4
   

Who Gave Feminism A Bad Name?

 
 
Reply Mon 7 Oct, 2013 01:42 pm
I saw this poll today and thought it a fairly stark example of the poisonous baggage the word Feminism now carries:

http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/10/05/treat-women-equally-dont-call-it-feminism/

Perhaps most dispiritingly a majority (57%) of women failed to answer in the affirmative when asked "Are you a feminist?"

The headline finding though was that people agree with what is arguably the central tenet of feminism whilst disavowing the word itself. Apparently only 19% of those polled identify as feminists, and yet 81% agree with equality between the sexes. Does anyone want to suggest a specific cause of this dissonance?
 
Lordyaswas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Oct, 2013 02:20 pm
Marketing, pure and simple.

Those marketing bods know just how gullible humans are, and when they put their minds to it on a global scale, they can and have ruined all the hard work that western women put in during the late sixties and seventies.
Show most females something painted pink in the seventies and there would be hardly any reaction.
Show most females between the ages of 3 and 30 something pink today and stand back while they squeal excitedly.
Why is that? Marketing.

Don't even start me on Simon Cowell and the like......
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  4  
Reply Mon 7 Oct, 2013 02:50 pm
Feminism got a bad name in the late 1960s because it was seen as one of the militant political groups in a deeply divided and estranged American social landscape. This was the period in which political rectitude was invented, and many people believed that feminists were responsible for an extremist view of social and cultural interactions. People in academic circles also condemned feminists for making common cause with black power activists, most of whom, they alleged, were stark misogynists. So feminists were also seen as political opportunists sunk in hypocrisy.

There was a women's rights activist at the beginning of the 20th century, Alice Paul, who was among a handful of activists instrumental in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. constitution, which gave women the right to vote. Paul was the strategist who had sent women after both members of Congress, and the members of state legislatures, and was roundly vilified in the press. In 1923, she wrote an equal rights amendment which was introduced to the Congress. and which was reintroduced every time it failed to pass. Finally, in 1972, both Houses of Congress gave the necessary two thirds vote and it was sent to the states for ratification, with a ten year time limit. Enter Phyllis Schlafly, a constitutional lawyer, and reactionary conservative activist. She organized resistance to the equal rights amendment, and a good deal of her strategy was to demonize feminists as "strident" extremists who would destroy the American family. (The word strident had been used occasionally to describe feminists before Schlafly, but she saw the value of the term, and hammered it into the public consciousness.) The equal rights amendment was finally defeated when it failed to secure the necessary ratification by the 1982 deadline. Schlafly continues her extremist right-wing activism to this day, and was one of the earliest conservative talk radio hosts.

The successful demonization of the feminist movement was so pervasive by the 1980s that men and women who supported equal pay and equal rights for women avoided the term, and disavowed it is it were applied to them. Feminist became a dirty word, and that has not changed in 40 years.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Oct, 2013 03:38 pm
@Setanta,
Grateful for the microhistory of the North American side of this question. The Schlafly detail was most interesting, that she honed in on the near-slur component to the word "strident". It strikes me that strident is only a few degrees from shrill, which is an even more blatantly sexist term.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Oct, 2013 04:18 am
@medium-density,
Yes, that was more or less the point--to suggest that feminists were indulging hysteria and interested only in polemic, while ignoring the putative harm to society.
0 Replies
 
IanRust
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 May, 2014 05:16 am
@medium-density,
I wasn't there when it was given a name, but it carries a bad name with me because it often degrades male sexuality and promotes disingenuous stereotypes such as denying gender differences, referencing a nonexistant rape culture, labeling men misogynist for simply being masculine and standing up to women; and feminism has interfered with the work environment which, at its most effective, is run by males. Women in charge tend to destroy a work environment, with some exceptions.

But feminism takes many forms, and women need not label themselves feminist to be feminists. There are women in charge at my work, for example, who behave as feminists but don't identify as feminists. And they have run the store they run into the ground with social manipulation and ineffective leadership.

Feminism is essentially lesbianism turned into a philosophy.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 May, 2014 01:00 pm
@IanRust,
I don't think I can work with any of the things you said. It sounds like you've had a very specific experience of women which has hopelessly marred your view of them.
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Wed 14 May, 2014 01:25 pm
@medium-density,
Feminists gave feminism a bad name... at least for me.

The people I have met that call themselves feminists have all pushed ideas that are unreasonable.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 May, 2014 01:55 pm
@maxdancona,
Well there are more and less radical schools within Feminism of course. The original poll which started off this thread was discussing some very basic feminist ideas which I think it would be hard to raise a reasonable objection to. For instance that society has been historically unequal and that it is unconscionable that we continue in that way. That equal pay should apply, things of that nature.

The problem as I see it is that, like many forms of discrimination, sexism is popularly regarded as a settled question- one that no longer requires addressing. Whereas it's quite clear to me that a historically sexist society cannot be expected to get its act together in as short a period of time as the forty odd years since 1970s first wave feminism came about. And it is equally clear to me that indeed we haven't.

The discussion begins with whether or not you agree with that last bit.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 May, 2014 03:53 pm
@medium-density,
This is a ridiculous definition of feminism.

The idea that "men and women should be treated equally in every way" is so broad that it is basically meaningless. Any two people will disagree about what that means practically. I bet I can tell you at least one way that you don't think men and women should be treated equally.

The term Feminism comes with a bunch of baggage. There are practical ideas and goals espoused by people who call themselves feminists. My problem is with many of the specific ideas and goals that are now generally attached to the word "feminism" (of course I have my own opinions on each issue and will probably agree with any person on some things).

medium-density
 
  2  
Reply Wed 14 May, 2014 03:59 pm
@maxdancona,
Quote:
I bet I can tell you at least one way that you don't think men and women should be treated equally.


Do it. Though if, as I suspect, by this you mean that one shouldn't regard men and women as the same, i.e. exactly alike, then I agree with you.

Quote:
My problem is with the specific ideas and goals that are now generally attached to the word "feminism".


Which ideas and goals?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 May, 2014 04:08 pm
@medium-density,
Quote:
Do it. Though if, as I suspect, by this you mean that one shouldn't regard men and women as the same, i.e. exactly alike, then I agree with you.


Are your answers to these two questions indicative of equality?

1. A woman has unprotected consensual sex that causes a pregnancy. She doesn't want to be a parent. Should this woman (after behaving in such a way that causes a pregnancy) have the choice of avoiding the rather significant legal and financial responsibility of being a parent?


1. A man has unprotected consensual sex that causes a pregnancy. He doesn't want to be a parent. Should this man (after behaving in such a way that causes a pregnancy) have the choice of avoiding the rather significant legal and financial responsibility of being a parent?
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 May, 2014 10:45 pm
@maxdancona,
I can't help but think this is a terrible way to discuss feminism.

Obviously, since pregnancy is something that happens to women, equality is less meaningful in the example you give. I'm more than happy to eject the word equality- as I said earlier I agree that men and women are not exactly alike.

One other way to put the definition of feminism would be to say that all other things being equal, men and women should not be treated differently from one another. But perhaps the word equal is too much of a pitfall in this area.

Leaving that word aside, I would say (indeed repeat) that a historically sexist society cannot expect to have reformed itself in a matter of decades. Sexism still exists, and should be opposed -I regard that as an indisputable proposition of Feminism.

Don't you agree?
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2014 02:49 am
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:
Leaving that word aside, I would say (indeed repeat) that a historically sexist society cannot expect to have reformed itself in a matter of decades. Sexism still exists, and should be opposed -I regard that as an indisputable proposition of Feminism.


One problem which arises with any attempt to reform cultural artifacts is that they must be addressed anew in each generation. Another is entrenched self-interest. I'm rather pressed for time at the moment, but i'll com back and expand on those themes.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2014 07:33 am
@medium-density,
It is difficult to either agree or disagree with such broad generalization.

There are somethings that you and I probably agree on. I do agree with a woman's right to an abortion, equal pay and with addressing stereotypes. I think most Americans agree with these things.

The fact that most people agree with these things makes them uninteresting (in a good way). You can agree with these things and not be a feminist.

There are two trends that I associate (rightly or wrongly) with feminism that I disagree with.

The first are the messages given to young males about their sexuality. I worked briefly as a teacher in a public high school. The boys and girl students were put into separate assemblies. The girls were told to watch out for bad behavior by boys. The boys were told to not behave badly. Do you see the problem here? There was no talk of healthy relationships or growth and no acceptance that boys and girls have equally valid feelings. There was just the message "boys behave badly and girls need to watch out". I don't know whether you consider this a feminist message. I don't consider it a good message for either boys or girls.

The second is the unwillingness to push for equality in parenting. To this day mothers are considered an integral part of a healthy childhood. Fathers are an add-on. You see this in both messages given fathers, and even in practical legal matters such as custody dispute (it is very difficult for a father to be awarded custody). It make me wince every year to see the signs on busses here... on mother's day there are ads exhorting us all to respect and support great mothers... on father's days there are ads about "deadbeat dads" (great dads and deadbeat mothers seem to be overlooked).

To answer your question simply, I agree that there is historical sexism, and I agree that sexism should be opposed. I have the feeling that 90% of Americans believe that and I don't think that makes me a feminist.

It is the practical disagreements that make all the difference.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2014 03:46 pm
@maxdancona,
I'm glad we're getting into the specifics of the discussion now.

It may be possible to be for some women's issues without being a radical feminist, but I think part of detoxifying the term will mean admitting that women's issues are feminist ones.

Your experiences in a public school are interesting, though I'm not sure how generalisable they would be. To engage directly with your points I would say that boys do behave badly and that girls need to protect themselves but that this shouldn't be all that's taught in this area. Boys need to be educated out of their more intolerable habits wherever possible, and girls need to be instructed to come to an understanding of why boys behave in these ways, so as to avoid fostering undue disdain for boys.

I agree that fatherhood is a much trampled concept in popular culture, though much of that trampling has been undertaken by actually awful men who give fathers as a whole a bad name. We certainly need to reform our thinking so that fatherhood is valued. When my parents divorced my father accepted nothing less than 50% custody (which my mother was completely willing to agree to)- I'd like to see a day where this situation was the norm rather than the exception. I'd also like to see paternity leave increased to match maternity leave, which could both bring the importance of fatherhood into line with motherhood and help women who are discriminated against in the workplace for reason of their maternity leave.

Quote:
I do agree with a woman's right to an abortion, equal pay and with addressing stereotypes.


What about fair representation of women in spheres of power and influence? Our political systems are far from representative, boards of directors in companies are notoriously unfeminine, and though women complete a very large percentage of science-based degrees we don't see them in senior positions within those sciences.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2014 07:30 pm
@medium-density,
Quote:
Boys need to be educated out of their more intolerable habits wherever possible, and girls need to be instructed to come to an understanding of why boys behave in these ways, so as to avoid fostering undue disdain for boys.


Quote:
I agree that fatherhood is a much trampled concept in popular culture, though much of that trampling has been undertaken by actually awful men who give fathers as a whole a bad name.


These are exactly the types of statements that give feminism a bad name. The idea that boys are bad and girls are good and that mothers are good and fathers are bad has nothing to do with equality.

0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2014 07:47 pm
@medium-density,
Quote:
Our political systems are far from representative, boards of directors in companies are notoriously unfeminine, and though women complete a very large percentage of science-based degrees we don't see them in senior positions within those sciences.


Quote:
I agree that fatherhood is a much trampled concept in popular culture, though much of that trampling has been undertaken by actually awful men who give fathers as a whole a bad name.


These two posts are interesting.

Fatherhood is a "trampled concept" and you blame this on men.

Women are not reaching senior positions in science and you blame "our political system".

Let me change these quotes around a little

Quote:
Though women complete a very large percentage of science-based degrees we don't see them in senior positions within those sciences, though much of this failure has been undertaken by actually awful women scientists who give women scientists as a whole a bad name.


Do you see my point? You are happy to blame negative stereotypes about men on men. You blame negative stereotypes about women on men.

If this is feminism, it has nothing to do with equality.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2014 01:07 am
@maxdancona,
Perhaps I should have said boys can behave badly in order to avoid upset, but the fact is we can be an irksome lot. We're violent, we harass, we objectify. I think educating girls about boys' sometimes wild temperaments would be a good idea.

Also you left out the parts where I talked about valuing fatherhood. Though, since you raised the objection, do you deny that fathers walk out on families in far greater numbers than do mothers?

Quote:
Fatherhood is a "trampled concept" and you blame this on men.

Women are not reaching senior positions in science and you blame "our political system".


I think you're making the mistake that many anti-feminists make, which ironically is to assume a kind of equality between the sexes. You assume that men and women are equally to blame for their negative stereotypes, ignoring the disadvantages that women labour under due to sexism. Sexism isn't one way traffic, but it does affect women a lot more than men -a fact which you conceded earlier when you acknowledged historical sexism which continues (in different forms) today!

There's probably some aspect of women's natures (perhaps confidence?) which contributes to their lack of representation in politics etc, so I won't say it's all because of misogynist views abroad in society, but misogny doubtlessly plays a large role. Women didn't have the vote only a few generations ago, the degree of opposition they faced in entering male-dominated systems like the workplace has been appalling, and in some areas the opposition endures.

The word misogyny is known to us, the word misandry is barely heard of at all. This is not due to men being silenced in our society. It's because misandry scarcely exists when compared with misogyny.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2014 04:56 am
@medium-density,
The question in the title of this post was "Who Gave Feminism a Bad Name". The question raised in the body was why many of us (myself included) believe that women should have equal rights and status in society while rejecting the term feminism.

I think this discussion has adequately answered both of those questions.

Feminism comes with baggage.
 

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