you said, and what I quoted - I agree with complely. Don't just sit on your ass if you have a problem, do something about it. But that goes without saying for a lot of different things.
danel4d From: danel4d Date: February 9th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I pretty much agree with you here. Part of the problem is that there are so many strands of feminism - and 'feminisms' which have merged, in a slightly horror-movie way, with a whole panoply of other political theories - Marxist feminism, for example. And some of the strands of feminism - some of the most radical strains, even - are utterly opposed to each other - like you said, those who claim that men and women are utterly, essentially different; and those who claim that there are no differences between men and women whatsoever, in any sense; sure, they're willing to admit that maybe there are a few, irrelevent biological differences, but these don't mean a thing; and some even challenge this idea. The reason why men and women seem so different in society, they conclude, is because patriarchy made them that way - so we must redesign society from the ground up, ban girls from playing with dolls and boys with soldiers, etc.

I'll try to post more later - a really, great, thought-provoking piece here Fern.
sparkly_stuff From: sparkly_stuff Date: February 9th, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I minored in Women's Studies in college and was active in feminist and equal-rights organizations. We promoted equality for all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., equal pay, reproductive rights, and spoke out against violence toward anyone. One of the main things we tried to impress on people was that feminists believe in equality for all people. That's the true spirit of the feminist movement. NOT that women are superior to men or that women should stop having children. If a woman wants to choose to have a career, fine. If she wants to stay home with the kids, fine. Both are valid choices and neither should be considered "better" than the other by society. And the same goes for men. Unfortunately, thanks to "feminazis" (the ones who want to abolish marriage, have all women become lesbians and send men off to the moon), the words "feminist" and "feminism" have gained such bad connotations in our society that people are afraid to call themselves that, no matter how much they agree with our beliefs.

There's two main camps of feminist thought: The radical feminists, (not the same as "feminazis" mind you) who feel that in order to create an equal society we have to tear down the system and rebuild our social structure from the ground up; and liberal feminists, who would rather work within the system to make change. Most people fall into the latter category, because it's less idealistic, and less...well, radical.

I personally don't care whether someone calls themselves the "f-word", because to me it's more important what your values are and how you act. I'd much rather align myself with people who believe in equality for all and practice it but don't call themselves feminists, than those who call themselves feminists but rant about stuff I don't believe in or that aren't really feminist values. (Like did you know there's a whole group of women who reject the usage of tampons and pads? They advocate going back to using a rag because it's "more natural." I'm sorry, but I'll take Tampax any day. Or like a girl I knew who thought she was SO feminist because she had 3 abortions by age 22, and all I wanted to do was smack her and say, "Have you heard of birth control?") It's really a lot like HP fandom scarily enough--there's so many different people who all agree they love Harry Potter, but other than that there's enough wank, elitism, in-fighting and obsessive behavior that outsiders think we're ALL crazy like that and it makes us all look bad. The feminist movement is the same way, sadly, which is why it's hard for us to get anything useful accomplished half the time.

Well, as you can see I could go on for hours, so I'll stop taking up space on your journal. Thank you for writing about this!
leeflower From: leeflower Date: February 9th, 2006 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
hey, do you mind if I link this over at bad_femenists?

It's a community for SANE feminists that believe in equal pay for equal work but get called 'bad femensits' because the femenist movement has been co-opted by lunatics who can't spell.
leeflower From: leeflower Date: February 9th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
bad_feminists. I can spell... honest...
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sea_thoughts From: sea_thoughts Date: February 9th, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm also appalled by the feminist idea that being dependent on anyone at all is a bad thing--it's part of how human society works. We lean on each other, and we need each other. Championing a world where people can casually leave one another without any emotional consequences is not a good thing.

I know. We've both been fighting against this recently. I find it quite difficult to see why people think this and I wonder what these people would do if they found themselves in a situation where they were in some sort of trouble (physical, financial, emotional) - would they think themselves weak for depending on somebody?

Heh, Pink's song "Stupid Girls" is my new anthem. It is about time that you guys had a female President. I'll be waiting to see her. :)
From: marciamarcia Date: February 9th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty much there with you on that.

I don't want to listen to some bullshit from Silver Ravenwolf about the inherent beauty of the matriarchy.

But Phillys Schlafly (that's spelled wrong somewhere, I'm sure) and Michelle Malkin telling me I need to get back in the kitchen because me working is inherently bad for America makes me want to punch someone something.

I think the problem is that most people aren't happy just making a choice that's good for them because any decision has some good and some bad outcomes. So to mitigate thier own bad outcomes, they have to convince themselves that their choice is the ONE TRUE WAY and everyone else is wrong. It really boils down to being a self-esteem problem. If more people were self-actualized and willing to just make their own decisions, not care what other people think, and accept the consequences like adults, I think we'd have less of a problem with radicals.

In the meantime, let's give some support to the folks who really need it--stay at home dads. Seriously, those dudes get more crap than an industrialized feed lot.



fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 9th, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh. I read Michelle Malkin quite a lot and I've never seen her say such a thing. Phyllis Shlafley? Exists to be a counter to Gloria Steinham. Me, I'm a Christina Hoff Sommers kind of girl.
the_evil_sock From: the_evil_sock Date: February 9th, 2006 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Second Wave Feminism =/= feminism

It sounds like what you're railing against is second wave feminism, not all feminism. Second wave feminism posited that gender differences (intuition vs. logic etc.) were natural and that women had been brainwashed to think that feminine traits were bad and masculine traits were good, but that really the oppossite was true.

I think it's pretty insane myself, but it doesn't represent the entirety (or perhaps even the majority now) of serious feminist thought.

(I also think it's true that that kind of thinking too closely resembles the thinking far right social conserbatives use to justify keeping women in "their place.")

the_evil_sock
an ardent feminist
the_evil_sock From: the_evil_sock Date: February 9th, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Second Wave Feminism =/= feminism

umm... obviously I meant "social conservatives." I'm not sure what social conserbatives are, but until I find out, I'll assume I have nothing against them.
From: almostsophie Date: February 9th, 2006 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
a world run by women would be a collectivist paradise in which the earth is respected (because women are, you know, closer to nature than men, who--the subtext whispers--are all rapists of the natural world and therefore exiled from it)

That's a movement I came across in my last semester at uni. It pisses me off more than anything else. The idea that men are all rapists of the natural world is far from subtext. It's stated openly many times in The Death of Nature, a book I tried to read for a class. (Thank goodness we tore it to shreds in the class.) "Ecofeminists" also equate science and the whole western world with men, and celebrate "local ways of knowing" as being better for women. They're oddly silent on whether movements like radical Christianity or fundamentalist Islam qualify as "local ways of knowing." Mostly they just celebrate a feel-good version of Hinduism that glosses over the caste system and the very real subjugation of women.

Anyway, these people annoy me no end. As soon as someone says "different ways of knowing" I know they're full of postmodern claptrap.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 9th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
The idea that men are all rapists of the natural world is far from subtext.

I had a feeling it was explicitly stated, but I didn't want to make an accusation I couldn't back up. Thanks for the cite.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: February 9th, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
It appears to me that the fringie radical feminists and the equally fringie right-wingers both love to bash men. Men, according to both, are innately violent, promiscuous, and nasty. Personally, I expect much better of men. I think it's a mistake to pigeonhole men as innately evil - whether your justification is radical feminism or right-wing sociobiology. Both men and women are from Earth.

Right now I'm doing research for my senior thesis paper, on gender-egalitarian cultures. Note I said "egalitarian" not "matriarchal," they are cultures where both men and women are valued.

And I'm with you on the valuing of family. All cultures have family - it's a human universal. We are social creatures. We want to bond with others - for introverts it can be a select few others, but we do want to bond nonetheless.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 9th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Both men and women are from Earth.

I always thought the that taking potshots at Mars/Venus was just too easy. Shooting fish in a barrel--"From Earth, thanks." But if they insist... :p

I think that this expectation for men to be awful is hugely problematic for everyone. Say what you will about the bad old days of chivalry, but at least it was expected that men would make an attempt at nobility. That might not have always made a difference, but at least it sometimes did.

I'd love to know about egalitarian cultures. Do you mean cultures where everyone participates in everything, or where women's realms and men's realms are equally valued?
singingtopsy From: singingtopsy Date: February 9th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
As much as I disagree with the extremecy of "second wave feminism" I think that girls are led to regard masculine traits as superior, to a certain extent. Reading work by sociolinguist Deborah Tannen, for instance, made me realize that the way in which women tend to communicate is grossly misinterpreted and thus devalued by a still quite patriarchal power structure. But on the whole I certainly agree with everything in your post.
At heart, I'm what I call a Brontean feminist. I wholeheartedly support equal pay and equal opportunity like the good Millenial girl I am, but the main evils of male dominance (or female dominance, if it were to arise) in my opinion are psychic--where not "getting" each other leads to oppressing whichever sex is the "other." Charlotte Bronte can be considered to be a nascent feminist, but her concern is more relational than political. But then I don't really think about feminism unless I'm reading Victorian literature or about human rights abuses abroad, I live in a liberal California college town where I'm allowed to go my merry way :p.
sparkly_stuff From: sparkly_stuff Date: February 9th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that girls are led to regard masculine traits as superior, to a certain extent.

We really are. Our whole society is. Because we live in a patriarchal society, reason (a "masculine" trait) is constantly considered superior to emotion (a "feminine" trait). Thus, boys are taught to never cry or show emotion, which causes them psychological harm and an inability to communicate emotion effectively, and women are taught to never, EVER cry (or show much of any other emotion) in "masculine" spheres such as sports and business or they will seem weak. And despite the trend for men to be more "sensitive" and "open with emotions"...they're having a real hard time with it and creating a backlash, because it can't work within the patriarchal system.

There's many more examples of the superiority of "masculine" traits, that's just one. Someone mentioned that women have been forced to act like men to gain "equality", and that's exactly what this is. Feminism should be about making "feminine" traits just as valid and important as "male" traits, not about turning women into men. (And the whole idea is ludicrous to begin with--men are just as emotional as women, and women just as rational as men!)
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