Feminism and gender equality

(130 Posts)

Whem I was first persuaded to unhide the FWR boards and take a look around, I was of the opinion that I wasn't a feminist because I believe that everyone should be equal. I was told that actually that is a basic tenet of feminism.

Now I see on the male circumcision thread numerous posters saying that feminism is nothing to do with gender equality, that they are different things.

Which is it please?

FloraFox Sun 17-Feb-13 16:32:03

I can only speak for myself as one of the people who posted on the circumcision thread. It was not to say that feminism has nothing to do with gender equality but that it is about women as a class defined by their sex and addressing the oppression and inequality faced by women as a class. It's not about individual freedom for everyone or about anything that can loosely be called a "male issue" and therefore women have to address it because that's feminism (i.e. gender equality).

If you identify yourself as a feminist, though, it's up to you precisely what that means. There are a number of different interpretations of what feminism is, as defined by feminists. It's not up to people who don't identify as feminists to say "you are a feminist therefore you must believe x"

WidowWadman Sun 17-Feb-13 16:44:09

"It's not up to people who don't identify as feminists to say "you are a feminist therefore you must believe x" "

This. Also, there are some types of feminists who think other types of feminism isn't real feminism or good enough or whatever. They're wrong. Feminism is a wide spectrum.

Personally, I believe addressing equality is important - as inequality always affects all sexes.

Zippy1111 Sun 17-Feb-13 16:47:56

I'd like to think feminism meant addressing gender equality regardless which way round the genders were.

FloraFox Sun 17-Feb-13 16:48:53

Zippy1111 why would you like to think that?

Widow that was kind of my understanding too, that feminism strives for equality with men and therefore for men to also be equal to women. Which is gender equality, surely?

Sorry if I'm being really dense, I'm relatively new to all this.

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 17:36:51

YY Thank you for posting this TheJoyful. Something I often ask myself.

"If you identify yourself as a feminist, though, it's up to you precisely what that means. There are a number of different interpretations of what feminism is, as defined by feminists. It's not up to people who don't identify as feminists to say "you are a feminist therefore you must believe x""

Flora I may be joining Puddle on the dense bench here, but I'd like to think the definition of what it means for me to identify as a feminist was not only not up to those who didn't identify as feminist but those who do.

You and I may have very different ideas of what it important and how things should be achieved, in my mind I wouldn't think of you as not being a feminist though.

Mitchy1nge Sun 17-Feb-13 17:46:22

think tuia is why i prefer the term 'women's liberation', it says much more clearly what it's about and whose interests are central to its aims

Mitchy1nge Sun 17-Feb-13 17:46:49

this not tuia

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 17:56:45

really? as long as you say you are a feminist, anything you do is feminist?

even if it harms women?

can anyone explain?

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 18:03:18

Well no, if we're going to approach it like that. I've just eaten a sandwich, I don't think it was a particularly feminist action.

More the I chose to dress in a way that some feminists may not. I do not see how I dress to be a hinder towards feminism or my actions. Some may. If we all agreed on everything there would be very little debate on FWR (much of which I have enjoyed reading recently) and it would be limited to campaign and education, fwiw I'm glad it's not.

In my mind a woman may choose to wear make up, or not. One may think it is a feminist issue. She cannot deny the woman her identity as a feminist even though it does not fit into her own parameters of feminism and what it means.

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 18:17:56

of course a woman can choose to wear makeup etc. a woman may do whatever she likes, the law permitting, or even not, if she wishes.

i am just interested in the idea that you can be patriarchy compliant, do things that harm women and yet somehow be a feminist, and that no one should critique your choices

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 18:33:00

But surely you can critique someones choices without saying "You are not feminist because..."

How can you decide someone isn't a feminist over lip gloss? Yes I can see the compliance issue in regards to the patriarchy, but if you're going to deny women based on one aspect of how they live their lives you will end up with a very small band of women, lots of squabbling and very little achieved.

As Puddle says in her OP, some hide the FWR boards. I ventured in a few times and got a very one sided view on feminism (not the board as a whole I just happened to stumble across a bad thread) and from what I'd seen from some feminist debate that had spilled into AIBU, I backed off quickly.

Some self education later and I'm back. But if we're against the patriarchy and the damage it does to women, are we then going to exclude women on the basis that they have been influenced by the patriarchy? Surely if non were compliant and we were free from all influence there would be no need for feminism?

I'm not saying I'm right and this is how it is btw, I'm still coming to terms with my identity as a feminist. If you're saying I'm not because I've been brought up under and influenced by the patriarchy, well, should I just go now and not bother? Or can I identify as a feminist as although I am part of the status quo I wish to challenge it?

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 18:50:40

but you can't critique someone's choices, this is the thing- read any thread about removing pubic hair or the normalisation of pole dancing to confirm.

i am not the feminist police, and i don't really care - do what you want, whatever that entails.

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 18:53:58

Sorry Chibi, I didn't mean to imply you were in any way acting or even talking like you intended to police behavior.

Like I said earlier, new to chatting in FWR and still finding out what it means to be a feminist, both as I see it and how I identify and what others think on the matter.

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 18:54:43

to me, feminism is a political identity, not hugs and caring and a support group for validating everything i do.

of course everyone sees this differently, fair enough.

Lessthanaballpark Sun 17-Feb-13 19:01:19

Personally I'd accept anyone who is brave enough to define themselves as feminist in the club. Except for those who espouse the "pole-dancing is empowering" baloney. To me that's not real feminism at all ..... that's subverted fake appropriated-for-commercial purposes feminism or "I'm worth it feminism" as I like to call it...

Oh dear, I'm such a hypocrite. blush

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 19:03:23

What's "I'm worth it feminism" Lessthan?

This is really interesting. I'm still dense none the wiser but it's interesting!

seeker Sun 17-Feb-13 19:11:15

Some people think that feminism is just about women having choices. It is, but it's more than that. A feminist considers how everything she does impacts on women in general, and does not make choices that perpetuate oppression/inequality. So a woman could choose, for example, to be a lap dancer, or to be a submissive wife, but those choices would be profoundly anti feminist, because they perpetuate oppression.

AmandaPayne Sun 17-Feb-13 19:25:12

Feminism is about gender equality, but with the recognition that it is women as a class who are structurally unequal in our society. It is primarily focused on improving the lives of women, which would of course hopefully improve everyone's lives - men, women and children.

Many very broad issues of gender equality can be feminist issues. Men's paternity leave is a feminist issue because it is part of the wider patriarchal society which has impacts on both men and women.

What I particularly objected to was the attempt to redefine feminism to mean mens issues which were just about men by a double leap -"Feminism means gender equality so that would mean male issues as well as female?" So somehow we now have to agree that male circumcision is a feminist issue.

Male circumcision is an important issue. It's a human rights issues. It's not a gender equality issue (unless you are trying to say that more men are circumcised than women experience FGM. Which is so daft as to be nonsensical because it is comparing two totally different issues). And it is certainly not a feminist issue in my book.

I care about human rights issues. I care about gender equality issues. And as there aren't boards for those, I suspect someone who said "I want to talk about X and there isn't a board for it. It doesn't feel right in chat so can we talk here" would have had a far better time than the "I want to talk about X. Oh, you all agree with me, well can we fight about whether it is feminist or not" approach.

AbigailAdams Sun 17-Feb-13 19:26:13

I have three problems with feminism = gender equality.

1. Gender is a social construct and I want to get rid of it in its entirety. So if we are talking equality then I would prefer the term sexual equality.
2. Before we can have equality we need to have freedom from oppression. I don't think the two phrases are interchangeable because out of one will arise the other.
3. When talking about equality the assumptions are that women gain equality with men, as they have all the power. I have a problem with that. It assumes yet again that male is the default and women should aspire to being like men. So who are we wanting to be equal with? The violent men who oppress us? The powerful, ruthless men who oppress us? "A commitment to sexual equality with men is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered." Andrea Dworkin

Like MitchyInge I prefer the term Women's Liberation. It explains better what we are trying to achieve. It also leaves scope to fashion a world that is more suited to women than the current world rather than us having to fit into the world men created.

seeker Sun 17-Feb-13 19:29:05

I am old enough to remember women's liberation. The words were hijacked and became a term of derision. It was replaced by feminism- which is going the same way......

NotDavidTennant Sun 17-Feb-13 19:39:23

"Whem I was first persuaded to unhide the FWR boards and take a look around, I was of the opinion that I wasn't a feminist because I believe that everyone should be equal. I was told that actually that is a basic tenet of feminism.

Now I see on the male circumcision thread numerous posters saying that feminism is nothing to do with gender equality, that they are different things.

Which is it please?"

Maybe a useful analogy would be between the terms "racial equality" and "black activist". Someone who would self-describe as a black activist is not just making a statement about supporting a general principle of racial equality but is describing themselves as someone who is active in trying to help black people specifically as a group to overcome racial inequality.

Many feminsts see feminism in a similar light - not just as about supporting gender equality in a general sense - but as being about actively trying to help women specifically as a group to overcome sexual inequality.

Hence why male circumsion is not identified as a feminist issue, because it has virtually no consequence for whether women acheive equality with men.

ashesgirl Sun 17-Feb-13 19:43:59

Joyful, slightly off-topic but I am really interested why you hid the FWR section. :-) Did it seem very off-putting? To hide something, I'm assume it bothered you quite a bit?

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