Saturday, January 9, 2010


Feminism is a movement. A political movement. A women-focused human rights movement. It is a group of people, a collection of ideas, a "sisterhood" according to some.

What is it not-despite its successes, despite "best intentions"-is infallible, monolithic, or inherently good. It is not the cure of all bigotry, even misogyny. Feminists are not, as a rule, even committed to fighting these things; among those that are, doing so in such a way as to respect all those to whom human rights applies (all us pesky humans, with our pesky diversity) is an ongoing struggle.

And I say "respect" there. Not, you know, "help". The helpfulness of feminism to those for whom the "default assumptions"-middle class, white, het, cis, able, and other such Americentric normatives-do not apply is something around which vibrant and heated debate has and will continue to be held. I'm not logically prepared to make a judgment on that problem beyond acknowledging it, but there it is.

Furthermore, the "feminist" label is not an essential quality of those who devote themselves to activism and anti-oppression. This point seems truly self-evident to me. At the same time, though, I do have a specific example on my mind at the moment: genderbitch's recent rejection of feminism catalyzed by Mary Daly's postmortem kitten-gloving*1 in the femisphere.

From all this, it seems to follow that one may, in fact, be "antifeminist" yet not a fucking bigot. Yet by the language you see in the mainstream femisphere-even on sites I enjoy more than I dislike-you'd get the impression that "antifeminist" means "bigoted"*2... huh. That's weird. It's almost as if they're attempting to claim every identity, regardless of whether it is represented (or represented adequately) by their movement, belongs to "feminism" as long that identity faces bigotry.

Can't say I find that very impressive. To the contrary, I kind of resent it. A lot. I've never seen anyone raise a complaint against this (pretty common) usage of the term, and originally this made me question whether my problems with it were legitimate... but now that I've got my thoughts on this more or less all down in text, yeah, I'm pretty confident about it: when you mean "bigoted/oppressive behavior" could you please just say bigoted and oppressive, not center it on your movement with "antifeminist"?

*1 GB has the shakesfail on this pretty well covered. The Broadsheet coverage was pretty bad, too, reducing Daly's bigotry to a mention of her refusal to allow boys in her classroom, and Feministing had nothing but praise as well as some off-links to equally glowing/incomplete coverage (but hey! one mention of her hate of trans women among those, at least). On the flip side, Feministe handled this one pretty well.

*2 For example, FWD (one of those sites-I-don't-dislike) explicitly defines "antifeminist language" as "racist, sexist, ableist, sizeist, ageist, heterosexist, classist, transphobic, and cissexist language" in their comments policy. And in the same story that got the Daly thing right, Feministe broke this one out in reference to the existence of bigoted (trans) women.

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