sexism where it don't belong
March 5, 2003 11:02 PM

Kerri's talking on href="">We Have Brains this week about internalized sexism. I think, given Kerri's own interpretation of the subject (very insightful and a little incendiary, go read), that she's talking about two things: sexism in the groups we fight alongside, and sexism in ourselves.

Many feminists are also politically liberal. Many would argue that a feminist political agenda is inherently a liberal one. To an extent, I agree - I mean, I don't feel you can really be defending choice for women if you don't defend choice for all women - and that means you have to think about welfare, sex, a lot of social issues, from a liberal angle. But. I don't think a fiscally conservative or libertarian viewpoint are inherently counter to feminism. Nor do I think liberalism need equal feminism.

So, when we talk about "enlightened" people and assume that to be liberal/progressive/activist, it limits the definition of enlightenment. Politically speaking. Is it inherently less enlightened to be hawkish? To not claim a feminist identity? I'm not sure.

Blah blah blah - enlightenment is in the eye of the beholder, essentially.

Most people - I believe this strongly - would actually understand and accept feminism if they were served it properly. That doesn't mean there aren't barriers to their understanding - not at all. People come with a thousand biases they pick up along the way. People are, often, stupid. That is - they don't fully consider or research their opinions and what they believe to be their knowledge. We all do this.

People are also entitled to opinions. Even the ones I don't like.

But. I still find aspects of various movements frustrating. Like the issue I mentioned awhile ago about the Green Party - I failed to add that the party was also dominated (locally) by twenty-four-year-old white men from liberal, economically safe worlds. I haven't seen a lot of concern for women and, more importantly, various ethnic and educational backgrounds - the key to a solid grassroots movement. There is a certain elitism to radical organizations and activism - the very ability to be radical is seen as something of a privilege in modern political action. This bothers me more than sexist implications.

The anti-war movement currently buzzing around has also been guilty of a fair share of sexism. I've mentioned, and will continue to be irked by, the perception [by any group] that women would rule more justly, more peacefully, simply better. I do not believe that men and women are different enough for this to be true. Claiming women are more peaceful, more concerned for others, more diplomatic - while touching and sweet - also defines limits on acceptable, womanly behavior: to be hawkish is to fail at womanliness, if you listen to some of the mailing lists who started sending me stuff a few months ago.

It's not uncommon, even today, for such trivializing attitudes towards women's "betterness" to be loudly touted in feminist, fat activist, environmentalist, and peace-making groups. Again, being any of those things (except feminist, one would suppose) doesn't necessarily mean you're hip to the latest feminist discourse.

And yes, women or men who speak up against this can face accusations of being naysayers, of clouding the more important issues with details - we may, in fact, be doing just that - but that doesn't mean we don't need people to step up on these things. I'd argue the opposite. It's important for anyone who sees an injustice to speak to it, to take action against it as much as possible.

We have to speak out until we're the majority.

Personal sexism is more challenging. Because what one person defines as sexism is what another defines as empowerment.

Take, for instance, the idea of pornography. I think the issue of pornography about allowing sexual choice. Others think it's about reclaiming the way we think about sex to make women no longer the primary sex object, a commodity. My perspective is doubtless interpreted as sexism by anti-porn feminists, and I've been heard to call them anti-sex and anti-woman.

I feel much the same way about the traditionally feminine trappings of makeup and girly clothes. They're a choice you can make, in full [or partial] understanding of the cultural implications and irony of wearing an apron and pearls. But there are radical perspectives that would argue a need to eliminate those things, since they have all these cultural implications that we can't get past. Choice may be radical or conciliatory.

Who is right?

We are.

There's the problem. Whose opinion is ultimately the result of years of cultural pressure? Who has grown beyond the limits of cultural stereotypes? The truth is - both.

Of course, there's also less subtle internal sexism. There's I can't do that, I'm a girl and I have to do that, I'm a girl.

Hey, I've said it before: People are stupid. Or maybe [we hope] uninformed. Feminism may seem obvious to us, but that doesn't mean it's obvious, or even available, to everyone.

As for unsubtle sexism - the way through that is persistance. Persistance in an aggressive sense when others try to take away our right to lead, to speak, to act. Persistence to more softly support, to bear up the women around us when we see them hesitate to do those things.

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your wicked thoughts

If we asked a room full of people how many of them think women are and should be less than men, almost affirmative answers would be given. Yet, if we asked the same room of people if they considered themselves to be feminists, few would have such self conceptions. But what would be different if these people understood their own inclusion in the term ěfeministî? Would they treat women differently? Would their voting habits shift? Perhaps the men would stop abusing their wives or watching the man show and the women would pay less attention to cosmo and eat a sundae when they have a craving?

The real problem with feminism is its failure to bring the most vulnerable women into its fold. Vibrant feminist movements are coalescing across the less developed world, but American feminism (from what Iíve seen of it) is a privileged womenís movement.

Iím happy to see this demographic broadened, but I think it might also require a priority shift.

-Captain Catamenia

these are the thoughts of John on March 10, 2003 03:59 AM

John, I think you missed a "not" or a "no" at the beginning of your comment. But I agree with the intent of your first point. The rest - well, I have a hard time identifying how it's rooted in my post (I post a lot about feminism, liberalism, movements in general - so I tend to hope that readers will respond to the specifics discussed in any one post rather than commenting on feminism, fat, or whatever in general), but I'll try to speak to it in any case.

Yes, there are feminist movements around the world. There are, in fact, many feminisms in America alone. Aspects of American feminism (particularly the broadly liberal type that comes with being non-specifically progressive) are dominated by economically safe white women. But there is also an undercurrent of multi-culturalism, multi-sexualism, and economic range among other aspects of American feminism. It's not just one movement - which is, of course, a flaw at times, but an awestrikingly wonderful quality at others.

I guess what I'm saying is: I don't agree with all feminists, I don't have their experiences, and don't take anything I say to be representative of this broad, diverse movement as a whole.

Er. And I'd like to add that neither eating sundaes while reading Cosmo nor masturbating while watching The Man Show are not inherently un-feminist or anti-feminist acts. Others might disagree.

these are the thoughts of april on March 16, 2003 07:33 PM

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