So, anyhow – can conservatives be feminists?
My answer is “yes, but.” Yes, in my opinion, conservatives can be feminists. But, in my opinion, most of the conservatives who call themselves feminists aren’t.
Because feminism is – and always has been – an activist and political movement. Feminists, by definition, think society needs to be changed.
Susan Faludi, in a Slate debate, gets at this – that being a feminist is essentially a political act:
My main problem with “ifeminism” and other conservative brands of feminism is that they seem to be premised on the idea that (at least in this country) feminism has already won. The essential message I see in McElroy’s iFeminist columns and books like Who Stole Feminism? is that women are already equal; there is no need to agitate for change in order to bring women’s equality about.
So, for example, conservative “feminists” argue that we shouldn’t worry about the wage gap, because it’s merely a matter of worker’s individual choices, and has nothing to do with discrimination. They argue that the rape crisis is fiction, a result of feminist exaggerations and morning-after regrets. They argue that domestic violence has nothing to do with sexism because (as Christina Hoff Sommers argued) men are equal victims of spouse abuse.
Note the common theme – in each case, the conclusion of the argument is that sexism against women is no longer a problem, and political, activist solutions – that is, feminism – is no longer necessary.
Well, that’s nice – but it’s not feminism. Feminism is and has always been about activism; feminists are trying to change society. In particular, feminism is about changing society so that women, who are unfairly kept down in our society, can at last experience full equality.
If you don’t believe that sexism is an important problem keeping women down today, then you may be a nice person, and you may believe in equality – but you’re just not a feminist.
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1) Believes that there is current, significant, society-wide inequality and sexism which on balance disadvantages women.
2) Advocates for the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
(Please note that this is just how I, personally, define feminism. I am not claiming any special authority to define feminism for anyone other than myself.)
Susanna thinks she’d probably disagree with me regarding “the extent, genesis and solution [to] the inequality and sexism, and most likely would also disagree with at least some of the solutions to the social, political and economic inequality.” Well, yeah, that’s a given – all feminists disagree about that stuff. That’s why there are terms for different schools of feminism – socialist feminism, radical feminism, liberal feminism, cultural feminism and so on. If there was anything like a universal agreement on that stuff in feminism, we’d just have one school of thought instead of dozens. And even within each school, feminists disagree all the time.