Saturday, September 13, 2008

Feminist Actions: Political and Personal

A couple of days ago we discussed what it takes to be a feminist politician, and the consensus seems to be that it is not enough to simply embrace the label. To be truly pro-woman, we decided, a politician must work to protect women's rights and freedoms.

Yet, how about for the rest of us? What does it mean to be a pro-woman - a feminist private citizen?

I'll start by admitting that I've felt most feminist not when working for a non-profit organization that seeks economic justice for low-income women, as I do now, but as a teacher. Challenging the cavalier expressions of homophobia I often heard from my students (and sometimes even from the faculty and staff), asking students to question their assumptions about gender and race (and as a Spanish teacher in a small rural town I saw some attitudes in young people that I'd naively believed to be dying out), and fighting with the administration to provide more support for pregnant students - there were a lot of up-hill battles, but I know I won at least a couple.

Now, even though I work for an organization with feminist aims, my days are spent drafting letters of inquiry and editing grants. Its a good cause and I believe in the organization and its goals, but I don't feel more feminist now than I did in years past.

That's why I believe that, for those of us who are not writing policies or voting on fair pay, there are still many ways to be pro-woman. The Professor and FeministGal have already published some suggestions for how we can all be pro-woman activists post-graduation, but I want to hear from readers:

What do you do that's pro-woman?
What does being pro-woman even mean for private citizens?


Casmall said...

Right now I think a good start would be voting for candidates with pro-woman policies.

M.R.Ambrose said...

I think everything that I do is pro-woman. I think it's a life style.
oh!press pass

frau sally benz said...

As you stated in the comments on my post, it is certainly possible to be pro-woman or an activist even without it being your official role. I think the difference is that people tell themselves that there's nothing they can do, so they never actually get to do anything.

In the past, I've advocated for volunteering for an organization with a cause you love and support. Using your skill and ability in that way is very rewarding. I would also say that you can try to incorporate it to whatever job you have (some are easier than others). Teachers can incorporate more feminist figures/philosophy into their own classes, writers can tell the stories of women, and so on.

daedalus2u said...

To me, being “pro-woman” is the same as being “not anti-woman” which is a subset of being “not anti-person”.

Conceivably one could be “pro-woman” and “anti-man”, but if you are “anti-man”, then you are “anti-person” (men being a subset of persons). There is nothing about being “pro-woman” that requires or necessitates being “anti-man”, or anti-anything.

I think that it is those who are “anti-person” who have some weird idea that human rights are some sort of “zero-sum” game, that for some people to gain human rights other people have to lose them. This is simply wrong thinking. I think it is mostly conservative Patriarchy-type thinking that fosters the zero-sum idea. When ever there is a limited resource, who ever controls more of it has more. I think that women who are “anti-man” fall into this type of zero-sum thinking too.

In an evolutionary sense, the only resource that has any value to males is access to fertile females. If a male does not obtain access to fertile females and father children in his lifetime, then he has “lost” the evolutionary sweepstakes and has come up with zero in the zero-sum game to contribute to the next generation’s gene pool. This is why control of women and control of women’s reproduction is so important to the Patriarchy. There is nothing else that is worth controlling. That is why people who are anti-women can’t allow women to control their own fertility. If women were allowed to control their own fertility, over time, they would be able to purge from the gene pool males who would prevent them from controlling their own fertility.

Being “not anti-woman” is to accept, encourage and support each woman’s idea and conceptualization of what being a woman is to her. It is about letting each woman decide for herself what it means to her to be a woman and how she will express her womanness in her life.

Habladora said...

I think that it is those who are “anti-person” who have some weird idea that human rights are some sort of “zero-sum” game, that for some people to gain human rights other people have to lose them.

Yeah, I've never really understood how people arrive at the conclusion that another person's gain in rights must mean an erosion of their own, but this type of thinking seems to be widespread.

As for not loving on the type of men who want female sexuality controlled by males, I think that it is also important not to love on (or elect!) the type of women who want female sexuality to be controlled by males either.

feministblogproject said...

Like m.r.ambrose said, for me it's a lifestyle. Not that everything I do is overtly feminist. I think the most overtly feminist things I do consist of volunteer work and written/verbal protests against anti-feminist legislation. But it's little stuff, too, like standing up to the sexist guy at work, or trying to help my husband notice his male privilege or help my mom notice her class privilege. And it's in the music and books I choose and in the TV I watch. I think one of the things that really made my husband understand my feminism was when we were watching the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget and some comedian started on a series of rape jokes. I said "That's not funny," left the room, and didn't come back until the show was over. Yeah, only my husband really saw that act of protest, but it helped him learn that rape is not funny, and that I'm not willing to sit there and just watch anti-feminist "humor" on TV.

daedalus2u said...

I think the “zero-sum” mentality comes from deep evolutionary time, and is fundamentally related to the alpha-male type reproductive strategy. Get as many females pregnant as possible, get as much food as possible, get as much territory as possible. Bigger is always better. I think this is the same mindset that people have when they try to acquire much more than they can possibly use. It isn’t confined to males, how many pairs of shoes did Imelda Marcos have? (reportedly 1060 pairs).

I think women who are attracted to the “alpha-male” type and try to foster alpha-male type behaviors (think teases who try to foster fights over themselves) are effectively the female version of the alpha male (which fits Sarah Palin). I think it is women who aspire for their sons to be alpha males fit that type, and is why those women choose alpha-male types to be the father of their child. Much of this is likely occurring at an unconscious level which makes it much harder to be aware of and to actively deal with.

It is pro-woman to allow any woman to choose the type of male she wants. It is anti-woman to bring up a son to be anti-woman. FBP makes an excellent point. Tolerating rape humor is to tolerate rape.

Dee said...

Being a mother who raises her son to among other things respect women and their right to say no.