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The OTHER F Word | Manolo for the Big Girl

The OTHER F Word

Feminism.

We’ve all been told that fat is a feminist issue, but how many of us consider ourselves feminists? What do we think of when we hear the word feminist?

I think a lot of us –particularly women under 40– struggle with feminism because in so many ways, we don’t have a lot of obvious battles left. My great grandmother fought for the vote, our grandmothers fought to get jobs, our mothers (well, not my mother, but some people’s mothers) fought for Title IX. We don’t really have anything big like that.

Of course I have to admit my bias. I’m a comparatively wealthy, straight white woman in a world that rewards the wealthy, straight and white and I am treated well nearly everywhere I go. Even in an Old Boys Club like the newspaper industry, I’ve always asked for more money when I’ve asked for it (and I truly believe the current pay discrepancy between the genders is mostly a result of women not asking for more money.)

What I’d really like is to hear from as many different aspects and experiences of life under the influence of feminism.

44 Responses to “The OTHER F Word”

  1. Jezebella May 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    Well, if us privileged hetero white girls look past our front doors, we’ll find a lot of rather large, rather obvious battles that need fighting. A feminist doesn’t say “I got mine, the hell with the rest of y’all.” Sisterhood is global, and as long as women are chattel anywhere on the planet, feminists have work to do. As far as reproductive rights go, there are people actively working day and night to take those away – the right to abortion and contraception is not even close to won for most of the women in the US, much less in the world.

    The pay gap has more to do with what work is valued (traditionally men’s work) vs. what is not (traditionally women’s work – nursing, teaching, non-profit) and the pay cuts women have to take in order to balance parenthood/paid work, than with whether women ask for raises. A lot of women are in jobs where asking doesn’t do any good, particularly the working poor, which are disproportionately women.

    I could go on, but I think you get the idea: the “obvious” battles might be won for you and me (white, hetero, cis, USian, middle-class, educated, able-bodied) but it’s not close to won for much of anybody else.

  2. Plumcake May 13, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    @Jezebella, Who are you calling middle class? But I get your point. I spend a lot of my time and money for social justice, because that’s what’s important to me –particularly gay rights domestically and women’s rights abroad. I feel like I don’t really need anyone helping me out, but I AM in the position to do right by others.

  3. Jezebella May 13, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Touche, my dear. ;)

  4. Mifty May 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    I am considerably older than our hostess, and was in grade school during the “women’s lib” days of the early ’70s.

    Feminism was so much in the air in those days that it made an impression. But my parents — without being self-consciously “enlightened” at all — were raising my sister and brother and me with no real gender-related expectations, and it never occurred to me or my sister that there was anything we couldn’t or shouldn’t do because we were girls (or to my brother that there was anything boys couldn’t do, for that matter). It strikes me now that this was a fairly remarkable attitude in the mid-’60s.

    The whole notion that there were things women were blocked from for no logical reason, but only because they were women, was pretty startling, when I was old enough to have a clue. So in that regard, I give that generation of feminists considerable credit — they forced the issue on matters that were long overdue for change.

    But in more recent years I have gotten the impression that many vocal feminists have as little regard for women as individuals as anyone could have had in generations before. Indeed, if I am going to be accused of letting down the side if I don’t fit into Box B as opposed to Box A, it’s hard to call that progress. That women are not all of a piece, and are at least as varied in needs, capacity, temperament, interests, and intentions as men, seems to be the most radical idea of all.

    Additionally, the casual contempt and condescension many purported feminists show for the work done by women in previous generations tries my patience considerably. I have heard variations on “Back then, women were just nurses, teachers, and secretaries,” delivered in pitying tones or with a sneer, many a time, and when I was a secretary, I was insulted to my face about my job by more than one allegedly enlightened female (and never by a man).

  5. jojo.k May 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    I agree with Jezebella, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
    I agree that a lot of the obvious targets, suffrage, access to education, access to jobs as been addressed legislatively in the US. Possibly in most of the English speaking world.
    But those issues haven’t been addressed everywhere. And definitely not in the beliefs and attitudes of the citizens of all those countries.
    A major sticking point for me is reproductive rights/freedom. For me it comes down to a question of whether I have the right to control and make decisions about my body, or does someone else get to tell me what to do. And I don’t like the idea of someone else getting to tell me what to do with my body.

  6. Frances May 13, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    I grew up in a society that still practises a mild kind of apartheid. 60+% of the population is given special rights, all foreign companies must have at least 30% local “native” owners as stock-holders, you’re required to give the majority race preference, the majority race MUST receive 60% of federal scholarships and university placements, but in practise it’s closer to 80%.

    Add to this climate laws that require the father to be present at the birth or no birth certificate, and with no birth certificate, your kid can’t go to school. You can only get a passport for your child if you have his father’s permission. A dual-court system that allows a couple to get married in a civil court, and if the father converts to the religion of the other court, the children are automatically converted and taken away from their mother, with no visiting rights. Ministers who say things like “Women who are raped, if they find themselves incapable of fighting, should just lie back and enjoy it”.

    We’ve still got plenty of work to do, and thank god for the trail-blazers and precedent-setters that came before us.

  7. Jen May 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    No obvious battles left? Are you serious? Here’s a just a few for you-

    US Enclaves in Utah, Arizona, Texas, and along the Mexican and Canadian borders where girls are denied education past the 8th grade (if that), married off while underage, expected to produce child after child, and can be reassigned to another husband at the whim of the religious patriarch. Not to mention the teenage boys who are thrown out to survive on their own, to lower the competition for the old men. What sane society tolerates this? Because this is what we believe is no excuse.
    US Companies that require you to sign arbitration agreements – with the sole intention of preventing you from from holding them accountable for illegal actions by the company or its other employees. Jamie Leigh Jones’ gang rape and KBR’s forcible confinement, anyone?
    Still no pay parity in the US for most women holding the same job description and having the same qualifications as a man. If you have pay parity then goody for you – I have worked construction for 30 years and until now had never made the same wage as my coworkers, and believe me, I fought for it.

    The list is endless – it is the death by a thousand cuts.

  8. Anonymous May 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Equality – and feminism – isn’t about getting what you want out of life and letting others suffer. There’s a lot of work to be done for the millions of people across the world who weren’t lucky enough to be born the way you were.

  9. Christine May 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    Excuse me, along the CANADIAN border. I would appreciate some data on this remark.

  10. Lisa May 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    What you all said.

    I am a feminist. I don’t care who knows it. And I don’t apologize for it or caveat it.

  11. Meg May 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    I think anyone who believes that women deserve to do whateverthehell they choose to do – be it work, not work, or work in a field traditionally inhabited by men OR women – is a feminist.

    I think the question here is whether or not we are ACTIVISTS.

  12. wildflower May 13, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Here is something interesting to note: If you type a generic woman’s name into google image search–Lisa, Linda, Jane–a good portion of the hits on the first page will be photos of women in various stages of undress (some of them in photos that I personally find downright shameful). If you do the same thing to men’s names–Bill, Frank, Joe–you get mostly headshots, mostly of men in business suits. I don’t think we can ask for the world to treat women with respect and dignity when so many women don’t present themselves to the world with respect and dignity.

    We can’t very well march forward in a like-minded sisterhood to claim our human rights and a workforce free of sexism, when there are so many women out there who have no interest in joining us.

  13. harri p. May 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    Wildflower, I was told to leave jezebel.com a few years ago when I dared to suggest that names such as “Slut Machine” and “College Call Girl” weren’t feminist nor empowering. These were the editors and writers there. Revolting.

    Feminist, always has been one, always will be, married to a feminist man, raising my daughter and my son to be feminists.

  14. Plumcake May 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    @wildflower: Just don’t try that with Dick.

  15. wildflower May 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks, Plumcake! :~D

  16. BrooklynShoeBabe May 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Hi! African-American, middle-class, straight, woman here.

    I am a feminist for as long as I’ve remember even before I knew what the definition of feminism meant. I generally believe that feminism is for women in every society on this planet to have a social, economic, academic and political stature equal to that of men. I believe in equal pay for both genders, reproductive freedom for women, lesbian (and gay) rights, and an end to the mentality that women are property or lesser than men because they are women.

    I believe that being a feminist means accepting any other woman’s choice to take a “traditional” female role such being a nurse, a housewife, or a librarian. (I’m a librarian.) I also believe that feminism is continuing to destroy out-moded ideas about women’s sexuality and other gender stereotypes, and controlling our own sexuality.

    I believe we have gotten pretty far in the United States in the past 50 years–really a HUGE societal change in a short period of time, but we are far from done as long as women across the world are being oppressed.

    With all that said, I’ve been a victim (if one can use that word) of racism and classism before I’ve been a victim of sexism. College let me know that right away. There’s also been discussion “out there” that the feminist movement in the United States has agenda that doesn’t inlcude the problems of race. I generally believe that is true, but I don’t think it is done malaciously and that we’re slowly moving past race as an issue but class.

  17. Mifty May 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    We can’t very well march forward in a like-minded sisterhood to claim our human rights and a workforce free of sexism, when there are so many women out there who have no interest in joining us.

    And this, I might note (without intending a flame at all) is something of what I meant in my too-long-winded post above. If marching in lockstep with a “like-minded sisterhood” with certain received opinions is part of being a feminist, well, then I have to say nuts to that.

    Which is not to say that I think men and women cannot come independently to the conclusion that the strictest or most radical feminist ideology is correct and responsible ; I am not accusing anyone of not thinking for him- or herself here. But I think for myself too, and I feel no obligation, on the basis of being female, to be like-minded if I am not so inclined.

    If that damages all Womankind — which I don’t buy — then I guess that’s how it has to be.

  18. wildflower May 13, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Meg, I disagree with you there. I consider myself a feminist, but I don’t believe women–or anyone–have the right not to work if they see fit. If they have a partner who is willing to support their not working, fine. Or if it’s a partnership in which one parent has primary responsibilities for the children while the other is the primary breadwinner, fine. But I have no patience for people of either gender who don’t plan their lives to take care of themselves, and then whinge to their families for handouts. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do things we don’t enjoy doing. That’s not anti-feminist; that’s just a practical life. :)

  19. Jana May 13, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    There’s still plenty of work to be done. Anti-choice advocates have been successfully chipping away at the legal underpinnings of reproductive rights for years and individual states continue to push for onerous restrictions (though I have hope for the OK supreme court). Women with children are still less likely to be hired than male applicants and if hired are paid lower salaries. Male applicants with children are more likely to be offered higher pay than women with children and anyone without children. The pornification of women that wildflower mentioned above (cue clash with pro-porn feminists). Lack of parental leave–which disproportionately affects women. Poor and working class women have also not benefited nearly so much from the advances enjoyed by more affluent women; broader social justice issues are feminist issues. ‘

    And of course the treatment of women in developing countries is a huge moral, social, and economic issue. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a particularly good book on that topic.

  20. rumble May 13, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    I’m not very coherent today but here’s my best shot:

    I consider myself a feminist, but it annoys me when people use feminism as a catch-all liberal term. They say they are feminists when they mean to say they are progressive or otherwise committed to equality. They insist that feminism implies an opposition to racism, ableism, ageism, etc etc. I think that’s ridiculous. A woman who devotes herself to equality between men and women can still very much be a racist, for example. I get very bored when I hear women say that feminism means this and this and this about some peripheral issue. There are many different kinds of feminism out there and to say that only “real” feminists support transrights (to use another example) is obnoxious.

    Feminism is just one facet of my progressive identity. It is not all-encompassing. And yes, it does intersect with other movements, but that doesn’t mean it owns those movements in toto.

  21. Melissa May 13, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    I’m not entirely sure I believe in the whole “sisterhood” thing. I don’t want to live my own feminist life as a whole us (women) against them (men). I don’t believe that most men have an agenda to keep the woman down. Each glass ceiling we shatter, each pay scale hurdle we cross, each issue of equality we fight against we do as individuals. When I tell my boss I have earned a raise I don’t think in the back of my mind that there’s a million sisters chanting with grasped arms swaing and wishing me well.

    Now, all that being said, when I see something wrong, someone being made a victim… I always – for good or for bad – open my mouth. NO! is one of my favorite words.

  22. Sid May 13, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    No obvious battles left? When women and men are still qualifying the very term “feminism”?

    “I’m a feminist but not one of THOSE feminists.” Or worse and more common “I’m not REALLY a feminist, but [point of feminist order].” OR GOD, “I’m not a feminist because I think men and women are different and need different things.”

    Men and women are different, but they’re both HUMAN. OH AND trans-people and non-cis people are human, too. Sadly, this is still news to many people.

    To me, the obvious battle is to make humanity more important than gender.

  23. Ripley May 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Christine, I believe the previous poster was talking about the polygamous Mormon fundamentalists in those areas, specifically Bountiful, Canada.

    An interesting book for you all to consider reading is Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They posit the theory that in the 21st Century, oppression of women will be the major human rights issue.

    It’s a very interesting book, and they acknowledge that there are no easy answers. They do raise the issue that in most Western countries, when women think of rights for women, issues such as pay parity and sexually harassing bosses is the issue. In Africa, SE Asia, and other parts of the world, women are dealing with issues such as being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, having poor health because their parents wait to get them medical care (boys almost always get immediate attention), or having to deal with the medical effects of poor maternal care.

  24. Jen May 13, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    Christine, did I misspell Canadian?

    From religionnewsblogdotcom/23268/flds-bountiful-polygamy:
    Winston Blackmore, 52, and James Oler, 44, who now head factions of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Canada, face prison terms if convicted of violating that country’s polygamy laws. They are scheduled to enter not-guilty pleas this week in Creston. Their trials likely are months away.

    Their polygamist sect has been living in the southeast corner of British Columbia for almost 60 years without legal challenge by Canadian authorities. Two FLDS schools, with some students from Boundary County, get almost $1 million a year from the Canadian government.

    The move into North Idaho by FLDS members began in 2003 after a leadership split in the Canadian community…
    Meanwhile, federal law enforcement agents are watchful for “human trafficking” cases involving teenage girls in the group, transferred from FLDS communities in Canada to those in the United States. But so far, there have been no federal prosecutions in the United States.

    From religioustolerancedotorg/lds_poly1b:

    A new RCMP team was organized to investigate allegations of child abuse at Bountiful. Attorney-General Geoff Plant said in an interview on 2004-JUL-23:

    “The groundswell of public concern has reached a point where government and the police, in my view, have an obligation to act. It’s a priority to investigate the many allegations being made….What truly offends the majority of people who hear about these allegations goes beyond the question of multiple marriages. It includes suggestions there are children who are being sexually exploited, girls being transported across the border, and so on.”

  25. Rebekka May 14, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    At the risk of going up in flames… I don’t actually consider myself a feminist. Obviously I enjoy many perks of the feminist movement – I have an education and a job, for example (though in a traditionally female-oriented field; I’m a nurse). But I also think that there have been less-than-attractive results to the feminist movement.

    Personally I would prefer to call myself egalitarian. I think that the human rights umbrella covers many injustices, including those that traditionally concern women. Everyone should have equal pay, everyone should have access to health care, everyone should be free from slavery and prostitution, etc – not just women or men.

  26. Frances May 14, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Spambots, fear the wrath of Plumcake! She. Will. Cut. You. (But gracefully, like a true Southern girl)

  27. gemdiva May 14, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    I’m a little older than the bulk of this readership and I was in college during the early bra burning days. I think where this discussion runs into trouble is on everyone’s individual definition of “Feminism”. Clearly it means different things to different people. My view has always been that the goal of Feminism should be to give women the right to make the life choices they desire (life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, etc.), to be respected for those choices, to have the opportunity to excel in whatever field they choose, and to be equally compensated for equal work. I have been put down by early feminists when I first became a mom and announced my desire to raise a family of at least 3 children and become a full time mother. People gaped at me and said in shock “you mean you don’t intend to work outside the home?!” As if raising a family wasn’t work and valuable work at that. As it turned out, I had one child and was a single parent, so Feminism became a way of life for me.

    We have come a very long way in the past 45 years. I can remember going on an interview for a mid-level exec. position way back when and the first thing they asked me to do was take a typing test. BTW, I refused. Thankfully this doesn’t happen anymore.That being said, I have encountered and still do encounter glass ceiling discrimination in the workplace. I have been on the receiving end of comments like “you sound like a raging feminist” always a guaranteed argument winner in the boardroom as far as the boy’s club is concerned. Perhaps the older generation of “execs” all need to die off before a new era of equality can completely take over.

    In some industries, I can still see the “old boy” network firmly in place, though, and that’s their loss. There is an enormous pool of sharp female talent out there and those employers who do not avail themselves of this talent will soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in today’s marketplace. Ladies, nothing speaks louder than the almighty dollar. My advice: be brilliant, never back down from what you think is right and, when you make it to the top, give your less fortunate sisters all the help and support you can.

  28. Lizb May 14, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    Feminism is not about putting women above men, it is the radical notion that women and men are equal (to jumble a famous quote or two).

    To paraphrase another writer, if you believe in the equality of the sexes than yes you are a feminist – call yourself whatever you wish of course, but do embrace the word feminist and don’t let those who disagee with the aims of feminism define it negatively for you. See Sars’ brilliant and simple piece (from which I borrowed) for more: tomatonation.com/culture-and-criticism/yes-you-are

  29. Astra May 14, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    [Apologies if this is a double-post.]

    I agree firmly with Plumcake that most if not all of the pay disparity between men and women in the same job is because women don’t get out there and ask for higher pay. Many women seem to think that politely sitting and waiting to be rewarded for their good work will cause it to happen, but that is not how the real world works, unfortunately. Unlike in school, you do not get the gold star without getting out there and demanding it.

    I think many people (including me) shy away from the feminist label because it has been coopted to cover all sorts of attitudes that seem highly unequal to me. It can also veer dangerously close to thought-policing. In my field (science) many of the blatant barriers to women’s progress have been removed, so the continued disparity between men and women is now associated with “unconscious discrimination.” Well, we should all be concerned with our unreflective biases, but this stance allows women to berate men for making them feel “uncomfortable” regardless of the man’s intentions as well as ignoring many gender-neutral unconscious discriminants that affect men as well as women.

  30. dcsurfergirl May 14, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    I do not call myself a feminist.

    You have all touched on many issues that need work, both here and abroad. There is still much work to do to overhaul this world.

    But the terms “feminism” and “feminist” always seems to apply when someone pops up to generate some controversy on a celebrity, pop song, book, video or film. Often this “feminist’s” pet project (book, film, etc.) is mentioned. Call it what it is–self-promotion. Such behavior diminishes the work of the women that have fought for such things as voting rights and education and job opportunities. If that is what feminism is becoming, I want no part of it.

    Forget the labels and the rhetoric. Just keep working to make the world a better place for both men and women.

  31. Courtney May 14, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    I know there are negative connotations to the word “feminist” that have been brought about by several different means, but I won’t shy away from calling myself a feminist. That’s an easy way for me to tell anyone a big part of what I’m for. Especially where I am (which is with a large amount of conservative Christians in the middle of lovely open-minded Oklahoma – please note massive sarcasm), calling myself a feminist makes people ask and wonder, which leads to education and understanding. If they still think I’m a crazy radical for using the name, that’s their right to do so, and I’ll survive.

    The only battle I regularly fight that has anything to do with feminism involves attempting to negate the relevance of gender. The thing that bothers me most in this world is how important arbitrary body parts are in nearly every society, and anything I can do to change that, I will. I also make everyone I know understand that I will not put up with sexism toward anyone, but that’s more of an ongoing frustration than a real fight.

    I definitely agree with rumble’s frustrations about feminism attempting to encompass a ridiculous amount of other progressive ideas. Feminism is about women’s rights and equality. I absolutely think that we should whatever we can to stop discrimination against disabled people, trans people, homosexuals, and people of color, but I don’t think that those should be called feminist issues unless a particular facet of them pertains specifically to women, at which point that facet should be labeled a feminist issue. It seems to me as if people are attempting to use feminism as a ready-made audience and fighting group for their battles, and while I personally do believe in fighting for the rights of every human being, I’m not sure I like appropriating a different name to do that work. Being a feminist can be separate from being liberal and progressive. To say that to be a feminist, one must agree with and/or fight for all of these other things can frighten away many people who could be really helped by the ideas of gender equality, even if they don’t or can’t believe in the other stuff. I’m absolutely not advocating that anyone discriminate against homosexuals or trans people, but it is true that many Christians (and I’m sure people of other religions, just using Christians as an example because I know that to be true from experience) don’t feel as if they can agree with those things, and I think that these beliefs should not exclude them from feminism, which is something many religious people and communities desperately need.

  32. Peaches May 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    I think our sweet Plummy is poking us with a stick;) If this isnt a joke you sure have irked me.

  33. Thea May 14, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I’m a feminist. I believe in a woman’s right to pursue any opportunity and get paid the same as men. I believe in a woman’s right to accurate medical information and the right to determine what happens to her body. I will not allow Fox News, the Religious right of any religious persuasion, the Republican party or some of the women’s study majors I have known to redefine feminism as anything else.

    And I think Courtney said something important that I’ve never been able to articulate so clearly. Women’s rights are as valid and important as the civil rights of all human beings. We should not allow ourselves to be defined or ‘co-opted’ by other groups who want to say “If you call yourself a feminist you MUST ALSO believe in X”.

    I resent the fact that my rights as a woman aren’t seen as ‘valid enough’ unless I am willing to piggyback every other injustice to every other group in the world on top of my rights.

    I campaigned for the ERA at the state capital in a green dress while carrying a basket of muffins. The paid ERA organizers who came from the East Coast were incredibly dismissive of the local women and referred to us as ‘hicks’. But my muffin basket and I got more meetings with state Senators than all of them combined. I let a lot of ole rednecks see that a feminist could look just like their daughter and that maybe all of our ideas weren’t so very scary.

    In scientific research there is a concept called ‘Survivorship Bias’ which basically says “If I haven’t experienced something personally, it must not exist.” I think it’s important that women realize that just because you haven’t been discriminated against, then no woman is being discriminated against.

    The State of Oklahoma just passed a law that says a doctor is legally protected when he decides to withhold medical information from a woman patient, such as accurate medical information about birth control or abortion, and even withholding the information that a fetus has birth defects if he thinks it might influence the woman to abort.

    So no, I don’t believe we are there yet. And I hope people who want to splice it down to ‘first wave/second wave/third wave feminism are actually working toward the practical good of all women and not just playing in the academic sandbox. Because there is a lot of real work still to be done

  34. zuzu May 14, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    Why do you think women don’t ask for more money, Plumcake?

    Because good girls don’t ask for what they want? Because women are socialized to put themselves and their needs last? Because women get penalized when they ask for raises and promotions? I’d argue there’s no one explanation, but as long as women think it’s their own problem and not a societal one — when you hear of “the personal is political,” that’s exactly what it means, that inequality isn’t just our own problem but a broader one, and solutions must be political and social rather than individual — it’s not likely to get any better.

    It’s not a simple thing, the persistent pay disparity, and it exists even in cultures where it’s outright illegal and women have all kinds of protections. And given the recent Ledbetter case — where SCOTUS threw out decades of precedent and said that Lily Ledbetter had missed her time to sue for pay discrimination even though her employer had actively worked to keep her from finding out about it for years — we have to start all over again there, too. Even though we have Titles VII and IX in place.

    So, yeah, there are a lot of big fights to be fought. There aren’t enough women in the trades, for example, and there are a lot of efforts in some states to gender-segregate public education and teach girls that they’re delicate flowers who have no need to fill their pretty heads with math.

    Additionally, the casual contempt and condescension many purported feminists show for the work done by women in previous generations tries my patience considerably. I have heard variations on “Back then, women were just nurses, teachers, and secretaries,” delivered in pitying tones or with a sneer, many a time, and when I was a secretary, I was insulted to my face about my job by more than one allegedly enlightened female (and never by a man).

    It’s unfortunate that that’s happened to you, but it’s also unfortunate that you judge a whole movement based on this. Back then, women were “just” nurses, teachers and secretaries because that’s all they were allowed to be. If you want to be a teacher, nurse or secretary, knock yourself out, but that doesn’t mean that others might like the same opportunities to do what they want to do as men have.

  35. zuzu May 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Er, might NOT like.

  36. Chiken May 14, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    I am a feminist. I won’t go into all of the reasons why, since so many have said much on the topic above.

    But I will note that I think Plummy’s suggestion that pay disparity is caused mainly by women not asking for what they are worth is flat wrong. There have been numerous studies showing that women who ask for raises are pushy, arrogant, etc. while men who do so are confident, assertive, etc.

  37. KESW May 15, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    I don’t think that anybody could really call me a feminist (I said “obey” in my wedding vows and I’m pro-life), but I’m certainly sympathetic to many of their goals and proud and grateful for many of their triumphs.
    I’m grateful that I received an education equal to that of my male peers.
    I’m grateful that I can vote.
    I’m grateful that I can own and inherit property.
    I’m grateful that I can own a business if I wanted to.
    I’m grateful that it is not legal or culturally acceptable where I live for any man to beat me, mistreat me, or rape me and then blame it on me because he is not expected to resist my “temptations”.
    I’m grateful that I have never had to consider selling my body in order to survive.
    I’m grateful that I live in a subculture where men are taught to cherish, protect, and respect women, rather than take advantage of them.

    There are so many “basics” of feminism that we take for granted that many women around the world still don’t have. Those are what I worry about.

  38. ChaChaheels May 15, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Of course I am a feminist, the world around us continues to devalue women everywhere and without exception. While women in the western world have pushed the “public life” aspect of equality as far as possible, and continue to do so (as many of the powerful who really profit from sexism keep trying to take those gains away)) I still see that the really deep, persistent misogyny endures. We may think we can be doctors and lawyers and Prime Ministers now, but even in the way we speak and think in our privileged realities we still miss the sexism that’s around us.

    “I’m no feminist but”…”I’d rather call myself a Humanist”…”‘give’ women the right…”
    so many of us are colonized to believe women are not as good as men, not as real as men, not as important as men, not as deserving as men, and our language tells on us. Let’s talk about “rights” for example: the fact is that rights are never “given”: they’re inherent, and they’re either respected or they are not. Whatever rights we have have not been “given” to us at all–but we’ve had to fight to exercise those rights, which are already ours, respected. You can argue the vast majority of our rights are still not respected, because privileges given to men would have to be taken away in order for that respect to exist. So: they still get more pay for doing the same work, they still get their pick of the highest paying and most respected work, they still have many laws, particularly in family and criminal law, which favour them over women. Even here, in the privileged Western World.

    For the past six thousand years, “human” as been presented to us as something which does not include “female” (think otherwise? Ask yourself how “science” would blather on about evolution but leave out certain physical realities such as how the menstrual period “happened” to female humans and not to other mammals, when without it, reproduction could never happen. That alone shows scientific blindness to more than half of “humanity”, to a mind-blowing extent). When we talk about “liberated” women doing what used to be “men’s” jobs, we’re ignoring the fact that work that women do, including the unpaid work (which, if it were paid, would equal if not surpass the gross national product of the US, for example) is not valued equally though it is more vital to individual and cultural survival. Equal pay for equal work is one thing, and it’s a red herring; equal work for work of equal value is the real issue, and no one wants to respect that right anytime soon. We can’t even see ourselves realistically depicted in the world we live in (google “The Bechdel Test” to give you an example of just how invisible women STILL are in the cultural depictions of our world).

    So, even in the Western world, we’ve gained precious little more than the right to smoke in public and to vote. And yet we are very highly privileged over billions of other women and girls in the world. It’s a myth to think women everywhere are “no longer” subjected to sexism, and when a woman denies being feminist, it just underlines how far we all still have to go.

  39. gemdiva May 15, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    This debate has reminded me of one of my favorite quotes that I have always heard as being attributed to Timothy Leary of all people:

    “Women who desire to be equal to men lack ambition”

    Reach for the stars ladies.

  40. Dragonbait May 15, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Quite frankly, I think anyone who thinks there aren’t big battles that desperately need unabashed feminist attention just isn’t paying attention. Once you put some effort into seeing it, horrific sexism is everywhere. The way female politicians are reported on, the way rapes are (not) prosecuted, all kinds of things that you can find every day in every newspaper. I don’t know how I would make sense of the world and all of the terrible and ridiculous things that happen in the world without feminism as lens.

  41. Thea May 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    KESW,
    I hope you realize that all the rights you listed above came only after the hard work and suffering of a great many women and some men who did consider themselves feminists and in direct opposition to a great many men and women who did not – and yet still reap the benefits of those ‘rights’ that were hard won.

  42. marjorie May 16, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    I am a feminist. And the fact that I still have to explain that feminism does NOT mean man-hating and razor-tossing and hating on stay-at-home-moms and demanding “special rights” (equal pay for equal work is what now?) is proof that a lot of people do not understand what feminism is. Count me in with the sad when I hear “I’m not a feminist but I believe in equal rights.” Veyizmir, equal rights IS feminism. I waited to read this post b/c I knew it would make me sad, and it has. Consider this my cri de coeur — I wish I knew how we could educate people.

  43. Thea May 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    I tell people I’m a feminist the same way I tell people I once had a boyfriend who knocked me to the floor – so that people can put a face on the issue and not think it just happens (feminism and abuse) to bad people :-)

  44. Christine May 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    Feminist has become a four letter word in our culture. I am a feminist, and most people react based on a knee jerk reaction that somehow I am now a lesbian separationist.

    One thing I try to do is what all mothers of son should do — try to raise their sons to be feminists. My son knows how to behave with, and treat, a women. A lot of this has been done due to my husband’s treatment of me. which has been kind, caring and loving.

    My nieces have been much the same way by my sister and her husband. Their girls are strong in personality, emotionally and ethically.

    Feminism should just simply mean the desire to treat women, like men, all over the world. Women need to start treating all women as they themselves need to be treated.

    Riley, thank you for the explanation and the book recommendation.