Sunday, November 4, 2007

What Is The Purpose Of Today's Feminism?

I'm seeing a lot about how you feel about feminism, and not much about what feminism is. The problem MRA's have with feminism is the political influence it has. Anything else is just personal philosophy, and as such really only affects the person who holds the philosophy and the people she or he interacts with. So let me phrase the question in a different way:

What relevance does feminism have in today's political climate? In other words, what else do you think needs to be accomplished from a feminist point of view?

To take it one step further, what part of the feminist agenda has already been accomplished in terms of legislation and how it's applied, and what if anything would you do to change it?

22 comments:

literarycritic said...

With all due respect, KellyMac, a lot of the comments on the previous post are about "what feminism is." How different people feel about their definition of "feminism" may not be as relevant as searching for feminism's one "true" definition, but it's still relevant to what feminism is; I see a lot of emotional redefining going on in the previous thread. Something along the lines of, "Feminism is this -- despite what any particular, or even the mass of, feminists may say/think." IMO, the reason so many people are perfectly comfortable redefining feminism in this way is simply because they want to be against feminism.

As for particular gripes against policies that MRAs see as feminist -- I don't think many of them are actually explicitly feminist, and that is important. If they're not claimed as feminist, the charge that they are feminist carries a lot less weight. For example, the ruling in the Winkler case -- a jury of her peers set her free, not a jury of feminists. (Like MRAs point out, the great majority of the country do not self-identify as feminist.) See what I mean? Like Mike pointed out on the previous thread, a lot of what MRAs see as "feminist" policies/legislation/perspectives/ideas are really the result of the Western style of thinking that he calls "liberal democratic humanism," of which feminism is a subset, not a driving force. Organizations like NOW are lobbyist groups -- they don't pass legislation on their own. They make arguments, and the culture sometimes responds. Sometimes it doesn't. NOW doesn't make the laws -- they're a lobbyist group like any other, fighting for their particular (blinkered) cause. Environmentalists do similar things that hinder capitalist enterprises/initiatives -- think the ANWAR drilling. It's the way our system works. No one lobbyist group controls the system.

The relevance of feminism in today's political climate? Hmm. Here's where I think that the mistake of equating "feminism" with "politics" comes in, like was discussed on the previous thread. Feminism is a set of ideas. There simply is no one feminist "agenda." That's like saying that there's a "homosexual agenda," when really, they're fighting for the right to live like everybody else, just as any other group would do if they saw themselves as disenfranchised.

I don't claim to speak for other feminists in terms of legal/political goals. Every group has different goals. I personally think that legislation is much less important than changing the way our culture dialogues about the sexes. Some feminists want to counteract the current pro-life upswing that is systematically trying to restrict access to abortion, not just here, but in the Third World as well. Those efforts are important, right in the here and now. Some feminists want to focus on employment/wage discrimination, particularly when it comes to issues not of the pay gap, but of maternity issues -- paid leave, lack of career-advancement penalization, etc. Many countries in Western Europe have already made significant advances in those areas, and we can learn from their example. Those efforts are important, right in the here and now. There are others -- but really, you can look around on some political feminist websites (Feminist Majority, NOW, etc.) to find that information.

But like I said, from the cultural standpoint (media representation, etc.), we have a long way to go. That's where I think the long-term efforts of feminism are the most important, because that's where the least lasting work has been done.

Steve said...

I think LiteraryCritic makes some very good points here.

There is no united front of liberal agendas (just as there is no great right wing conspiracy). I also agree that groups have wins and losses - its not a one way street.

However, it is also the case, that a significant part of the (gender) feminist ideology/worldview has penetrated into general society (e.g. that women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence) and that makes it much easier for a defense lawyer to mount an abuse defense in the Winkler case.

This is not some reflection of "liberal democratic humanism" at work, it is an example of one competing ideology driving out another under the guise of equality.

MRAs are serving a useful function of alerting society to the dangers of an ideology over-reaching its basic principles.

literarycritic said...

However, it is also the case, that a significant part of the (gender) feminist ideology/worldview has penetrated into general society (e.g. that women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence) and that makes it much easier for a defense lawyer to mount an abuse defense in the Winkler case.

This is not some reflection of "liberal democratic humanism" at work, it is an example of one competing ideology driving out another under the guise of equality.


Forgive my lack of clarity. I realize that the Winkler case was probably not the best example to use in the middle of a discussion about "feminist policies" and LDH, as that's not really where it belongs. I wasn't making the claim that the Winkler ruling was an example of LDH in public policy, so I don't want you to get the wrong idea.

A wrong or unfair court ruling in a particular murder case is usually not some outcropping of public policy, per se -- it's an outcropping of societal preconceptions and biases. I especially believe this to be true in the Winkler case. Her premeditation was clear ("the gun wasn't as loud as I thought it would be," etc.), and I'm not naive enough to believe a story of abuse simply because it makes me feel better -- the evidence has to be there, or it's just another unsubstantiated claim made to benefit the accused.

My comment about incorrect/unfair rulings being an example of social preconceptions/biases plays out like this, though: I believe that the Winkler ruling was less a result of feminist ideas/claims about DV than it was a result of preconceived notions about women who commit violent acts, which I personally think feminism should be doing more to counteract. When a woman commits a violent act, she can be seen one of two ways, in our culture as it exists today (and has for a long time): either she's a victim (of DV, of the patriarchy, of mental illness, of a man who made her do it, and so on -- it's endless, really), or she's pushed into the equally non-agentic category of "inhuman monster," because a woman would never do such a thing -- women are kind and compassionate nurterers, lovers of animals and children, caretakers of the old, ill, and disabled alike, and so on -- once again, the dialogue there is really endless. But neither side of the dialogue (and yes, I'm talking about general feminist claims here, too) really addresses the deeper, underlying problem -- that our culture really has no way of dealing with violent women. We don't see them as being fully human in the way that a man is, i.e., being capable of extreme or senseless acts of violence. But the only cultural dialogues that allow us to understand those acts when they do happen -- and they do! -- don't fit the empirical data. At all.

I don't think feminism is doing enough to combat this ongoing trend, and I believe that they are doing a great disservice to women everywhere by failing to address it.

However, I don't think that MRAs are correct in their analysis that feminism has created, all by itself, with no basis in the culture at large, these attitudes. The underlying message (that society is comfortable with women as victims) was already there, and I believe that in some ways, feminism has exploited this trend, but they did not create it.

Steve said...

LiteraryCritic, I agree with all of your points in the preceding post. You make some very good observations.

I agree feminism did not create the situation but has leveraged an existing situation. I also applaud your call for evidence in alleged abuse cases.

I particularly enjoyed your discussion of the victim/monster discourse and the need to establish alternative discourses.

(I almost fell off my chair when you acknowledged that feminism has exploited a bias/preconception - thank you for your honesty - it is very refreshing).

literarycritic said...

Steve, thank you for the positive feedback. I really appreciate it. I've thought a lot about this issue, being as much of a true-crime buff as I am -- and long before I self-identified as feminist! So my opinions on this are very strong. We may disagree on many things, but I'm probably just as outraged by the limited discourse on women and violence as any MRA out there.

There are other areas where I believe that feminism has not done enough to counteract outdated attitudes about women. Often, these are the result of lingering sexism -- like putting women into a "victim class." That's lingering sexism that feminism doesn't work to counteract because it helps their cause. It's further complicated by the fact that women generally are victims in certain ways that men generally are not, so feminists work to counteract those.

I do, however, understand the argument by some feminists that male-on-male violence (i.e., the primary form of violence that men experience which women do not) is a problem that men have to solve. I don't think this is unjustified on feminism's part, as such a problem doesn't really involve women, except as distant permutations of the primary relationship (i.e., the one between victim and victimizer) -- e.g., mothers who don't pay sufficient attention to their sons, women who ask their boyfriends to attack another man, etc. These arguments are rarely applicable, and usually hard to prove.

I should also mention that some feminists have done work criticizing feminism for failing to counteract the women-as-victims paradigm. It is small and largely ignored, but it does exist. Belinda Morrissey and Naomi Wolf (however much you may disagree with her on other things) are two that come to mind. There is a movement by feminists to bring other dialogues about violence into feminism. So blaming feminism as a whole for exploiting this trend is, I believe, going a bit too far. Maybe you can say that, in general, feminists do not do enough publicly-visible work to counteract the trend, or that they do not listen enough when other feminists bring up the problem, but it's not correct to say that feminism as a whole hasn't addressed it at all, because it has been done.

literarycritic said...

NB: Sorry if the last paragraph of my previous post came across as lecturing. I was really just anticipating an argument that I thought might come up, that I wanted to address right off the bat. So I wasn't implying that you would necessarily jump to that conclusion, but I did want to put it out there to elaborate my original point, just in case.

Steve said...

LiteraryCritic:

Most fields of research have their share of people exploring different nooks and crannies to ferret out an original idea. However, what gets taught in classes, placed in textbooks, and mentioned in pop magazines tends to be what influences public policy and affects social action.

However, I appreciate your effort to point out that some work is being done on these questions that may eventually go mainstream.

KellyMac said...

Ah, ok, good. Common ground. That's what I was hoping for.

The question is, if we can find things we agree about, wouldn't it be beneficial to everyone if we work together to get those things changed? From both the MRA and Feminist point of view, we have much to gain and little to lose by doing so.

After all, "All that is needed for evil to triumph, is for good men [and women] to do nothing." - attributed, probably mistakenly, to Edmund Burke. It is a good paraphrase of many of his statements, though.

literarycritic said...

The question is, if we can find things we agree about, wouldn't it be beneficial to everyone if we work together to get those things changed? From both the MRA and Feminist point of view, we have much to gain and little to lose by doing so.

Not to be flip, but what do you propose Steve and I (or feminists and MRAs) do? "Working together" is a pretty vague term.

I personally am not inclined toward political action -- I'm more of a thinker. I'm perfectly happy to keep discussing particular issues of agreement, but I wonder how much cultural impact that discussion can reasonably be expected to have, as I (for example) will not call myself an MRA and Steve (for example) will not call himself a feminist.

Anonymous said...

The only common ground between enemies is the land between the trenches.

Common ground will always be leveraged by your opponent to destroy you.

--MikeeUSA--

literarycritic said...

Wow, MikeUSA -- with such an antagonistic attitude, no wonder you don't see a possibility for anything productive to come of this. At least I can admit that it's possible, even if I think it's unlikely.

Factory said...

Once again I see an almost hilarious lack of understanding of basic human nature, and I believe you're too smart to pull off playing that dumb. Women in general have seen and been dismayed by feminist behaviour for around 40 years now. LOTS of women express disgust at the double-bind men have been put into, and frankly the vast majority blame feminism as well. These women NEVER call themselves feminist.

Contrary to the spin-meisters currently trying to confuse the issue by essentially picking certain feminist behaviour, and blaming indefensible views on other variations of feminism, feminism is exactly like any other ideology. There are as many different opinions as there are people. So what? If I'm Catholic and personally see no problem with female preists, but recognize the Church's right to determine that for itself, am I no longer a Catholic? If I'm a political conservative, but believe abortion is OK, am I no longer a conservative? Can I lay claim to being one while simultaneously avoiding possibly detrimental repurcussions? This is precisely why these feminists are scattering to various compartments. This is misdirection, a con if you will.

There is a broadly recognizable shift in our society which feminism USED to be quite proud to lay claim to. That is, until men stopped wanting to marry, or become involved with, or in some cases even sleep with women. When the consequences of broad-based legal and social bullying of men in general came home to roost, feminists started to decry certain behaviours....usually the ones that made it difficult for them in thier personal lives.

The purpose of today's feminism? That's simple....

Todays feminism has no raison d'etre save one, to confuse and obfusticate enough to save as much of the privilege and social good-will as they can, while blaming the excesses on a relatively small subset of feminists that "don't matter anymore", and thier lackeys.

Misdirection. Pure and simple. Women's Rights, gender issues, PC-think, nanny-state laws that intrude into the most personal spheres of our lives, control by committee... these are all hallmarks of feminist thought and behaviour. Whether they coincide with other ideologies or not, they are all things enacted/espoused/demanded by feminist groups and the "establishment" in general. I suggest you watch the trailer for "Indoctrination U" (a soon to be released documentary on University indoctrination). I attended university, this is an accurate portrayal so far, can't wait to see the film. While you may argue that feminism isn't responsible, or only indirectly responsible, for these happenings I will submit to you this:

You admit feminism has utilized social mores to get what they want . I submit that while these feminists may have been secular humanist, they may be nihilist, they may be freakin Buddist even... that does not matter. Feminism is as feminism does. The current manhating culture can DIRECTLY be attributed both to feminism and also Women's Studies depts in universities, to "diversity" policies designed to provide anything but, to laws that are designed PURELY to exclude certain groups from obtaining equal rights (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimiation because of sex, religion, skin colour, etc...EXCEPT when used to benefit "historically disadvantaged groups". We can read that like this as well...."You can only discriminate against white men".

This was lobbied/pushed for by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. The "girl crisis" in school was rushed to the centre stage (so to speak) by the American Association of University Women pretty much right at the time that girls began to outperform boys in school in nearly every area. We now have incontrovertible PROOF that boys are systemically being discriminated against....the same groups that cried "girl crisis" are now saying "Well, that might be true, but they're going to make more than the girls anyway, so who cares?". Except THATS not true either...the word just hasn't gotten out yet.

So you see, individual women changing thier stripe from one incomprehensible variant of feminism to another doesn't negate the fact that she's a feminist. It also doesn't negate the fact that these groups are doing these things IN HER NAME, and she does nothing to denounce it. It also doesn't negate the fact that by only subtly distancing herself from "the whackos", she is purposefully keeping herself part of the "power group" while maintaining plausable deniability.

In short, feminism is, as feminism does.

Anonymous said...

literarycritic said...
Don't assume your enemy does not follow the tenate "War Is Deception".

--MikeeUSA--

Caroline said...

I am sorry if I repeat something already said, because I didn't read all the commentaires. My answer to your question will be very simple: when people won't be treated differently anymore because of their sex or gender, then feminist task will be accomplished. Is it the case? I don't think so, and we can see it in little things that reveals a lot about more important discriminations: don't you ever meet men who are machos and hold you the door "because you are a woman"? Don't you see everywhere women who encourage this sexist differenciation of treatments?
Obviously, there are a lot of more serious inequalities, but what you see everyday reveals the inequality in the facts, that is unbearable for any antisexist.

I beg your pardon for the potential errors in English, I am French.

Pete said...

However, I don't think that MRAs are correct in their analysis that feminism has created, all by itself, with no basis in the culture at large, these attitudes. The underlying message (that society is comfortable with women as victims) was already there, and I believe that in some ways, feminism has exploited this trend, but they did not create it.

The problem here is not that feminism has done this, but has done so with a conscious awareness of what they are doing.

literarycritic said...

The problem here is not that feminism has done this, but has done so with a conscious awareness of what they are doing.

That's a very odd statement, Pete. Can you prove it?

Pete said...

That's a very odd statement, Pete. Can you prove it?

Go to any femherroid site who even allows comments in opposition, note when someone points out disparities and feminist hypocrisies, and listen for the (rehearsed) line of rationalizations and excuses.

Just ask any feminist "Hey .. why are you supporting a law for women, and leaving men out?" If you don't get the lame excuse of "Well, we're here for women, men need to take care of themselves..." then you'll be mocked.

It isn't a great leap in intuitive thought.

If feminism practiced what it preached, the notion that they were exploiting disparate "constructed" societal treatment of women would horrify them. The fact that it doesn't speaks volumes to any thinking person who takes that further step to ask, "Well - why not?"

Pete said...

And here is one for you:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/11/12/teacher.student.search.ap/index.html

Now switch the genders. Imagine the outcry from feminists if this was a female student and a male teacher. (I'll leave out the whole female on female thing because the NOW and their ilk are more close mouthed than a Catholic Bishop when it comes to lesbian pedophiles.)

The word we are looking for is "Unprincipled." If blaming the victim was what they opposed, on principle, they would speak out against this too.

They don't.

Because it is not what they truly believe.

Hmh said...

Which feminist agenda? There are as many as there are feminists.

My own take on it is that radical feminism has been incredibly successful at infiltrating popular culture and also politics.

However, like all virulent ideas, it's either losing its potency or dying out because most of radical feminism is simply not human nature. Give it a couple of generations and it'll be gone. We're not going back to the society of the 1950's - we've learnt a bit too much for that - so hopefully what rises naturally, post feminism, is a better deal for everybody.

Now. Where's a loving, caring woman who likes a decent straight up guy?

Factory said...

The problem with this line of thought:
"so hopefully what rises naturally, post feminism, is a better deal for everybody."
is simply that nothing will arise "naturally" from this at all...whatever happens will be eventually decided by violence...either directly or through the "State". men are demanding redress...and women are collectively plugging thier ears and saying "lah lah lah". What will it take to get a little actual consideration?

A fair number of men have resigned themselves to this eventuality. Scarier still, there are men out there positively salivating at the thought of killing a few feminists. This scares the hell out of me, and it's only refusal to accept the possiblity of violence that fuels the scoffing headed thier way from feminists.

"That's a very odd statement, Pete. Can you prove it?"

LINKS! STUDIES! OFFICIALDOM!

LC, this is geting tired already, for me at least. Don't you have anything else in your little bag of tricks than constantly telling people thier arguments aren't worth anything unless they provide you with sufficient evidence? I mean, for crying out loud, these aren't academic dissertations. Plus, unless you're a total moron, most of what people say is self-evident.

That said, perhaps there's reason to prepare some sort of resource of links, just to make people like you do more running around than you demand of others.

Oh yeah, I forgot, you're "too busy". Maybe extend the same courtesy to those whose arguments you have such disdain for.

Factory said...

LC opines:

"As for particular gripes against policies that MRAs see as feminist -- I don't think many of them are actually explicitly feminist, and that is important. If they're not claimed as feminist, the charge that they are feminist carries a lot less weight. For example, the ruling in the Winkler case -- a jury of her peers set her free, not a jury of feminists. (Like MRAs point out, the great majority of the country do not self-identify as feminist.) See what I mean?"

yes, I do. You have decided to leave out pervasive anti-male sentiment (sponsored, encouraged, or otherwise by feminist organizations and thier supporters). If one can't summon the braincells to see how this could be feminisms fault, well, tell you what. We'll spend 40 years telling everyone that all women are potential false accusers ad nauseum, on all forms of media...and teach it in every class throughout education. We'll just do this ONE (of a teeming multitude) little thing that feminism has done with men (Do I have to provide links, or are you able to figure out how I know this?)...we'll do that for 40 years, then we'll ask a jury of "peers" if they believe a woman in a "he said/she said" rape trial.

Oh right, that sort of "social engineering" has no effect...we're smarter than that right? Except if that were the case why would feminist groups insist on PC think, refuse to publish both sides of ANY gender issue, and by and large fear opposing viewpoints getting any kind of traction.

Or do you seriously suggest that people don't bring outside culture into the courtroom.

You know, the more I hear it from you LC, the more your argument sounds like "guns don't kill people, PEOPLE kill people".

Transparent attempts to derail any critique of your "religion" aside, no one is THAT stupid.

I'd also like to ask you to provide me with some links....let's say...a prominent (no excuses - feminism is WELL funded) feminist organization that has EVER condemned the behaviour of a woman that kills.

I admit, I'd be impressed with just one...if you can do 10 legitimate links from 10 sources/stories, I'll even promise to stop poking huge holes in your rhetoric....I'll leave that to...well, nearly anyone.

Anonymous said...

http://www.fondationpourhommes.com/ : oui au retour des valeurs
traditionnelles ; les allumeuses et les chipies, remettons-les à leur
place; non au string oui au voile.

Finalement, nous sommes mieux entre nous, elles nous perturbent et St
Pierre l'a dit : elles sont les tentatrices et les instigatrices de la
chute.
Elles doivent être soumises et maternelles : le sexe c'est pour les
hommes, les sentiments c'est pour les femmes (on peut facilement les
berner avec des illusions, ce qui peut nous aider à retrouver toute
notre grandeur) car elles ne sont pas comme nous. Elles sont
naturellement faibles et il faut les protéger d'elles-mêmes, sinon le
monde court à sa perte. Comme preuve ce qui arrive actuellement est de
leur faute, surtout les féministes qui n'ont pas su rester à leur
place. Redevenons de vrais hommes.
Pas d'angélisme : la révolution oui, l'égalité, non