Social Question

thesparrow's avatar

What do you think about Feminism?

Asked by thesparrow (2733 points ) September 14th, 2011

I’m neither a fervent feminist nor a proponent of an ultra-traditional family arrangement. I’m somewhere in between, I think. As far as I can see, feminism has done a lot of positive things for women. However, some have also taken it as a license to do things like [1] bitch about men and how they are ‘subservient’ to them (let’s be honest about who’s subservient and who isn’t) [2] renounce the value of motherhood and family (something even men have never done) [3] make women into martyrs (i.e. complain about how they’re bogged down with hours of household chores) and [4] make it seem that men are completely useless. To an extent, we CAN do it all nowadays—with the proper education and career—but this isn’t necessarily the BEST way to do it.

However, I do realize that were it not for feminism I wouldn’t even be given the chance to be expressing my opinion publicly. What I have disdain for is radical feminism (I should have made myself clear). *see Germaine Greer for example

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55 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

Feminism is necessary to obtain equal rights.

EDIT: I’m a SAHM mom in a traditional family. I have the right to vote and the right to choose to stay home.

I don’t think of feminism as the reason women bitch or moan…though I do think it allowed for our voices to be heard.

JilltheTooth's avatar

The examples you cite of the “bad” stuff of feminism have to do with the minority making a lot of noise. Feminism was instrumental, as @SpatzieLover says, in obtaining rights and privileges that should be accorded to all of our citizens, not just the ones with Y chromosomes. After the noisy activist feminists did the necessary job of raising awareness, then came those of us who simply acted. We weren’t the ones man-bashing or bitching, we were the ones who just put ourselves out there and did the stuff that needed to be done to implement the changes we wanted to see. Most “feminists” are not ball-busters. Most feminists are men and women working together to overcome old patterns of behavior that hold back human progress by not recognizing the value of half of the human population.

marinelife's avatar

1, I have never heard a feminist say that women are superior to men. If it happens, it is a minority position.

2. I have never heard feminists renounce children or motherhood, except as an individual choice.

3. Household chores are still very uneqal with working women having to do more than their working husbands or mates.

4. I do not associate women who claim men are useless with feminism.

You seem to have a jaundiced view, especially for someone who has benefited greatly from the work of feminists..

fizzbanger's avatar

I’m glad I don’t live in Saudi Arabia…

Blackberry's avatar

It’s some pretty sweet action.

HungryGuy's avatar

In the sense that I believe that that men and women should be treated equally before the law and have the same rights and responsibilities and opportunities, I agree and you can call me a feminist!

On the other hand, some people who call themselves “feminists” believe that women should be denied the right to choose their lifestyle (as in banning prostitution and pornography), to which I am opposed to that form of feminism.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It’s complicated. Mostly because I think Feminism has become too big a tent to be a useful ism anymore, and I think for it to have any kind of meaning, we need to specify which Feminism we’re talking about – liberal, radical, psychoanalytic, Marxist, post-colonial, post-gender, sex-positive, environmental, post-gender, queer, third-wave, etc. I also think there are as many feminisms as there are feminists. But, I do identify as a (post-gender, third-wave, sex-positive) feminist.

I have some serious issues with radical feminism (though, more radical-cultural than radical-libertarian, though I’m not a huge fan of either). And I think acknowledging the past issues within the feminist movement is very important. But, on the other hand, some of the ideas, while crazy, were created in a vacuum, where there was no model for what they should or could say and ask. So can I really say that I wouldn’t have thought and wrote some of those things? And, when I’ve spent all of my life in a post-Roe-v-Wade world (not to mention a world where I can vote and own land), I don’t want to dismiss the progress we have made. No one is perfect, and if I’m looking to past feminists to be a perfect role model, I’m not going to find it (partly because no one is perfect, and partly because we get further and further away from modern values the further we go into history). So I think there’s a pragmatism in taking the good and leaving the bad.

My recommendation to you? If you’re really struggling with this (and I don’t know how much you are), read more feminist works (and I can recommend some if you’re so inclined). Figure out who said what, and what kind of philosophical thought they’re using and where they’re coming from. It’s not that I don’t have serious disagreements with some feminists, but it is definitely a LOT easier for me to see it as “these specific feminists who wrote this line on page 71 of this book/essay/whatever” than “things feminists say”. And marinelife is right, many of the “fringe” views are used by others to marginalize the entire movement – the number of women who call themselves (in any respect) feminists who also think that all penetrative sex is violent, or that we should become lesbian separatists is really low (and every movement ever has a fringe aspect). And there are also many women who call themselves feminists, and bash men and do all these things, and have never really examined their feminism much (and if they were to say those things in a Feminist Theory class, there would be less than 3 seconds till half their classmates raised their hands to call bullshit. Just FYI. Carrie Bradshaw would not find that class to be a breeze).

Blondesjon's avatar

@marinelife . . . I have to counter your #3 with “this recent article” and my own personal experience.

everephebe's avatar

I am a feminist in the sense that I think women are people too and deserve rights and treatment according to their status as being fellow human beings. I think Feminism is great, clearly not all of the many branches of feminism are wonderful… But the general idea the women should not be treated or consider as 2nd class citizens, is a pretty top notch thought.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Feminism, like the civil rights movement, was the end result of a history of suppression, often unknowing but supression nevertheless. When social movements break through barriers to full participation in society, they tend to go a bit overboard after a period of time in an effort to “keep the movement going.” I suspect that this is where feminism is now. Since the last Presidential Election, women have made serious attempts at attaining the office. When the first female president is elected, this last “glass cieling” will have fallen. Feminism should begin to fade in scope and influence after that, but some will try to keep the movement going for their own reasons.

tom_g's avatar

I’ll continue to be a feminist until feminism is redundant. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m an equalist. I don’t care what you’re chromosome mix is.

CWOTUS's avatar

Oh, it’s something to keep the girls occupied, you know. Keeps them out of trouble, I guess…

martianspringtime's avatar

I think that most of the negative things you’ve listed are the things people say that feminists say, but in reality are very, very rarely the things actual feminists actually say.

Feminism isn’t about one gender being superior to the other. That’s the exact opposite of what it’s about. Some feminists go about it the wrong way I’m sure, but in the same way that anyone who supports one thing (or doesn’t support another) can go about it the wrong way. I think a lot of the negativity generated about feminism is raised for the exact reasons that feminism is necessary.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Let’s break it down because before I can answer your question I need to question your premises which, in my opinion, are simply erroneous. Let us assume for now that the feminism you’re discussing is 2nd wave western society feminism (since there are many waves of feminism and many global feminisms, in reality).

Your first statement about the fervor of feminism or views on traditional family arrangements implies that what feminism boils down to is a conversation around the family which it does not. It boils down to genders within this society that are unequal in access and rights and while that certainly reflects on family arrangements, the feminist fight if much more dimensional.

You state “However, some have also taken it as a license to do things like [1] bitch about men and how they are ‘subservient’ to them (let’s be honest about who’s subservient and who isn’t)”

Yes, let’s be honest about who’s subservient and who isn’t! Is it your belief that men are subservient to women? Or is it your belief that women aren’t subservient to men? Because men aren’t subservient to women in any systemic way and many women (not all) are taught to be subservient to men or that they’re somehow inferior. I will NOT get into the MANY ways women are systemically treated as less through political representation or any representation or reproductive policies, etc. etc. So if by ‘bitch’ you mean state unjust realities, then sure..I, as a feminist, bitch about these things all the time though by no means do I favor women as a gender over men as a gender..given, especially, that I consider the entire system of division by gender to be ridiculous.

You state ”[2] renounce the value of motherhood and family (something even men have never done)” Not only have men historically devalued motherhood (while saying that’s what women should do and nothing more) in comparison to their accomplishments in the ‘cultural sphere’ (vs the ‘domestic sphere) but it shows superficial analysis to think that when feminists want more options open for women that they are implying that the option of staying at home or raising a family is not a good one. There have been ‘wars’ between SAH parents and working parents but these aren’t necessarily about feminist ideology, just people judging each other.

You state ”[3] make women into martyrs (i.e. complain about how they’re bogged down with hours of household chores) ” You need to read Betty Friedans ‘The Feminine Mystique’ – it’ll give you a basic understanding of why that ‘complaint’ is relevant to women back then and to this day. Though Friedan’s ideas are somewhat outdated and not as progressive as we’d like, her work is still a tremendous classic. It is a fact that women who work are also responsible for most of the childcare and household chores around the house. Therefore, they work (overall) more than men for less and that’s unjust.

You state ”[4] make it seem that men are completely useless.” There are a few women of the radical feminism faction (which you are aware of) that do believe men are unnecessary. They’re what I call a bit batshit and most feminists do not find men useless. I am deeply in love with one, am best friends with one and am raising two and I’m as 3rd wave as they get. The goal of feminism is not elimination of men – that is just something people who are threatened by change say to discredit it. If you talk to any self-identified feminists, you will learn that this claim is particularly incorrect.

You state “To an extent, we CAN do it all nowadays—with the proper education and career—but this isn’t necessarily the BEST way to do it.” Newsflash (and you, as a young woman, are in serious need of one and I mean that in the nicest way possible): the fact that you CAN do whatever you now take for granted is entirely due to feminist efforts of the past number of decades…not to mention that the road to ‘proper education and career’ is also based on privilege you might have due to being white or of middle/higher class. Feminism of the 2nd wave, after all, helped white middle class women the most and didn’t focus as much on goals of any other women or groups of people.

To sum up, feminism is for everyone, everyone should be a feminist…or…call yourself whatever you want but equality for all people should be everyone’s goal.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@martianspringtime

Interesting. But I’m curious. Why is this argument valid for feminism but not for christianity?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CWOTUS Oh yeah…trouble…and out of being unable to divorce, or own a credit card, or raped by cops or told what to do with bodies, etc etc etc. Yeah, whatever, it’s not big deal. I’m so glad I’m busy ‘cause instead I’d just spend all my free time on using my vagina to trick men into giving me jewelry.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

It’s good in a few ways, but on the whole, bad in many, many ways. I won’t divulge what those are, because it always ruffles the feminists’ feathers, making them all hyper and crazy.
That’s all I’m going to say.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Do you people have some kind of a textbook where cliche phrases like the one about ruffling feathers come from? It’s like diluted regurgitation of what everyone else says rather than what you think, don’t you think?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Well, but obviously, the feminists have ruffled your feathers, so why not share your views? If you’re worried about getting into a fight (or a to-do, or whatever), you can always post and then unfollow the question.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aethelflaed It’s not a fair fight, anyway ~ Unless I go to sleep.

Sunny2's avatar

I knew a woman who taught math at university level around the time the feminist movement got started. Asked what she thought of it, she replied, “I don’t know. I’ve always felt as equal as the next guy.” I guess it needed to be done for those women who didn’t feel that independent. I was always kind of a male chauvinist. Maybe that’s why I was a tomboy. I liked playing with boys more than with girls. Still do, but I do better with women now than when I was a kid.

tom_g's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES – The suspense is killing me. Could you elaborate on how feminism is “bad in many, many ways”?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Feminism is no better than affirmative action. The very nature of making allowances, add teeth to the ”not good enough” argument. When you have to give someone a handicap, you say they can’t do it themselves because they are not good enough

tom_g's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central – Could you define what you mean by feminism? This might help me understand your post.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central : I think you’re misunderstanding the concept. There was no “making allowances” in the feminism I was involved in, at times it simply came down to my right to make certain of my own decisions independent of what someone with a Y chromosome had to say; of getting paid equally for doing the same job that someone with a penis was doing; of being admitted to the same colleges, organizations, what-have-you, with the same or better grades, credentials, etc as “the next man”.

CWOTUS's avatar

All joking aside, I’ve always been very uncomfortable – as a man! – every time I’ve gone to a part of the world where women don’t have equal rights with men, at least nominally. I’m part of a generation that has grown up in the USA bracketing feminism, ‘before and after’, and I’m glad for it, as a rule. I’m in favor of equal rights for everyone.

Mariah's avatar

I am wondering about your statement, “bitch about men and how they are ‘subservient’ to them (let’s be honest about who’s subservient and who isn’t).” The point of feminism is not to make men subservient. The point is to cease the idea that women are subservient, to make the sexes equal. I know some people are over-zealous and might try to take it beyond equality but these people are extremists and do not represent the true intentions of the feminist movement. What do you mean by “let’s be honest about who’s subservient and who isn’t”?

thesparrow's avatar

Guys, clearly my comments went way above what I intended. I plan to close down this can of worms before I start seeing it spill too far.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@thesparrow Yep, you should generally be more careful with your particular can.

thesparrow's avatar

Yeah, well, it’s really too late because I can’t do anything now.

thesparrow's avatar

@Aethelflaed I have read a few and refuse to read anymore. I started hating men after reading them, and they just generally made me unhappy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@thesparrow It’s never too late on fluther. We can still tease apart stuff you’re interested in talking about. These are all relevant concerns and many people share your views.

thesparrow's avatar

I think I was too loose with expressing my views without seeing their consequences.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@thesparrow Then maybe you took something away from this thread. I’ve gained a lot here in Fluther from threads like this one.

thesparrow's avatar

Household chores are not ALWAYS uneven. I know many couples where they’re split, or where the men even do more.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@thesparrow Very true. We just had a discussion about that Here

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@thesparrow When a feminist makes a claim about society, they generally do not mean EVERYONE or ALWAYS. They generally mean on average or ‘the pattern seems to be…’ and we use studies with evidence to back that kind of thing up.

Nullo's avatar

What indeed? Hmm.

I think that Valerie Solanas is a complete nutjob, for starters, and anybody that thinks like her, or uses the guise of feminism to advance their misandry, ought to be force-fed horseradish for a week.
I think that men and women are morally (and so, legally) equal, but physically and perhaps psychologically complementary; as a result, I’m rather inclined to support more traditional gender roles, many of which have arisen in response to these differences. I feel that there are a number of things that women can do, but shouldn’t have to.
As K.W. Royce put it,
Ladies, you are much finer creatures than we are. You are too precious and lovely for such crude tasks. Let us change the flat tires, put out the forest fires, and defend the borders.

Mariah's avatar

@Nullo Call me a cynic, but the attitude described in that quote sounds to me like an attempt to veil a declaration that women are not capable of these tasks beneath the pretense of doing them a service. “Precious and lovely” is not too far off from “delicate” and then “weak.” I don’t like the feeling I get from that quote at all.

I agree that women and men, as a general statement, are different creatures, and that that is one of the reasons why they have developed different roles in society. However, just because a task might be harder for the average woman than the average man, does not mean that women should be discouraged from doing that task if she wants to.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@tom_g @Hypocrisy_Central – Could you define what you mean by feminism? If it dumb down, or weaken the criteria then it is as bad as affirmative action, maybe worse. I remember way back in this area here there were grumblings because enough women could not pass the test to be firefighters, so they weakened the test to make it easier for more women to join the squads. As a for instance, if the test said to be a firefighter you had to be able to carry a 260lb person down 6 flights of stairs in 90 seconds, the test was watered down to 190lb person down 4 flights of stairs in 150 seconds, just so women could physically pass the test. That plays with general safety at the expense of trying to make some women who were not strong enough to get a person that heavy, and their gear out of a burning building faster. What happens if they end up at a small burning high rise and they encounter an obese person? They are going to try to drag the person to safety by their heels? Anything like that points out the fact that most women just are not beefy enough to get the job done better than a man. You don’t require them to get better, the standards for the job is just lowered.

JilltheTooth's avatar

My Dad had two things he said on the subject with regularity. First, “A man’s job is something that requires the use of a penis” and “Don’t tell me why you can’t, tell me how you can.” Helluva guy, my Dad.

Nullo's avatar

@Mariah I’m going to have to call you a cynic, I’m afraid. The rest of the text is not entirely relevant and in any case is not presented in a way that lends itself to quotation (I would be transcribing whole paragraphs for one idea), but it does support a literal reading of what I have quoted.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Nullo I agree with much of what you said. Ish. But still.

tom_g's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central – The firefighter thing is horseshit, plain and simple. It’s a tired argument that falls apart pretty quickly when you actually spend a minute to evaluate it. My father was a firefighter for 18 years, and I spent a ton of time at the firehouse. Overall, the men (all men) were fat shits that couldn’t walk up one flight of stairs. These were not the heroic firefighters that lugged equipment up the twin towers. Anyway, once they passed a physical test, they were free to grow their guts and let themselves go. I know half a dozen women that could have snapped those lazy shits in half.
write more in a minute…

Mariah's avatar

@Nullo Okay, I know it’s wrong to judge a quote out of context, so I’ll admit to my cynicism. The tone is just sooo condescending though… “you sit there and look pretty while we take care of you.”

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@tom_g Anyway, once they passed a physical test, they were free to grow their guts and let themselves go. The women were pretty much in a “let themselves go” stated before they could past the test to let themelves go”, that was the thing, they could not pass it themselves without some help.

thesparrow's avatar

@SpatzieLover That’s very cute. I’m going to check that thread out at a later time (perhaps when I’ve had less wine). In my household it’s about 30/70 and my dad won’t fail to admit he’s from a generation where women tended to take care of everything.. all in all, my mom does most of the important stuff (cooking, laundry, etc..). My dad does work on the cars, minor home reno, etc… (the typical ‘guy’ stuff). I do come from a very traditional family though so that may be why. When I met my BF I was surprised by the way his family functioned (i.e. his dad was a better cook than his mom) But I agree. In many households it isn’t as unequal as we think.

tom_g's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central – Do you define feminism as some kind of movement to fill firefighter positions with women? If so, I’m not sure there is much to talk about.

If you want to talk about the hardly-related issue of so-called affirmative action, I’d be welcome to discuss why I feel these efforts are worthwhile.

However, this question is about feminism. Why do I consider myself a feminist? Because I feel it is worthwhile to be conscious of issues of gender discrimination, reproductive rights, domestic violence, sexual harrassment and assault, pay inequality, and gender roles, etc. These are all things that are part of our current reality.

So, we can talk about one particular job (firefighter) in which a physical strength test was only applied once and never applied again and claim that the world is an unsafe place because “weak” women are running around putting out all of our fires. I’m not sure what use that would be.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@tom_g Because I feel it is worthwhile to be conscious of issues of gender discrimination, reproductive rights, domestic violence, sexual harassment[sic] and assault, pay inequality, and gender roles, etc. Gender discrimination as in what? The old boys club? We can’t have a chat on reproductive rights because while feminist, at least a lot of them who take that moniker, don’t want to extend it equally to men as they want pay and opportunity for advancement equal. Equality is fine if they gain something but if they have to give something up to get it, all of a sudden they go stuttering. Domestic violence is not an equality thing, it is just straight Boorish behavior which just happen to point out women are not as strong physically as men. There is nothing that says violence can’t be directed towards men. That is just trying to lump something in the mix that is basically irrelevant. Can there be sexual harassment? I guess there could be if systemic and blatant. A lot of what is called sexual harassment should not even be. The way it is handled a lot of times now goes back to women being weak, because they can’t defend themselves because the comments were do to sex? What if the comments were due to weight? Do we create a law called Chubby Harassment, maybe Obese Bashing? Maybe if someone was alluding to her as not being smart we could have Dummy Harassment, Intelligence maligning, etc? “He asked me out three times in one week, I think he is gross, so I feel harassed, but if it were the hunky guy in HR that done it, I am OK with that.” We have gender roles because last I checked, we have genders. Look to nature, the different genders more than not have there place in the pride, the pack, etc. I watch nature shows I don’t see the male Silverback ape not doing what he does because the female under the alpha female feels she need a bigger role to be a contributing member of the pack. Everyone has their job, and some of them are in the supporting role but it is usually always in harmony; way more than humans by percentage.

We all should know there are inherent differences in men and women, that IS why there are men and women. Men and women work like the very computers we are using to have this and other discussions. You need both the hardware AND the software. If I had no software to run my computer, all I have is a very heavy, large paperweight with pretty neon lights and fans whirling. It cannot produce any work on its own, but it can still work, the power will go through it, the fans will turn, just can’t produce anything of use. If I have tons of disc and nothing to read them with, I might as well open a coaster factory. The program on the disc is useless if I cannot get to it, it is just a think wafer of plastic. Though they both need each other to perform work, watch a movie, play a game, the tie tips slightly to hardware, it took hardware to make the program, to download it, or upload it from the disc. In many ways the men are like the hardware, too many feminist want to be the hardware too, but then if you have two PCs and no software, what is going to get done?

tom_g's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central – There is a bunch in there, and I’m not sure we’re really going to come to some agreement here. Let me address one…

re: nature and gender roles – Are you merely being descriptive when pulling “nature” into this? In other words, are you explaining why there may be tendencies for human societies to develop gender roles? If so, then I have no problem with this. This is a fascinating area of study for scientists. However, if you are using that as a justification for maintaining some form of rigid gender roles, I would have a problem with that. Why? Because rigid, culture-defined gender roles require justification before we can say that they’re justified. This might tie into the moral discussion that we were having difficulties with. If rigid, culture defined gender roles cannot stand up to critical examination – and I do not feel that they can in many areas – then they must be thrown out.

This isn’t just a problem with how we treat women. This also affects what it means to be a man in ways that I do not think are healthy, and do provide for a thorough flourishing of a human.

And of course there are huge differences in men and women. This is not a denial of the science. However, there are also huge differences between men and other men, and women and other women that are not acknowledged if we are to define man as one thing and women as another. Scientific distinctions between men and women focus on specific things and are descriptivenot prescriptive.

Note: This discussion is also avoiding the more complex matter of gender identity. Just wanted to add that. For example, I am using “men” and “women” as terms that are synonymous with “male” and “female”, which arguably may not be accurate.

thesparrow's avatar

@tom_g I agree that feminism is also liberating to men in some ways (probably not as many ways as it is for women but I’m firmly convinced it has abolished some stereotypes). For example, now a man can go on paternity leave if he so chooses. This is still somewhat sitgmatized (i.e stay at home dads are not real ‘men’) but it is happening more and more often.

nature and gender roles: Humans are rational creatures, which differentiates us from animals, and allows for critical engagement with the gender roles. For me, I hate gender roles because I come from a traditional family and I see the way they work to the advantage of the men and not the women (i.e. the women are generally the breadwinners, the cooks, the cleaning ladies, the child-bearers). I very much like traditions (i.e. certain foods or customs that go with a particular culture) but I don’t like how much of it is left for the woman to do. And somehow we are supposed to like staying at home and being perfect little Martha Stewarts (mind you, I do enjoy cooking, but I wouldn’t say it’s my life and being).

Differences: yes, this is true. There are HUGE differences between men and other men and women and other women. Some women I know love to cook and be at home, and others like to go out and be more socially active. And same with guys!

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