The Words “Feminism” or “Feminist” – Why They’re Problematic And Aren’t Clear – And Why I Don’t Use the Label for Myself
Just recently, the owner of Spiritual Sounding Board blog brought attention to a post on You Tube, a video by a complementarian guy, who was railing that feminism is supposedly a “rebellion against God.”
I was initially going to post a link to that video and comment on it here on my blog – which I may still later do.
But wow and boy howdy, did I ever get clobbered by two of the blog’s self-professing feminists in the comment box, a woman named Carmen (who is, I believe, also an atheist), and by Lea (who I think has said on TWW blog that she is liberal(?) – later edit: but she was indicating to me in one post she holds more conservative positions than she cares to let on).
As much as I find KAS to be obnoxious and repulsive, my opinion of atheist Carmen has now sunk after our exchange today. I previously felt pretty good about her. I thought she was a-okay.
It’s odd, surprising, and sad, too, because I assumed up until this point that Carmen and I were on okay terms.
I guess not. She sure isn’t making me want to leave the Christianity-Agnosticism limbo I’ve been in to become an atheist, any more than KAS can convince me to re-join complementarianism.
Here is a link to the SSB post in question, where this all went down:
I may be repeating – or even directly copying and pasting – myself from that thread, where I left several comments.
I do not identify as a feminist or use the feminist label for myself, nor do I use the word “feminism” to describe my views.
Though I am a conservative, I don’t always agree with other conservatives in their treatment, understanding, or characterization of feminism.
I’ve written blog posts before explaining how my fellow conservatives sometimes misunderstand some of the concepts that (especially liberal, secular) feminists bring up.
Many feminists appeal to the standard dictionary definition of the word, such as (and this is taken directly from the top of Google’s result page for the word “feminism”),
feminism – the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
-to draw support for use of the word.
I think that is a broad and basic enough definition that most people, even most conservatives and Christian complementarians would agree with it, and may even agree, and say, “well, if that is all feminism is, then I might be okay with being referred to as a feminist myself.”
(Some conservatives and complementarians, though, would quibble with that definition, and argue, “but men and women are not the same; they are not identical!,” because they regularly confuse and mistake the word “equal” with the word or concepts of “sameness” or “identical.”)
I’ve been a conservative my entire life.
I was a Republican until a few years ago, and I remain unaffiliated with any political party currently.
I sometimes visit and post to politically conservative forums, sites, and blogs.
The majority of American conservatives and Christian complementarians, when they hear or read the word “feminist” or “feminism” draw several automatic conclusions about those terms, whether you like it or not
Right or wrong, both right wing (and I would also say left wing) individuals assume that feminism is associated with liberal causes and concerns, such as, but not limited to,
- supporting the Democratic Party,
- voting Democrat,
- supporting the legalization of homosexual marriage,
- supporting abortion (being “pro-choice”),
- supporting pornography, and
- supporting transgenderism.
None of that is particularly problematic if you are in fact a self-avowed feminist who is also liberal and who supports things like abortion and so forth.
(And it’s not problematic to you if you also don’t care at all to persuade sexist men to change their minds, as Carmen was saying she was not interested in, on the SSB thread.)
If you are a conservative woman, such as me, who sometimes likes participating on politically conservative sites, and/or if you do care about changing people’s minds, applying the “feminist” label to yourself or your views creates all sorts of unnecessary hurdles and complications that I would rather prefer to avoid.
On occasions I’ve disagreed with the standard conservative talking points about women on a conservative blog (say, I am fine with permitting women to serve in combat positions in the military, but 99% of the other conservatives are opposed, for example), I am automatically assumed by other conservatives to be a feminist.
This may not bother Lea at SSB, but it bothers me.
Along with the “feminist” label, the conservative will attach all sorts of other assumptions to the label; it will be further assumed I am a Democrat, I hate all men, I hate the “nuclear family,” I support abortion (and have probably had ten abortions myself).
It will be assumed, by conservatives, that because I must be a feminist (no “real” conservative woman would ever support things such as allowing women to serve in combat positions, after all, only a liberal feminist would do such a thing!) that I must also support things such as homosexual marriage and the legal harassment of Christian bakers who don’t want to bake homosexual wedding cakes.
I could go on and on with the incorrect assumptions I’ve endured when disagreeing with other conservatives about gender roles and sexism and so on.
The moment I explain to the conservative in question I do not identify as a feminist, nor do I share all their (feminists’) views, that usually shuts up about 99% of the men (or occasional anti-feminist woman) I am conversing with.
Once I shut down speculation that I must be a feminist, the conservatives I am talking to are then able to deal with the substance of my points, rather than shutting me down, making me run down rabbit trails, or tuning me out by tossing the “feminist” label at me.
I am relating to the self professing atheists / liberals / feminists at Julie Anne’s SSB blog how your usual conservative reacts to words such as “feminism” and “feminist,” and I was ripped apart and pummeled for it by the feminists in the comment box.
(Lea later insisted she was not beating up on me in the comments, but it came across as such to me.)
At any rate:
Don’t shoot me, I am just the messenger.
You may not like it, if you are a liberal feminist who is proud of the “feminist” term, but it is a fact of life that most conservatives don’t understand the word “feminist” or “feminism” in the same way that you do, and they don’t have a positive impression of either term.
I didn’t say at SSB blog if that is a good or bad thing, I was just saying, “This is the way it is among conservatives, and it creates problems when you’re trying to talk to them about issues that affect women.”
I was also saying in the discussion on SSB, if you are trying to talk to a conservative or a complementarian about these subjects (and after what I saw today, I highly doubt that either Carmen or Lea actually know or talk to conservatives, online or in real life), you are not going to make progress or head-way by using terms that come loaded up-front with so much negative baggage.
If you want to be like Lea, and play role of teacher, and educate the conservative – she said she thinks it preferable to take the word “feminist” back and explain to others what it means – be my guest, but I would find that exhausting.
Here is one post Lea left to me in that thread:
Maybe we should instead fight against this effort to shut out ears at a simple word and to fight against those who do? I have become much more suspicious of people who take the word feminist in such a way at this point.
Anyone with knowledge of the history of the movement would know that it has had different waves, and before the word existed, women advocated for their own rights and argued for them.
Perhaps education is a better method than going along with those who have become too closeminded.
// end quote //
Your crusade is not my crusade. If you want to wear the label and explain in depth what it is and is not to every single last conservative you ever debate with on a forum, go ahead.
But I’ll skip it.
I would guess that Lea in most likelihood does not often visit politically conservative blogs or forums, or not as much as I do, or have done, in the past.
I would guess that Lea probably spends most of her time posting to moderate to liberal – in – tone blogs, such as the Wartburg Watch or Spiritual Sounding Board, where she’s not going to meet with constant, or much, fierce conservative push-back against feminism or feminist ideals, as I’ve done when regularly posting to conservative spaces.
Though, Lea did leave me a post stating as such:
You may not realize as I generally don’t get into it here, but I’m generally more conservative politically on a number of issues
// end quote //
So, I don’t know if she does hang out on conservative forums and the like, or what.
I know that KAS guy – and a few others who post at SSB blog – must think I’m a great big bitch (because I can be quite blunt with KAS and a few other posters there, and I’m not always nice), but you can trust me when I tell you I am warm and fuzzy compared to most conservatives in their treatment of liberals and liberal ideals on conservative sites. I am way more moderate about it.
If Lea is a liberal (I am fairly certain she identified as one on TWW some time ago, unless I am confusing her with another poster there), I don’t think she has any clue what it’s like to try to disagree with conservatives on sites that are hostile to liberals, liberalism, and to favored liberal causes (such as feminism).
But I do know what it’s like.
Because I’m a conservative. And I actually know conservatives and talk to them and sometimes on their own turf (their blogs, forums).
In that thread on SSB, Carmen got the ball rolling with this, in response to Lea:
AUGUST 1, 2018 @ 6:05 AM
“But most feminists are simply cognizant that men and women are equal and should be treated so. Women should not be abused or mistreated because of their sex, and I’m totally on board with that. Ergo, feminist”
Thank you for that, Lea. I have tried – unsuccessfully on this forum for several years to get that point across but to no avail. Thank you.
Now. . .wait for several people to come on here to say, “But. . . (and insert their individual understanding of what feminism is, based on the actions of women they didn’t deem appropriate . . .”) 3 , 2 , 1 . . ..
// end quote //
So I explained to Carmen, in a two part post:
Post by Daisy, reply to Carmen:
I personally do not use the label in regards to myself because the word “feminist” comes with a lot of baggage and doesn’t always mean the same thing to people.
In the minds of most conservatives (I am a conservative), the word “feminist” doesn’t just mean equal rights or equal opportunity for women, but it becomes conflated with things like…
Being a man-hating, bra-burning person; being pro-abortion, being liberal, voting Democrat, dong things such as wearing female genitalia costumes in women’s rights marches, etc., all of which turns off your average conservative.
I think the majority of conservatives would agree with the base-line definition of the word “feminism” and say yes, it is right and good that women should be treated fairly and equally in society and under the law.
But the term can mean so many other things.
Some feminists these days think that sex work should be legalized, while other feminists say no, that the sex trades exploit women and children. Ditto on pr0n. Some feminists support transgenderism, some do not.
Pro-life feminists were prohibited by the Pro-choice feminists at some women’s march about a year ago.
Feminists are not a monolith.
When I’ve posted on politically conservative forums and blogs, I would get no traction by calling myself a feminist, though I do agree with some of the feminists arguments at times, depending on the topic.
Because I don’t apply the label to myself, other conservatives, I’ve found, are more willing to hear out my arguments (which may at times be similar to the ones self professing feminists are making).
The minute you call yourself a feminist, or allow them to give you that label, it’s a conversation-stopper.
Like what Katy was saying above:
I’m still not sure as to the correct meaning of the term feminist due to the fact that when male religious leaders cannot place their “mark” of influence upon the woman’s soul, using selective Scriptures transcribed improperly as their “truths,” they will throw the word “feminist” at women as a means of insulting, demeaning and degrading, control and manipulation, and brainwashing, to put that “rebelling woman in her place.”
// end quote by Katy //
It’s like people who will call you or your preferred politician a “Hitler” in a disagreement over politics.
It’s a way of stopping you in your tracks, to poison the well, shut down the conversation and present themselves as being on the moral high ground.
Conservatives throw out the word “feminist” at anyone who doesn’t share their complementarian interpretation in the same way.
This is one thing that keeps so many trapped in comp, even though they sense comp is false and they want to reject it.
You’re given a false dichotomy by comps that usually looks like this:
Either you are a complementarian – which means you are God-loving, family supporting, “nice” woman who respects the Bible, or, you are a horrible, evil, man-hating, Democrat-voting, abortion supporting, Bible-doubting heretical FEMINIST.
Because, they teach or suggest, you obviously cannot remain a conservative who is not anti-men or anti-family and also reject complementarianism. Your only choices are be a comp or be a feminist.
Well, there is a third way (where I am residing) – reject complementarianism but not be a feminist, or not “buy into” absolutely anything and everything all feminists teach on every subject.
// end quote //
By the way, one obstacle in getting conservatives to understand or listen to feminist concerns, is that they almost always broad-brush feminists or feminism.
I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that all feminists are not identical. They are not a mono-lith.
Some self-professing feminists are pro-life. Some are married with children. So, the conservative stereotype that all feminists hate motherhood, the family, traditional marriage, have abortions, etc, is incorrect.
This goes a long way in getting conservatives to stop and consider maybe some of what some feminists say is true or has some merit.
If you’re going to go the Carmen route and depict all feminists as one big group, the notion conservatives are left with is their stereotype: feminists are not about equality for women, no, they are all liberals, men-hating, Democrat-voting abortion supporters.
But I suspect that Carmen, and many other self professing feminists, personally define and understand feminism to mean more than just “equal opportunity for women.”
Beyond that nifty standard dictionary definition of “feminism,” feminists don’t agree on what “feminism” is, or who or what it should include, exclude, or how it should be carried out.
For example, I’ve seen feminists who support transgenderism rain a lot of hate and hostility down on feminists called “TERFs” who do not support transgenderism.
Some self professing feminists support abortion, some do not.
I don’t even think feminists totally understand feminism… but Lea says she wants to educate conservatives as to what it is. Once you get beyond the very basic dictionary definition, good luck with that – you’re going to need it.
Continuing on with the discussion I had at the SSB blog earlier:
My part two:
post by Daisy, reply to Carmen
Another thing about the term “feminist.”
I find arguing about its use or its meaning(s) almost always side-tracks from the very concerns feminists are trying to raise and correct under that label.
At times (on other sites) I’ve seen Christian women (some who identify as liberal, conservative, or moderate), who also identify as “feminist,” expend much time and energy into writing long blog posts, or getting into long-winded debates, or write entire books, defending the word “feminist” to respond to (usually male) critics of the word “feminist” or “feminism.”
I’ve been able to immediately shut down guys like ‘Video Guy’ in discussions on other sites by informing them I don’t use the label – the feminist label becomes a red herring they will have you defending.
When I tell them I don’t use the label for myself, that shuts up most of them on the spot, and they are then forced to confront the substance of my points, which is what is of import, not what label I’m using or not using.
I’m not here to argue anyone else from whatever label they wish to use (if another person wants to call him or herself a feminist, I don’t mind), but for me personally, I find I don’t want to invest energy into defending a label (and having to explain I am not aligned with all its accompanying baggage), but rather, the concerns those under the label are usually trying to correct.
// end quote //
Carmen, who sounds as though she was being a smart ass about it, replied:
AUGUST 1, 2018 @ 11:11 AM
I knew it wouldn’t take long. Daisy gets the prize!
// end quote by Carmen //
AUGUST 1, 2018 @ 11:48 AM
“I knew it wouldn’t take long. Daisy gets the prize!”
All I can tell you, as a conservative, that other conservatives associate the word “feminist” with all sorts of things, and they automatically shut their minds to anything you have to say once you identify yourself as one.
If you’re interested in reaching complementarians or (secular) political conservatives, and trying to change their minds, you really have to talk in their lingo, and avoid words that trigger them, such as…. “feminist.”
They won’t leave complementarianism so long as they assume their ONLY option is to become a FEMINIST
(which in their mind set typically means, “become an atheist, vote Democrat, support LGBT marriages, support higher taxes, support abortion” etc).
You’re not going to win converts using the word “feminist.” Is your goal to win converts, change minds? I would hope so.
// end quote //
I got this response from Carmen, which sounded really snarky and condescending:
AUGUST 1, 2018 @ 12:01 PM
My goal – and the goal of feminism, for those who actually know the definition and live by it – is to be an advocate of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Feminism is an ideology. I’ll be damned if I’ll ” talk in their lingo, and avoid words that trigger them, such as…. “feminist.” “. It just isn’t a feminist thing to do. But you go ahead, don’t let me stop you. After all, you seem to be making great headway with KAS.
// end quote by Carmen //
I don’t know how Carmen thinks she is going to reach her goal to advocate for women’s rights in the wider culture (which I would assume means she wants to see tangible results there-of) if changing people’s minds is not part of the process.
Feminists such as Carmen are not going to accomplish what they’re setting out to do if they (feminists) don’t learn to talk to their ideological opponents (conservatives, many of whom reject feminism) about what concerns them (feminists) in a way that they (conservatives) can grasp and avoid terms that only inflame them (conservative) and cause even more division.
(Note: I do not necessarily view Julie Anne’s SSB blog as a space to do that.
The SSB blog is a community where people who have been hurt by churches or Christian doctrines can post and try to recover from spiritual abuse.
Which is one reason I’m not a big fan of Tone Policing on that particular blog, or ones like it, and Julie Anne’s SSB blog has one or two guys who are endlessly Tone Policing other posters on that blog.
But if Carmen thinks she’s going to make the culture a better place for women by being abrasive and refusing to change tactics with secular conservatives who despise feminism – and the word itself – in other avenues (say, talking to conservatives on conservative political sites), she’s not going to have much impact).
This little dig was particularly catty, bitchy, out of left field, and unnecessary – this was a remark by Carmen, to me, Daisy, about a sexist guy (he supports complementarianism, which is Christianized sexism) at SSB blog named KAS:
After all, you seem to be making great headway with KAS.
// end quote by Carmen //
RESIDING IN BUBBLES AND ECHO CHAMBERS
Carmen seems pissed off at me for mentioning a fact of life.
I’m sorry if it angers you that conservatives don’t like feminism, don’t support the Democratic Party, abortion, socialism, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or homosexual marriage – and that they tend to associate much to all that stuff with the word “feminism,” but it remains a fact of life, like death, taxes, and the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.
I did’t make up these rules or situations, I’m just explaining them.
I guess Carmen, like Lea, never bothers to talk to conservatives first hand, listen to them, or step outside her liberal / atheist / feminist bubble…
This is part of the reason Donald Trump won the 2016 election, by the way, the liberals who won’t get out of their liberal bubbles to get to really know conservatives and their concerns, or what the working middle class is thinking.
One of the reasons I don’t need to be educated by KAS as to what complementarianism is would be due to the fact I am an ex-complementarian.
I was brought up as a comp and abandoned it by the time I got to around age 35 or 36. I’m already very familiar with complementarianism.
I’ve also taken the time in the last few years to visit liberal blogs and news sites more often to find out from the horse’s mouth what liberals actually think, instead of relying on biased, inaccurate, second hand reports on what feminists and liberals believe from the likes of conservative talking heads such as Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh.
Does Carmen ever leave her bubble to visit and honestly consider conservatives and conservative views on conservative sites? Probably not.
I don’t get the feeling she does or has.
If Carmen thinks I’m not having success at reaching KAS (and I probably never will, because one cannot argue an atheist or religious zealot out of their religious views, or very rarely), she would have even less success than me.
That is so because someone of a conservative theological (or political) basis (such as KAS) is going to grant Carmen even less hearing than they would me, because she identifies as a feminist and throws that term around.
But Carmen said she does not care about changing people’s minds, so I’m not certain why she was throwing that KAS – related comment in my face in the first place.
I have experienced success when talking to other conservatives on other sites on gender issues – because in part, I reassure them up front I am NOT a dreaded feminist. I’ve had some conservatives back down and reconsider their positions after talking to me.
Some may not totally change their views, but once they discover I’m a conservative too and don’t wear the feminist label, their hostility and defensive levels drop, and they are much more open to listening to me.
TRAPPED IN THE COMPLEMENTARIAN CULT
I used to be trapped in complementarianism. Even though I had doubts and suspicions that complementarianism was wrong and un-biblical, I felt trapped and did not see a way out for a good long time.
One reason I felt trapped is that Christian complementarians set up a false dichotomy, where they brain wash you to believe that your only two options, if you are a God-loving Christian, is to either…
1. Remain complementarian – which is associated with being the only “correct” way to interpret the Bible; with being Godly, with loving God, supporting marriage, family, etc.
2. Become a Feminist – which means, according to their spin, support things you do not agree with, such as support abortion, homosexual marriage, and it also means you have to vote Democrat, you hate God, you hate babies, and you hate all men
If you are interested in breaking a woman free from the sexist cult that is complementarianism – but then, I guess Carmen doesn’t give a damn about helping women (or men) escape – you have to get them to realize there are other options available to them.
For me, it was realizing I could reject complementarianism and remain politically conservative.
That was one part of the key for me to feel I could leave complementarianism.
Rejecting complementarianism is not an automatic given that you will then start voting Democrat, begin supporting abortion, support homosexual marriage, or approving of public locales allowing biological men to enter women’s bathrooms and changing rooms.
I think if more conservative men and women who were steeped in complementarian theology, who may secretly harbor doubts about it, could learn that rejecting it does not necessitate becoming a liberal or pro-choicer and what have you, more of them would be more willing to leave it behind.
I’ve been in Christian gender egalitarian groups where some of the newbies are alarmed.
They say they are complementarians who have strong doubts about complementarianism and would like to leave it, but they are afraid if they reject complementarianism, it means they will have no choice but to embrace things such as homosexual behavior, or endorse the legalization of homosexual marriages.
I replied to Carmen by saying,
Did I touch a nerve or something? That sounds like a catty reply. I said above, I’m not here to convince other people from [stop] using the word to describe themselves if they like [to use that word].
I’d be making even less lee-way with a guy like KAS if I did use the word “feminist.”
Have you won him over?
What happens if you try to engage him and tell him you use the word “feminist” to describe yourself, he will totally shut down and /or he will have you going down a rabbit trail to defend the word “feminism” and to define it.
// end quote //
My reply to Lea:
Lea, post of,
Re: AUGUST 1, 2018 @ 12:08 PM
You can certainly try to educate the conservatives you meet online who automatically associate the word “feminist” with many things they find objectionable, but I personally don’t want to invest my time in doing that.
I myself don’t agree with all of feminism.
Many feminists are politically liberal, so I don’t share all their values or political views. I don’t care to sit about defending a lot of values or political opinions I don’t happen to hold myself.
I don’t want to be confused with values or views I don’t hold.
Conservatives who hate the word “feminist” will play a straw man game with me, attributing views to me I do not hold, if I disagree with them on some topic pertaining to gender, and they see I am not rubber- stamping the standard conservative talking points, but disagreeing with them. I’ve had this happen a lot.
-Conservatives react that way because they assume I am a man-hating, Democrat-voting, abortion supporting, (etc etc), Feminist.
I find it exhausting and a waste of my time. It cuts through a lot of garbage when I explain to them I don’t call myself a feminist, nor do I agree with all feminists on everything.
// end quote //
In the remainder, I also addressed Carmen’s quote,
My goal – and the goal of feminism, for those who actually know the definition and live by it – is to be an advocate of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Feminism is an ideology.
// end quote //
-By pointing out I don’t even know what kind of feminism she supports… because beyond the very simple “feminism is about equality for women” definition, feminists do not agree with each other on topics.
Here is what I said in part (in a post to Lea about Carmen’s feminism):
I don’t know how Carmen understands or defines feminism.
She may be defining it like this:
“[Carmen’s comment]:… [being a feminist] is to be an advocate of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.”
But I’m not sure what that looks like to her, especially in specific contexts.
Most conservatives, when they find out she calls herself a feminist, if she talks to them about this stuff, will jump to all sorts of conclusions about her or her view points – conclusions which may or may not be true.
Is she a pro-life or pro-choice feminist?
Does she support the legalization of the sex trade, or is she opposed?
Does she support Transgenderism, or is she a “feminist TERF” (anti Trans)?
Is Carmen pro-choice or pro-life on abortion? Is she a TERF, or does she support Transgenderism? And so on and so forth.
…Regarding abortion, if she is a pro-choicer, and she held a women’s rights parade, would she allow a contingent of pro-life feminists march in her parade?
I have not seen full agreement on these issues (and others) from people who identify as feminist.
The Video Guy is basically setting up a false dichotomy, where he’s scaring Christian women from even considering comp may be wrong by telling them either you choose complementarianism, which is godly, pro-family and biblical ….or you must be an evil, godless, secular feminism.
This is a pretty common strategy with complementarians, and it keeps many trapped in complementarianism for years – it did with me, and I’ve seen this with others.
If you’re not a socially or politically liberal person (if you are moderate to a conservative), you feel very trapped in that position.
// end quote //
The word “feminism” is not as clear and unanimous in meaning to everyone as self-professing feminists who like the word like to think that it is.
Lea left me this post:
AUGUST 1, 2018 @ 1:03 PM
I myself don’t agree with all of feminism.
I don’t agree with all of anybody or anything. Do you agree with all conservatives? Cause I sure don’t. And yet…
I have come to believe many who attack feminism are disingenuous. I am tired of people deflecting from whatever issue is at hand by throwing up some side thing, or unrelated thing.
There are some people who are persuadable, but they are the ones who are actually willing to have a conversation with people and I think generally people who shut down at a single word maybe aren’t.
You have people like the guy the post is about and people at Katy’s church (iirc?) who use this term as a weapon against women who disagree with them or are secure in themselves. I’m not going to let them dictate what a term means I think.
// end quote //
I, Daisy, replied,
I’m not going to let them dictate what a term means I think.
// end Lea quote //
OK, but as someone who doesn’t agree with some of feminism (on abortion, for example, many feminists are pro-choice), or with third wave views (e.g., ‘pr0n – pornography – is empowering for women,’ etc),
I don’t care to defend the term, or nuance the crud out of it and define it out the ying-yang in every online conversation, so that conservative I am chatting with won’t misunderstand my views.
I’ll leave that to women and men who do want to defend the word or reclaim it.
And if that’s what you want to do, hey, great, knock yourself out! I don’t mind. It’s just not for me.
(I don’t know what you do otherwise – run around stating on blogs, “I’m a First Wave Feminist only!” – which I guess you can do if you want?)
I said above, at least twice, I am not here to dissuade anyone from using the term who wants to use it, and I mean that.
Yet, I’m being pummeled or criticized for not wanting to use it on myself, or for explaining why it’s a problematic term for conservatives who don’t agree with (correction) Feminism (which it very much is – I’m not making this up).
If you normally only post to blogs such as this one, and seldom- to- never on secular politically conservative forums on blogs (as I sometimes do), this won’t be an issue for you – but it is for me at times.
I don’t agree with all of anybody or anything. Do you agree with all conservatives? Cause I sure don’t. …
// end Lea quote
No, I don’t – which I’ve said many times in my years on posting here and at the other blog [Wartburg Watch] you and I sometimes visit.
I especially don’t agree with conservatives on some gender issues on conservative sites and blogs, which then results in fellow conservatives assuming (wrongly) I am a feminist, which in turn causes them to think, I must also support abortion, I must always vote Democrat, I must also support liberal causes X, Y, Z, and Q, etc.
The average conservative hears or sees the word “feminist” and thinks,
“Ah, she supports LGBT marriage, abortion, voting Democrat, possibly the legalization of the sex trade…” etc
Now, if that supports your views, if you do indeed tend to vote Democrat, be pro-choice, support LGBT marriage, etc, that is handy and okay for you, but I don’t support most to all of that stuff…
So I don’t want to be lumped in with those who do, especially when speaking with other conservatives, and especially on conservative blogs or forums. It becomes an impediment, and it can confuse the conservatives I am talking with.
It’s not my baggage to carry, so I don’t want to carry it.
Again, I am not opposed to other women (or men) who want to use the term to describe themselves, but it’s my choice and my right not to use it in regards to myself.
I think at this point, this is becoming a broken record conversation.
I’ve already communicated the gist of my views on this in about three posts above. I cannot be any more clear on it than I am, I don’t think.
// end quotes //
I cannot figure out why there is such an attachment to the word “feminist,” or why they are so hostile to a person who does not want to use the label.
And this, even after I remarked at least twice, I am absolutely NOT there to persuade anyone from calling themselves a feminist, if they so choose.
If you want to call yourself a feminist, then by all means, call yourself a feminist. I’m certainly not stopping you.
As a conservative particularly, I find the “feminist” word comes with way too much baggage, the word is in fact associated with many, in the United States, with being a liberal, along with supporting LGBT causes, abortion, and so forth, so, no, I do not care to be mistaken for a liberal and be forced in to defending beliefs I do not hold.
I have no idea why that perfectly reasonable, polite response or position is treated with such malice and hostility at SSB blog.
Lea told me that her point was that guys like the Video Guy assume that anyone who disagrees with him is a “feminist.”
And I think you’re missing my point which is that guys like this? They label everyone who doesn’t think women should be barefoot, pregnant and under the thumb of a man as ‘feminist’. And I’m happy to own that.
// end quote //
I know. I know they do that.
These guys always assume if you reject complementarianism, it’s either because you are a feminist, or you were “influenced by” feminism. (Even if you were not.)
They cannot conceive of women such as me who rejected complementarianism due to complementarianism itself, and that we realize that complementarianism does not match up with all the Bible’s teaching, nor did it produce “good fruit” in our lives, but bad.
I rejected complementarianism due to complementairanism, not due to feminism.
And yes, I also reject the feminist label and term for myself, and I am not going to accept the label just because this sexist Yokel in some video wants to pin it on me.
// end quotes //
As I said on that blog, it’s possible to reject complementarianism and remain a conservative and never embrace feminism. I know, because I’ve done so.
I don’t support any and all things liberal (that many feminists do go along with), such as abortion, or forcing Christian bakers to bake wedding cakes for homosexual marriages.
Lea isn’t disturbed or annoyed with some sexist jackass calling her a feminist, fine – but I do find it annoying, so I’ll speak up and correct guys like this when I see it.
More posts from that thread:
However, generally speaking, I don’t feel the need to define myself as anything
// end Lea quote //
Different strokes for different folks. I am not you. You are not me. We roll differently, which is fine.
I don’t like having other people define me…
Hence, when some dude assumes or tells me in his complementarian clown video (or in a forum post or where ever) that I am a feminist when I am not in complete agreement [with] all things feminist, I bristle and call him out on it.
My conceding feminists may be right on topics X and Q doesn’t mean I am a whole-scale, sold out feminist who wears the label.
Related links, off site:
The Danger Of The Feminist Label – by A K James
The point isn’t to be pedantic. What my conversation partner believes to be the definition, or simply what he or she means by the word, is not necessarily the way I’d define it, or the way I’d use it. Just as importantly, the way he or she uses it may not enjoy a one-to-one correspondence with feminism as a broader social category — as an identity marker or as a scholarly program.
Embracing a label is not an innocuous act. If it were, labels would be socially inconsequential. But we know they’re not. It’s precisely their power as social identity markers that make them unsuitable stand-ins for simple agreement with certain principles.
There is a difference between affirming a principle and enlisting oneself in an ideological community or interest group centered around the principle’s advancement. Though the two often get conflated, there is a meaningful difference between believing something and joining a cause.
…Ascertaining the meaning of feminism is not as simple as referring to a dictionary definition. The word “feminism” is associated with both a section of academia — that of feminist theory and its proponents — and a social movement. As a result, the word connotes what amounts to a significant amount of intellectual and historical baggage.
…unlike definitions of universal facts and laws that hold true regardless of what society thinks of them, concepts like “feminism” both exist as, and get their meaning from, social constructions.
It is clear that, for many, belief in equality does not get them all the way to “feminism.” It would, perhaps, if equality—and all else that is good—entirely constituted the meaning of “feminism.” But people don’t think it does, which means we shouldn’t embrace such a reductionist definition. Doing so is tantamount to declaring all gender egalitarians to be feminists against their will.
// end page excerpts //
Whether we like it or not, “feminist” can be a divisive term. I’m not concerned about how men react to the word — if you’re turned off by a woman who chooses to call herself one, well, you’ve got 99 more problems with me.
But I am concerned by how many women feel excluded by modern feminism, which can, in its less successful manifestations, feel like a dated movement that addresses the very specific concerns of white, upper-middle-class women.
You can define feminism all you want and insist that all women subscribe to it, but that fact is that “feminist” is a term that exists and evolves in the real world, not simply in a textbook.
Just because the two young women Hingston interviewed don’t understand it in the terms previously established doesn’t mean they don’t understand it — perhaps it means it has changed somewhere along the way. Their experience with the word today — just like Swift’s and Perry’s — is valid, as is their discomfort with it.
Ultimately, although I try it on from time to time, I’m going to skip the feminist label for myself. I’ll also pass on “humanist,” a perhaps more inclusive term that’s being thrown around as an alternative — but, to me, feels a little pretentious and probably speaks too highly of humans for my personal taste.
// end page excerpts //
page argues that feminism has a branding problem
Though the person who wrote this disagrees:
Feminism as a movement and a word does obviously have perception problems, but these are hardly the same type of “branding problems” faced by a corporation that does ineffective marketing or that just generally does unethical things (like letting oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico).
Rather this “branding problem” stems from tactics used against other marginalized groups to brand them as perpetrators of the very ideologies they oppose (for example, racism and sexism) as well as from stereotypes of women who expect equal treatment as man-hating bitches.
Women then have little choice but to say “I’m not a feminist”, since “feminist” has been conveniently re-defined to mean “man-hating bitch”. Far from being feminism’s fault though, the associations the word has taken on are really all part of the very conflict that feminism is trying to fight.
// end page excerpts //
But the fact remains the word does come packed with all those negative connotations, and your average self avowed feminist in the United States does usually vote Democrat, and lean left on social causes (eg, support abortion), and hate conservatives, so what is a conservative woman who is opposed to sexism to do, use a label by those who hate her?
(Feminists in America, because they are left wing, usually tar and feather conservative and Republican women, they don’t support them. Liberal women don’t seem to feel that pro-life Republican women can be considered feminist.)
(Edit: There are many secular conservative and conservative Christian women who believe in the basic dictionary definition of the word feminism, and some even refer to themselves as “feminists,” but by and large, the term seems to be associated with and comprised of women who have liberal political views.)
This is by a woman who agrees with some (much?) of feminism, but she does not like the feminist label now:
Another way of looking at this issue is to challenge the view that feminists had as their greatest priority a woman president. How many self-identified feminists were eager to see Sarah Palin run for president in 2012? Again, for many women, their overriding concern is not womanhood per se but a wide range of political beliefs and commitments.
As we learned soon after U. S. women got the right to vote in 1919, different groups of women have different politics; in the 1920s, the suffragists were astonished to find that women tended to vote the way their husbands did, according to a matrix of ethnic and class factors.
The example of the Women’s March suggests that, for all the talk today of “intersectionality” (the interconnectedness of certain social signifiers such as class, religion, “race,” and gender) “feminism” promotes a very specific political agenda, one that does not necessarily reflect the priorities and lived experience of a substantial portion of the female population.
In essence, the word “feminism” is too vague to have much meaning within a society where women have multiple forms of identity, and gender might or might not be the defining one at any particular time. Even the broadest possible definition—feminists are people who seek to advance the interests or the equal rights of women—has its limitations.
…The word not only lacks a precise definition, it also carries with it a great deal of baggage. Indeed, some people have a visceral, negative reaction to the sound of it.
It is difficult to use a term with such varied and fluid meanings.
And feminism meant something different to women of the 1960s, when they could not open a credit-card account in their own name or aspire to certain “men’s jobs,” when they debated the social division of labor in the paid workplace and in the home, compared to young women today, who at times see feminism through the prism of music lyrics, movies, fashion, and celebrity culture: Is the talented, fabulously wealthy Taylor Swift a feminist?
The term is great for rallying the converted. For everyone else, though, it’s a PR liability.
…And yet, in my professional and personal life, I increasingly find myself talking about feminist ideas without actually using the word “feminism.”
Why? It is exhausting to preface every conversation about combating misogyny with winsome, disarming anecdotes about how I actually do like men—enough to even marry one!—and how I actually haven’t burned any bras (and probably never will, because they are so expensive).
I’m tired of doing this myth-debunking dance, and, weirdly enough, the conversation often goes more smoothly if I just avoid the “F-Word” entirely.
This trend makes sense in the context of a recent study conducted by HuffPost/YouGov, which concluded that only 20 percent of Americans identify as feminists, even though a whopping 82 percent believe that “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.”
Unsurprisingly, some of my fellow self-identified feminists, like Feministing’s Samhita Mukhopadhyay, have responded to this survey by lamenting feminism’s serious brand problem and analyzing why we’re such a misunderstood bunch. Not long ago, that would have been my response, too.
But now I find myself wondering: Why are we so hell-bent on salvaging the label?
A generation ago, no survey would have offered such a resounding affirmation of equality, so why don’t we read studies like this and feel heartened that some of the core values of feminism have taken root in the American mind, despite our persistent brand problem?
Could it be time, for the sake of progress in the war on sexism, to ditch the feminist label?
I recently gave a guest lecture in a colleague’s classroom on feminist theology. As usual, I had to spend half the class period in myth-busing mode, trying to redeem the word “feminist” enough for the students to listen.
This meant I covered only a fraction of what I’d prepared. Still, I felt good about the talk, mainly because none of the students responded with overtly hostile questions.
As I was leaving, a student came up to thank me and said, offhandedly, “It’s too bad we have to waste so much time clarifying misconceptions about feminism. I wish we could have spent the whole hour talking more about the ideas.”
…In my experience, using the feminist label is an asset only when preaching to the feminist choir.
My ambivalence disappears in those contexts; I feel as though we are all speaking the same language, so we can relax and high-five each other in our feminist t-shirts, because, yes, we get it.
But when I step beyond that insular crowd, the term has a consistently alienating effect. In conversations with non-feminists—which are arguably the most important—using the word “feminism” rarely opens doors to deeper dialogue. Instead, it often acts as a barrier to the very ideas that word represents. This is a serious problem, one that I wish more feminists were talking candidly about.
This post has been edited to add some new commentary