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Is my understanding of feminism wrong??

(113 Posts)
SilverHoney Thu 02-Jul-15 12:36:04

I find the statement "I'm not a feminist" very confusing...

My understanding of feminism is social equality for men and women (wages, laws, education, opportunities). So for someone to say they are not a feminist would mean they DON'T think men and women should be equal?

Am I confused? To me, openly admitting you're not a feminist is like admitting you're homophobic or racist. Would be interesting to hear from people with differing points of view! smile

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Thu 02-Jul-15 13:57:25

I think it is mostly a problem of definition. Feminism has come to be seen, for whatever reason, as involving man-hating lesbians pushing for women's rights over men's. I have to admit when I was younger I fell for that definition and called myself an 'equalist' in preference.

Then there are the odd ideas that people get: that sahms can't be feminist and looking after your own children is an anti-feminist act for instance. I have a friend who blames feminism for the house price rises since 2000, as she blames it all on having double incomes: I've tried pointing out that feminism and double incomes were around long before the house prices rise, to no avail.

Then you get people who think 'what about the poor men', and think that any focus on violence against women is wrong because men suffer violence too, for instance. They tend to not see that men perpetrate most of that violence against both, it's just not an important fact.

I'm certain all that is linked in some way but I'm not feeling intelligent enough to explore how right now!

Sootgremlin Thu 02-Jul-15 13:58:08

Well I agree, but I think where people don't identify as such is not where they feel there shouldn't be equality, but more that it has already been achieved to their satisfaction and don't feel strongly enough that women are discriminated against or that the issues debated by feminists affect them.

That is my perception. I also think that sexism is also still more acceptable than homophobia or racism, so these issues are so deep-rooted and insidious it's hard to see them clearly if you've not thought about things that way or been 'primed' for them. If women do take a stand against sexism or sexist language they are still hit with the age old accusations of hysteria, inability to take a joke, making a fuss over etc

I didn't used to identify as a feminist myself as a teenager. I was influenced by my (I later realised) quite sexist father and had a mother who was not conscious of these things and so rarely engaged with it at all, even though sexism negatively impacted on her life.

It was a gradual process that started when I left home, read a lot, experienced a lot of sexism and finally understood it as such, that led me to realise what identifying as a feminist actually meant and that it was in fact the only option. I cringe when I remember what views I held about my own sex, but now I understand what shaped them I realise how difficult it can be, and it is for precisely that reason that feminism is needed.

messyisthenewtidy Thu 02-Jul-15 15:32:47

Silverhoney I think this is a good article that explains the thought process of some who reject feminism because they don't understand its meaning.

I do think that the reason it has been defined so negatively is because the backlash against 70s feminism was so successful in painting it as something it wasn't.

Yes those women were angry and I imagine a lot of them hated men but when you think about what they had to put up with then only a saint would stay all cool and calm. Feminism may have made some over the top fuck ups in its time (eg some of Greer's more outlandish statements) but it's the willingness of its enemies to take those fuck ups, ignore all the reasonableness and use them to discredit a movement whose core values only an arsehole would disagree with, that is really telling.

SilverHoney Thu 02-Jul-15 15:34:15

Soot, my parent set up sounds identical!

I suppose that some men ridicule feminism for the same reasons some white people protest immigration / racial diversity (UKIP etc).

But why are women less willing to challenge sexist acts compared to the gay community and homophobic issues?? Can they really believe that we've "made it"?

messyisthenewtidy Thu 02-Jul-15 15:48:08

Yes I think they can because in many ways we have "made it" (although sometimes this is only on the surface) and in the places where we haven't we are well versed in the justification for why we haven't.

I also think there is a strong thread of conservative individualism running through our society (a legacy of Thatcher perhaps) that sees life as a string of individual choices rather than choices that have been shaped by society.

Any collectivist analysis is greeted with eye rolling and derision.

littleboltonn Thu 02-Jul-15 16:19:42

It's also a label thing. Some people don't like labels. E.g the defination of cis-gender is that you identify with the gender given at birth, however many here hate that label and reject being called it, in the same way many identify with equality reject the feminism label

BreakingDad77 Thu 02-Jul-15 16:25:05

That is my perception. I also think that sexism is also still more acceptable than homophobia or racism, so these issues are so deep-rooted and insidious it's hard to see them clearly if you've not thought about things that way or been 'primed' for them

I'd agree wrt to my young son when FIL says "dont be a girl/jessie" no matter where it was said it wouldn't raise an eyebrow, but if you said 'dont be a gay/fairy' it wouldn't turn heads.

There seems to be a lot of Menz backdated interpretations of feminism which get bandied about our largely patriachal society and young women seem to take it as gospel.

BreakingDad77 Thu 02-Jul-15 16:25:34

It would turn heads - sorry typo

Nolim Thu 02-Jul-15 16:31:18

My understanding of feminism is social equality for men and women (wages, laws, education, opportunities).
I understand this to be common sense!

Sootgremlin Thu 02-Jul-15 16:53:52

Yes breakingdad. I have a girl and a boy and am equally concerned about the impact of sexist attitudes and language on both of them. I have noticed it so much since having one of each the ways they are treated differently. There is a whole narrative of girls having to be soft and pretty and incapable and boys being tough and adventurous that it is a job to try and balance it.

My ds stopped going on the zip wire for ages because gps pushed him too fast and then made a thing about him being tough and a boy and getting on with it not be scared like a girl. I want him to have physical confidence, but know it is ok to know his limits. I don't want his sister feeling there is something inherently inferior about her abilities before she's even had a chance to put them to the test (sorry for digression)

I suppose I realised too when reading through my ds's primary school handbook, the prohibition of racist and homophobic language is enshrined in school policy; sexism is not mentioned. I was actively discouraged from taking certain subjects at school, meaning I had to take a subject I was less good at, and was effectively excluded from important discussions by the boys club that existed in others. So it matters.

silverhoney I find it extremely difficult as an adult. I used to have such a good relationship with my dad, and he was very encouraging of me in many ways, but it is hard to come to terms with the stuff that is now glaringly obvious that I just absorbed at the time!

almondcakes Thu 02-Jul-15 17:06:23

LB, that isn't what cis gender means.

Here is the dictionary definition:

BreakingDad77 Thu 02-Jul-15 17:06:24


So from very early on girls are being expected to retard their physicality and boys the opposite. Which no doubt leads to the bullying that kids then enforce among their peers when it comes to sport. Any girl showing any liking for sport is some kind of proto lesbian//tom boy and boys labeled as gay/effeminate. Effeminate in some ways is a slur in itself.

littleboltonn Thu 02-Jul-15 17:27:08

Ah sorry, got that wrong then but still stands, it's not a label people like but by defination you are that label

almondcakes Thu 02-Jul-15 17:28:47

No, I'm not actually. A lot of other posters on here aren't either.

littleboltonn Thu 02-Jul-15 17:39:10

Yes that's what I mean, just like you can be for equality but reject the feminism label. You can also reject the cis gender label

almondcakes Thu 02-Jul-15 17:45:07

I am not, by definition, cisgender.

Some people are not, by definition, feminists.

Is that what you mean?

littleboltonn Thu 02-Jul-15 17:51:28

Sorry but if your sex is female and you was assigned woman at birth. Dosent that make you cis gender?

almondcakes Thu 02-Jul-15 18:07:44

I wasn't assigned a woman at birth! A woman is an adult human female.

InnocentWhenYouDream Thu 02-Jul-15 18:56:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SilverHoney Thu 02-Jul-15 19:31:44

I have been surprised myself how easily I coo about my DD being beautiful and pretty, and have to make a conscious effort to try and balance the way I talk to / about her. The sexist language use is so ingrained it's hard to break!
Haven't really heard of the term cis-gender before, will have to read up.

LassUnparalleled Thu 02-Jul-15 20:24:24

Why shouldn't you refer to your daughter as being beautiful?

I don't call myself a feminist. I believe men and women should be equal and have equal opportunities. I am pro-choice. I think the sex industry is evil and degrades and dehumanises men and women. The Green position on legalising prostitution is ridiculous. Stripping is not empowerment nor a valid career choice.

I think the use of words like slut etc and the horrible one being discussed on the other thread are unacceptable. I would never call any woman (or man for that matter) such names. (I've always been puzzled why words relating to consensual sexual behaviour and/or genitalia are used as insults ) However I feel no sense of "sisterhood " but apparently calling another woman "wank fodder" is for some , not unsisterly. How "feminists " square that intrigues me.

I don't call myself a feminist as I am not prepared to take on the baggage that comes with it. For example there is a comment on another thread about not all men being rapists but all women are victims of misogyny; I don't want to be constantly on the look out for something to be offended by (hey one of my male partners referred to me and one of my female partners as "ladies" today. I was not offended. It was in the context of chasing us to do a boring but essential administration task. It did not offend me. Had he called us "guys" however. ...); or agonising that my preference for things which are pretty and feminine is because I've been brainwashed by patriarchal conditioning. You know what,even if it is I don't care.

I suppose primarily because I see feminism as very negative, collectively viewing life as a woman as universally crap. Not encouraging individual thought and/or denying the capacity of women to make individual free choices because it's all dictated by the patriarchy.

Sootgremlin Thu 02-Jul-15 20:56:15

I do call my daughter beautiful, but we have always called my son beautiful boy too! I think it's remembering to balance it with praise for other things too, and not treating them as 'pretty' - for eg my dd wears whatever clothes are comfortable and appropriate to what she is doing, I don't put her in dresses as they trip her up (toddler) She wears lots of colours, and a range of images, animals and vehicles as well as the houses and teacups that are always on girls' clothing. She is allowed to get dirty whatever she is wearing. I encourage her to be physical and praise her for being strong, brave etc as well as for looking sweet.

My parents only really praise her looks, her 'tidiness', her mannerisms that "make her a girl" and kind of ignore anything that doesn't fit confused

SilverHoney Thu 02-Jul-15 21:26:58

Of course I should call her beautiful, but in balance with clever / kind / strong.

LassUnparalleled Thu 02-Jul-15 21:30:52

Out of those praising words only being kind is the one which every child is capable of. If you object to beautiful I'm not sure strong or clever are any better.

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