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Say what, now? And who?


I added a couple of new blogs to my sidebar o' linky goodness, and I especially recommend Tiger Beatdown if you're interested in seeing someone else who feels about feminism and humanism the same way I do - and that I'm not alone in finding a large part of society's attitudes towards women (especially at the conservative baseline) unacceptable while still being highly appreciative of the peen.

I am a feminist; never doubt that.  I cannot unsee what I have seen in terms of ugliness towards women (though I sometimes desperately wish that I could go back to collusion, even though it's damaging long-term, as it's so much easier and fun in the short run), but I also realize that the male-centric status quo does not mean that all men are reactionary MRAs (Men's Rights Activists - and if you think I'm linking to any of their sites, you're mad; that kind of ugly I do not need connected to my happy little blog.  Google it).

(On second thought, don't.  If you must, read about it on Wikipedia). 

The patriarchal leanings of those with the mistaken idea that the 1950s were halcyon days for men and women still taint a lot of politics and the media, as evidenced by dreck like He's Just Not That Into You, and anything starring Seth Rogen or directed by Judd Apatow (think they're progressive?  Who gets to be "mommy" in those movies?  They're all set up with men as the center of the Universe, and any woman without a man is either an evil sexless bitch, or a helpless mewling child who needs a man so bad she can't see straight).  It's actually a wonder that any men and women escape this programming, it starts so young.  And I appreciate both the women and the men that do see an alternative way to get along with each other, even if I don't always agree with them.

And that's maybe one of the things that your average "oh, God, I'm not a feminist - those chicks are crazy!" person doesn't see or really understand - "Feminism" isn't group-think, nor should it be.  We don't have an overarching agenda that demands absolute loyalty to certain ideas, and we argue/discuss/argue some more about interpretation, action, goals, even.  Some feminists want women in charge.  Some feminists want an equal balance.  Some want to concentrate on reducing rape culture, some want to concentrate on work parity.  I don't think there's anything all feminists agree on, but that's part of its strength, not a weakness.  There's room for all kinds of ideas; find your niche and fill it. 

Those who would prefer that women all become submissive helpmeets to the natural center of all order and enlightenment in the Universe, men, don't like all the ideas being bandied about, and they try pretty hard to shut down all signs of assertiveness on the part of women  - look at the opprobrium over Sen. Boxer's polite, firm, request that she be addressed as "Senator" in the popular press (stay away from the foaming rabidity of the extreme right-wing opinionistas, though - it's not really healthy for sane people to read).  The reaction seems massively out of proportion to the remark - unless you see it as a sign that women are getting too uppity and need to be put in their place posthaste.  If that's the tack you're taking, then yes, the level of media and blog hysteria over a seriously small part in a congressional hearing is absolutely justified.  Give a woman a title, and she'll take a mile.  God knows we don't want women to be getting any ideas about being allowed to choose what they're called!

But I may be asking for too much when I ask for womens' opinions to be heard.  I want equality, but sometimes it seems very far away.  It hurts worst when other women want to deny me that equality, but I can't blame other women for buying into the dominant paradigm - after all, Stockholm Syndrome is a survival tactic.  In fact, more radical feminists than me (I'm very, very middle of the road as far as feminism is concerned) would argue that I'm labouring under the same delusion, seeing as I actually like most men, and laugh at The Soup, like South Park, and don't immediately switch off Family Guy (though I don't watch it much, because it pisses me off more often than it makes me laugh), but I can't really get away from the fact that I do like men, and want them to be part of my life.

I'm not prepared to say most of them are superior to me, as I've met very few that are intellectually my equal, but I like them well enough.  I even adore (one of) them, and would go so far as to say he's the most important person in my life. 

(Who am I kidding?  You're the tops, baby.  *smooch*)

I don't consider trying to make my husband happy to be a demeaning act, even though more radical feminism would question my motives (since he also pays the majority of the bills).  He's not taking advantage of me in any way; our relationship seems to me to be mutually supportive (as I've said many times before, he's actually better at doing housework than me, even though he works full-time and I work part-time).  But in having a heterosexual, marriage-centered relationship with a man, I am aligning myself with the mainstream of society, and not working to change it from that perspective.  Heck, I even didn't work for a while, even though we don't have kids together.  I am traditional in many ways.  How can I call myself a feminist?

Because I am.  I just am.  Women are equal to men; it just hasn't been openly acknowledged yet.  That's what I care about.

I love my husband; he's one of the biggest feminist allies I've ever known (and has put his money where his mouth is on more than one occasion), but I can't expect him to viscerally understand what it's like to be marginalized, just as I can't understand what it's like to be marginalized as a man of colour, a woman of colour, a person with severe disabilities, or a person of any colour/disability with little to no income.  All I can ask of him is that he accept that some things make me angry without trying to dismiss my reactions.  Which he does, even if the strength of my reactions worries him sometimes.  In the same way, as a feminist, I shut up and listen when someone else is trying to tell me about their experiences, even if those experiences don't jibe with mine.  One of the most oppressive acts a human can perpetrate on another human is to tell them that their experience doesn't count.  As a feminist, I try very hard not to commit that oppression myself.

No, I don't really have a massive point with this post; I'm explaining in part why I link to some of the blogs in my sidebar, I'm explaining why I write about the things I do, and I'm explaining that I believe I'm equal to any man out there, even if I never learned algebra properly (because I can do fifty million other things, all of them as valuable as a talent for equations).  So sometimes, something about sexism is going to piss me off, and sometimes I'm going to write about it.  But I still love the menz.

They're cute.  And often fluffy.  And the one I'm married to has got us Paul McCartney tickets.  I'm feeling good.

Comments

( 24 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
asim
Jun. 24th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
And that's maybe one of the things that your average "oh, God, I'm not a feminist - those chicks are crazy!" person doesn't see or really understand - "Feminism" isn't group-think, nor should it be.
One of the reasons I stand pretty steadfast in saying "I'm a Feminist" is because of constructions like that. The whole concept of Feminism has been demonized unfairly, much as MLK was tarred as a Commie later on, esp. after he started speaking out against the Vietnam War. I really wish someone could start pushing "feminism is cool" back into the mainstream -- even though the going is much harder than it was even a decade ago.

Anyway. This is an excellent piece, even as it worries me that it reads, in parts, like a defense of something that should be bloody self-evident (and isn't...)
attack_laurel
Jun. 24th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks - there was such deafening silence from the peanut gallery, I was wondering if I should have posted more photos of the farm. :)

It shouldn't have to be defended, but human nature is such that anything different from one's own opinion seems threatening to the majority.

I think there's room for all kinds of feminism - it all sort of works towards the concept of humans, working together humanely. As do all other social movements. I'm finally reaching the point where the intersectionality of humanity means that I can't say I'm for one form of social justice without needing to be for all forms of social justice. :)
isenglass
Jun. 24th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
Perhaps that lack of usual commentary is because you made people think. Your post made me want to jump up and down and yell "I'm a feminist!" but I can't. I don't want that label because I'm not a feminist. I'm a person. It's not that I don't believe in the same things that you are espousing. It's more a case of not wanting the label. Maybe I'm just not brave enough.

Good post though. I like it when you make people think outside their headspace.
snailstichr
Jun. 24th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
Maybe there aren't many comments because it is redundant for everyone to say, "Me, too." :)
tudorlady
Jun. 24th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
This.
aeliakirith
Jun. 24th, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC)
I don't consider trying to make my husband happy to be a demeaning act, even though more radical feminism would question my motives (since he also pays the majority of the bills). He's not taking advantage of me in any way; our relationship seems to me to be mutually supportive (as I've said many times before, he's actually better at doing housework than me, even though he works full-time and I work part-time). But in having a heterosexual, marriage-centered relationship with a man, I am aligning myself with the mainstream of society, and not working to change it from that perspective. Heck, I even didn't work for a while, even though we don't have kids together. I am traditional in many ways. How can I call myself a feminist?

I liked this bit because it meshes with how I see my feminism. There's a huge difference between wanting to make someone happy because you love them and considering it your job to make them happy because you're the woman and that's what women are supposed to do. The example I use to try to explain the distinction is that I like cooking for my husband and I like waiting on him too, occasionally (making him coffee or getting him something while I'm up). But I like doing it because it makes him happy, and because he appreciates it and doesn't expect it. He also does a good bit of the cooking. If he were sitting on the couch telling me to bring him a beer and hurry up with dinner, I wouldn't like doing those things (and probably wouldn't do them.) There's a huge difference between an act of love and an act of servitude, even when the observable action might seem the same.

As far as working or not working, I don't see that as a feminist or non-feminist thing on the individual level, but as a very personal choice, because the idea of "woman with successful career (who also raises kids, does housework, and has hobbies)" isn't much better than the "woman who stays home and raises wonderful children and cooks and keeps everything freaking spotless" idea that it's replacing. And I think it can be just as unfeminist to buy into the "woman with career" paradigm if it's not what makes you happy and works for you and those you care about.

I also think we (as a culture) value professional work more than other work partly *because* for a long time it's been what men do, not what women do. (It's also a capitalist idea that more is always better and that money and status trumps everything else.)

As far as liking men, I think that can be part of being feminist, if that makes sense. If men and women are equal, they're equally capable of being smart, sweet, funny, wonderful, and lovable. (Adding a steady diet of feminist blogs to my daily reading has actually resulted in me being just as annoyed with "guys are so dumb" jokes as I've always been with "women are dumb" jokes.)
gwacie
Jun. 24th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Some wise person once said "Feminism is just the radical notion that women are people" I've always liked that one.

And yes, I can be feminine and a feminist, comma dammit!
elasait
Jun. 24th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
*applause*

Like you, I have a husband I adore, and yes, I consider myself a feminist. I remember what it was like when we really *were* expected to just get married and breed. Not going back there, uh uh, no way.
hsifeng
Jun. 24th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
I consider myself a feminist, but I must say that I often find myself in the midst of situations that make me uncomfortable as a woman and unable to express "what" is making me feel that way. This often leads to me not saying anything and sometime even leads to me convincing myself that I am somehow to blame for the discomfort. *gah*

Feeking programming…
katmoonshaker
Jun. 24th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
THIS!

I'm descended from a long line of French intellectuals... both male & female. The correspondence between the great x 4+ that my mother has been reading are letters between husband and wife who see each other as equals, no matter what they may be doing.

My mother taught me that feminism meant supporting women to be able to freely choose the role(s) in life that they wanted. My mother was a teacher, my late grandmother was a teacher... and she was born in the 'teens. So my mother grew up knowing that there is no big deal with women working, holding power, and being intellectually equal with their husbands.

The friends that my grandparents had were the same way. The church that they attended supported that ideal (which surprises most since it was a Church of Christ). My brothers were raised with the same ideals as I. My children are being taught the same thing. I was a house-spouse from the time my daughter (the eldest) was born until she was about 10. Choice. It boils down to being about choice.

Edited at 2009-06-24 06:12 pm (UTC)
swwoodsy
Jun. 25th, 2009 04:25 pm (UTC)
It IS about choice and the luxury of being able to make and capable of enforcing, if needed, that choice. But I think it is also about one's sense of self and self-respect.

For all of my childhood my mother was "trapped" in the 50's Happy Suzy Housewife life. My father was the moneymaker and wielded that power none to subtly. She was not UNhappy, but she was not happy, either. My father is a chauvinist. Always has been, always will be. When VMI (his alma mater) was forced to go co-ed, he was quoted in our local paper as saying, "All the women in the world can go to VMI. But the ladies should stay home."

*eye roll*

I consider it quite an achievement on the part of my mother that both my sister and I are independent and can shrug off society's stereotypical gender roles and make decisions based on what we want and what works best for us. Go, Mom!

But I also believe that a person's personality has a lot to do with it. Gender does not dictate courage, intelligence, humor, self-respect or personality. A strong personality will dominate someone with a weaker sense of self. However, I believe that women are trained from birth that they are not to be that strong. Likewise, men are taught to be strong, not cry, and burp the alphabet. (BTW --why is that? It's kinda funny, but it's not THAT funny.) I think everyone has some kind of programming they wish they could overcome, but "It's hard to fight an enemy that has outposts in your head."-- Sally Kempton.

Where women have traditionally experienced the greatest amount of freedom of choice has been as widows. As widows, these women they could often make decisions, participate in trades, and had a legal status previously denied them due to the legal system of the time, society, and/or country they lived in. Where women generated and controlled an income, they had choices, and that has not changed. So many relationships are about struggles for power and control, thinly disguised under veils of "love." And that has not changed, either. People are people, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Don't get me wrong. I like men. Given the opportunity, I will ask a man to heft-n-tote things, get things off the top shelf, and kill a really big bug. I will do it myself if I have to, but I don't want to. Not because I am incapable or think that it's not my "place" to do it, but because I am lazy and he is stronger, taller, and hopefully has better hand-eye coordination. I'll ask a woman to do these things, too, so I really am equal-opportunity in that regard, but I am more likely to ask a woman to help me, rather than to do the task for me outright. (hmmm...reexamining my programming...)

More quotes I like:

"I am a person trapped in a woman's body." --Elaine Boosler

"You don't have to be anti-man to be pro-woman." --Jane Galvan Lewis

"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." --Rebecca West

"I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman." --Anais Nin

grumpycarrie
Jun. 24th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
I have always and will always believe that a woman should be able to do what she can do. I am thankful that woman before me fought hard to gain that right.

That being said I don't like when women think that just becuase they are a woman that they should be able to do what they can't do. I don't want to see the bar lowered just to get ahead.
msmcknittington
Jun. 24th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
I have a question that I think about a lot, and I want to ask you because I think you'll give a good answer.

Do you ever experience some cognitive dissonance as a feminist when doing historical reenacting? Like you're sort of glorifying a period when women were not given merit? Saying, "Look! This is really cool but let's ignore the parts that totally arent."?

I find myself doing a lot of, well, I guess it would be fan-wanking if it were for a fandom. Searching out strong women in history and ignoring the mainstream, sort of glossing over things like women learning to write in italic hands because they didn't have the mental ability to learn "men's" hands.

I dunno. I can't figure out if I just need to chill out and get over it or if that cognitive dissonance is something that warrants exploring.

Edited at 2009-06-24 07:36 pm (UTC)
nicolaa5
Jun. 24th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
This is one I've thought about, too.

For me it comes down to misconceptions about women in the Middle Ages (the period I do) and the assumptions that the progress of women's rights is a straight, unbroken, upward slope. Therefore, women in the Middle Ages were by definition "more oppressed" than in, say, the 19th century.

Well, most people were "more oppressed" in the Middle Ages than in the 19th century in terms of their legal status as free people; I'd argue that poor people in the 19th century and poor people in the Middle Ages didn't have it all that different.

Instead, I'm interested in knowing about real people from the period--not stereotypes. Reenacting for me isn't about "glorifying" at all. Yeah, some of the clothes are cool, and some of the artwork, etc. But people are people, and understanding them--how they viewed the world, how they made things, what their daily lives were like, and so forth--is what makes me tick as a recreator. I don't find that incompatible with being a feminist at all, because we feminists can misunderstand women in history just as easily as misogynists if we don't work hard at it. Knowledge is power.
msmcknittington
Jun. 24th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
I think part of my stumbling block is that I do 16th century (for some definitions of "do", I guess), and you start seeing increasing restrictions for women following the Renaissance. Probably reactionary from the relative liberties of the medieval period, no doubt.

Instead, I'm interested in knowing about real people from the period--not stereotypes. Reenacting for me isn't about "glorifying" at all.

*nods* I don't really see it as glorifying either, but I think my issue with the idea that it might be glorifying is that most people in the SCA aim for nobility/reallyreally rich people, so it's all very much about the shiny. "This doesn't look quite right. Let's throw more pearls at it." I mean, even female Civil War reenactors will probably have a silk ballgown regardless of whether the character they're creating would own one. Do you know what I mean? Like the intent is there, but the execution is off.

Huh. Maybe my problem is less with feminism and more with material culture as presented by reenactors.
attack_laurel
Jun. 25th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)
What you're seeing is probably re-enacting as seen from a 21st century hobby perspective, with all the trappings and baggage that come with.

I can't do American Civil War because honestly, the roles for women are boring to me - it's much more repressive than England at the end of the 16th century, even though the period I portray is brutally unkind to women. Even so, learning about what women did not have is important to me as a feminist, because it teaches me what I do have now. As such, I don't have a problem either playing a gentlewoman obsessed with shopping, or an alewife with distinctly bawdy tendencies (as alewives were seen at that time), because both personas are legitimate states for women at that time, and even though current thinking emphasizes the oppression, there is also a lot of wiggle room. It's the wiggle room I'm interested in learning about.

I also think playing a woman from an era when women were not considered important enough to even write about helps me (and others) see the agency and presence of women back then.

But you're right - this is not the level at which most people in any re-enactment group play - they want the pretty costumes and the feeling of playing "olden days". In that sense, they're 21st century women no matter what era they're portraying.

For me, it's a need to learn about what life was like for women back then, so I can be alert for attempts to persuade me that women were actually happier when they were exclusively domestic (the "biology is destiny" types meet with the reactionists at this point, attempting to tell me that since I'm designed for making babies, I can't be really happy doing anything else, so get in the kitchen and make some pie).
holyschist
Jul. 10th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
I'm not exactly a real reenactor, since I only play SCA and I'm not much of an actor, but most of my interest in the past is in material culture--I read about the rest, but I'm not quite as interested in reenactment as I am in re-creation of (things, mostly). So that's part of how I reconcile being interested in the past with feminism (and I can be interested in the past, and admire parts of it, without thinking it was all peachy, particularly for women).

(And italic fairly quickly took over completely because it was easy and readable, so nyere to the women-can't-learn-secretary naysayers of the time.)
wulfsdottir
Jun. 24th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks for talking about this. I also hold the radical notion that women are people, while thinking the hubbyman is the bee's knees. They really aren't mutually exclusive concepts.

In case you've somehow missed being linked to it, cereta recently posted about the need for men to take an active role in fighting the rape culture. It's not polite, but there's a need for strong words alongside more subtle ones. Over 3000 comments in one of the most well-moderated conversations on the topic, and still going. Her post was quoted today in significant part in an Australian newspaper column encouraging more men to get involved. Just in case you wanted more reading material and hadn't seen it yet. ;)
attack_laurel
Jun. 25th, 2009 10:03 am (UTC)
Oh, awesome. Thank you!
bronx_baroness
Jun. 24th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
In 1972 I discovered Feminism- yeah right at the edge of high school and before I headed off to college. For me it has been all about being able to choose to do or not do what *men* get to choose to do or not do with the same level of respect and equality. It's been about asking the right questions and not just hobbing about with someone else's answers because they got the stamp of "Important Feminist" on them.

I chose to get married, like you, and I love what you said:
"I'm not prepared to say most of them are superior to me, as I've met very few that are intellectually my equal, but I like them well enough. I even adore (one of) them, and would go so far as to say he's the most important person in my life. "

Men. Curious little creatures, and some of them are fabulous.

The Husband Deluxe is just that for that very good reason. I respect him, don't always agree with him, but then again neither does he always agree with me- but we love and respect each other no matter what our married life may look like to other people. :) What I do for him or with him is my choice, consciously made. I love him- he is the best person, male or female I have ever known.

And amazingly enough, especially to me, I like being married.
My Radical Feminist friends are still shocked that it's lasted this long. I've always felt that they have somehow missed the point.

As for the cognitive dissonance in period recreation- why no, I haven't. But then again, I'm a Mongol and we get to do all sorts of things and even wear pants! YAY!

jessicallyr
Jun. 25th, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)
feminism and plurality
Laurel, you are SO good at stating positions. Thank you! My comment is: let us all encourage pluralism. A society whose members accept many different, and even divergent, ideas is bound to be a growing, nurturing, encouraging one (courage being a watchword), not a stultifying one.
holyschist
Jul. 10th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
You are still awesome and eloquent.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 15th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, bless you.
An associate sent me here after a really appalling radical feminist screed about Joss Whedon's "Firefly" came up in an online discussion. (And I'm not going to link it- I really don't want to give the author page hits.) What's really sad to me about certain radical feminist viewpoints is that they don't seem to recognize the underlying similarity with the worst male chauvanist view points: "The natural tendency of [all] men is to oppress women." The radicals just think of it as something to overthrow, and the chauvanists something to celebrate.

Certainly there are things _some_ men have done to _some_ women that are truly horrific, and there's a reason and a right to be angry about that. But identifying men on sight as victimizers, or at best people who have to constantly be guarding their behavior and apologizing for the sins of "their kind" pushes out men- I'd like to think the majority- who really like women, and happily stand for their equality, but don't want to be made to feel like they're inherently part of the problem because they were born with a y-chromosome.

Keep writing. This stay-at-home dad is glad to hear your voice, and I think a lot of women who (mistakenly?) identify themselves as "post-feminist" *need* to hear it.
gretalinian
Aug. 26th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad that you write pieces like this. One of the most depressing things for me was having to explain to a girl in my history class that if she believes that men and women are equal she is indeed a feminist. The stigma that's attached to feminism really irks me and I, like you, am pretty middle of the road, still being rather fond of men and all...
Anyway. I've just recently stumbled upon your blog but I love reading your posts, they're fascinating, intelligent, and I always walk away feeling inspired. :)
( 24 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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