I think I’m going to stop calling myself a feminist.
I’ve changed my blog bio to ‘equalist’, which is a pedant’s way of saying I believe in something that could be called feminism, but which I think it (not always unfairly) associated with, and shouted about by, people who could often be referred to as narrow-minded – and I don’t want to be one of those people.
I want to read both sides of the argument. I’m aware that I will sometimes contradict myself. I’m aware that I will sometimes sit on the fence. But I want to keep learning.
There are parts of feminist ideology I cannot agree with. While I can’t agree with Quiet Riot Girl’s total rejection of rape culture, I know that in my 23 years I’ve never been sexually harrassed or made to feel uncomfortable by a man. Or a woman, for that matter. And so I can’t claim that I’m a feminist because ‘men do terrible things’.
And while I know that a lot of people will say that I’m ‘lucky’ to not have experienced victimisation on account of my physical makeup, and I think that’s shit and shouldn’t be the case, and that no person should be sexually harrassed… I also believe that to perpetuate a myth in which men are the harrassers and women the harrassees is short-sighted and not helpful as it paint all of us who fit as either victims or perpetrators. I’d like to think we’re more complex, and compassionate, than that.
And while I believe that a lot of culture leads us to expect less from women, I also believe that it pressures men into unattainable ideas of what a man ‘should’ be and ‘can’ do (i.e. sexual stallion who beds 60 women a month, and can’t compliment a friend on his/her choice of shoes).
I can also see that page 3 models and the thought that sex workers can’t be raped is a blatant objectification of women, I’ve never been able to see how that’s worse than the Cosmo naked centrefold. In fact, rather than outlaw these things, I’d prefer that we accepted them and also acknowledged that they are not gender-specific, and our prejudices about the people photographed should be challenged. Objectification and sexualisation are not gender-specific, but they should be tackled.
I don’t like that a male anorexic is paraded as an oddity, and female professors and politicians are judged on their dress sense. I would rather we judged people on their choices and values (and yes, those are influenced by society) than what genitals they have or would like to have.
In fact, there are a lot of things I like and a lot of things I don’t. But I don’t think I favour any one of them consciously because they are ‘male’ or ‘female’ things. And I think that’s what radical feminism and misogyny and pink and blue children’s rooms and automatically putting glitter on girl’s shoes and not making skirts that fit boys does – whether it means to or not. My view is that a modern person should be able to do what the fuck they like, equally. And that’s what I would argue for.
But I’m going to keep reading. I want to be challenged and I want to keep learning, and I don’t know all the answers so I welcome the challenge!
Imagine two scenarios with me:
1. Person A suggests to Person B that B has a (sexual) preference for something that Person C has been known to do.
-> C has no problem with this, in fact C is quite comfortable with the concept of A and B discussing [insert activity here] – and even C’s potential to act [activity out] – and believes that they are fine to do so to their heart’s content.
2. Person A suggests to C that, after discussion of [activity], B would not be adverse to doing [activity] with C – and invents a scenario in which such a thing happens.
-> suddenly C feels uncomfortable: a line has been crossed.
But where is the line?
What’s wrong with this picture? Why does the abstract thought of something not offend, but the consideration of acting out something – still a thought! – become difficult to stomach?
I’ve been pondering this since last Friday, and in the absence of any scholarly literature to back me up: here follow my ramblings on the subject.
Point 1: The thought of [activity] is not an issue – and nor should it be, I believe. People can consider the possibility of [activity] and the possibility that C has done [activity].
Point 2: The suggestion of a scenario of [activity] is a step too far.
Conclusion: C prefers to take a passive role. In a ‘fantasy’, C is comfortable, but the suggestion of an active role is uncomfortable.
Presumably, this is because C recognises that thoughts cannot be controlled? The speculation of A and B is outside of C’s control and, often, influence. But if A or B were to act upon this, or consider certain scenarios, C would be an active player in this fantasy of [activity] and then the circumstances would change.
Or, is it that C wishes to be admired from afar, remaining sanitised and non-complicit?
What is it about playing an active role rather than a passive one that is so different?
And does this desire to be passive, if we can call it such, a desire to be objectified? A return to the Male Gaze?
As a passive object, C has no control but if this is desired can this be considered an anti-feminist thought? Is it wrong to say that although C does not wish to do [activity], B may consider that C does [activity] as long as B does not contemplate C and B doing [activity]?
It is important to note here that passive =/= harmless any more than active = harmful. But this is where the conflict lies. In an abstract consideration, with no precise scenarios, C has no control and no voice. In Scenario 2, where C is considered by A and B, C is aware that they are part of something which they have not been asked to play a role in – but they still cannot stop it happening. Scenario 3, not mentioned above, is the point at which B propositions C for [activity]. This, too, is comfortable.
Is thinking something more or less appropriate than acting it?
Acknowledging [activity] is not the same as suggesting it.
The tipping point is where B not only considers ‘C does [activity[' but that 'C will do [activity] with me’. The point where B approaches C to ask ‘will you do [activity] with me?’ is the point at which C has a choice and can exercise that right. They have been invited to play an active role.
Before that the idea is tangible, a possibility, but C has no knowledge or choice in the matter. Rightfully, they cannot stop C considering it, but the knowledge that C is being considered in relation to [activity] is unnerving because there is no control. This is different from not having a choice at the point of acknowledgement because now C is aware of it and it as though they have been included in something they were not invited to.
So if this is not passive, what is it? Oppressive? Presumptive? Denying C the option to choose?
The most obvious conclusion here is that I think too much. But does anyone else see the line here: whereabouts is the problem? Or is there even a problem? If you were C, would you feel uncomfortable?
I consider myself to be a feminist. I thought it might be a jolly ruse to see if I fit into the official definitions proposed by others.
Google says that a feminist is: a supporter of feminism OR, of or relating to or advocating equal rights for women
Wikipedia says: Feminists are people who believe in (with some campaigning for) the equality of women with men.
The OED says: feminist, adj. and n., Pronunciation: /ˈfɛmɪnɪst/ , Of or pertaining to feminism, or to women OR An advocate of feminism.
Urban Dictionary says: someone who believes the radical notion that women are people. OR A feminist is a person who believes that men and women are equal (though not necessarily the same), and should be entitled to equal rights, equal treatment, and equal opportunity