What’s in a name?


I was shocked, SHOCKED I’ll tell you, to read over at Bite My Cookie that she does not consider herself a feminist. She said she wouldn’t make a good feminist, because her husband is the breadwinner, while she is at home with the kids, and cooking up an idea for a cookie business, which will be funded at first from money saved from her husband’s job. So, because she loves her husband, she needs him, and doesn’t want to do away with him and do it all on her own, she doesn’t think she would make a good feminist. She’s smart, articulate, well educated, strong willed, opinionated, loving, entrepenurial, motivated as hell, liberal, funny, and so many things that I’m missing…what’s not feminist about all of that? I left a comment saying I was a bit surprised, and moved on. (Her post wasn’t ABOUT feminism, by the way…it was a little quip she made in a post about BlogHer.) I moved on to a post by Tiny Cat Pants, which coincidentally was discussing feminism, in its more radical form. She linked to the blog of a stripper, who is tired of feminists and is walking away from that title in her own life.

So. Here we have smart, successful women, turning away from the term feminist. That made me think, what are they rejecting? Renegade Evolution, the woman walking away from the title, says she’s tired of it because she’s tired of women judging each other, more specifically tired of them judging her, and that deep down, she doesn’t want to become one of them, doesn’t want to start judging others. Well, I don’t either. Certainly the so called “mommy wars” are evidence of some of that judgment, and how hurtful it can be. So, I went looking for a non-biased, third person type definition of feminist. I found myself at Wikipedia, and found a lot, including this:

One of the difficulties in defining and circumscribing a complex and heterogeneous concept such as feminism is the extent to which women have rejected the term from a variety of semantic and political standpoints. Many women engaged in activities intimately grounded in feminism have not considered themselves feminists. Likewise, it is assumed that only women can be feminists. However, feminism is not grounded in the basis of one’s gender, but in rejecting and refuting sexist oppression politically, socially, privately, linguistically, and otherwise. (Though there are people – both men and women – who claim feminism itself can be biased in its approach to gender relations.) Redefining feminism in this way illustrates and reflects today’s reality of both men and women openly supporting feminism and also openly adhering to sexist ideals. From a political vantage, the term “feminism” has been rejected both because of fears of labeling, and because of its innate ability to attract broad misogyny. Historically Virginia Woolf was one of the more prominent women to reject the term early in its history in 1938, although it would be easy to overstate Woolf’s position, considering that she is regarded as an icon of feminism. However Betty Friedan would revisit this concern in 1981 in The Second Stage. Nevertheless, defining ideas does not necessarily imply tagging the individual. Ann Taylor, for instance, offers the following definition of a feminist, after Karen Offen: Any person who recognizes “the validity of women’s own interpretation of their lived experiences and needs,” protests against the institutionalized injustice perpetrated by men as a group against women as a group, and advocates the elimination of that injustice by challenging the various structures of authority or power that legitimate male prerogatives in a given society. Another way of expressing this concept is that a primary goal is to correct androcentric bias.

OK, so, let me start by telling you what the term Feminism means to me. What it means to me, to be a feminist, is that men and women are equal. End of story. I have a lot of other opinions, about working, staying home, childcare, child labor, marriage, divorce, pornography, childrens’ rights, unions, drugs, gambling, polygamy, on and on and on. And I have formed these opinions over the years, based on experiences of my own and those of others. They are none of them set in stone. If someone were to convince me that my opinion of any of these things were wrong, I would change my opinion. And none, NONE of these opinions have anything whatsoever to do with my considering myself a feminist. I consider myself a feminist, because I don’t think another person is better than me based solely upon their genitalia. Everything else is me, not feminism.

That may not be how you think about it. So, I’m wondering, especially those of you women who are smart, sassy, and strong willed….what is YOUR definition of a feminist? Do you consider yourself to be one? Why, or why not? (Let’s not leave the men out of this…all of the sexiest men are feminists, too…)

Updated to add that Aunt B. over at Tiny Cat Pants linked to this post, with her own definition: “To me, feminism is the radical notion that women are human and that being human is not equivalent to suffering.”

16 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. I’m like you in that I have a very simple definition of feminism: equal rights under the law for any man or woman to do what they do best. I don’t think of it as a gender thing or as a way to be judgemental toward other woman. It is just a point of view based on equality.

    But I know that the term can get all sorts of people up in arms. And that some people fear being labelled with it while others cling to it with glee. Beats me how it ever got so controversial.

  2. Pingback: What is Feminism? « Tiny Cat Pants

  3. As with any label, some folks take it too far and become radical. This makes the rest of us go “Huh? I don’t want to be a fruit loop like that!” Not only that, but it gives males the impression that women don’t want to be treated like a woman. What I mean is, they shy away from the normal considerate things such as opening doors for women, or letting them go through a door first, standing up when a woman enters a room. I’ve heard of ultra radical feminist getting extremely offended when this type of consideration and politeness is offered to them. That type of behavior I can’t stand.

    Anyway, falling off my soap box, I agree with you and Ally Bean: equal rights under the law for any man or woman to do what they do best.

  4. Wow, I never considered I wouldn’t be a feminist because my husband makes more money than me with him working full time and me part time. He doesn’t dictate what I should do. We mutually made choices based on many factors. I’ve been a SAHM, working full time mom, and part time working mom. I admit there always seems to be someone who is strongly against whatever my situation is.
    I feel feminism is equal rights.

  5. I would agree that feminism is equal rights.

    I think some people view feminism as “against men” and some women who call themselves feminists can get a bit strident.

  6. I’m always perplexed when this subject comes up. I personally just don’t like labels. Maybe because I feel I never fit into them..I am me..and I didn’t come with a label. So if you all say that feminism means equals rights..I’m all for that. And we definitely need to stop judging each other, labeling each other and rise above all the crap. Cuz we could, if we tried really hard together, take over the world.

  7. Julie,
    I’m with you. Feminism means everyone equal.
    I am one of those women who doesn’t want to be treated differently than men, because I believe that if they open the door for me it implies that I can’t do it myself. However, my solution is to open doors for other people, both men and women, when I get there first. Certainly to open doors for people who are carrying things. And to thank people who open doors for me. I can act like an equal and not get snotty.
    It seems to me that the strident name has been earned by some women, but more than that it has been used by the likes of Rush and Bill O to intimidate. I don’t intimidate easily.

  8. Yep, everyone should be equal. The biggest mistake I feel that radical feminists make is that they shun their femininity, which makes being feminine appear weak. They miss the point completely. Why dress and act like a man to gain respect? Isn’t that a betrayal of gender and therefore a joke? Feminism should be a celebration of femininity and therefore, not discarded. If a man wants to open a door for me, then good for him. It doesn’t mean he thinks I’m so stupid that I can’t operate a door handle, it means that he is being considerate.

  9. I guess I agree that feminists should work towards equality under the law, but I strongly disagree that men and women should be equal. As I said over at my blog, there’s a lot going wrong with men and masculinity at the moment and if that’s what there is to be equal to, I’d rather not.

    I’m more interested in seeing everyone, men, women, and children, recognized as full human beings and see that adults are free to make the choices they want to make and do what they want to do that brings them pleasure and doesn’t hurt anyone else.

    Because I believe that women are full human beings who should be free to do whatever brings them pleasure, I can’t understand what it matters if some folks “take it too far.” So what? They take it as far as they like. I take it as far as I like. I’m recognized as an individual human being and they’re individual human beings so what they do, as long as it doesn’t hurt me, has nothing to do with me.

    It’s not my business.

    And anyone who would use the actions of another woman to pass judgment on me isn’t my friend or ally anyway, so who cares?

    If some women “shun their femininity,” whatever that means, that’s on them. It’s got nothing to do with me. If it brings them pleasure, it’s fine with me. I don’t feel betrayed. I’m busy doing what brings me pleasure. The only way I could feel betrayed is if I thought we all had an agreement to be a certain way that made us all somewhat unhappy and they’d abandoned that in order to gain something I wanted, but wasn’t brave enough to try for.

    But I don’t really have that kind of agreement with other women.

    Again, if there are folks out there who want to use the actions of those women to pass judgment on me, they’re not my friends and I can disregard their opinions.

  10. I agree that there is a huge misconception about what feminism is. To me being a feminist means equality, as well. It doesn’t mean I subscribe to a whole set of other sub-issues that are often associated with (but not necessarily tied to) the feminist movement. After all, part of being a strong, independent woman means that I can have my own strong, independent opinions, right? Whether we all embrace the same world-view is really not the point. The point is that women everywhere deserve equality: equal opportunities, equal pay for equal work, equal respect in the world. I agree that it is entirely possible to embrace that mindset while not hating men, while being a man or a woman, and still accepting that men and women are different.

  11. *Feminism…Wot’s that then? 😉

    Actually, it’s hard to disagree with you or add anything new because I fundamentally agree with gender equality.

    The only thing I would add (and this may be a generational thing) is that I never realized how sexist and egocentric some of the men are until I started the job I hold now. Most of the worst offenders are men in their mid 50s who, on the one hand, extol their so-called open mindedness, yet on the other hand mutter about the fact that women hold positions of power.

    * A line from a movie called “Life is Sweet.”

  12. Feminism = support of equal opportunities and compensation based on equal abilities, with no constraints based on gender alone.

    Sez me.

  13. Ha ha, I love tiny cat pants, based on that statement alone.

    Yeah, I don’t get this either. And it’s a fairly new concept. You didn’t used to hear women saying things like, “I’m not a feminist, but…” I think that somehow, at some point the term was co-opted. Maybe by Limbaugh and his “feminazi” ideas? Too many people use it to mean something entirely different from what it actually means.

    I’m horrified when I see in-fighting among women who self-identify as feminists. Fighting with other women about whose ideas are better is not feminism.

    Another idea I find strange is one is that feminists somehow don’t like men. What about the male feminists? They don’t like themselves, or what?

  14. I’m a stay at home mom living off my partner’s incoe and i consider myself very much a feministIt really bothers me when there are so many women who ARE feminsits, but this that because they don’t fit the stereotype that they aren’t. Especially when often the stereotpye is used to do just that, turn women away from feminism.

  15. I’ll have to disagree here. Feminism to me doesn’t explicitly mean equality. There are better words for that with regards to the human condition such as Egalitarianism.

    Feminism for me is a platform used by the female of the species to ensure an Egalitarian society will exist. It’s about ensuring we never return to dark ages with gender equality.

    I have no time for extremist in any school of thought and i can only hope that they are bred out of the gene pool before too long.

    It is my hope that one day Feminism will no longer be required to keep the powers that be in check and true Egalitarianism can exist. I also hope that things don’t swing the other way where males become a subservient gender.

    Balance is best.

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