Just as much of a feminist.

Someone wrote…

Just because I don’t see myself as entirely female, it doesn’t mean I can’t be just as much of a feminist!

What’s your experience?

And what are you thinking about gender right now?


Posted by on December 30th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: your voice 32 comments »

32 Responses to “Just as much of a feminist.”

  1. Anonymous

    You don’ have to be female at all to be a feminist- I know plenty of men who would call themselves feminists!

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  2. Lane

    Seconded! Feminism is just the belief that women are, in fact, human beings and not in any way inferior to men, Aristotle be damned. Anyone who says you have to be a particular gender to believe that is just bringing a different kind of sexism to the table.

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  3. Jessica

    Being a man and calling yourself a feminist is not meaningful. Men call themselves all sorts of things they’re not.

    I have argued that men (at least an individual men) could definitely be feminist, or at least understand and sympathize with feminist ideals and aims, and have been told I was naive, deluded, misguided and stupid. To some women, men are the enemy, and to them any FtM is a traitor and any MtF is a spy. And being genderqueer is the worst of both.

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    Lane replied:

    So true. Feminism is such a multifaceted philosophy. There is a feminist version of almost any perspective on sex and gender, including many that are judgmental of anyone who isn’t female.

    It seems to me that since second-wave feminism female-bodied people are brought up feminists by default. Its so pervasive in the culture feminism feels as obligatory for little girls as wearing pink. I don’t have a problem with that; its a huge improvement on the days when women were raised to think they were inferior. However, that obligatory feminism combined with the version of feminism that looks down on men and gender variant people makes for some ugly situations. For a long time I felt conflicted because I felt obligated to be a feminist, and while I like feminism in principle so many of the women in my life took the stance that men were oppressors and female-born gender variant people were traitors and so on and so forth. Eventually I decided that just because I agree with feminist ideals doesn’t mean I can’t embrace my non-female gender identity, and it doesn’t mean I can’t call bullshit on the feminists who take judgmental stances. There are plenty of truly egalitarian feminists out there, and they make far better company.

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    Eryn replied:

    I’m not sure I understand what is meant by say “Being a man and calling yourself a feminist is not meaningful. Men call themselves all sorts of things they’re not.” Can you explain?

    [Reply]

    Jessica replied:

    I meant this: If I meet some people and they call person A a feminist, especially if they are women I respect, I am prepared to believe them – regardless of the gender of person A. However, if a person claims themselves to be a feminist, especially if they are a man, I am skeptical – willing to accept it as true, but I want some objective evidence to support the claim.

    People define themselves as all sorts of things without it being true.

    Just because I am a woman is no guarantee that I will understand post-modernist feminism (PMF). Just because you are a man is not a guarantee that you will misunderstand PMF. However, I have met many men who think they understand things they do not have a clue about, but pretend to. I have also met women in this same condition, but that it rarer in my personal experience. Perhaps that is because women are seldom trying to impress me.

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  4. Rogue

    Agreed. You certainly don’t have to be a woman (physically, mentally, whatever) to embrace ideals of gender-equality.

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  5. Meike

    Hear, hear. I’ve always been a feminist, but it’s only been in the past few years that it occurred to me that many feminists I know would scoff at my gender non-conformity as not embracing the ideals of feminism. And it’s only been in the past year that I’ve decided not to care.

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  6. Simon

    I’ve actually become much /more/ of a feminist since I stopped identifying as female — it’s loosened up the resentment I had towards being categorized as something I wasn’t and the confusion about being like, “fuck yeah! women!” when that was never a word I was comfortable using to describe myself in the first place.

    But yeah, feminism is wonderful and powerful and my identity and ideology as a feminist are really important to me.

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  7. Quinn

    To me,feminism that doesn’t embrace all kinds of women and everybody oppressed by patriarchy isn’t really feminism at all.

    Also, in terms of allyship, I agree with what you’re saying Jessica. Being a good ally involves asking those you’re being allies to how you can help, instead of just assuming what they need. And stepping up to the role. If all you’re doing is calling yourself a feminist, but not acting on it, how is that constructive?

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  8. kendall

    The girl I’ve fallen for is some kind of feminist studies major. My best friend of 8 years told me that women who strive to be men’s equal are unmotivated and I am doing the world a disjustice by looking to emulate masculine qualities because it is my way of saying, women are not strong enough for me to do something I need to be stronger for… oh and boys are dumb let’s throw rocks at them? — I feel like a worse feminist everytime I wonder if my stomach is rotting from endometriosis and everytime I think about top surgery just because I didn’t ask for any of that, not because being physically female makes me feel weak but maybe I’m not strong enough to be female. I do definitely like boys more than girls on a friendship scale, put me in a room with dudes I become one of the boys, HA! HEADSHOT! ZOMBIEDOWN! YEAH MAN SHE’S KIND OF A BITCH! but I am not looking for a pass into the boy’s club because I would say that to a girl, if indeed someone was being a bitch, I will call people out, I’ve been like that since I was a child. I feel like a bad misogynist because I’m female and love the girls I’ve loved, I feel like a bad feminist because I’ve never felt like a woman…

    I hate people but people but love gatherings – randall, clerks

    [Reply]

    Jessica replied:

    OK, soapbox time… there follows my own opinions, take them or leave them:

    There is much to be envied in being a man: being taken seriously, being independent and being less afraid. All these things can be a woman’s, too, if she’s prepared to earn them, but they are a man’s lot by default. That is not fair, it just is.

    To my mind, feminism is about equality, about fairness, and about justice. There is no shame in seeking these things, either for yourself or for others.

    Surgery should not be the prerequisite of equality. Having to change into someone else should not be required for fairness. One should not be called a bitch because one demands justice.

    @kendall Who knows but that if you were born a male, you might never have felt like a man. I guess we’re opposites, as I love people but hate gatherings.

    Everyone has to find their own way and their own answers. We should always refrain from judging other people for the decisions they take in the management of their own lives. We should show them the same consideration and care we would want for ourselves.

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    Elle replied:

    I would like to respectfully suggest that it isn’t so much male privilege as it is masculine privilege. Ask any male bodied person who’s ever been attacked for being a “sissy”, “pansy”, “queer”, or “fag” how far male privilege goes. I don’t have any personal experience about masculine privilege with female bodied people, but by observation butch seems to get more respect than femme, and tomboy is much, much more accepted than feminine male children.

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    Brae replied:

    I think this is too complex to say universally that is is either a male or a masculine privilege. I’ve identified as a female/woman for most of my life and have often exhibited characteristics that would commonly be considered more masculine than people around me who would commonly be considered biologically male and people would still ask if there was a guy around to life something – even though I was physically larger/more muscular/clearly capable. They would rather have someone smaller with less physical strength do something that fit into their notions of sex/gender than give me the benefit of the doubt. This also happens all the time in bike repair shops and in technology fields.

    I am not saying this to diminish the experience of people who have been harassed/abused for not being “masculine” enough, I’m just saying that people who are perceived as male – even of the non-masculine variety – sometimes still experience male privilege, even when it is not as obvious. But getting into an argument about who has more or less privilege is not an argument I want to fuel. The bigger issue is that people of various sexes/genders experience varying levels of privilege and oppression, and I feel energy is better spent working toward systemic equity in a patriarchal society rather than splitting hairs over who is more oppressed (especially since we haven’t even brought in other points of intersectionality.)

    So, yeah…it is reasonable to expect that people who have grown up with more male/masculine privilege (i.e. “cisgender men”) might not grasp feminism as intuitively as people who have grown up with less (i.e. “cisgender women”), however anyone can try to educate themselves, do activism, and support gender equity and using the term “feminist” in those contexts is fine by me. Much more acceptable to me than someone like Sarah Palin claiming it. Just sayin.

  9. essejz

    I think this topic is more complicated than simply affirming that yes, men can be feminists! I would argue that (cis)men can’t be feminists, although they can support feminists. It’s like how the head of the conservative National Organization for Women is a guy; it’s actually not OK. (cis)men take up a lot of space & part of feminism, like part of women’s only spaces, is the idea that women need to be in charge of their own empowerment. To me, “women” includes all those who identify as women in whatever form, and there’s a lot of intersectionality with the struggles of queer and trans people. But cismen, however down they are with the cause, need to step back & let feminists run feminism & let women & queers & transpeople have the chance to speak up for themselves.

    Men championing the cause of feminism for me feels like paternalism & is offensive & unhelpful.

    I do think that trans & genderqueer folks, regardless of how they identify, can be feminists because they are not in a position of power or of oppression over women, but they need to be careful to acknowledge their different experience. For example, when I’m with a group of women I am aware that my more masculine appearance shelters me from a lot of the harassment that they experience. Similarly, when I’m with transmen, I acknowledge that my identity as a (butch) woman shields me from a lot of the transphobia they experience. I think when we say “Everyone can be a feminist!” it glosses over those important differences.

    [Reply]

    Jessica replied:

    Very well put, sir.

    “I think when we say “Everyone can be a feminist!” it glosses over those important differences.” It’s a lot like saying, “everyone can be a racist” – Well, yes, you can from the perspective of an actor playing a part, but without having been on the receiving end, your view of racism is going to be flawed. That empirical stamp is required for real through-and-through understanding.

    [Reply]

    Lane replied:

    Good point. Now I’m thinking about the parallels with Deaf culture. I’m a sign language major and in one class my Deaf teacher described the difference between being an advocate of Deaf empowerment and an ally. Advocates are Deaf people who have personally experienced discrimination and are working to fight it. Allies are haring people who support them. Both are important, but allies need to understand that they have not personally been oppressed and they need to let the advocates lead the way, identify the problems and set the policies. Similarly, men can be feminists in the sense of holding feminist ideals, but can’t be feminist advocates, only allies.

    [Reply]

    Jessica replied:

    The part of this argument (and I know I just made it and you were concurring with me) that has always struck me as not making sense is this: “men can be feminists in the sense of holding feminist ideals, but can’t be feminist advocates, only allies.” Presumably because men have not “personally experienced discrimination” What about black men or Deaf men. Can they do more than empathize? What if you’re a transman, can you only be a Feminist ally then?

    In my limited experience of Deaf culture, I find myself, as a hearie, just as entirely excluded as any woman in Victorian society. If you’re not very proficient in ASL, in much of Deaf society, you’d better bring a pad and a pen with you.

    I often wish we’d drop terms like feminist in exchange for the term humanist. The problem is people deciding things for people on the flimsy excuse of gender, race, religion, geography, language,… None of these is a better excuse for prejudice or discrimination.

    [Reply]

    Lane replied:

    I think there is a difference between understanding what discrimination is like and understanding what a particular group experiences. Because of that there are dangers in a person who isn’t part of a discriminated group saying they know what is best for that group. Look at any major form of oppression in history, and sooner or later you have someone from a privileged class saying they know what is best for someone in a less privileged class and they are going to give that underprivileged class what is good for them whether they like it or not.

    That’s why its useful to draw distinctions between advocate and ally. The advocate has some idea what their group needs from personal experience, the ally empathizes with the common human experience and recognizes the need to work together for a more egalitarian world, and the oppressor thinks they know what is best for everyone and tries to enforce it.

    I often wonder how many people are truly privileged. It seems to me that most people are privileged in some ways and disadvantaged in others. Some people are overall very disadvantaged, some overall mostly privileged, but a society that arbitrarily elevates some and marginalizes others isn’t truly good for anyone. Ultimately everyone has a stake in creating a freer, more egalitarian world.

  10. Elle

    I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to fight prejudice with more prejudice. Taken to the extremes it often is, feminism is just as disgusting as male chauvinism.

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    Jessica replied:

    Yes, it’s not so much the opinions as the extremes. It doesn’t matter who yells what. Can you imagine a Trans Glenn Beck?

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    Elle replied:

    A demagogue is a demagogue, no matter the ideology. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to offend anyone, but I’ve been reading this thread for days now and slowly boiling with rage. I hate feminism, I hate it. Two wrongs don’t make a right, meet the new boss same as the old boss, any cliche you want, but a matriarchy is just as repressive as a patriarchy.

    [Reply]

    Jessica replied:

    @Elle – I’m really difficult to offend and I see where you’re coming from, but I think your rage is pointed at the wrong target. The thing that is wrong with feminism is the same thing that’s wrong with every ism – it is made up, interpreted by and acted upon by people. Feminism, as a creed, is often practiced by people who have been hurt, wounded, significantly harmed, principally (but not exclusively) by men and this affects their understanding and application of feminism.

    As with Christianity: I am every bit against how Christianity is, has been, and will be practiced in the world by people – for example as the reason for or justification of acts of hatred and violence against women. But I see nothing at all wrong with the golden rule and think that the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount, blessed are the peacemakers, etc) is a fine testament and one I can thoroughly embrace.

    Feminism, when it is used as a reason for and justification of bigotry and hatred is worthy of being hated, but it is not feminism’s fault. It is part of the human condition that takes good things and perverts them into ugliness and harm…

    Elle replied:

    @ Jessica – I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said. It’s a very human quality to take good things and pervert them into something they were never meant to be. Misdirected anger is also a very human quality, both my own as an individual and the anger of anyone who takes a valid -ism and corrupts it.

    I can understand the desire of a victim to take the fight back to the opressor, but it’s very easy for justice to turn into revenge. Just because I can understand it (and am just as guilty of the urge as anyone else) doesn’t make it right. How long can we tolerate an ethos that, no matter how well-intentioned, is doing just as much harm as the injustice it was intended to correct? Feminism is broken, and while anything can be fixed, I feel it has served as much of its purpose as it can. It’s time for equalism.

    Jessica replied:

    @Elle If you look deep enough below the surface, just about everything human is broken, at least from some perspective. You can either choose to believe in nothing, which is a sad existence, or you can accept the good and the bad in all things, the imperfections of a flawed world. In the past half century I have gone pretty far from the former towards the latter point of view. It is an important part of my continuing transition.

    However you believe, it matters more, in my opinion, how your believes cause you to treat others than it matters precisely what your beliefs are when you write them down. A sincere though flawed feminist who treats all people with respect, consideration and kindness is a better person in my view than a person of pure and sterling convictions who does not.

    Like so many others labels we place on a set of beliefs, feminism is more of a direction than a destination anyway.

    Brae replied:

    I used to hate feminism too until I actually took the time to learn about what it really is, vs. what it seemed to look like without further examination. Feminism really needs to be looked as systemically and historically to be understood. It also involves taking a step back from the societal grooming and myths that have been fed to us in the media. Believe me, I never ever thought I would call myself a feminist and I had to unlearn a lot of BS before it finally started making sense.

  11. Jessica

    @Lane “We’re all BOZOS on this bus.” – Firesign Theater.

    [Reply]

  12. Anonymous

    A Trans Glenn Beck??? Whoa…I don’t know if I can even conceive of such a being. That would change …a lot.

    [Reply]

  13. jean c.

    I think that Julia Serano has a lot of good, compassionate, common-sensical, very intelligent stuff to say on the topic of feminism and misogny as those phenomena relate to trans issues.

    not gonna try to paraphrase here; I’ll just stick to highly (highly, highly) recommending her book Whipping Girl. required reading for “gender 101″…..

    [Reply]

    Jessica replied:

    Yes, and excellent book. I also recommend it to anyone and everyone not already steeped in post modern feminism as an introduction to same.

    [Reply]

  14. Haruka

    Feminists just get on my nerves. When any female-bodied trans* person says they’d prefer to not be female and identify as a different gender, feminists will pounce on them immediately saying “Don’t be silly, you’re not transgendered, you just feel shame over being a woman because society has taught you to.” It really annoys me when they blame everything on the patriarchy.

    [Reply]

    radical/rebel replied:

    it’s weird that you think there’s a monolithic group of “feminists” who have opinions about all trans people.

    I’m a trans faggot queer omnisexual person who’s DEEPLY invested in feminism, and I know that none of my identities and beliefs are in conflict with each other.

    <3 <3 to judith butler, julia serano, bell hooks, joan nestle, leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha, the riot grrrl movement, kathleen hanna, jd samson, antony hegarty, and all the other trans queer feminists who rock the world

    [Reply]


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