Can conservatives be feminists? (redux for the 100th time)

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:

You ask that I recognize as a feminist the Republican housewife with a face lift who greets her husband at the door wearing only her heels. If she gave a damn about other women and was engaged in some sort of public struggle to make the world a better place for women less privileged than she, I would indeed. But if she just “follows her desires” and is blind to the fact that other women don’t have the option of following their desires, then, no, I wouldn’t call her a feminist. I’d call her a shopper…

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.

* * *

The rest is just detail. Susanna says she has no problem accepting the basic premises of feminism as I define them:

A feminist:

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.

This entry posted in Anti-feminists and their pals, Feminism, sexism, etc, Wendy McElroy. Bookmark the permalink. 

43 Responses to Can conservatives be feminists? (redux for the 100th time)

  1. 1
    hope says:

    Great post. Love your stuff.

  2. 2
    ms lauren says:

    i’m going to go out on a limb and back it up with absolutely nothing, but here goes.

    i don’t think conservatives can be considered feminists. period.

  3. 3
    bean says:

    I agree with Lauren.

  4. 4
    Raznor says:

    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.

    There’s the problem: it’s that feminists think for themselves. Until Feminism is a purely monolithic movement, I see no reason to take it seriously.

    Sorry. To those unfamiliar with my posts this is entirely tongue in cheek.

  5. 5
    annie j. says:

    I’ve always stuck with the bell hooks definition of feminism: a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. [Feminism is for Everybody]

    There really isn’t much discussion amongst the general public regarding social movements for change and what they’re really about. Most people are only exposed to the mass media, which is always biased against movements. It’s good to see positive posts like this.

    As for conservatives being feminists, I don’t see the two meshing well. Isn’t the basis of conservatism to promote and uphold the existing institutions?

    The thing is, you can’t end sexism by having pundits declare it’s not a problem any longer. Other systems of exploitation and domination exist that also need to be changed. I’ve never known conservatives to be willing to make the real changes necessary. Just think of everything they might loose.

    I think one would either have to be a conservative or a feminist, but not both. Isn’t ‘conservative feminist’ an oxymoron?

  6. 6
    John Isbell says:

    Conservative feminism: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

  7. 7
    Dan J says:

    Is there really such a thing as a feminist who doesn’t accept and support the rights of lesbians and single mothers? I seriously doubt it.

  8. 8
    Stentor says:

    Isn’t the basis of conservatism to promote and uphold the existing institutions?

    When “conservative” is used as a descriptive term, yes. When it’s used as a label for the modern Right, not necessarily. Certainly the Right has some major conservative elements to its platform, but it also has elements involving major changes to society.

  9. 9
    Raznor says:

    Is there really such a thing as a feminist who doesn’t accept and support the rights of lesbians and single mothers? I seriously doubt it.

    Well I’m not sure about single mothers, but to start dealing with lesbians, there’s an issue dealing with homosexual rights that may be debated. I’m not saying whether it should be part of Feminism or not, but I could imagine someone who, say, fights hard to ensure equal wages for women or other Feminist issues but who doesn’t believe in fighting for equal protections regardless of sexual orientation.

  10. 10
    carla says:

    When I taught a course on the social construction of gender (this would have been in about 1992) at a catholic university, I was alternately amused and depressed by the young men and women who started out thinking that feminism was just about bashing men and that men and women were already equal so the man-bashing was particularly egregious and political activism was unnecessary. It was really gratifying to watch (and help) many of them learn to see differently–and, in many cases, to give voice to things they had sort of felt but had had no words to describe. I only ever taught a half dozen classes or so (and only taught that one once), but it was by far my favorite.

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  17. 11
    Rachel says:

    I am a conservative. I usually vote Republican. I am pro-choice, however I could never choose abortion for myself. I feel that I am a feminist because I’m appalled at the way society has objectifed our bodies. I have been called prude because I boycott Victoria’s Secret, personally feeling like their commercials are basically soft-core porn. If I had my way, any movie that objectifed or degraded women in any way, shape or form would be rated NC-17. But according to most of you, I am not a Feminist. This makes me sad, because I’ve been going to bat for you all at nobody’s expense but my own, for years. But I’m conservative, so I must be a traitor. I think feminism is a relative term. We are all different women, with different needs and wants. How can you structure it so firmly?

  18. 12
    Laylalola says:

    Yes. I met a woman whose brother is very high in the Christian Coalition and whose father was the guest of honor — not newly elected President George W. Bush — at the Wyoming-Texas ball. She is very religious. And she’s very feminist. She puts more hours into frontline work raising money through charities and through grants for needy women with children than any “progressive” feminist I know, I swear (in fact how many “progressive” feminists have ever known the movement to be anything other than what’s written in books or through online boards and blogging? Honestly I don’t believe there is such a thing as an organized progressive feminist movement in the United States anymore and I have to snort when I read about progressive feminists identifying themselves mainly through their activism — yeah right.). She’s very much into promoting women-owned businesses through the Small Business Administration — hey, that’s part of what being a conservative is, giving people the power to fend for themselves, to accomplish on their merits, to have the chance to do it. That’s what capitalism is too — the self-made person, that you don’t have to be born in the elite (Thomas Jefferson) but can be born the bastard child of a prostitute (Alexander Hamilton) and become Thomas Jefferson’s nemesis — Jefferson didn’t at all like that the self-educated Hamilton with such a tawdry upbringing was one of the Founders on par with him.

    But I digress. By some of the definitions here Condoleeza Rice should be the epitome of a progressive feminist’s heroine. You want political equality? That’s what counts to you? Hell, had Condi been named the first Black female CEO of a top five Fortune 500 company progressive feminists would have claimed her as a victory and a first — even if she had exactly the same politics she does now (only they likely wouldn’t even know her politics in that situation). I mean it’s gross. The hypocrisy. I’m so over it. I really am.

    Feminism to me is about women being empowered to make informed life choices for themselves — regardless of whether you or I or anyone else agrees with that choice. And especially when it comes to partisan politics, I mean, good frickin grief. There can be few things of less broad-range importance in this world than frickin partisan politics. In fact, “progressive” feminists sucking off male Democratic leaders, putting partisan politics above feminist politics as an ideal, is largely what led to so many GenXers who were on the scene when Faludi burst in with Backlash stomped off in disgust over the following decade with what has become of the “movement.”

  19. 13
    Laylalola says:

    That is to say, putting partisan Democratic politics BEFORE feminist politics ultimately is what has led to the hemorraging of the feminist movement’s lifeblood — the entire generation of women who came of age in the early 1990s (GenX). We have seen obscenity after obscenity as a result of this practice of putting partisan politics before feminist politics — and not the other way around — that the liberal movement has become completely inept, lost all respect, cannot accomplish one thing of note in the arena liberal feminists do their activism (the political/legislative arena). And frankly this blog has as its assumption that of course partisan politics define you first; feminism falls under the partisan heading. And it’s so wrong and it’s why the liberal movement has gone off into ineptitude, irrelevance, and insignificance, is a laughing stock, accused of some serious mental gymnastics due to taking positions that fly in the face of feminism but put partisan objectives first.

  20. 14
    Laylalola says:

    It’s where the hypocritical positions taken by liberal feminists come in and are explained away — but everyone can see through it except the liberal feminists who take these hypocritical antifeminist positions to save partisan face.

  21. 15
    Ampersand says:

    By some of the definitions here Condoleeza Rice should be the epitome of a progressive feminist’s heroine. You want political equality? That’s what counts to you?

    Who here has said that political equality is the primary criterion of feminism? Please quote what you’re referring to, because to me it seems like you’re making up strawfeminists to knock down. The original post explicitly pointed out that just favoring “equality” is not enough to make someone a feminist.

    And frankly this blog has as its assumption that of course partisan politics define you first; feminism falls under the partisan heading.

    No, it doesn’t. Frankly, it’s obvious that you’ve barely read this blog at all, and you have no understanding of my views. I have tons of feminist friends who consider the Democrats right-wing sellouts; I’ve posted arguing that feminist groups should be loyal to feminism, not the Democrats (for instance, regarding endorsements). I’d have to be completely brainless to think that “feminists” are a subset of “democrats.”

  22. 16
    Robert says:

    But Amp, your friends who consider the Democrats to be right-wing sellouts are politically neuter. In partisan terms, they don’t exist. (Other than as a ghostly possible source of marginal help from the leftmost viable candidate.)

    In terms of people who actually have political significance, “feminists are all Democrats”. (Or near enough.)

    (Of course, political significance is not moral significance, and I don’t mean that your / our way lefty friends aren’t people. They’re just people who don’t count, in terms of elections and partisan power.)

  23. 17
    Charles says:

    But Robert, Amp doesn’t advocate that his electorally neuter friends change their ways (indeed, he is himself registered Green, and thus was neuter on the question of whether Kulongoski should run for a second term).

    Furthermore, Amp doesn’t mistake electoral politics for the entirety of politics (and you shouldn’t either). If someone refuses to vote for the lesser of evils, but still writes letters to the lesser (or the greater) of evils, or organizes mass political demonstrations, or organizes sister city exchanges with cities in Iran, can you legitimately say that they are politically neuter? When, after years of ignoring the issue and of presenting muddled messes that still retain the private insurance industry, the Democrats finally start advocating for Single Payer Health Care, will those who shunned the democrats for failing to do so before have been politically irrelevant. When it passes, will they have been politically irrelevant when they called for it from the wilderness? Were the advocates of the 40 hour week and the minimum wage in the late 19th century politically neuter because they were unimpressed with the two major parties? Were Populists who didn’t vote for William Jennings Bryan in 1900 politically neuter?

    It is certainly a feminist (and anti-racist) accomplishment that Rice is secretary of state. That doesn’t make her a feminist or an anti-racist. I don’t actually know whether she is a feminist or an anti-racist. I loathe her for the rest of her politics, and certainly haven’t noticed any major feminist or anti-racist efforts on her part (which doesn’t mean she hasn’t done any).

    Are half of the Under-Secretaries of State women (or even a few)? That would be a mark of feminist intentions on Rice’s part. Has Rice advocated for adequate funding of international family planning efforts? That would bea mark of feminism on her part. That Bush appointed Rice doesn’t make either Bush or Rice a feminist, it merely shows that feminism has achieved some victories in influencing the thinking of even those who oppose it.

  24. 18
    Laylalola says:

    Amp, I think *you* are the one who wrote:

    “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.”


    “A feminist:

    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.”

    Next, the *headline* for crying out loud to this blog is: “Can conservatives be feminists?” — and you are trying to tell me that your blog does NOT have as its underlying assumption that of course feminists are … partisan at the least and obviously *not* conservatives (that is, they are Democrats or liberals or progressives) if you have to ponder whether conservatives can be feminist.

    We have different takes on this one. I feel strongly that the liberal feminist movement sold out feminism as an ideal to partisan politics — subordinated feminist ideals to partisan politics — to such an extreme degree in the mid-1990s that I can’t see straight when the subject comes up. It’s like they tossed any ability to make change through the liberal activist venue — the legal system, legislative system, etc. — to the wind, and the damage won’t be undone until we’re at least one generation removed. (But you also have to keep in mind I’m more classic radical anyway and don’t particularly hold liberal and partisan activism up to any real degree — but I mean *some* ability to make change through the venue is better than none!)

  25. 19
    Ampersand says:

    Amp, I think *you* are the one who wrote:

    “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.”


    “A feminist:

    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.”

    Yup, I wrote those, and I stand by them. But here’s what you wrote, Laylalola:

    You want political equality? That’s what counts to you?

    I think it’s obvious that “social, political and economic” equality, as well as “full” equality, are both calling for more than just political equality. Political equality is one of the many things I want, and it matters, but it’s not the end-all and be-all.

    Next, the *headline* for crying out loud to this blog is: “Can conservatives be feminists?” … and you are trying to tell me that your blog does NOT have as its underlying assumption that of course feminists are … partisan at the least and obviously *not* conservatives (that is, they are Democrats or liberals or progressives) if you have to ponder whether conservatives can be feminist.

    First of all, I think of a “blog” as meaning the entire blog, not just this one post (which you call a blog). So when you said “this blog has as its assumption that of course partisan politics define you first,” I thought you were referring to the entire blog – all the thousands of posts – not just this one single post. So that’s part of why I took umbrage. Sorry for misunderstanding you.

    As you yourself implicitly admit, if I question whether or not conservatives can be feminist, it doesn’t follow that feminists are a subset of the Democratic party. I can believe that conservatives can’t be feminists, and nonetheless think that feminism spans from Greens, to leftists, to progressives, to anarchists, to socialists, to communists, to Dems, etc.. It’s only if we have such a narrow view that we assume the Democrats are the whole of the left, that we can assume that “conservatives aren’t feminists” must mean that feminists are Democrats.

    Furthermore, not all conservatives are Republicans! So the assumption that “conservative” has to be a partisan term is dubious, as well. (The word “Republican” was used by Faludi in the bit I quoted, but it was nowhere used in the stuff I wrote for this post).

    In short, you’re projecting a narrow Democratic/Republican vision of the world onto a post that made no such assumptions. If one of us is refusing to step away from partisan thinking, it’s not me.

    Finally, you might have noted this line from my post: “Yes, in my opinion, conservatives can be feminists.”

    I can totally understand being so bruised by a past problem that you tend to see things in its light. I have a lot of sympathy for that. Really.

    Nonetheless, the fact is, I don’t think that feminists must be democrats. Period. If you’re not willing to take my word for that when I tell you explicitly, then I don’t know if there’s any point in continuing the discussion.

  26. 20
    Laylalola says:

    Oh whatever bean. The liberal feminist movement is for all intents and purposes dead of self-inflicted wounds, bloodletting its lifeblood — GenX women who were there in force — and how can it continue without them, without blood and a heartbeat? For primarily putting partisan politics before anything feminist, and selling out feminism while making it impossible to do work or even be taken seriously in the arena they attempt to make change through.

    The radical feminist movement — “who weren’t partisan enough, crossed the political lines to gen in bed with nasty prudish right-wing Christians who all oppose porn” — I don’t even understand what you’re saying, bean, it doesn’t make any sense. As you know I am a former collective member of *off our backs* and am now as sharply critical if not more so of what has become of the U.S. radical feminist movement as I am of the U.S. liberal feminist movement. It’s been hijacked by nutcases, basically, who call themselves “radical feminist” but have nothing at all radical about their activism — take MacKinnon and her absolute insistence on working through the legal system alone for change (extremely liberal) — or even feminist about their actions (take Daly, please, and her literal witch-hunts and preaching of outright hatred and bigotry for transsexuals, for example). These “leaders” are preaching/teaching utter intolerance not only for anyone who is not born female but who is born female but doesn’t agree with their every last action and word. In fact MacKinnon in particular and her psychophants will hunt down and demonize and destroy not just individual feminists or groups of feminists or frontline radical feminists in international war but yes entire WINGS of feminist movements if that’s what it takes for their word to rule — at least within the movement itself. And come on. That’s not feminist. It’s not pro-woman. They actively put a huge amount of energy in DESTROYING RECOGNIZED FEMINISTS, GROUPS, AND EVEN WINGS of the movement — they don’t even like feminists, they don’t like women thinking for themselves, they can’t tolerate another woman thinking for herself and partly agreeing but not agreeing entirely with them. None of this is feminist. All of it has made radical U.S. feminism irrelevant. And it’s so anti-everything classic radical and feminist!

    And I DON’T think it’s antifeminist to say the U.S. liberal and radical feminist “movements” — to the extent you can even say they continue to exist as movements anymore — are SERIOUSLY FUCKED UP right now, irrelevant, so far off the deep end as to no longer even be talking sense, hypocritical, acting directly against women. Oh it’s a creep show. It really is. And I don’t think you can change it — it’s so bizarre and so disgusting and so unattractive and inept that most women can’t stand being involved in it for very long. But trust me we’re still out here — GenX activists that got a real shocker to see what the movements and the leaders are really like and how much a waste of a woman’s life and energy and money it is to put any time at all into that insanity. We’re still out here and the only way for this grotesqueness that is the current U.S. liberal and radical feminist movements to change is to just sit on the sidelines while the “leaders” kick the bucket one by one. I mean the movements are on lifesupport. The lifeblood is gone. These movements ain’t getting up and moving no more. Not in the form they exist now. And good riddance.

  27. 21
    Laylalola says:

    When Amp says “conservatives” I don’t tend to think of whackos on the fringe any more than when the right wing says “liberals” (though a lot of people assume they mean whackos on the fringe too). Conservatives aren’t necessarily absolutist or fundamentalist or religious zealots — it’s just a description meaning to me, generally, a person who wants the individual to achieve, preferably based on merit, including women and their daughters, who tend not to want so much income going to government but working through charities instead, etc. Yes conservatives can and do see that their is great inequality in this world and some conservative organizations are the most generous with their money and time in working directly in those areas. We may not always agree with every aspect of what they do but then they don’t agree with us going in to say Third-World countries either and helping in the ways that *we* think are the best ways to do it.

    As for whackos as in right-wing conservative extremist whackos — can *they* be feminist? Ah hell. I mean for crying out loud. The radical feminist movement currently *is* basically a bunch of right-wing conservative extremist whacko absolutist bigoted intolerant nutcases masquerading as “radical feminists.” I mean same ends — sometimes more extreme hatred and flamboyant bigotry, even. The same ends but through different reasoning. It doesn’t matter what the intentions when the actions are exactly the same and result not in breaking down the status quo to make the world a better place but inflaming existing or even out-of-date bigotry and hatred and thriving on destruction and not empowerment as your mobilizing force and your raison d’etre.

  28. 22
    Jake Squid says:

    Just out of curiousity…. How do you define “radical feminist,” Laylalola?

  29. 23
    Laylalola says:

    Well the classic political definition regarding where one’s activism falls on a universally understood line (regardless of whether you consider yourself feminist) — there is the moderate/middle —> then left to that, which is called liberal activism —> then left to that, which is called radical activism —-> then left to that, which is called revolutionary activism. There is a similar universal understanding of forms of political activism that go to the right too.

    Early on in the Second Wave, U.S. feminist leaders explicitly decided the movement would not have revolutionaries — a la the Black Panthers or the Weather Underground, which used violence toward their ends. Instead, the activism in the U.S. feminist movement would be either liberal (meaning working within the system for change through the system, be it legal changes, for example, or whatnot) or radical (meaning working outside the established system for change — that is, building new paradigms instead of seeking a law to change what’s already in place, or whatnot). Liberal feminist Betty Friedan seriously ticked off radical feminist Ti-Grace Atkinson when she said early on that what NOW’s (and U.S. feminists’) No. 1 goal was getting women into positions of power. (So I mean I’m not harping on Amp alone here — there is definitely a strain of feminism that *to this day* thinks putting women (any politics) in a top government or CEO position is a “first,” a “Breakthrough,” and maybe in one sense it is but if that’s your stance and all feminism is to you then you would have cheered Condi Rice whether you knew her partisan politics or not, as is the case with *many* women who break through to become the first this or that. My point being, partisan politics clearly is for many feminists their first alliance, feminism only under that, and Condi Rice is a clear example of this, seeing how in any corporate position where these same feminists knew nothing of her partisan politics they would have claimed her as one of their own firsts, breakthroughs, heroines, whatever).

    There is nothing radical about Catharine A. MacKinnon’s activism: She works exclusively within the legal system to change the legal system — she puts all emphasis and all respect toward the law, above everything else, even though the top men the laws she has worked to get on the book flip her laws off with great disrespect. She has more faith in the law and the legal system than in frontline radical feminists — she doesn’t trust them, she doesn’t like them, she considers them a threat, she actively works to destroy and demonize them, all in the name of something as insubstantial (within the radical context of the thing) as changing the law.

    Mary Daly’s recent activism is not radical either, because she is not working to build new paradigms of human behavior toward the oppressed that make the world or more equitable place. Instead, she is inflaming hatreds and bigotries and fears with her preaching that, for example, transsexuals are “monsters” — she means it quite literally — and a threat to women and women’s space, when transsexuals are one of the tiniest and most hated minorities killed right now in the streets of, for example, our nation’s capital, for no other reason than that they exist.

  30. 24
    Laylalola says:

    One of the problems is that, for self-serving reasons, we’ve had leading feminists — Steinem, MacKinnon — give convoluted definitions of what it means to be “radical” that have nothing to do with the classic political understanding of the definitions, and *young women in particular* just parrot these convoluted definitions because *activism is so disconnected from the U.S. feminist movements these days that it never occurs to them that the definitions are rooted in where/what arena your activism takes place!* It’s obscene. Gloria Steinem is the postergirl for liberal activism — she works through the legislative process, she does interviews in the mainstream media, trying to implement change — and yet within the past five years she has said with a straight face that she’s a “radical feminist” and young women don’t snort but just accept and believe it. Feminism in the United States now exists mainly in books and in theory and is so disconnected from reality and activism that something as fundamental as understanding the difference between a liberal and a radical feminist is totally lost. Anywhere there’s discussion of feminism, you will find women asking with all sincerity what the difference is between liberal and radical feminism, or what makes a radical feminist. And they will be fed all sorts of crappolla — whatever the agenda of the responder happens to be.

  31. 25
    alsis39.99 says:

    Heh. “Politically neutered.” I think I’d prefer that to being the universally-accepted scapegoat every time Democrats manage to fuck up. It would be downright peaceful to simply not exist for the blame squad, much as non-voters don’t exist for them. Everyone “viable” scrambles over each other trying to woo a scant handful of swing voters and –if they’re liberal Democrats– to scream at, berate, patronize and paralyze an even scanter handful of 3rd Party voters. Meanwhile, the bloc of non-voters is at least as large as the combined number of registerd Dems or Reps. Yet it’s as if they don’t exist to either side.

    Of course, the outrage of Democrats towards those on their left is simply a frustrated sense of ownership. Or entitlement. Or, to paraphrase that ultimate feminist role model, Midge McCracken. “If you ever voted for them, even once, it’s like they own you. Like dogs pissing on a tree.”

  32. 26
    Laylalola says:

    Oh yeah, alsis. The Dem’s attitude toward the whole third-party thing is an interesting (frustrating) thing to witness (as though it isn’t obscene there are only two major parties you are “supposed” to vote for, for strategic reasons if not that you actually support the party(!), in this, the Leader of the Free World, where Afghanistan and Iraq have far more choice in their elections than we do. (And this attitude you describe exists among Republicans too — see Ross Perot’s thid-party runs in the 1990s and Republicans are as likely to blame Perot suppoerters for Clinton’s victory/Bush I’s loss as Democrats are to blame Nader supporters for W’s wins.) All of this is directly relevant to the role partisan (Democratic in particular) politics plays in regard to current U.S. feminism, because we are kidding ourselves if we don’t think the party thinks it owns us and also if we don’t watch leaders like Gloria Steinem go out of the way to get on her knees and publicly give the party’s leaders a symbolic blow-job just when feminist issues come into play. (See Steinem’s excusing Clinton over Lewinsky in the New York Times as consensual while never addressing Paula Jones, a poor undereducated woman exactly the kind of which sexual harassment laws were written to protect, when the Supreme Court — the Supreme Court! — unanimously ruled that the sexual harassment case could go forward.) We owe them. For what, I’m not sure exactly. But we better be there if we want anything else to get through the system on our behalf n the future……

    Back to feminism specifically, in recent years a number of folks have talked and written about the “identity politics” phenomenon and how dangerous it is and how ultimately it works against the people taking a politics as their identity. I don’t much follow all this new research but yes at some point some time ago feminists like Catharine MacKinnon required, if they were to have followers who didn’t question some of their reasoning and actions, who didn’t see the “radical” in “radical feminism” as a descriptive term describing what one’s activism looks like or where it takes place but as a vague overall description for the theory (she calls herself radical because if the changes to the legal system she advocates were enacted then the system and people’s attitudes would be radically different, she argues). When your politics is not a strategic or tatical means to an end but YOUR IDENTITY then when anyone, even someone who also is feminist, questions any aspect of what you are doing or what theory you are espousing, you are against that individual, that very INDIVIDUAL, not their ideas or their actions and there is no other way, you are either with them or you are the enemy. I know this sounds disconnected but really we’re on the same wavelength here I think. We’re talking about loyalties that go much farther beyond classic political alliances and strategies toward one goal or another but not every last darn thing regardless of all else — and we are talking about enforcement of that identity, proof that you put that political identity before any other politics or consideration even when it is contrary to your politics, and we’re talking about penalties against you/your group and yes alsis harassment of you for the party’s failings, the whipping boy/girl, the easy scapegoat and explanation for why they don’t succeed when otherwise if you’d obeyed they would have, etc.

  33. 27
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Can Conservatives be feminists?

    Sure, why not.

    Conservativism isn’t a specific ideology — “Women deserve to be treated like doormats” — it’s a belief that change should be measured and that what we have today is probably the way it is because it worked.

    What this nets out to mean is that many things which we take for granted today as rights — women having the vote, for example — aren’t something a proper Conservative would be opposed to. Additionally, some of the arguments in Roe v. Wade were very classically conservative — using women’s historical right to terminate pregnancy prior to “quickening” — in their formulation.

    What has happened is that amongst social-justice-minded individuals, words like “Conservative” are considered to be swear-words. Fiscally, I am a conservative. I also believe in universal health care because, from a conservative standpoint, it makes sense. Go figure. The other thing that’s happened is that a lot of former liberals moved to the right and established “Neoconservativism”

    which is not particularly new and entirely not at all Conservative.

    The problem arises because there are really two different axises which make up “Liberal” and “Conservative”.

    If you think about “personal freedom” — “Lesbians should get to marry!” — and “economic freedom” — “Businesses should get to pay as little as they can get away with, and I should get to keep all my money to myself, forever!” — these are really orthogonal concepts. Many Progressives are all for “personal freedom” but tend to be against “economic freedom” because “economic freedom” is contrary to the kinds of wealth redistribution schemes needed to bring about “social equality”.

    What needs to be discussed, rather than labels like “Liberal” and “Conservative” are those two axises — can someone who is opposed to “personal freedom”, wherever they fall on those two charts — be a feminist? And the answer is “No”.

  34. 28
    Laylalola says:

    well, I don’t agree completely but I don’t disagree, either, and in the end we seem to be approaching politics as it more correctly should be approached, anyway, all of which is to say, I agree with you, FurryCatHerder, that conservatives can be feminists — but I said that anyway! — and further, that some so-called self-identified feminists in truth are nothing of the sort when you look at their actions and define their politics accordingly (as opposed to vague convoluted redefining of the terms out of agendas and self-interest in presenting oneself one way when one’s activism puts them in an entirely different classic, internationally understood category regarding political activism.

    Anyway. FurryCatHerder, you haven’t seen a little fat cat that accidentally got loose from its owner by any chance, have you?

  35. 29
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Anyway. FurryCatHerder, you haven’t seen a little fat cat that accidentally got loose from its owner by any chance, have you?

    What did it look like? And don’t tell me it was small, furry, had four legs and a tail, because that could describe a dog …

  36. 30
    Anonymous Viewer says:

    I don’t call myself a feminist just because I consider myself conservative. But it shouldn’t matter whether or not somebody calls themselves a feminist. What should matter is whether they act upon the beliefs of feminism. Titles really don’t mean much.

    There are different degrees of conservatism. Like feminists, a lot of conservatives disagree on issues that appeal to them. So a conservative could be a feminist. He would just be a different degree of a conservative than an anti-feminist conservative.

    But that might contradict the idea that what you call yourself doesn’t matter. That might automatically make the person who calls him/herself a feminist conservative to actually be a liberal.

  37. 31
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    The problem is though, that many of the conservative tenants fundamentally are at odds with feminist causes, especially with the co-opting that is being done to the conservative influences in the country by the religious right.

  38. 32
    Jake Squid says:

    Can I just say, “tenets?” Tenants are folks living in an abode.

  39. 33
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    hahaha – how about a reminder to not post after 4:00am instead. Tenants seemed reasonable to the internal spell checker/grammar/dictionary at the time. Nit-picker.

  40. 34
    Jake Squid says:

    I’ve been getting annoyed by the “tenants” rather than “tenets” thing for weeks now. Yours was simply the proverbial last straw. Plus this seemed to be a rather sedate thread, so… I also figured that you wouldn’t take it as a huge, whopping great insult.

  41. 35
    Jake Squid says:

    Oh. As to Laylalola’s definition of “radical feminist”… Your definitions does not seem to match the definition of self-defined radical feminists. You are defining “radical” in political terms, they are not. Rather, they define “radical” as “root” (radical feminists feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). It’s an easy and obvious mistake to make. I thought it was defined the way you do until others pointed out my error. Doing some reading confirmed my mistake.

    In the end, although your critique makes sense if radical feminists are politically defined as radical, they are not. So your criticism does not really seem to apply.

  42. 36
    Laylalola says:

    The problem is that the “root” definition came *after* the political definition I outlined above already had been determined. There’s a *lot* of theory out there for you to read. There’s *very little* writing about the activists of the movement, their activism, the arguments internally within the movement. After Ti-Grace Atkinson introduced the concept of radical feminism within the United States along the political lines internationally understood — there are radicals and revolutionaries in all parts of the modern world and they certainly existed in the United States on the left when Atkinson and women broke off from the anti-Vietnam War protesters (again, Atkinson allied with the Weather Underground, the Mafia, and the Black Panthers and actually wanted the movement to be revolutionary in those senses and not especially radical, in part because radical and liberal activism requires a much much longer period of time for the change you want to be implemented than revolutionary activism does). After the women broke off, originally caling themselves I think The October 17 Movement, in 1966, Ti-Grace Atkinson began writing what radical activism would look like — she has charts of tactical moves and long-term strategy, that’s what radical feminism looked like to her — and in early 1967 renamed the October 17 Movement to “The Feminists” (did you ever wonder where the word feminist came from anyway???). And through the rest of 1967 wrote the original essays first laying out what radical feminism as a theory would entail. She was the primary espouser/advocate/intellectual on this matter. (By the way, radical feminism included siding with prostitutes and legalizing prostitution under Atkinson’s world-view; in radical feminism it was *male behavior* that was the enemy and that needed to be changed, but by the early 1970s Atkinson was already railing against so-called radical feminists for forgetting the word “behavior” and saying “men” or “males” were the enemy instead of behavior. Radical feminism and addressing women’s oppression was only one aspect of understanding oppression and its many intertwined threads, including racism, including classism, etc., and if one addressed only women’s oppression but didn’t consider of equal importance divesting one’s self of, for example, classist behavior — behavior again being the key word here — then one ultimately wasn’t working to end women’s oppression because it cannot be ended by you if you are not also understanding and seeing that all these other intertwined oppressions are part of a whole and women’s oppression is only *one* part of that — you are still working to keep oppressions in full force if you don’t understand this in what you’re doing. But i’m going on and on and on and that’s not what you were interested in.

    She outraged bookish theory-type “radicals” in the early 1970s — she was very much an activist and had no time for theory types who came out with theory that didn’t match their actions, or who basically did nothing but sit around and talk theory, period. She outraged them by calling certain radical men — again, radical being the classic, internationally understood definition of radical — her “Sisters” but not so-called “radical feminists” who didn’t get it. She wound up “divorcing” the movement she founded in the early 1970s. And you don’t read her stuff anywhere in any women’s studies classes and you’re hard-pressed to find it yourself because her book containing her collection of essays and speeches is out of print (I do have a copy). But that’s a little history for you in regard to the activist side of the movement and its personalities (as opposed to theory alone, which as I said, is easy to find and has a much higher premium on it within the movement than activism or even history of the activism within the movement ever did).

  43. 37
    Laylalola says:

    But yes you are correct about this “root” definition of radical feminism — meaning, radical feminists consider women’s oppression to be the “root” oppression. It’s a vague and convoluted a definition of what a radical feminist is — I mean young women get this definition when they ask what’s the difference between a liberal feminist and a radical feminist and this “root” definition is thrown out there, as though it makes any sense or helps the young woman have a better clue what the difference between liberal feminists and radical feminists are (they don’t). It’s a useless, pointless, vague definition that allows anyone — enter Gloria Steinem — to call herself a “radical feminist” and for those who know nothing about classic definitions that categorize what kind of activism you practice, it’s accepted as an answer. It’s not understood well, but then, the feminist movement right now is so much theory upon theory is *sounds* like it must be a kind of theoretical definition of sorts and if you don’t understand it yet well you probably will understand it better later on and be able to identify a radical feminist on your own without having to find out how she defines herself. It’s all so stupid.