Friday, March 30, 2007

Feminism Friday: Young Feminists

What with the continually alleged "death of feminism" in this "post-feminist" age, how are young women finding their way into feminism going about it? Particularly those who are not going to tertiary education facilities that offer a Women's Studies Course?

How did those of us who are not so young find our way into feminism? How were we helped/hindered by family and friends?

I had a father who encouraged me to read Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan and always pay my own way on dates at the same time as he refused to agree to my mother returning to full-time work until my 6-years younger sister was in secondary school, and who thought that making a big deal about complimenting me on my body in front of his mates was OK. My mother resented being held back from working after having kids but also expressed doubt about a lot of the Women's Lib (as it was referred to at the time) agenda. Most of my school-friends thought my feminist beliefs were at the simplest (votes, equal pay) obvious and at the more anthropological (dating rituals, sexist language) weird. Mixed messages.

I never studied Women's Studies or feminist theory at a tertiary education level - I've just read a lot of books and made a lot of feminist friends over the years, some of whom have formally studied feminist theory and some of whom, like me, have read a lot and thought a lot about it outside college/uni. Different paths.

So what are young feminists doing for themselves to make sense of feminism here and now?

I just found one young feminist online community linking to this blog in my sitemeter stats: the All-Girl Army, whose tagline is Ovathrow the status quo! which I love. They're a community of feminist bloggers ranging from age 10 to 23, which is far younger than the feminists online whom I usually read. Check it out.

Any other young feminists (let's make an arbitrary cut-off of age 25) wanting to promote their online and/or offline communities/activities please leave a comment about yourselves! The rest of you, please reminisce about the feminist or proto-feminist you aged 25 or under.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Comments working again?

Updated 28March07

I think.

So, please add your favourite feminist links that are on-topic for particular FAQ posts in the comments threads. I can't read everything, so the more suggestions for further reading from different parts of the feminist spectrum the better.

UPDATE: sorry for light posting the last few days. First I got some tinges of tendonitis after heavy keyboard work the last few weeks, and now I've got a head cold.

The normal rate of a new FAQ post every few days will resume when my sinuses stop attacking my brane. If you've felt inspired and written one of your own, please leave a link in comments.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Comments being eaten

I've received a few emails today from people whose comments are being eaten.

Anyone who felt like trying to make a test comment on this post, and sending me a quick email at tigtog at if it doesn't get through, I would be very greatful GRATEFUL (should not post at three ack emma, should not post at three ack emma). It might help me get some action from Haloscan.

Update: I've put up an FF101 Open Thread over at my other blog, Hoyden About Town. If you were really wanting to discuss Lori's Feminism Friday op-ed, or any other post, please head on over there for the time being.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Open Thread and Feminism Friday Op-Ed

Updated 28March07

I've been admiring Thinking Girl's Feminism Friday archive so much that I'm nicking the idea, and I would encourage other bloggers to do the same. Not necessarily every Friday, but every now and then, when you have an opinionated big-picture essay bursting to get out, let that post loose on a Friday and give it the "Feminism Friday" category tag to make it easy to find on search engines. We can have a multitude of virtual feminist salons!

For FF101's first Feminism Friday Salon, I present a guest op-ed by Lori Heine, a fairly new but frequent commenter at Pandagon. Lori adds:
I'm a playwright and essayist, whose work most often appears in the GLBT webzine Whosoever. I live with seven cats and one poor, outnumbered little dog. I am single, eligible and searching for the ultimate woman.
This essay came about from Lori's ruminations on two of the questions in this blog's masthead: "Does feminism matter?" and "What can I do for feminism?". Please add your own ideas on those two questions, and any responses/arguments provoked by Lori's essay, in comments (please go check out Thinking Girl's archive as well). If you've decided to put up a Feminism Friday post yourself, link to that for us as well, please.
UPDATE: Haloscan is eating comments at the moment, so head on over to the FF101 open thread at my other blog to comment, please. (problem appears to be solved)
Friday Feminism Op-Ed
by Lori Heine

A non-feminist world, throughout history, has almost always been an anti-female world. It is dominated by a human race perilously out of balance.

Every animal species, in order to survive, has evolved in a way that enables its feminine side to exist in harmony with the masculine. For the sake of survival, all the caring and nurturing, creatively-collaborative qualities of a species are given equal prominence with its defensive, acquisitive, possessive and self-interested characteristics. Even most males in the animal world have a highly-developed feminine side. An overemphasis on the masculine would ultimately mean the destruction of the species. No matter how safe it might be from its outside enemies, its members would inevitably be unable to cooperate with one another and eventually destroy each other and themselves.

Feminism does not seek to destroy the masculine, but merely to bring it into harmony with the feminine so that a healthy balance may be maintained. A healthy society respects the feminine and gives it room to realize its full potential. An unhealthy society, in which the masculine suppresses and oppresses the feminine – valorizing selfishness, competitiveness, acquisitiveness and possessiveness – is not long for this world.

Might a society that goes too far to the feminine extreme also destroy itself? We don’t know. History offers no precedent of such a thing. Since it’s never happened (and men are, by their very nature, unlikely to let it), it’s hard to tell if this is a legitimate worry. As it is highly unlikely that such a thing would ever be allowed to happen, it’s doubtful we need lose sleep over the prospect.

As a matter of fact, feminism enables the masculine side of human nature as well. Patriarchy forces girls and women to suppress that element in themselves. This is yet another way to keep people from being complete. It also attempts to deny those who are female the ability to defend themselves from male bullying. “Real” women are not supposed to stand up for themselves.

There are, however, many constructive ways for both women and men to resist this oppression. To begin with, we can recognize how crucial it is that society – and the individuals in it – respect the feminine. There is no need to fear that this might “weaken” men, as every whole human being is a balance of both the masculine and the feminine. We can strive to be complete human beings, regardless of our gender. And do our utmost to allow all other human beings to do the same.

If you are female, waste no time wishing you had been born a man. Seek access, for yourself and other women, to all privileges men have traditionally hoarded for themselves. A bigger pool of human talent and good ideas expands the potential for every person. If the best among us are allowed to reach their full potential, they will contribute to the quality of life for us all.

If you are male, dedicate yourself to justice for all. A world in which the rights of any human being are trampled upon is a world in which no one’s rights are secure. A world in which most other people are happy will be a world in which it is more likely that you will be happy, too. Unhappiness and injustice are like contagious diseases, and when a society is infected with them, the growth and potential fulfillment of every individual – female or male – is severely inhibited.

We can refuse to listen idly to sexist remarks or ignorant stereotyping about women. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, we can ask questions that do not seem to occur to others. Let’s help people think in creative and liberating new ways. How many of the diseases that still plague humankind might have been cured years ago, had women been permitted equal access to careers in science and medicine? How many devastating wars might have been avoided, had more women been given the chance not only to govern, but to make the presence of the feminine perspective felt on a wider scale?

Feminism is all about liberation – for men, as well as women, and for straights as well as gays. Most of the great leaps in human rights have taken place because of the influence of women. The feminine influence in society has made life better for everyone. Had we waited for men alone to change things for the better, most of us – including most men – would still be waiting.

The children of happy and fulfilled mothers grow up to be happier adults. This is as true of sons as it is of daughters. It has been widely observed that the men who respect women generally seem happier, and more at peace with themselves and other men, than do those who are contemptuous of women. It doesn’t hurt for us to point this out when we get the chance.

The male-supremacist insistence on seeing men and women as two totally different species is suicidal. And unchecked, it can only get worse. Where will the male-supremacists allow it to end? Will they be happy when they’ve exercised the ultimate in masculine self-assertion? Thanks to one of the chief male contributions to history, the nuclear weapon, we may one day get the chance to find out.

Socializing boys to be “all boy” is essentially dehumanizing. In their compulsion to separate themselves from every trace of femininity, men have succumbed to a sort of insanity. They are now being made to believe that showing any emotion beyond derisive humor, rage and lust (for women, of course, in a detached and objectified sense) is “girly.” At no time in history have men ever been so limited. They are no longer allowed to feel, to learn anything in school (again, too “girly”) or even to take the most basic care of their own health.

If that isn’t insanity, then what is?

They can abuse alcohol, drive recklessly, deny themselves medical care and do their utmost to kill themselves and others. They’ve come a long way, baby.

Some people – including many women – say that it’s the name “feminist” they find objectionable. Call it something else, they say, and they will be fine with it. “Mankind,” “fellow man,” and the rest – terms that make maleness the all-encompassing human norm – they have no problem with, but a word, merely suggesting that women are people too, sends them into a tizzy. Even those who embrace the concept have been bullied out of using the word. But if the word itself can no longer be used, how much longer will the concept itself be permitted?

Feminism is nothing less than an attempt to bring humanity into harmonious wholeness. As yet another generation of American GI’s returns from yet another senseless conquest war – trained to kill, to suppress feelings, to scorn compassion – we will have to deal, once again, with the fallout of male supremacy. Another generation of young people have been broken, inside and out. And what do the powers-that-be blame for the problem, as they do for every other? Why feminism, of course.

But are feminists the crazy ones? Watch Spike TV for an hour and you’ll find out. No, watch the news for even half an hour and you’ll know the answer to that.

(C) 2007 Lori Heine

Have a lovely weekend, everybody!
Update: remember, you may comment using this link while Haloscan is not playing nice.

FAQ: What is sexual objectification?

Sexual objectification is the viewing of people solely as de-personalised objects of desire instead of as individuals with complex personalities. This is done by speaking/thinking of women as only their bodies, either the whole body, or as fetishised body parts.

Sexual attraction is not the same as sexual objectification: objectification only occurs when the individuality of the desired person is not acknowledged. Pornography, prostitution, sexual harassment and the representation of women in mass media and art are all examples of common sexual objectification.

The concept of objectification owes much to the work of Simone de Beauvoir regarding the basic dualism of human consciousness between the Self and the Other: the general mental process where humans classify the world into 'us' and 'them'. Women are universally viewed as the Other across all cultures, a role which is both externally imposed and internalised, and which means that women are generally not truly regarded as fully human. An important point of de Beauvoir's was that this Othering effect is the same whether women are viewed as wholly inferior or if femininity is viewed as mysterious and morally superior: Otherness and full equality cannot coexist.


earlbecke (Definition): But don't you like to be objectified sometimes?
Persona non grata (☀☁☂☃☠☠☠☠): Objectified does not equal Idealized

Clarifying Concepts:

Gaze, especially the "male gaze" (Wikipedia): Gaze

More on gaze and objectification:
Yes, I admit, there is a “female gaze,” although some feminists like Laura Mulvey argue that “the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification,” and that besides, the female gaze is merely the co-optation of the male gaze. I would myself add that the female gaze is inherently different. While the male gaze objectifies and sexualizes, the female gaze is “emmasculated,” that is powerless.
drumgurl (Redneck Feminist): Hot enough to be feminist (see also: tough enough to wear pink)

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

34th Carnival of Feminists

It's on now over at A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag. Your hostess for this carnival is the lively and talented Miss Prism.

And the 2nd edition of Scientiae, the blog-carnival for women in science, went up last week at Post Doc Ergo Propter Doc, hosted by the equally lively and talented Propter Doc.

Haloscan playing up

Apparently there are some issues with commenting. I thought you all were quiet today!

If there's anything someone really wants to say to me you could email it using the link in the sidebar.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FAQ: Isn't "the Patriarchy" just some conspiracy theory that blames all men, even decent men, for women's woes?

Updated 18March07

Patriarchy: one of the most misunderstood critical-theory concepts ever, often wilfully misunderstood. Patriarchy is an ancient and ongoing social system based on traditions of elitism (a hierarchy of inferiorities), privilege and the subjugation of women via strict gender expectations which constrain individualist expressions. Some societies are more patriarchal than others, but patriarchal social traditions are universal in human societies.

Not all men are Patriarchs. A Patriarch is a man who has special power and influence over not just his family but also in society, due to privileges gathered through intersections of age, wealth, achievement, lineage, patronage and the exploitation of others.

Men do not generally conspire with Patriarchs (although they may aspire to become one): men simply have a place above women in the traditional socioeconomic hierarchy from which Patriarchs skim the cream, meaning that men (as a group) benefit more from the injustices of Patriarchy than women do (as a group).

In primitive and lawless societies patriarchal organisation has survival benefits for women and children, at a price: subjugation and often misogynistic abuse. Civilisation (generally) has advanced a long way from the days of the ancient ruthless patriarchs who held the power of life and death over their extended families/clans, and survival is (generally) no longer dependant on formal subjugation to a Patriarch, either for men or women.

However, society is still structured along patriarchal lines of submission in nearly all forms of organisations, to the great benefit of those at the top. The male elites, the magnates (currently white, but who knows what the next century will bring?), continue to wield disproportionate influence and power over the situations of other men and especially women.

"So, there is no one Patriarch, leastaways not outside of Constantinople. There's no single dude in a nifty hat (or not) at the top of the power structure, surrounded by scantily clad women whom he feeds to tigers for his kicks and giggles. If it were only that simple, we could off the old wanker, free the women and give them some trousers, find loving homes for the tigers, and have a great party around the bonfire of his palace (after salvaging all the good art, books, and chocolate). Alas, because the patriarchy is instead a very very old system that has warped everyone's thinking right down to the sub-rational, axiomatic, non-verbal ideological level, it's much more difficult to overthrow. (We've seen how well wars against ideas work.)"
Extra-Credit Reading (not a feminist primer):
"patriarchy is a violently tyrannical but nearly invisible social order based on an oppressive paradigm of class and status fetishizing dominance and submission. Patriarchy’s benefits are accrued according to a rigid hierarchy at the top of which are rich honky males and at the bottom of which are poor women of color."
Even in modern-rule-of-law countries with full legal sexual equality, there are still many patriarchal remnants in the way that men (as a group) seek to discourage women (as a group) from social independence and independent financial security. These remnant patriarchal traditions do more harm to women, on balance, than good.

The continuing subjugation and abuse of women in more traditional societies, along with the continued inequity even in rule-of-law societies, is why feminism seeks to dismantle patriarchy. Which is why some patriarchs are so antagonistic towards feminism:
Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.
[Pat Robertson, multi-millionaire televangelist and former presidential candidate, 1992]
Clarifying Concepts:

Patriarchy and sexism intersect and buttress each other:
"It's using a male default as the standard and then because (well, duh) women are different from that standard, we are found lacking."
High Status Women defending the Patriarchy:

This phenomenon doesn't mean that Patriarchy isn't unjust, it only means that such women like the benefits they derive from high status and wish to keep them.
"student, it seems to many of us that the people you mention are actually anti-feminists in feminist clothing. essentially they say they care about equality in the workplace, and that we've already gotten there; and that all the other stuff is not important because the sex-differences there are meant to be. frequently they dismiss feminist concerns about sexual harrassment, about women being forced out of their careers and back into the home, or about date-rape, saying that these things are not about equality and are oppressive to MEN. it's frustrating for these women to call themselves feminists because it seems like they're just trying to dismantle what many of us think are legitimate equality-related concerns "from the inside"."
[roula (in comments here) responding to questions about Wendy McElroy, Cathy Young et al (emphasis added)]
As usual, please feel free to add your favourite links to articles about the subject to the comments thread.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sexual Harassment

Haven't put together an FAQ for SH yet, but I just found an excellent resource for anyone looking for clearly laid out material.

From the Memorial University of Newfoundland: Sexual Harassment Information Site.

Obviously, their definitions and referenced laws are specific to their own region, but the site offers more information about the conceptual and theoretical framework underlying laws and actions against sexual harassment. Good info, and a very well laid-out site that's easy to navigate.

Monday, March 19, 2007

FAQ: Can men be feminists?

Edited 26Mar07

Many men are entirely comfortable with calling themselves feminists, and many feminist women are very happy to accept them as fellow feminists working for the end of sexist oppression.

Photo: A man wearing a "This is what a feminist looks like" shirt at a political rally. Cropped (with permission) from an original image uploaded by Alarming Female (it's her father).

However, there are also men and women who are ideologically uncomfortable with men calling themselves feminists, because it seems to be a co-option of movements built by and for women. These groups express a preference for the terms pro-feminist or feminist allies when speaking of men who support and advocate feminism.

The debate over the terms is an undercurrent of controversy rather than an enormously divisive issue.


Michael Flood(XY-Online): Pro-feminist men's FAQ
jeff (Feminist Allies): Allies; Another reason I call myself a Feminist

Clarifying Concepts

Chris Clarke (Creek Running North): Why I Am Not A Feminist
Tia (Unfogged): An Uncongenial Post - "guidelines for avoiding actively irritating women who are discussing feminist concerns".

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FAQ: Aren't you all just a bunch of "feminazis"?

The word "feminazi" is a false construction, a strawfeminist, created to scare people away from the juicy crops of equality, equity and the end of female subjugation.
(See the "strawman" entry in the Logical Fallacies section at the Critical Thinking Website.)

stealthbadger (Stealth Badger): A dudely introduction to feminism (utterly debunks the arguments made to support the "feminazi" invention by slime-shill Rush Limbaugh)

For further contrast with the actual feminism movement, examine 12 Warning Signs of Fascism here.

More strawfeminists and myths about feminism:
Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon): Feminist Myths 101
Mad Melancholic Feminista: Feminism 101 - Myths & Facts

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

FAQ: What do feminists mean by "reproductive freedom"?

Updated 19Mar2007

Reproductive freedom is so much more than merely being pro-choice. Without reproductive freedom, women's rights to legal equality and social equity cannot be guaranteed.

"Defined by feminists in the 1970s as a basic human right, it includes the right to abortion and birth control, but implies much more. To be realised, reproductive freedom must include not only woman's right to choose childbirth, abortion, sterilisation or birth control, but also her right to make those choices freely, without pressure from individual men, doctors, governmental or religious authorities. It is a key issue for women, since without it the other freedoms we appear to have, such as the right to education, jobs and equal pay, may prove illusory. Provisions of childcare, medical treatment, and society's attitude towards children are also involved."
--The Encyclopedia of Feminism (1986) Lisa Tuttle
ISBN 0-09-944900-5

There are many issues affecting reproductive freedom in various parts of the world: forced-childbirth (eg Romania), forced-abortion (eg China), access to affordable birth control (all countries without universal health care), any access to birth control, access to a healthy diet sufficient to grow healthy babies and safely undergo childbirth, unnecessary caesarians (most Western nations), female genital mutilation (increases childbirth risks), inequitable access to healthcare for women, and many many more.

Submissions are requested for articles addressing these issues.

The pro-choice/pro-life debate will be covered in detail in a separate post (in progress).

Evidence Based Midwifery Care
Joyous Birth (homebirth advocacy)
Birthrites (caesarian advice): Scroll down their sidebar for various links (shocking site layout) | Planning a Positive Caesarean for women who need/want a caesarean and want to be in control.

Anyone know some sites where Obstetricians fully embrace evidence-based obstetrics rather than economically/professionally/traditionally rationalised obstetrics? There must be a few. Surely?

Clarifying Concepts

Rights during Childbirth/Birth Abuse

You may never have considered intrusive obstetric practises as abuse, or as "birthrape", a term coming into wider use. This may change your mind.
"Just because it is the standard of care, doesn't mean it's ethical."
Why pro-choice?
thinking girl (Thinking Girl): Blog for Choice Day 2007 (lots of links, and a very interesting discussion addressing dissenters)

Check Googlesearch for top-linked "Blog for Choice" posts.

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Saturday Retrospective: early feminist writings

Please feel free to leave comments quoting your favourite excerpts from these and why they speak to you.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) by Mary Wollestonecraft
With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects
It would be an endless task to trace the variety of meannesses, cares, and sorrows, into which women are plunged by the prevailing opinion, that they were created rather to feel than reason, and that all the power they obtain, must be obtained by their charms and weakness.

On the Subjection of Women (1869) by John Stuart Mill (and probably Harriet Taylor Mill)
An essay partnering Mill's "On Liberty", an analysis on utilitarian philosophical grounds.

That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes--the legal subordination of one sex to the other--is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.

NB: It's an interesting example of the US-centricity of the internet that my first searches on "early feminist writing" were all links to writers from the Second Wave of Feminism, the US Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960s-70s. Great writings, but not that early, to me. These much earlier writings, written in measured, stately language to counter the stereotype of women as overly emotive and unable to reason, are an excellent source for the philosophical fundamentals.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Wow, what a week!

There I was last week thinking that I'd noodle along with this FAQ thing with a post every now and then and eventually it might get some attention. I was obviously not accounting for the "Feministe effect" after zuzu, bless her cotton socks, linked here with not just one but two separate posts recommending FF101.

I'm immensely thrilled by all the traffic and positive feedback, and to see so many hits coming in from feed-readers after a new post goes up, and to see how many hits are coming in from other people's blogs because they've linked to this very new and essentially untried blog. Especially when all those links have pushed up the search-engine ranking of individual FAQ posts so that they're already often on the first page of results for search-strings with all those basic questions, which is more than I could ever have hoped for in the first week of reviving the blog.

It's all rather humbling. I have to admit that looking at the sitemeter made me gulp a bit about how little of the basics I'd got covered yet when all these people were coming to look, so it's been a little hectic adding posts this week to clarify the purpose of the blog and cover a few of the most contentious matters (still plenty to go!).

I very much doubt that I'll keep up the pace of this week as long as it's only me posting FAQs [SFX: sound of heavy hint dropping], but I'll aim to get several posts up per week. I hope this blog lives up to my goal for it to be both a useful feminist resource and a supportive feminist community.

FAQ Roundup: Introductory material

Updated 03May07

Wanting to join in a discussion with feminists on a blog or other online forum? Need more information? It's a good idea to start with one or both of these two posts, depending on how you came here:
Below are the FAQs thus far (this page will be regularly updated on approximately a weekly basis). Qs in small font are in progress but not yet posted. If your question is not addressed in the FAQs below, please check the Open Suggestions Thread to see whether someone else has suggested the same question and/or provided a useful link to an article addressing that question.

Each of the FAQ posts below contain links to other material, especially other blog-posts, from other authors online. The comments threads provide links to further reading supplied by the readers of this blog.

There is some necessary repetition in some of the FAQs, because not everybody is going to read every Q, so material needs to be placed in more than one post to effectively cover various issues.

NB: The FAQs attempt to be descriptive from a reasonably neutral position. There are other posts on this blog which are not FAQs which are intended as general feminist resources and op-eds: these posts are not intended to be neutral documents.

Absolute basics:

Specific Issues:

Clarifying Concepts:

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Friday Open Thread: Favourite Feminist Music

Please add your favourite performers/songs/musicals/operas in comments. Especially keen for an international sampling outside the Western mainstream hit parade.

If you've written a review on any of them, please add the link.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

FAQ: What can feminism do for me?

Updated 16Mar07

1. You will find that you are not alone in thinking something is disturbing and unjust with the way that society deals with gender.

my first encounter with feminist writing reassured me that i wasn't insane, and that amongst other things, it was in fact normal to be bothered by violence and misogyny.

This is one of a series of testimonials from bloggers via a meme on feminism. Find more of these testimonials using this Google search string "5 things feminism has done for you"
(If you want your own feminist testimonial to show up on that search, write a post using the quoted words in the post-body)

2. You will find ways to actively work for reform, both singly and collectively.

Association for Women's Rights in Development
Global Fund for Women
UNIFEM: United Nations Development Fund for Women
UN: Womenwatch
Global List of Women's Organisations

National/ethnic: (alphabetical order)


Emily's List
National Foundation for Australian Women
Govt: Office of the Status of Women
Women on Boards
Women's Electoral Lobby

India Women's Organisations (Names and contact details, no websites)

New Zealand
Auckland Women's Centre
Govt. Ministry of Women's Affairs
NZ Women's Centre's Directory

United Kingdom
Emily's List
The Fawcett Society
Older Feminists' Network
Women Against Rape

United States of America
Emily's List
Feminist Majority Foundation
National Organisation of Women
Radical Women
The WISH list
List of many other US women's organisations from

Feed the FAQ! Links to national directories of women's activist organisations for other countries, please! (Or if someone knows an existing international directory that I've missed, even better)

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FAQ: Does feminism matter?

Updated 22Mar07

Hell yes.

1. Society deals with gender in a way that, on balance, harms women.
2. This is a problem that must be corrected.

Related reading:
All FAQ articles below have links to further reading on other sites

Harm to women:
FAQ:Isn't feminism just playing "victim" politics?

Gender inequity:
FAQ:What is male privilege?
FAQ: What is the "Gender Gap"?

Clarifying Concepts

Feminist Theory in Liberal Arts Courses
What is Feminism (and why do we have to talk about it so much)?

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FAQ: -What’s wrong with suggesting that women take precautions to prevent being raped?

Updated 04May07

Short answer: because it puts the onus on women not to get themselves raped, rather than on men not to do the raping; in short, it blames the victim.
(from Grendelkhan, in comments, emphasis added)


Blaming the Victim
Melissa McEwan (Shakespeare's Sister): Dear Ladies: Please Stop Getting Yourselves Raped

Key quote:
Left to my own devices, I never would have been raped. The rapist was really the key component to the whole thing. I was sober; hardly scantily clad (another phrase appearing once in the article), I was wearing sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt; I was at home; my sexual history was, literally, nonexistent—I was a virgin; I struggled; I said no. There have been times since when I have been walking home, alone, after a few drinks, wearing something that might have shown a bit of leg or cleavage, and I wasn't raped. The difference was not in what I was doing. The difference was the presence of a rapist.

JoAnne Schmitz (Jupiter9): It's not the empty street that causes rape

The question is, why do the warnings not help? Is the warning not strong enough? I don't think so. I don't know any women who don't consider rape a realistic threat to them, and I don't know any women who never alter their behavior because of a fear of rape.

Well, the obvious answer: Rape keeps happening because rapists keep doing what they're doing. Because it works. So how can what they're doing work if we have all these strong warnings about?

The warnings women get are misleading. They leave out the acts of the rapist himself. They focus on the situation. They also may focus on the "kind of man" the potential rapist is. If he's a friend of a friend, or your uncle, he's "safe." It's the stranger who's the threat.

And we know that's not true.

Men against rapists:
ross (The Talent Show): I am not my cock

Clarifying Concepts:

Rapists are rarely Strangers
ifritah (GROWL): Facts and Figures - a 2005 post citing studies several years older then, however patterns have not changed much.

Stranger rape and sexual assault is only one of several possible types of sexual violence. Here's the reported percentages according to National Health and Social Life Survey:

- Someone with whom the respondent was in love: 46%
- Someone that the respondent knew well: 22%
- Acquaintance: 19%
- Spouse: 9%
- Stranger: 4%

(Rathus, Nevid and Fichner-Rathus, 565)

Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon): Real Consent Manifesto

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

FAQ: I asked some feminists a question, and instead of answering they sent me here. Why?

Updated 03May07

Your question probably covered ground they have gone over many times before, and they didn't want to derail the interesting discussion they were already having.

People find ignorant questions frustrating, and questioners find being ignored frustrating, and such mutual dissatisfaction can totally disrupt a discussion. By sending you here the feminists hope to avoid being interrupted, yet are also not completely ignoring your question(s).

Maybe you didn't ask a question at all, but stated an argument that denied the importance of the topic being discussed. Feminists naturally don't care for the thought of trying to run you through reams of introductory material before you gain the grounding to realise the basis whereby they perceive an important problem where you may not.

Either way, educating you on the basics would derail the discussion about the actual topic the feminists are interested in, just for you. That's an awful lot to ask of people on the net who don't even know you, isn't it?

This blog exists to give you a few pointers to places you can find more information to answer your question (although we're only in early days yet, FAQs will continue to be added until the basics are covered). Once you are better informed you will be able to contribute to lively feminist discussions productively, armed with facts and theory, even if/when you don't end up agreeing with all the theories.

NB: If you had a specific question rather than a general question, and the person who sent you here didn't give you a link to a specific FAQ that answers your question, then you may be feeling somewhat aggrieved. Fair enough, too. Polite persistence ("That's a large resource - which particular FAQ should I be reading?") should make the point that a little bit of effort on their part as well can be fairly expected, without derailing the discussion. Hopefully what you read here can generate on-topic discussion in good time.

Use the sidebar links to navigate through the Frequently Answered Questions (FAQ).
  • Peruse the FAQ Roundup post, which is irregularly updated.
  • The Introductory archive is here.
  • If you have a more theoretically-advanced question, try the Clarifying Concepts archive here.
  • Scroll down to the category listings to find posts discussing particular topics.
NB: The FAQs attempt to be descriptive from a reasonably neutral position. There are other posts on this blog which are not FAQs which are intended as general feminist resources and op-eds: these posts are not intended to be neutral documents.

If your question is not yet amongst the FAQs, please add it to the Open Suggestion Thread (and if you read through the comments there you may find that someone else has suggested a link that fits the bill). Read the comments policy in the sidebar before commenting, please.

OK, then. Welcome to the blog.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

FAQ: What do feminists want?

To end the perpetuation of gender expectations that, on balance, harm women.

To explain the many ways that sexist stereotypes, double standards, and oppressions harm women generally is beyond the scope of this introductory post, but the reading below should give you some starting links.

What is feminism?
What is male privilege?
What is the "Gender Gap"?
Isn't feminism just "victim" politics?

For those on feed-readers

I just realised that when I update posts with links etc, that refreshes them in most feed-readers so that they show as "new".

As the settings for the feed are currently to supply the full articles, is that a pain? Should I change the feed-settings to only supply an excerpt, to enhance the ease of skimming-over for revised older posts?

Monday, March 12, 2007

FAQ: why do some people talk of "feminisms"?

Most recently updated 17 March 2007

Because, as was said back on the What is a feminist? and Why are there so many fights between feminists? posts, Feminism is not a monolith.

From the soc.feminism Terminologies FAQ compiled in 1993 by Cindy Tittle Moore, here is a following non-exhaustive list of feminisms (read fuller descriptions at the given link to clarify concepts). Some of the following groups are very small compared to the major strands of modern feminism:

Amazon Feminism
Cultural Feminism
Erotic Feminism
'Feminazi' **
Feminism and Women of Color
Individualist, or Libertarian Feminism
Lesbianism *
Liberal Feminism
Marxist and Socialist Feminism
Material Feminism
Moderate Feminism
'pop-feminism' **
Radical Feminism

There are important new movements not included in the list above, particularly the Radical Women of Colour movement and the many non-Western national/ethnic feminist movements, which have all been caught up in the single classification "Feminism and Women of Colour" above.

The Feminist eZine (LilithGallery): 1001 Feminist Links (just keep on scrolling, and then scroll some more)

Feminist Theory Website (choose English/Francais/Espanol on homepage): Different National/Ethic Feminisms - biased towards academia, but a good starting point for specific readings.

* Just as not all feminists are lesbians, not all lesbians are feminists. It's a "correlation, not causation" thing, and not an easily distinguished movement as such either.
** Essentially media inventions rather than meaningful classifications.

Men's Movements
From the same FAQ: "many of these movements were started in reaction to feminism: some inspired by and others in contra-reaction to it"
Feminist Men's Movement
Men's Liberation Movement
Mythopoetic Men's Movement
The New Traditionalists
The Father's Movements

The Father's Rights Movement has grown greatly since this FAQ was compiled, and is probably now the largest cohesive Men's Movement.

Further reading into the differing details of these movements will be added to this post as time allows. I especially apologise for the US-centricity of the list thus far, (and me an Aussie!) and hope to add more information on other feminisms around the world. (Update: national/ethnic feminist movement directory now added above) Feel free to leave links to distinctive voices characterising one or more of these movements in the comments.

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Open Suggestion Thread

Please add suggestions for questions that have not yet been addressed, hopefully with links to articles that address those questions, in the comments to this post.

What sort of suggestions could you make?

Firstly, links that cover basic material for the benefit of the genuinely curious.

Secondly, links that debunk common anti-feminist myths and address common arguments from trolls. The model for all efforts of this kind to emulate is the marvellous Index to Creationist Claims associated with USENet newsgroup The wonderful zuzu, who has kindly seen fit to widely promote this project, nails it:

Got a troll asking you disingenuous or stupid questions and don’t know where to tell them to go (other than hell, of course)? Drop on by the open suggestion thread and make a suggestion for a post to which you can later refer trolls (or the genuinely clueless). With a sweet smile and a suggestion to come back once they’ve covered the first-year course material.

As a general rule I'd prefer people to nominate other people's articles rather than their own in this thread, but it's fine to link to your own writing in other threads.

If you have an article you'd like to suggest as a link to be added to an existing FAQ post, please add it in the comments to that post. That way the comments thread becomes a user-generated "More Reading" list even if I decide against adding the link to the body of the post.

PS. I don't like the template much either, but am actually designing a website for a client what pays, so don't have the time to futz around with HTML and XML until next week probably. But if the site suddenly changes to one of the other Blogger templates, don't be surprised.

How To Use This Blog

Updated 18Mar2007

This blog is a place where Frequently Asked Questions are Answered.

The idea of FAQs is a response to the following phenomenon: when new users come into an established discussion group, such as the commenting community at feminist blogs, they often ask questions that have been frequently answered beforehand. This often leads to mutual frustration, as the established community doesn't wish to go over old ground (especially when doing so derails an interesting discussion), and the new user doesn't wish to be ignored. Thus ariseth flamewars.

So, long ago in a USENet far far away, the convention arose whereby discussion groups put together an FAQ, and when one of the oft-covered basic questions was raised, people could just say "Read the FAQ" or, if they were being more helpful [1], point to the specific answer in the FAQ. This was often known as handing the newbie a cluestick.

New users who accept the cluestick can follow the links and become more educated about the subject area pertaining to their question. New users who don't follow the cluesticks to at least make their next question less ignorant tend to be seen as arguing in bad faith, and will probably continue to be ignored as wilfully clueless.

Each FAQ post is a work in progress, subject to revision and in particular the addition of new links to appropriate articles. Feed the FAQ with link suggestions, please.

Also, please use the comments threads to link to articles/posts/books that cover the subject area addressed in that FAQ. That way the comments threads will become a user-generated "further reading" list, and a way for fellow feminists to find more great feminist blogs/forums/resources.

Note #1: people who are told to "read the FAQ" without a pointer to a given article that addresses the question they are asking are entitled to return to the originating discussion and request a more specific pointer, IMO. If people are asked to go do some homework those making the request should do theirs first.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

FAQ: What is male privilege?

One example of the privileged status that some groups have over others in the social hierarchy.

tekanji:“Check my what?” On privilege and what we can do about it
Covers the following concept areas with multiple links to other writings in each section.
[Accept Your Privilege]
[Understanding Your Privilege]
[Adopt a Language of Respect and Equality]
[How to Approach Minority Spaces]
[Treat Us Like Humans, Not ‘The Other’]
[If You’re Not the Problem, Then You’re Not the Problem]

Read the whole thing.

B. Deutsch: The Male Privilege Checklist: An Unabashed Imitation of an Article by Peggy McIntosh
[and Peggy McIntosh's original article here: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack]

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

FAQ: Isn't feminism just "victim" politics?

updated 01May07

No. Women as a class are subjected to real hardship and oppression just because they are women. This is unjust. Pointing out that women are disproportionately victimised is accurate analysis, not "playing victim".

Witchy-Woo on the "will you women just stop whining" subtext:
I think that those who would rather avoid acknowledging the global injustices that women face, those who deem themselves successful in the struggle, those who find it easier to accuse us of ‘whining’ rather than critically examining their own role in those injustices when we speak about them, are further enabled in their deliberate ignorance by the “you can help yourself” school of thought. Individual solutions for collective problems don’t work.

Not everyone can help themselves. Should we stop speaking about that because it’s percieved as ‘whining’? Many, many women actually are victims - and many more still are survivors - should we, as feminists, really be saying “shit happens, get over it - I have” when, globally, the making of women as victims (and survivors) is systemic and political? I’m thinking, not.

I’m thinking the “stop whining” response is one that comes from those who’d like to close us down, shut us up, make us be quiet.
Read the whole thing.

Kevin T. Keith posted the following list from the UN about the worldwide traditions of impunity for violence committed against women:
  • Violence against women is the most common but least punished crime in the world.
  • It is estimated that between 113 million and 200 million women are demographically “missing.” They have been the victims of infanticide (boys are preferred to girls) or have not received the same amount of food and medical attention as their brothers and fathers.
  • The number of women forced or sold into prostitution is estimated worldwide at anywhere between 700,000 and 4,000,000 per year. Profits from sex slavery are estimated at seven to twelve billion US dollars per year.
  • Globally, women between the age of fifteen and forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die as a result of male violence than through cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war combined.
  • At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Usually, the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her. Domestic violence is the largest form of abuse of women worldwide, irrespective of region, culture, ethnicity, education, class and religion.
  • It is estimated that more than two million girls are genitally mutilated per year, a rate of one girl every fifteen seconds.
  • Systematic rape is used as a weapon of terror in many of the world’s conflicts. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women in Rwanda were raped during the 1994 genocide.
  • Studies show the increasing links between violence against women and HIV and demonstrate that HIV-infected women are more likely to have experienced violence, and that victims of violence are at higher risk of HIV infection.
KTK (Sufficent Scruples) then analysed how sexism leads to inequities in healthcare provision for women.

Ginmar (A View From A Broad) wraps the whole issue up in a gloriously clarified rant: One Simple Thing
Society is based on the notion that women are things to be used up and discarded. Therefore, while it is possible to work within a framework of society, one has to be very careful as to how one goes about it. Feminism is nothing less than an insurgency in society, disturbing the very framework of our lives. You have to brace yourself for hostility and hatred when you're an avowed feminist. You're disturbing people who've never much thought about women except when those damned women didn't do what they were supposed to.
There's a lot more to read on women's oppression. It really exists.

FAQ: Why are there so many fights between feminists?

Updated twice on 02Apr07

Quoting from Sage's FAQ:

1. Why do feminists all disagree? Feminism isn’t a movement, it’s an argument!

We all want to raise the status of women to the level of men, to feel safe and respected, and to have a fair and equal chance for all our opinions to be heard. Since the movement is all about choice and the ability to make our own decision that affect us, then it’s necessarily going to be a group fraught with differences. We’re all making our own choices. That’s the commonality. Trying to actively be allowed these choices is the movement. Butting heads along the way from time to time is the reality.

Different feminists work within differing feminist constructs, and have different priorities regarding activism in the following three main (overlapping) arenas:
  1. Work and Family
  2. Sexuality and Health
  3. Social Justice
Often the tactics of a feminist working primarily in one arena can seem to be in conflict with the tactics of a feminist working in primarily in another arena. The ultimate goal of an end to oppression and inequality is rarely in conflict, merely the plan for how best to focus resources and actions to achieve these goals.

In particular, there is a strong perception amongst those feminists working for social justice that privileged middle-class feminists are so concerned with their personal stake in arenas 1 and 2 that arena 3 keeps on getting put onto the back-burner.


Happy Feminist: Feminism is not a monolith.

Clarifying Concepts

Some notable areas of conflict with respect to feminist priorities and attitudes are as follows, with the caveat that most feminists would describe themselves as aligned with multiple groups below: second-wave "essentialism" vs third-wave "post-structuralism", anti-pornography vs sex-positive feminism, feminine vs feminist aesthetics, cultural feminism vs liberal feminism vs radical feminism vs individualist/equity feminism, identity politics (groupings by gender/race/class), macropolitical vs micropolitical activism and many more. There are a few passionate posts on some of these conflicts below - please suggest more to fill the gaps!

N.B.some of the feminists linked below may be feuding with each other online either now or in the past. Don't assume when reading an old post that a feud described therein necessarily is still ongoing, and don't bring it back here, please.
nubian: gender does NOT trump race
brownfemipower posts excerpts from Lee Maracle on "The Women's Movement"
nubian:Blogging against heteronormativity roundup
ginmar (A View from A Broad): Can you cure racism with sexism? Do some guys get allowed to be sexist?
Alecto Erinyes (Sisterhood & Solidarity): on labour feminism, quoting from their FAQ
"There's lots of different kinds of feminism, lots of different ways to 'do' feminism. We believe that arguing about what's more important, class, race or gender, only hurts those on the down-side of all. We also believe that regardless of the symmetry of your chromosomes or the color of your skin, economic freedom is a precondition of political freedom. Industrial rights are fundamental to civil and human rights. So long as women labour in minimum wage, casual jobs to support themselves and their families, struggling to keep body and soul together, then feminism needs unionism, and unionism needs feminism. Sisterhood and solidarity go hand-in-hand. Federal Labor's Deputy Leader, Jenny Macklin, said it all in this speech."

[Editor: suggestions hereby solicited for posts addressing more on Race, Gender and Identity, Location vs Transnational movements, Second vs Thirdwave Feminism, and any more fighting-feminist categories.]

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FAQ: What is feminism?

Updated 16Mar07

Introductory Essays

University of Montana Women's Center: a brief history of Western Feminism

International Women's Day: a brief history from the UN

Classic Quote
"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute..."
--Rebecca West, The Clarion, 11/14/13

Sarah Bunting: Yes You Are

Clover Patch's FAQ

Sage (Persephone's Box): Feminism 101

Karen Healey (Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed)): I'm not doing this twice

Classic quote:
"The reason racism is a feminist issue is easily explained by the inherent definition of feminism. Feminism is the political theory and practice to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, physically challenged women, lesbians, old women --as well as white economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement."
--Barbara Smith, 1979

Clarifying Concepts

Bitch PhD: Feminisms

The Happy Feminist: Feminism is not a monolith

yami: Feminisms
There are just two pieces of dogma in my feminist tent:
  1. Society deals with gender in a way that, on balance, harms women.
  2. This is a problem that must be corrected.
You’ll notice that they have nothing to do with: men, race, class, liberty, religion, teleology, biology, consumerism, violence, sex, or shoes. This is deliberate.

yami: Defining Feminism: Once More, with Feeling

Click on the category labels at the bottom of this post for more additions to the Introductory category in the future. There are more links to essays in the Clarifying Concepts category.

Frequently Whimpered Whine: "Feminists have no sense of humour"

FAQ: Why do you feminists hate men?

Updated 16Mar07

Feminists hate misogyny, not men. Kinda like that "hate the sin, not the sinner" thing, sometimes it's easy to separate the behaviour from the enactor and sometimes it's not.

It's understandable how sometimes criticisms of misogynists come across as generalisations about all men, when read by someone who isn't used to the jargon shorthand and feminist perspectives. Time to lurk and learn.

Ilyka's post: Occasionally conversations with my man are instructive is instructive here.
"A lot of the guys written about on feminist blogs do things I would never do."

"Then don't identify with them. It's not about you! You stand to pee, they stand to pee, beyond that, what's the commonality?"
Of course, the man-hating accusation is not always made by bewildered men of general goodwill. It is frequently made by men who simply don't want to hear any criticism of their privileged status-quo. See Witchy-Woo: I've had a lovely day(read the whole post)

Kate Jasper (Moment to Moment): And you think feminists hate men?
This is how Sam describes your average single man: "messy, greedy, sports-loving, junk-food-scoffing and as womanizing". Presumably a relationship somehow transforms Homo Singlemanus into a tidy, selfless gourmet who only watches sport sometimes, tosses a mean salad and only has eyes for you.

Seriously, my dear male readers, aren't you sick of this rubbish? Don't you get pissed off every time you turn on the TV and there you are, being presented as some idiot who needs a woman to work any domestic appliance in the home? Aren't you over the idea that you need to be tidied up and polished by the love of a good woman?

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