“You’re raising your daughter as a feminist?”

December 11, 2014

There seems to be some real confusion about what feminism is for some folks. This includes the Twitterverse, where some very ignorant women somehow got #WomenAgainstFeminism trending last summer. So let me clear it up.

First of all, being ignorant does not mean you are a bad person. We are all ignorant about more than we are knowledgeable about. I do not know Swahili, nor do I know how to bake a flambé. I am also ignorant of federal tax code and how to potty train a child. But let’s not be ignorant about what feminism is.

In her vital book, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, author bell hooks very clearly states, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” This is my favorite definition because it implies that someone who is not a feminist does not want to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression. And we know who those people are.

It also establishes what feminism is not: man-hating hairy armpit lesbianism that could care less about men’s lives (Shout out to my hairy armpit lesbians!). It is not about free abortions, getting fat, destroying the family and blowing up the make-up counter at Macy’s.

I argue in my classes that every woman is feminist, whether she identifies as such as not. Every woman understands the double standards. Every woman understands street harassment and the constant threat of rape. Every woman understands unequal pay for equal work. Every woman understands that society says you are less attractive each day you age. You might not call it “patriarchy,” but you understand it exists.

Feminism is a huge tent. There are radical feminists, liberal feminists, Marxist feminists, eco-feminists, psychoanalytical feminists, transnational feminists and even free market feminists. There are Beyoncé feminists, Taylor Swift feminists, and, yes, Sarah Palin feminists. Queer feminists, Suzy Homemaker feminists, and CEO feminists. There are feminists who oppose pornography and those who support it (if it’s done right). There are feminist who oppose Rush Limbaugh and… well, I guess there are feminists who don’t know he exists. After all, this is the cretin that said, “The feminist movement was created to allow ugly women access to the mainstream of society.”

Forty years ago, the core of the feminist club was a small clique of upper middle-class white women at private universities with subscriptions to Ms. magazine. Now it’s open to everyone. Women of color have a voice and so do men, as well as transpeople and rural people (and rural transpeople).  I try to get copies of bell hooks’ 2010 book, Feminism is for Everybody, into people’s hands as often as possible. Feminism is now addressing how patriarchy hurts men as well as women and that’s the work that I do as a sociologist. Men die at an alarming rate for doing things just because they are “manly.”

When I was a graduate student at Emory, I was teaching Intro to Sociology at Dekalb Community College. I would get a lot of working-class (often black) women who would say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then say something completely feminist, about abusive men, unfair work situations, or unreal beauty standards. They were feminists but that term had been both stigmatized by anti-feminists, like Mr. Limbaugh (and all the men sympathetic to his cause), and made obtuse by academic feminists who favor 10-dollar phrases over opening the door to those outside the academy.

Here is one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite academic feminists, Dorothy E. Smith –  “The relations of the ruling are rationally organized. They are objectified, impersonal, claiming universality. Their gender subtext has been invisible.” It makes perfect sense to me but I am a university professor. Smith’s thought might send anybody else running for the comfort of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The point of this piece is this. When I say I am a feminist and I will raise my daughter as a feminist, don’t blow a gasket if you don’t even know what feminism is. If you want my kid to grow up in a world where she is appreciated as a full human, with her own dreams and desires and rights and freedoms, welcome to the feminist club.

These books are available at Powell’s by clicking the covers below.

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13 thoughts on ““You’re raising your daughter as a feminist?”

  1. I think “some folks” is an understatement considering Time included “Feminist” on a list of words to ban in 2015. I will admit a guilty pleasure in watching “the magazine your grandparents read” struggle to figure out what journalism is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a feminist. And I think, who wouldn’t be? But I remember a conversation I had with someone in college. I had said something about being a feminist, and she had said she wasn’t, but then asked me what I meant by that. I explained it as “I think women are equal to men”. And she replied, “yeah, I’m not a feminist.” WTF??

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You have a lot of male-haters in your ranks. If you want to be taken seriously about being for equality, you need to clean that up. Ultraviolet is a perfect example of what I am talking about.

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    1. Hi Zac! Thanks for commenting. Like I said, feminism is a big tent. There are all kinds of people who claim it. I just looked at Ultraviolet (http://www.weareultraviolet.org/about/) and I didn’t see any “man-haters” (but I only spent a minute on the site).

      “UltraViolet is a new and rapidly growing community of women and men across the U.S. mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture.”

      I think people confuse hating sexism and patriarchy with hating men (sort of like people who hate racism being accused of hating white people). I’ve been a feminist since the early 1990s and have never actually met a “man-hating” feminist. But they may exist! Again, I really appreciate your contribution to the conversation. That’s what this blog is all about!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How else can you explain that organization starting petitions that call for the firing of Microsoft’s CEO when he makes a boneheaded comment or starting a petition to remove George Will as a speaker at commencement? The message they send to men is “don’t offend us or we’ll try to ruin you.”

        There is a significant amount of cognitive dissonance in the feminist movement. That these types of actions go unchallenged and are considered mainstream is illustrative of that.

        What would be the reaction to a men’s rights group taking the same steps? There would be no end to the hand-wringing.

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      2. I left the evidence in my post above. Just take a perusal through their campaigns to silence or fire any man that crosses them. Then ask yourself, is that the behavior that we want from our daughters. Endless victimhood.

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  4. A) Feminists shouldn’t put much thought in TIME magazine, They did declare feminism dead before.

    B) The word feminist has been tainted by the very people you claim don’t represent the movement, not by the people who are willing to point them out.
    For the past 20 years, feminism has done nothing about these disgusting hatemongers who attack anyone that dares to question them.
    Islam denounces terrorism in its name, Christianity denounces terrorism in its name, why doesn’t feminism?
    Feminists let the same people they say don’t represent the movement give children copies of SCUM and say Andy Warhol deserved it. Some movement for equality this has become.

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