Sunday, June 15, 2008

Call for Submissions: Feminism Definitions

It's awkward to admit now, but definitions of feminism penned by anti-feminists used to make me shy away from the word. My ideas were clearly feminist ideas, but I worried that the term was so widely misunderstood as to make it useless. Conversations about my (feminist!) ideals often went something like this:

Dude: "So, what are you - like, a feminist or something?"
Me: "I believe in liberating both sexes from the gender stereotypes that limit them, and I think that a lot more needs to be done to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women."

Of course, those lines pretty much define my feminism, and it only took two days of working at my university's Women's Center before I learned to openly embrace the word. I have since come to believe that attempts to discredit the term feminism are generally used to silence those who notice sexism in our societies and those who work to make things more equitable.

Perhaps memories of my past reluctance to claim the appropriate term for my philosophies added to the sting I felt when reading the definitions of feminism over at Urban Dictionary last week, but the vitriol I saw there really threw me into a funk. Based on the UD rants and recent media uses of the word, it seems like attacks on feminism and its values have gained force in recent years. I worry that younger generations of women will face even more resistance to both the word and the values it implies if we continue to allow feminist to be used as a synonym for words like harpy and misandrist.

So, I'd like to come up with some more useful definitions of feminism than the ones over at UD, and I'd like your help. I'm hoping to gather some feminist readings of feminism, and some feminist perspectives on what it means to be a feminist. If you're interested in adding your thoughts, please send any of the following to me at pobrehabladora [at] gmail [dot] com by next Thursday evening:

1. Your definition of feminism
2. A post on how you came to call yourself a feminist, or your 'click moment' with feminism
3. How you practice feminism in your daily life, and how others respond
4. Links to posts you've already written about any of the above

Depending on what type of responses we get, I'll either do a single post listing definitions or a series of guest posts. Of course, you'll get credit for your words - so please send a byline telling a bit about yourself or a link to your profile or blog. Naturally, feel free to leave your thoughts on any of the above in comments as well.

Remember - send your definitions or posts by the evening of Thursday, June 19th!


NewsCat said...

You know I think as "an idea, not a movement."

To quote her:

It’s really a very simple idea, the idea that men and women are equals and should be treated as equals. How you interpret that is always going to be dependent on your other beliefs, interests, and ideas.

I think that made such much sense to me and why there can be so much disagreement between feminists who are essentially "on the same side" and disagree so radically. Because how can a movement be all-encompassing. It can't. but an as ideal, many groups (activists) can take up different route to achieve an ideal.

Lynn said...

I will give this some more thought this week, I don't want to give a rushed answer as there are so many things to say about this.

I'll get back here Monday or Tuesday.

I also wanted to mention, as an unrelated FYI, that I am not opposed to vaccines. I am opposed to the blame put on parents for being confused since it is very difficult for parents to know what the truth is about safety and I blame the joke "officials" for that. I did raise the question about mandatory vaccination, but that is because I take that angle with everything. (do we mandate or not) I just ask questions, I don't necessarily answer them. At any rate, I did respond about that and hope that my position was not understood to mean that I am not in favor of the merits of vaccines. Just saying! I think it is a complicated debate, and far from black or white.

Back to the post- good idea for discussion and I am sorry I don't have my thoughts in order at this moment. The definition thing hits a nerve for me.

NewsCat said...

Wow, how half my post disappeared and the other half ended up as hypertext.

The person I'm quoting is Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.

Habladora said...

Lynn- thanks for the vaccine clarification, I should be a more careful reader! For anyone interested, the discussion Lynn references can be found (here) at The Essential Industry.

Newcat - the Pandagon post you link is really interesting, and I agree about the idea/belief distinction.

Blogger is really odd in the way it responds to the HTML for linking in comments - it has often done the 'clip the key words and hypertext the rest' trick to me as well. It only works correctly about 50% of the time. Oddly enough, other HTML tags work just fine.

Veronica said...

My definition is that feminism is a political movement where women and men seek equality and equity in society between women and men. Equal pay for equal work. Equal opportunities. Etc.

Carla said...

Whenever someone gives me grief about being a feminist I just say, "Yah I am one of those crazy bitches who think rape is a bad thing."

bell hooks got it right. Feminism, the political movement to end sexism.

I spell it out in three parts:
1) Acknowledging the history of and current effects of sexism (ex. pay gap, sexual violence, work-family balance, motherhood penalties,...).
2) Acknowledging that sexism is morally and politically harmful.
3) A commitment to some sort of action to fight sexism.

This three part definition is useful when it comes to deconstructing resistance. It is amazing to me the number of people who just don't know that facts about sexism in the US. Introducing data in part one is really useful. Most people are surprised and appalled by statistics on sexual violence or pay inequity. Once we have the data, practically everyone agrees with part two. And part three emphasizes hope in action. Here the notion that personal is political comes onto the scene. The problem is big, but there is always something that can be done: small actions like refusing to laugh at a sexist joke, or big actions, like volunteering for Planned Parenthood, or working on a political campaign are both ways we can make a difference.