December 11, 2014

A Rant Regarding Feminism (kind of)

Alright, so I really don't like to talk about politics or social justice on this site because it has fuck all to do with the content I'm covering and what this space is for, but, being a WGS and English double major, I write and read (mostly read) a lot about this stuff on Facebook and I had this little rant that turned into a big rant that then became too big to put into a single Facebook post... anyway, I thought I'd share my feelings on this issue (or I guess this is multiple issues??? I'm not as well aware of the language of this genre of blogging as I should be) and see what everyone thinks (because god knows the internet is a great place for discussing these types of things).

So, I read a pretty nifty article today on the language of domestic violence and how we should change it. The article's called, um, "We need to change the language we use to describe domestic violence"- yeah- and it's by Clementine Ford, and it's very good, but this section really stood out to me, and will be the topic for my rant (because this is a rant, make no mistake, it's just a rant about a relevant issue that seemed too long for Facebook).

"The rise of Men's Rights Activism has occurred in swift correlation with this increased attention to issues largely affecting women, and it's not unusual to have every evidence based argument presented regarding men's violence to be accompanied by squawks and diversionary yelling of WHAT ABOUT THE MEN and WOMEN DO IT TOO.

"While technically this is true, it isn't true in exactly the way some seem to want to believe, nor should the family violence experienced by men be co-opted as a means of derailing conversations about violence against women. Unfortunately, rather than appearing to defend men against legitimate problems, this approach appears to be more about maintaining male power."

I quoted the above because this is exactly the kind of thing that so many people need to understand. Yes, men get raped and are victims and that's important, but much like the current movements regarding racial violence and police brutality, focussing on another front of the issue with the express purpose of drawing attention away from what's actually going on and from what is important in the here and now, see, that's the type of shit that merely weakens not only what this type of think actively seeks to weaken but also weakens the very thing that it attempts to bring into the light. Because we shouldn't need to add "too" to the end of the fact that "men get raped" or "men are abused". That is it's own topic, and yeah, it's great if we have intersection with this stuff (there should be more of that, I think), but to try to belittle one important issue to embolden your own? No. Sit down, shut up, and wait your fucking turn.

Ford also points out that feminism right now is trying to make people aware of how society treats men poorly too anyway, and even this is regarded as somehow not good enough:

"The other great irony is that it is feminism that has tried to highlight the issue of men's emotional spectrum - to radically challenge the idea of stoicism and gendered differences in expression and feeling. And the same Men's Rights Activists who now bemoan the lack of love and care for men are the ones who also decry feminism's influence on society and apparent demonisation of the male gender."

So, where does this end? It seems that feminism, like the primary subject on which the movement is focused (that being on women), can never be in the right when it comes to men- and don't you dare throw out the "not all men" bs, because... well, just take two seconds and realize the irony here.

Also, to those who don't consider themselves feminists because "it's not inclusive" or "it lacks intersection" or "why do we need to attribute labels to things" or (and this one really pisses me off) "I'm not a feminist; I'm a humanist"- to those who think these things and point these things out, you're right, feminism is flawed, it doesn't fix everything, it has as many problems as the next movement does, but are you seriously suggesting that we just abandon all that hard work, all that progress that the movement made in spite of these limitations, and just move on to something else? Instead of eschewing these things or recognizing them and then saying that "feminism is dead" because of the faults seen in it, why not try and fix it? One of my favorite articles ever is The Guardian's "We need a bold, scandalous feminism" by Jacqueline Rose, and in this article she points out many flaws  within the feminist movement. And y'know what she does at the end? She gives us a fucking solution:

"The feminism I am calling for would have the courage of its contradictions. It would assert the rights of women, boldly and brashly, but without turning its own conviction into a false identity or ethic. It would make its demands with a clarity that brooks no argument, but without being seduced by its own rhetoric. The last thing it would do is claim sexuality as prize possession or commodity. This is a feminism aware that it moves, that it has to move, through the sexual undercurrents of our lives where all certainties come to grief. Otherwise, it too will find itself lashing out against the unpredictability of the world, party to its cruelties and false promises. Such a feminism would accept what it is to falter and suffer inwardly, while still laying out – without hesitation – its charge sheet of injustice."

I think this is a great idea because, as with many flawed systems or movements or whatever feminism is (I often like to think of it as "common sense with a hashtag"), it's important to recognize the flaws of this phenomenon instead of denying that feminism has flaws at all (because then you're looking at dogma, and we definitely don't want that). But after we recognize this, I think that we should learn and grow from it within the movement of feminism instead of shying away from feminism altogether.

Finally, I want to address another issue that is less common but still prevalent regarding feminism and specifically women and women's history. I got into a pretty heated discussion with a family member a while back (I love this person to death of course, but we really did not see eye-to-eye on this issue), and they questioned why we celebrate women and how, in their eyes, that's something that shouldn't be remarked upon and to do so is sexist. Now, we had a further discussion that resulted in a mutual understanding and respect between us (because obviously, I couldn't well let this pass me by), and I said that we celebrate women in traditionally male roles and celebrate women's accomplishments in male fields like science or mathematics or business because we are constantly bombarded with accomplishments by men in those fields anyway. And that's true throughout history; we celebrate and recognize male accomplishments and feats more than we do accomplishments of women or of minorities.

And does it suck that we have to point out that women can do things? I mean, I personally enjoy learning about women accomplishments throughout history. But I think it's also true that to point out a specific group is to by default recognize and participate in sexism, and that's certainly not what we want to have be as the final outcome of all of this. But I'm reminded of what Joss Whedon said about his creation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "I believe what I'm doing shouldn't be remarked upon" and that is absolutely true (and yes, I know Joss Whedon has had his fair share of pretty awful moments regarding feminism, but that's a different rant for a different time). But in order to get there, we have to create things like Buffy so that we do remark on it in order to raise awareness about it so that, finally, it can be something that we recognize by default.

So that's it. Just some thoughts on the feminist movement. Again, I'd love to hear what other people have to say about this; I ask that people be respectful of each other if you choose to comment please!

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