Tuesday, April 03, 2007

FAQ: I've got nothing against equal rights for women, but we've got that, so isn't feminism nowadays just going too far ?

aka "Why do we still need feminism?" (see "Does feminism matter?")

This question is based on several misconceptions.
1. Even if women in your part of the world do have legal equality, what about women elsewhere? Feminists who fight for the rights of other women to have what they already have are justified in doing so.
2. Simple, basic legal equality regarding the right to own property, sign contracts or vote does not always translate into social equality in work, the community or the home. Feminists who point out residual cultural traditions and reactionary business practises that disproportionately disadvantage women are not making it up (see FAQs on Patriarchy, Gender Gap and Objectification).

This FAQ is mostly clarifying-concepts rather than introductory. If you haven't read any of the basic level FAQ posts (See FAQ roundup here) then I suggest you start with some of those before reading these posts.

I've been seeing a lot of "Why we still need feminism" posts around lately. Here's a few I've found powerful. Please add links to other posts on the same theme that I've overlooked in comments.

Natasha Walter (orig. in The Guardian): We Still Need Feminism

The suggestion is constantly put out that women must be "free" to choose their own way of life, even if it is clear that many women whose choices are shaped by discriminatory workplaces and poor childcare provision do not feel very free at all. Indeed, even if few people choose to identify themselves as feminists, it is hard to find a young woman who would not sign up to the feminist goals that are meant to be so outdated, such as being treated equally at work and being able to share family responsibilities with their husbands. But even if the desire for equality remains, it is still unmet.

Rad Geek (Rad Geek People's Daily): Atrocious Dating Violence Against Young Women: We Still Need Feminism
If anyone asks you why we still need an organized, agitating feminist movement, tell them to think of five women they know. Ask them whether they want one of those five women to be tortured by someone she should be able [to] trust. If the answer is no, we still need feminism.

Mr Shakes (Shakesville): Feminism benefits us all

Men need to get it through their heads that they, too, are under the heel of power structures that have no interest in promoting their welfare. They must understand that the rights and privileges that they have hitherto been enjoying fall far short of the privileges they could enjoy were they to try and achieve them. The internecine warfare that occurs between women and men, people of color and white people, straights and gays, as they all squabble like schoolchildren in an attempt to gain or deny rights, is exactly what those in power want.

Aunt B.(Tiny Cat Pants): Remedial Feminism
Does Ivy hate men and want to mock and belittle them at every turn? No.

Ivy wants to be able to walk into McDonald’s and get for her daughter a toy without it turning into a lesson in how either 1. Boys get all the cool toys and girls have to learn how to put up with shit. Or 2. Because you’re a girl, you usually only deserve the girl toy, which sucks, but because someone has pointed out that you are “exceptional,” you might be able to get the boy toy.

See how nothing about this has to do directly with boys? This isn’t an anecdote about boys. No one is suggesting that any boy should have to suffer or put up with a shit toy. There’s nothing in this story directly about boys.

(nb a lot of the attitude of the questioner for this FAQ overlaps with "I'm not a feminist, but...", which is a common utterance by those who notice and are disturbed by instances of sexism, and totally agree that something should be done to combat such sexism, if only they could argue against such sexism without perhaps being mistaken for one of those humourless, hairylegged, manhating feminists)

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