This is another one of those blogs helping me work out in my own head how to explain to others my thoughts on the word “feminism,” so if you’re not interested in ramblings or some repeat information from my other blog posts, go ahead and skip this one.
So yes, to recap in other recent posts, please don’t go jumping on me with why I should or shouldn’t want to label myself feminist.
1) I am not the enemy of feminists or the feminist movement in general, in fact I consider us friends.
2) I think the “feminist movement” has done great things for us (all sexes) and is still important in dismantling Patriarchy, so if your concerns are limited to trying to prove to me either of these things, you can stop reading now, because I agree.
3) Yes, I understand that “feminism” has many definitions but that the most popular one is “fighting for or pushing for equal right of the sexes” and this does not mean superior privilege for women. Yes, I understand that.
However, I don’t agree that using that definition alone justifies feminists saying to other people, “see, you’re actually a feminist and you just don’t know it or are in denial.”
To use a metaphor, I’ll talk about religion and religious labels-
I believe that there may be a “God.” I believe in a higher power of sorts, but I limit it to saying I believe that this power, which I choose to call “love,” is powerful in ways that we cannot yet explain or fully understand and has some control over the world in which we inhabit and our lives. However, by my definition, many, many Christians could and do claim that this makes me a “Christian.” No, no it doesn’t. Because I chosen not to describe myself that way. I’m not doing it to piss them off and I’m not doing it to be “unique”, I’m doing it because I don’t agree with their definition, I don’t like the idea of being trapped in a label, and I don’t agree with the amount of restriction it would confine me to if I joined the Christian religion. It’s not that I hate organized religion, or even Christians. I don’t think the entirety of their worship is useless nor do I think it’s necessarily bad for society. I simply don’t agree with enough of it to call myself a “Christian.”
This is the same thing. I think the feminist movement is doing good things. I am more than happy to work with feminists toward dismantling Patriarchy and by many people’s definitions, I am a “feminist.” However, I believe that it is no longer useful or productive to use the word “feminist,” or at least not for me. The reason being, I believe that by calling ourselves “feminists” we are continuing the use of patriarchal labels, therefore reinforcing gender ideas and undermining our own goal(s). Long ago, we wanted to push the idea that being feminine did not make us less worthy of equal rights. This is no longer relevant and most feminists agree, because what is “feminine” varies from woman to woman so much that there is no staple definition of what makes a “woman” anymore. However, society does continue to call us women and the fact remains that those called “women” are still oppressed systematically (if not lawfully). You cannot simply undo thousands of years of oppression in a few decades, though we are doing much better, in my opinion.
My ideas of people who are oppressed has gone beyond that of just women when I started taking Critical Gender Studies and exploring my own sexuality in the LGBT community. Trans men and women really opened my eyes up to the fact that gender is something that hurts everyone. It even left me wishing myself that I didn’t have to pick which gender I wanted to describe myself as. I think that if we’re going to help trans people, and everyone really, we need to stop reinforcing gender labels so much, especially ones like “feminine” and “masculine.” Feminism = feminine. I don’t support what is considered “feminine” nor do I support “masculine” because I feel that it are both made-up, nonsensical and harmful. I know the word has evolved and transformed to mean so much more than that in “modern/post feminism,” but I still feel that hanging onto the word is not helping us but hurting us. It is a fundamental disagreement strictly about what the word means to me, not the major ideals. I simply look at the way to dismantle Patriarchy differently than “feminists” do.
In defense of labels like “egalitarian” and “humanist” which I can better relate to, they are also encompassing a larger definition of people who are oppressed and no, not just men (as women feminists seems to be pretty considered about it helping) but also people who are oppressed because of racial inequality, classism, physical/mental handicap, and many others. I’m sorry, but I am so busy worrying about all these issues that “feminist” just doesn’t cut it for me anymore, because I see the problem as being much bigger than just women’s rights. Women’s rights are really one part of a very big problem. They are absolutely valid, but not the only issue and may not even be the biggest issue. Most feminists tend to agree that these issues also matter, yet they insist on calling themselves feminists and saying that feminism covers those issues when really I think one word like that, which specifically and historical points only at what is “feminine” and oppressed, is not enough. However, they all (all oppressed people, at least in America) have a common oppressor, Patriarchy, and it’s systematic oppression that is deeply rooted in our daily lives, most notably in our speech and labels.
Calling me a “Christian” just because I fit your definition of the label, does not make me a Christian. Calling me a “feminist” does not make me a feminist. The word no longer feels either accurate for me generally speaking nor when speaking very specifically. It’s not a big enough word. It’s just not enough for me.
If we really want to dismantle Patriarchy, if we really want to help those who chose neither or both genders or a gender they were not assigned at birth, I believe we need to stop making ourselves an other. I am not against teaching our struggles and history and I feel that we still need the word to help us continue to move forward, but I don’t feel that the word “feminist” describes enough of “me” anymore.