Definition of feminism, round 2,614

In the comments of the Daisy Bond post I linked yesterday, there’s an interesting exchange between Daisy and Daran of “Feminist Critics” about the definition of “feminist.” In her post, Daisy wrote:

At the end of the day, if you’re opposed to sexism — if you believe men and women should be equal, that the gender system is unjust, that our freedoms, both legal and cultural, should not be dependent on our genitals, chromosomes, or our gender presentation, that every person has a sovereign right to reproductive justice — then you’re a feminist in my book, regardless of how you choose to use or not use make-up and handcuffs.

I think this is a little loose in practice, because it’s easy for people to say they oppose sexism, think the sexes should be equal, etc — but at the same time oppose all substantive steps that could be taken to fight for gender justice.

Daran asked if he and his cohorts colleagues at “Feminist Critics” are feminists by this definition. Daisy responded in part:

Feminism is a movement. I think it’s self-evident that someone who is fundamentally opposed to a movement and who is working to end it cannot be a part of that movement. One can be highly critical of the movement and/or its actions and/or its members, but as soon as one is actually working against the movement or working to end it, one is obviously no longer a member of that movement, regardless on one’s opinions about the movement’s stated ideals.

Which is very apt, and probably answers my criticism above.

Of course, Daisy didn’t directly answer Daran’s question, but that’s because it’s unanswerable. There is no official roll of who is or isn’t a feminist; there’s only different people’s subjective opinions. If Daran, or Christina Hoff Sommers, or Sarah Palin, or whoever, thinks of themselves as feminists, then that’s fine — it’s a free country. (Freeish, anyhow.) But that doesn’t mean I have to believe they’re feminists.

(And, needless to say, there are plenty of feminists who don’t consider me any sort of feminist. Which is also fine.)

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8 Responses to Definition of feminism, round 2,614

  1. 1
    MandyV says:

    The main issue here is in trying to create a singular definition of feminism and the attempt to utilize identity politics as an organizing tool. If you make the definition to narrow, nobody’s a feminist and your organizing base is too small. If you make the definition too broad, everyone’s a feminist and your organizing has no teeth. To make things worse, a singular definition also creates an “in-group/out-group” binary, which is also problematic for a movement that has often been accused of exclusivity. I think it’s time that we move past these limitations instead of just running around in circles with them.

  2. 2
    Tom Nolan says:

    Amp

    No idea whether you regard me as feminist as not, but these are anyway just a couple of points of information. (1) Daran – who is online-dormant at the moment -cannot comment on this blog. Isn’t it a bit unfair to bring his name into play under such circumstances? (2) A cohort is, strictly speaking, the tenth part of a Roman Legion, more laxly speaking, any large body of people. It does not mean “sidekick”.

  3. 3
    Mandolin says:

    Tom, Ampersand just put up a post about moderation that addresses your point number 1. If you want to argue it, do it there, although I can tell you right now that the response is, “Our blog, our rules. This egg, suck it.”

  4. 4
    PG says:

    I think this is a little loose in practice, because it’s easy for people to say they oppose sexism, think the sexes should be equal, etc — but at the same time oppose all substantive steps that could be taken to fight for gender justice.

    This is an interesting point. I have a good friend who would not consider himself actively opposed to sexual orientation equality, but who is so opposed to having any such measure become law “over the will of the people” that he supports Proposition 8 and also supported the Federal Marriage Amendment.* In his view, it is more important to discourage judges from changing the law than it is for same-sex couples to have rights equal to those of opposite-sex couples. Nor have I seen him out petitioning to have equality enacted through voter referendum or legislation, though he claims he would vote for these measures if they were on the ballot through others’ efforts. In other words, all of his actions go in opposition to equality. Can such a person honestly be considered a friend of sexual orientation equality? Also, this same friend is opposed to the Lily Ledbetter Act, again saying that he believes women should be paid equally with men, but that he doesn’t want to give plaintiffs’ attorneys such a boon. Can such a person honestly be considered to favor sex equality in the workplace?

    It seems to me that many people say they are in favor of substantive equality for X, but X falls quite low on their list of priorities, especially below procedural concerns about how this equality will come to be. I would assume something similar is true for Sarah Palin, with regard to, say, reproductive rights: she believes women should have control over their bodies, EXCEPT she prioritizes the rights of the embryo/fetus over that.

    * Unlike RonF and some other folks with whom I’ve discussed this, my friend does have the intellectual honesty to say that he also thinks Loving v. Virginia was a bad decision because it overreached what he thinks the Constitution says. Most people who oppose same-sex marriage can’t explain why it’s constitutionally different from Loving by a textualist reading. They won’t admit it, though, because they know it’s not socially respectable to say the Supreme Court should have left anti-miscegenation statutes in place, so I respect the guts it takes to say, “Yeah, same goes for race as for sex.”

  5. Pingback: Substantive Steps and Subjective Opinions | Feminist Critics

  6. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Tom: Mandolin said pretty much what I would have said, except probably I wouldn’t have said the egg-sucking part. :-P The thread she refers to is here; please feel free to respond on that thread if you want to pursue this fairness question further.

    I note from the trackback above that Daran seems to have emerged from his dormancy. :-p

  7. 6
    Mandolin says:

    Well, yes. I will qualify now that any advice about the application of mouth to eggs comes from me personally, and does not represent the general attitude of this blog.

  8. 7
    Daisy Bond says:

    I think this is a little loose in practice, because it’s easy for people to say they oppose sexism, think the sexes should be equal, etc — but at the same time oppose all substantive steps that could be taken to fight for gender justice.

    That’s a good point. (And in light of Daran’s post on the matter, I’ll note explicitly that it’s a point that does not apply to the FC folks.)

    That original paragraph was really intended as a rhetorical flourish, not a comprehensive definition. Ah, well.