call a spade a spade
June 17, 2003 06:07 PM

Roni's WHB question this week is about names.

Are you a feminist if you don't call yourself by the name? it fair to label someone a feminist if they don't claim it? Is it important to label others as feminists, even if they won't march with you at the Feminist Pride Parade? How do you feel when the woman next to you on the bus, in class, at work states, "Oh, I believe I should be paid as much as Dan, but I'm not a feminist!"

I don't think you can legitimately claim for someone an identity they wouldn't claim for themselves. So, no, it's not fair to call someone who'd rather be a "womanist" or a "humanist" * or nothing a "feminist". No more than it's acceptable to decide someone else is gay.

That said, I don't think there's any requirement for feminist "membership" beyond belief in equality where gender is concerned. I would prefer feminists argue for equality in general, and most do, but even that isn't mandatory.

And why not claim a feminist identity? Well, despite what those of us in the liberal feminist mainstream would like to believe, there have been and continue to by pockets of misandry masquerading as feminism (and much more of a reputation for same). There are feminists who think the movement shouldn't allow men to participate. There are feminists who still believe women are inherently docile and peaceful. There are feminists who don't consider women of color, or poor women when they think about feminist issues.


There are pockets of stupidity in any group, quite honestly, and there are people who refuse to identify with groups for just that reason. They have a good point. But I say, change the stupidity (and the reputation) from the inside. Withdrawal in disgust is about as effective as apathy, despite their ethical differences.

I do not mean to say here that feminism is worthy of disgust, by the way. I'm just saying yes, there are some valid reasons not to identify as a feminist. Just because I don't think they're big enough reasons to diss the movement doesn't mean other people won't disagree. [Pockets of stupidity, what can I say? Ha!]

Yes, of course, I'm frustrated by the I'm not a feminist, but argument. And every time I hear it, I say the same thing.

I say. You sound like a feminist. You think like a feminist. It's okay to be a feminist. I'm one, too. We're all in good company. And I hope that feminist-thinking mind is changed.

But I wouldn't take away that person's ability to choose the label.

* To be a Humanist, by the way, still means to place humanity over divinity, or to participate in a revival of classic humanistic culture. It's not another word for "egalitiarian". Not that I'm one to insist that language is a dead, inflexible creature - but most self-styled "humanists" don't have a clue about the word's traditional meaning. At least be aware that you're fucking with a word that is currently in use with another, completely different, meaning.

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your wicked thoughts

have i expressed to you yet how much i sometimes want to reach out and give you a huge hug just for being yourself and nothing more. just for being yourself, you deserve a hug.

these are the thoughts of eris on June 17, 2003 10:46 PM

thanks for your response!

when it's my turn for collab topics, I get more outta reading all the replies than actually answering my own prompt. :)

these are the thoughts of Roni on June 18, 2003 12:11 PM

I agree!! Most of the people I know, both my age and older [graduates of college, my mom, etc] don't really like to be labelled as feminists, but if you listen to their views, it's the same thing as what feminists say. it's irritating when my friends won't say they're feminist because of what they think it stands for in the public eye, and I wish that people who are not truly helping the issue would go away and stop marring the image of feminism.

I wish someone would just make an announcement that everyone would hear, defining what feminism in its raw state is. Not what the media's manipulated it to be or what self-serving organizations have turned it into.

sorry if my thoughts were repetitive . . .

these are the thoughts of stephanie on July 2, 2003 07:00 AM

i don't understand the need to have someone's thoughts, on a topic as broad as equal rights, boiled down to a one word label.
sure, it is useful in a university classroom setting on pertinent [sp?] topics, seeing where everyone sits on a given topic. it seems to me nothing more than a flashing 15second commercial. a way to network more efficiently. a way to have conventions and meetings based on a label.

i've identified as a feminist in the past, and choose not to anymore because people don't listen. not because i've said i am a feminist but because everything has a specific label and that is all they need to hear, regardless whether it's 'used car salesman', 'army', or as has been said just a few words away, 'fat'.

and i don't agree that one needs to change things from the inside necessarily. when the boat that is riddled more holes than you have buckets, you get out before it sinks. i like the democrats' ideas much more than the republicans', but i don't identify as one. and i am not going to just so that i can vote for the lesser of 6 evils next democratic primary time.

i don't identify as a feminist because it isn't a lable i want. my views are for probably 99% equality based on sex, race, socio-economic differences. [i.e. i don't think the government should have to pay for operations for women who want to pee standing up, or something like that, meaning i do think some things are different because people are different, but this is obviously many standard deviations away from the mean of what needs to be equal.] and so, i would assume, approaching at least 75-90% of feminist goals. i just don't want the label. i think one needs very few in life, and that just isn't one i think i need.

p.s. i am not saying i think there is no need for labels anywhere.
pp.s. i think the bit you wrote on 'fat' was very well done. seriously.

these are the thoughts of ryan on July 2, 2003 04:52 PM

sorry for no spaces between paragraphs. feel free to insert them or delete the whole thing.. pardon.

these are the thoughts of ryan on July 2, 2003 04:55 PM

ryan! i forgive your lack of spacing on account of my pleasure at hearing from you.

and yes, it is valid to say there are aspects of an agenda you don't agree with. however, a "feminist" agenda per se doesn't really exist, vs. a "democrat" agenda, which clearly does. so part of choosing or unchoosing the label is - what agenda are you accepting? to me, the agenda i accept as a feminist is the core - equality, choice in its many forms - and my take on that.

because it is useful for feminist causes for me to go ahead and claim the label (specifically by joining or donating to certain organizations), i do. and it's useful for me, too, because it connects me to the rest of this community. that's my response to boiling thoughts down to labels. the label is, in my opinion, simply an identifier that assists in summarizing the thoughts.

surprisingly, it doesn't even annoy me that you and eris and many other of the bright, equality-minded thinkers i've encountered don't claim feminist identities. but it is something i personally feel obliged to advocate.

these are the thoughts of april on July 2, 2003 05:05 PM

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