Friday, April 8, 2011

Why I'm Not a Feminist

The professor of my gender class asked us if we consider ourselves to be feminist or not. This was my response:

For me, I'm of the mind that the words "feminism" and "feminist" are implicitly exclusive, the same way "he" as a universal pronoun is. I support many, if not most, feminist causes, and a lot of my ideals and opinions could probably be called "feminist", but I really don't feel comfortable with that label.

I think this article has a lot of good points, although some I don't agree with, completely. (For instance, I do think that class, race, gender, disability, religion, national origins, environmental degradation, etc., are becoming feminist issues, but probably due to people like this person in particular. I do, however, agree that it can be a movement that uses people for its advantage.)

It's less about the movement and more about the label, for me. I've never been a strong linguistic determinist, but I do think the way we talk about things has some effect on how we think about them. And I think we're at a point academically and socially where we can start talking about human equality as human equality, and stop draping it in the clothing of a decades old movement. We needed the feminist movement, I will never deny that. Without it, our world would obviously be very different. But we need something new, now. We need an equality movement that's called just that. Because there are people who aren't women who deserve it, and there are women who feel used by feminism who need it. And because "feminine" means so many different things that I don't think it's appropriate to use terminology so vague when discussing issues as important as human rights.

By calling it feminism, it leaves the mission up for interpretation. Anyone who has a dissenting idea about what the "femi-" prefix implies can argue that it's something different, and that some people don't need or deserve the help of the movement.

"Human Rights" on the other hand, I think is a lot less open to debate. It's a lot harder - in the contemporary west, at any rate - that a person is not a human, and therefor do not deserve the benefits of a rights movement. And so, it's inherently more inclusive. Within a greater "Human Rights" movement, you can have your camps of "Women's Rights" and "Children's Rights" and "Transgender Rights" and "Men's Rights" but they become facets of the same goal - equality for human beings - rather than movement pitted against movement, syncing up when the goals jive, but otherwise vying for the same resources. By talking about Human Rights instead of Feminism, I think it creates a greater solidarity than you can get otherwise.

So, that's why I still don't consider myself a feminist.

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