Thursday, January 25, 2007


Beyond "We think men and women should be equal"...

It seems that a lot of people struggle with defining feminism and whether it matters if a person identifies as a feminist or not. On one hand, its impossible to separate feminist issues from issues of race, social class, globalization, poverty, etc.—feminism can be embedded in each and every one of those. At TFA last night, Liz (one of our co-chairs) articulated feminism as "equality of choice, not equality of identity," which I think is an important designation. As a female feminist, I'm not seeking to be a man, or even to do what a man does—but rather to have the option to do so. More importantly, perhaps, I as a feminist activist, I am obligated to use my own social capital to seek those opportunities for other women who don't have the same resources as me.

Back to feminism being embedded in almost any issue: ostensibly, you can agitate for universal healthcare without proclaiming yourself a feminist--but why would you? Truly, the act of designating yourself as a feminist requires little more than a commitment to the equality of choice; yet why does is remain such a loaded word? Does it matter that people have skewed perceptions of the feminist movement in the United States? I touched on this in an earlier post, and Anna asked whether it matters if we need to be calling ourselves feminist in order to realize feminist goals. I think that we do; by articulating the premise of "equality of gender choice" (perhaps a less loaded way to describe feminism, but one I'm not particularly fond of) we justify other activism, as well as recognizing the major hurdles women around the world face, and the gendered nature of almost everything in society today, whether it be politics, arts, discourse, or sexuality.

Perhaps it seems obvious, but I considered for the first time yesterday that one obstacle to men identifying as feminist is the belief that "feminist" reforms and activism benefit only women--or worse, that what benefits women must thus be detrimental to men. How do you convince all genders that "women's issues" are "people's issues"? Lately in my Gender Issues in World Politics Class, we have been talking about the defection of men from the U.S. Democratic party over the past 40 years, and hypothesizing that it could be a result of the Democrats' focus on the civil rights and women's movements. The majority of those who have left the Democratic party are southern white men; why is this? Until we started discussing our ideas of the reasons behind their defection, it never occurred to me that you could see something which benefits women as inherently being detrimental to men. Certainly, I had considered the difficulty of convincing men that they should care about women's issues, but I didn't realize that perhaps we are starting even further back than I thought.

Some news links for today:
Separating genders in public schools in Wisconsin
Arkansas rallying to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment


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