Sunday, January 18, 2009

I come not to praise feminism...

Further to my post yesterday, here is a more general thought about feminism. For feminism to work it has to be a grass roots, 'common sense' belief. And to be so widely accepted it needs to be a brand. It needs to be attractive, make people feel good, and be embraced even by people who actually benefit from the alternative (patriarchy etc).

Take for example, that only 3-4 percent of people believe enough in animal rights to stop eating animals--but a much larger group will support specific bans on fur and testing, and donate to groups like PETA (donations up 11% in 2008), and a majority of people now agree animals have some kinds of rights. From a strict rights/vegan point of view this might be seen as hypocrisy--but from a pragmatic point of view HSUS presented a ballot, and 65% of people voted against tiny veal, hen and sow enclosures. By mobilising grass roots emotional support they got something done.

Organic farming used to be just for those committed to the entire philosophy. Now it is a niche market embraced by many farmers purely for economic reasons. But that means more organic farms, and more people with access to organic products. Once the idea that animal abuse was a sentinel for abuse and violence was not accepted, not everyone seems to know this, including politician introducing and supporting bills.

All of these ideas came from a core group who devoted their lives to them, and were then embraced by large group who support them out of a general feeling that it was good, or healthy, or kind. They were honed by the minority, but ultimately implemented by the majority. Most people aren't going to devote their lives or entire budget to a cause--they certainly aren't going to align every act, belief and political vote to a detailed, uniform agenda. And any movement that required this is never going to truly break through.

Look also at the breakthrough with environmentalism, showing it wasn't just a liberal agenda is--it's the planet, stupid. It is a conservative issue, a religious issue, an atheist issue, an economic issue, a kids' issue, an industry issue... it is an issue for the species. You can be green and be any other damn thing you like, because it is going to take all of us. The scientific facts of climate change reach the majority only when they were stripped of a clutter of other issues and agendas, and connected to feelings of doing good for humankind, doing the right thing together.

Human rights are the same. If men aren't allowed to be feminist, then feminism isn't the solution to gender rights. If men can't be victims (e.g. of violence, severed parental rights, workplace stress etc etc) under feminism... ditto. I am not falling for the 'poor white man' rhetoric here, but a gender prejudice should be accepted regardless of the gender or the severity of the issue--just as violence is violence whether it is domestic, public... or against animals. Gender rights are about males, females and any other status (intersex, androgynous etc)--to have equal rights we all have to support it under a banner that is politically and religiously inclusive--including the right to submit to religious dictates, be a sexual submissive and any other damn thing a grown person might decide to do. If a feminist has to be pro-abortion, anti-Republican, pro-gay, vegetarian and counter-culture then I can join, I will be joining a group that is, and always will be, in a minority.

If the goal is to offer real equal rights, the nature of these rights must rest firmly on an accurate understanding of what gender is and isn't--and an inclusive, emotionally warm movement to honor the innate moral worth of every person. Real feminism must include people with whom, on every other issue under the sun, we might disagree. I have a deep commitment to feminism, but the mainstream of the movement seems to be dominated by vagino-retentive femino-centrism and a new generation of pretentious female chauvinist bitchery--now busy sparring with each other to the exclusion of most other activities.

It is more important to have rights, than to be right. And I am seriously beginning to wonder whether the need for gender awareness and true human rights can be carried any further under the feminist banner, which seems so dominated by the need to denigrate the language and positions of those trying to embrace the central mission without joining the cult of feminism or neo-feminism and following it as a creed of speech, dress and attitude more demanding that orthodox religion. I honor what the movement has done, but not what is has become, because it is increasingly adding a degree of truth to some of what the male chauvinist idiots have always said about the stereotypical feminist--humorless, naive, nit-picking and hostile to pragmatism and compromise.

My mother's feminism and my sister's feminism are not enough. I need a belief that can be my brother's, son's or husband's feminism... my priest's, my dog's, my boss's, my enemy's. I need a feminism that walks the walk when it comes to honoring they way in which all people are equal, no matter how different they may be. I come not to praise feminism, nor to bury it. In fact unless some changes are made, when it comes to doing my best to work for a fairer society, I may not come to "feminism" at all--and I doubt I am the only one.


Anonymous said...

"it is increasingly adding a degree of truth to some of what the male chauvinist idiots have always said about the stereotypical feminist--humorless, naive, nit-picking and hostile to pragmatism and compromise."

Dam, I'm glad it was a woman who said this and not little ole moi :) You're one cool woman, Emily, feminist or not. (I would say "babe" but my wife warns that might give away my chauvinist tendencies ;)

Emily Veinglory said...

I hsve chauvinist tendencies too, pro-male and pro-female depending on the context. But a sense of humor is IMHO a great part of any social justice movement. :)

(But dude, stop agreeing with me or I will lose all my feminist cred).

corrin said...

And that's why I don't use the term feminist to describe myself. It's because exclusive and not inclusive.

Lisa said...

What Corrin said. It's an all or nothing club -- its their way or the highway. In the feminism philosophy, I am not a feminist because I stayed home to raise my kids. Well, I made the decision that was right and best for my family and if that makes me out of the club, oh well.