Help me learn about feminism!

(74 Posts)

I'm ashamed to say I'm pretty clueless about feminism. Part of this new emerging generation where few would consider themselves feminist, and even fewer would be vocal about it. I'm not sure where I stand - obviously I'm aware that there are still gaping holes in women's rights, and that sexism can come from all angles - I've experienced it from other women as well as from men - but I've never gone so far as to do things like write 'womyn', nor do I subscribe to the 'all men are potential rapists' (only because IMO by that notion, all humans are potential thieves, all humans are potential murderers - it isn't something that really needs to be said).

Apart from that (and even then, I may have gotten it all wrong), I don't really know much about feminism, but I really want to learn. I've got a baby DD and I want to raise her to not feel like she has to conform to a stereotype based on the fact that she is female. But there are some things where I don't know if I'm causing more harm than good - she wears a lot of pink, but that's just because I like pink. She also has plenty of clothes in all colours. Does that make it ok to dress her in pink, or should I stop dressing her like that because it's encouraging shops to only stock pink for girls, blue for boys? I do hate the fact that if I dress her in blue or any colour other than pink, people mistake her for a boy - I'm not annoyed that people mistake her for a boy, more that people insist that I should be dressing her in pink all the time.

So I was hoping people could maybe answer my questions about feminism. If any of these are using the wrong terminology, or seem offensive, I wholeheartedly apologise - as I say, I'm pretty clueless really. These are all out of curiosity and a desire to know more.

1) Do most/any feminists hate men, just for the simple fact of being born male?
2) I've done a bit of reading around about the issues with feminism and transactivism, but a lot of it is going over my head. Does anyone have a layman's terms explanation?
3) What is the definition of male privilege? Does female privilege exist? Does every man have male privilege, and does this make him a bad person?
4) In an ideal world, what would men do with regards to feminism? Do most feminists want them to campaign for female rights alongside them? Or is this seen as condescending/male privilege again?
5) Is the anger towards men who exist by the gender stereotypes, or towards a society that has created the gender stereotypes? Who can solve this?

Thanks, I'm sorry there's so many questions, it's just something that really interests me. My parents always just had a catch-all policy of treating others as I'd want to be treated (but giving as good as I get if someone mistreats me), but I want to know more about feminism and what it is, and how I can raise my daughter to still treat people as she'd want to be treated, but to not feel bound by gender stereotypes.

Squidstirfry Wed 09-Jul-14 14:43:45

Your best starting place would be literature. If you are concerned about raising a daughter with today's gender stereotypes I found "Living Dolls" by Natasha Walter useful.

I am not one of the experts (far from it) on here, but your questions seem to come from a starting assumption that feminists are all angry and that they hate men, not sure if that was intentional...

As a student, it's come from someone who is around that kind of attitude every day - not my own personal assumption, but a lot of people around me hold that belief.

almondcakes Wed 09-Jul-14 15:13:03

Moomin, some quick answers:

1. No. Feminists have fathers, brothers, sons and often male partners just like everyone else.
2. I don't know. I haven't seen one.
3. I think the notion of any individual having any kind of group 'privilege' is an unhelpful one to understanding what is happening.
4. In an ideal world we wouldn't need feminism. In this world, both men and women should be feminists.
5. I think the anger is about the number of women who are in poverty, the number of girls who are not educated, FGM and other violence against girls, violence against women, lack of women in decision making roles and so on. Gender stereotypes are part of what creates that situation, but they are generally not what feminists are really angry about.

On pink... there is a fine line between avoiding gender stereotyping a girl and devaluing everything associated with girls. Completely avoiding pink etc because it is a girl thing can end up coming across as boys things or gender neutral things are somehow innately better because they are not about girls.

Scarletohello Wed 09-Jul-14 15:24:24

Here is an informative article about male privilege.

That's really helped, thanks. Going to read that article now smile I understand the anger a lot better now

ReallyFuckingFedUp Wed 09-Jul-14 15:50:08

Cinderella ate my daughter is quite good for understanding how "pinkification" affects girls.

There is nothing wrong with pink obviously it is just a color but when it becomes the only colour acceptable for girls to use or wear then it is an issue. Because science kits and some of the best toys don't get made in pink. And then girls feel they can't have those things because they aren't pink.

You know how some places of employment wil actively seek out women and minorities to try and even out their numbers and improve diversity in their work place?

Male privilege is kind of like that but it worls for EVERYTHING. If you have a masculine name you are more likely to get a job and interview/ to be paid more. TO be assumed to be more competent. Less likely to be sexually assaulted.

It doesn't make you a bad person. Just makes your like easier.

1) No. I've a ds, a dh and a father who I love and some male friends and colleagues who I like and respect. I do get frustrated with how oblivious even men I like can be, and I get angry with what is obviously misogynistic behaviour (yelling abuse from vans, sexual harassment, sexual violence, rape and DV jokes etc).
2) It's the radical notion that women are people too.
3) Try this for an explanation of how privilege works
4) In an ideal world, men would listen to women and believe what we say. Open their eyes to our world and start to fight with us for a better one. What they should not do is say "but I've never seen that, so you must be mistaken" or "if feminists could just be a bit nicer, then everyone would listen to you"
5) We are all a product of the culture we grew up in. People internalise attitudes and beliefs about others, and this isn't their fault. But I think people could try harder to listen to other points of view, rather than just being defensive and seeing things as a personal attack on their behaviour. So, to answer your question, sort of blame society and sort of individuals, but also understand that often people are not being deliberately sexist, if that makes sense?

That's great Buffy, thank you smile

Reading this, it seems like it's just obviously the right and sensible way to be. It doesn't make sense that people are against it confused

ReallyFuckingFedUp Wed 09-Jul-14 18:56:55

It absolutely makes sense for men to be against it. Their lives are easier for it (privilege).

even for some women who have built their lives around making men happy it pays to keep the status quo

illcounttothree Wed 09-Jul-14 20:40:47

Moomin - I found Caitlin Moran's book, How To Be A Woman, really useful. She talks about lots of aspects of feminism in laymans terms and is very amusing. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates is also worth a look. Although I've always believed in equality for all regardless of gender, race, sexuality etc, I only started properly thinking about my feminist beliefs a few years ago and these books really helped me.

CrotchMaven Wed 09-Jul-14 20:47:21

Moomin, you can't go far wrong with reading through some of the long threads on the 138 pages that make up this section, tbh. Many of the major themes have been explored in some depth and will give helpful links etc.

Apologies if that sounds dismissive. By all means pick up thoughts and run with them on a new thread. I just feel sad sometimes that some really brilliant contributions of the past get overlooked for the new.

<mourns the lack of dittany, among others>

1) Do most/any feminists hate men, just for the simple fact of being born male?
2) I've done a bit of reading around about the issues with feminism and transactivism, but a lot of it is going over my head. Does anyone have a layman's terms explanation?
3) What is the definition of male privilege? Does female privilege exist? Does every man have male privilege, and does this make him a bad person?
4) In an ideal world, what would men do with regards to feminism? Do most feminists want them to campaign for female rights alongside them? Or is this seen as condescending/male privilege again?
5) Is the anger towards men who exist by the gender stereotypes, or towards a society that has created the gender stereotypes? Who can solve this?

1) no. I'd write more but I'd sound patronising.
2) nope. I don't read much. 2 under 2. If I could it would be something fun. That sounds like homework.
3) blimey. Start simply! Yes they all do in every colour. Doesn't make me hate em. Does make me want to join em. Do women..? Yes but in a patriarchal fashion eg Marilyn Monroe/dumb blonde typo IMO
4) sensible men are brought up sensible. Dh is one. In many subjects but some areas allude him. Education is always key. For me as well as him.
5) society. Experience and time WILL alter. I know this because it's very different now to my nans time. She was born 1901. My mum 1960. Me 1976. Etc

Reread not 1960. 1945. Soz ma....!

Sorry, I misread your question on point 2. I will try again.

Buffy's Basic Guide to the Problems with Feminism and Transactivism

1) Feminists don't hate transpeople. They see that they experience discrimination, they sympathise and don't want to make it any harder for them.
2) Most transpeople just want to live their lives quietly, find happiness, a partner, a job they enjoy. Just like everyone else.
3) Some very vocal transactivists and their allies want transwomen to be accepted completely as women, with all that comes with it. Which doesn't sound too terrible, until you find out that...
4) These vocal activists have some worrying beliefs about what biologically female women should do: lesbians should have no issue with having sex with a transwoman with male genitalia is one extreme example. If they have an issue, they are called bigots and sometimes threatened.
5) Another problem is that feminists see gender as a two tier system designed to keep women in their place as inferior to men. Whereas to transactivists, gender is their real identity. Feminists want gender (the oppressive system) gone; transactivists want gender (their own personal identity) to stay as it is
6) Many transactivists want to call women who were born female 'cis women'. To many people, 'cis' simply means 'not trans'. But other women do not want their identity as women to be defined by others (which seems fair, as the whole transactivist movement seems to be about people being allowed to define their identity. Well, everyone except women born female, of course).

That is the nutshell explanation. Or the bits of it I can remember at the moment.

Y'know I'm wondering. How come you sound like you've done some reading but no experience? Those, like me, come here saying "stuff happened, help me understand". You're throwing half known stuff around you could google.

Tell us about you....

Thanks Buffy, I've read all the threads about it recently and I was really confused because I couldn't find an explanation of it.

Minnie What do you want to know about me? My experiences with sexism? Prior to this relationship I was in an abusive relationship with a boy who thought he owned me. He'd compare me to other girls and tell me 'If only you were a proper girl like them, I'd find you attractive'. He'd grope me at any given opportunity and humiliate me in front of others, but I felt unable to leave him because he was physically abusive too. He defined me by the fact that I am female, and made me feel worthless for the pure reason of the sex I was born with.

I've also experienced negative reactions to saying I'd be happy to be a SAHM if money allowed - but that's only in the same way my OH would happily be a SAHD. These were people on The Student Room, who told me I was a disgrace to the feminist cause and should have to go out and work in the office. That was what got me wondering whether this is a widely held belief among feminists (and then, extending into wondering what exactly feminist beliefs are), or whether I just encountered extremists/trolls. And whether I'd be letting my DD down if I were to be a SAHM.

My reason for starting the thread was that, as well as wanting to raise my DD to define herself by her own personality and identity, rather than any ideas about how she should be because she's a girl, I've read some of the threads in here (I think I've even contributed, albeit clumsily, a few times), sometimes the terminology goes over my head - MRA, TERF, things like that, as well as looking for a definition of male privilege etc that I can understand easily.

I will read more of the threads though. Thank you. I hope my thread hasn't come across in the wrong way - I never identified as a feminist before, I always insisted I wanted equality, and it took time for me to realise that feminists don't want female supremacy but that they want equality, so I am a feminist (I think!)

As far as I've seen, The Student Room is populated by very immature people with pretty sexist views.

I was a SAHM for a long time and I am a feminist. Just look at my name!

Feminist concern with women automatically falling into the SAHM is that 1) it can leave them very vulnerable to an abusive or even just entitled partner, and 2) it reinforces that women are unreliable workers who will have kids and leave. Which does make things a bit harder for other women. But any feminist worth her salt doesn't blame the individual woman for this, because we all know that women have to do the best they can in an imperfect world.

Thanks Buffy. Your username is very true grin smile


PetulaGordino Wed 09-Jul-14 22:06:40

the majority of feminists have no problem with the concept of a sahp in principle, provided of course that the role of the sahp is properly respected - after all, it can be seen as an important example to children of unpaid work that is of high worth and should not be taken for granted

the problem is the wider world where it is heavily gendered and comes with assumptions and consequences that are damaging to women as buffy describes

BertieBotts Wed 09-Jul-14 22:10:40

Marking place to come back to smile

BertieBotts Wed 09-Jul-14 22:15:39

Just one quick thought because I was supposed to go to bed half an hour ago - I was a student until 2 years ago and things were quite scary on my university course/campus in general in terms of sexism and/or views of feminism. And I was a mature (ha, ha) student, and the department I studied was pretty right on and the lecturers used to sneak secret feminism into their lectures (love this) so I dread to think what it's like being with a load of undergrads who've come straight from school, especially with what The Student Room and Reddit are like now. I left school ten years ago and at the time went around saying "I don't want to be a feminist, I want to be an equalist" - cringing now but I just had no idea.

You can do a lot, lot, lot, lot worse than hanging around here! smile

Directed at longer term posters - whatever happened to the "please don't feel silly asking your small questions thread"? Did it evolve into the feminist pub thread?

Know nothing. Hence question . No offense meant. Just curiosity . As I said many queries start x happened I feel y yours didn't . Hence curiosity. Thank you , helps able answer as my experiences coincide at points. I'm experience based not reading. Frustration based mebbe better description.

PetulaGordino Wed 09-Jul-14 22:36:37

i was the same bertie re equalism blush

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