I hate to be a pest, but …

by Maria on August 13, 2013

One thing about being a feminist for a length of time that can most conveniently be measured in decades is the repeated and yet always surprising head-slap of ‘are we still there? I thought that went out with shoulder-pads’. I don’t know if it’s me living in my head too much, or living in too many different countries and losing track of where most people actually are on equality, but am I the only one who finds herself looking around in a daze of cultural jet-lag and thinking ‘But we talked about it already. You can’t still be doing that‘.

Feminists have a lot to learn from our natural allies and brothers and sisters in arms, the gay rights movement. The main thing I’d like to know from them is how to bring about a 180 degree change in millions of individuals’ opinions on gay marriage in under twenty years, wherein no-one now remembers when they actually stopped thinking gay people were weird, icky and in some pre-ordained way destined to live short, unhappy lives, outside of the natural bonds of romance, matrimony and dullness, and how now everyone is sure they always thought this way and isn’t Elton John a dote with his cute little babies and if I had twins and I could afford it, you know what, they would be just as matchy matchy, too?

But how is it, that in my adult life we started off – in Ireland, anyway – fighting for contraception (Tick. Too late for my college career, sadly.) and equal rights at work, and yet now, twenty years on, women are publicly threatened with anal rape if they dare to be happy Jane Austen’s face will soon appear on the five-pound note? Has no one read, oh, I don’t know, Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison and Marilyn French (who I first read for the sex bits and subsequently learnt from that housework is irredeemably political), or Catherine McKinnon or Luce Irigaray, or even Caitlin Moran on how Brazilian pubic waxes are weirdly infantilizing? Do we really have to keep re-writing every word of this stuff for each successive generation? And, seriously, do we really have to keep pretending that long since trashed arguments about men-only golf and social (exclusion) clubs are still worthy of a hearing? (Max Hastings. FT. Don’t bother.)

How is it that during the twenty years of my adult life when most people have come, via some almost unobserved cultural osmosis, to believe that gay people are people, too, that I’m still expected to be polite and nonjudgemental and entertain all sorts of nonsense about Page Three, slappers who drink alcohol and are thus asking for it, thirteen-year old child abuse victims being called ‘predators’, little girls wearing t-shirts that advertise their pre-sexuality and all-round dumbness, women being less than a quarter of people interviewed on radio news programmes, or indeed completely absent, whether the topic is breast cancer or the economy? And those are just silly season absurdities, not the complex, grinding and deeply un-sexy numbers of continued, largely unchanged structural sexual inequality.

And why haven’t Daft Punk ever collaborated with a bloody woman?

There’s something in the cultural osmosis of gay rights, and I bet sitcoms have a lot to do with it. Where the portrayal of women is still so often a reactionary one – some variant of dumb, put-upon shrew – gay TV characters doing gay things and, as time went on, just doing ordinary human things helped people to simply get used to them being around. They didn’t even have to be proud; they were just there. It was a short step from that to the revelation that, if about one in ten people is gay, you might actually know or even be related to one. And from there it was only a hop and a skip to right-wing politicians publicly embracing their gay sons and daughters and asking people to be less shitty to them. Now if only those people would wake up one day and say to themselves ‘you know what, more than one human in two is a woman’, and maybe we could treat them a bit better and not reduce them to tits and ass, too.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re still ridiculously far from real equality for gay people, and that’s just in Western countries. But at least we’re moving. It’s not ‘ok we’ll take one legalistic step forward, now endure a decade of regressive stereotyping, and also pretend there was never a problem in the first place, or that it was sooooooo long ago even grown-ups can’t remember when things were bad’.

Last weekend I went to a Feminist Geek session at the Nine Worlds Geekfest in London. Me, maybe two or three other women and Cory Doctorow were the only people in the room aged over thirty-five. (Forty, really, but I’m trying to be nice.) At first, I silently raged that there is still a need for campaigns like Everyday Sexism, or Put a Woman on the Five Pound Note Because We’re Asking Really Nicely and Not Being Shrill At All, At all. But you know what, the sheer energy, passion and bloody-minded goodwill of the women on the panel and in the audience changed my mind. I suddenly felt happy to the point of being tearful (it’s my hormones, you know) that here is a fresh, energetic and far from ignorant generation willing to pick up the spade and dig. So keep digging, girls. I’ve got your back.

{ 175 comments }

1

pedant 08.13.13 at 5:05 pm

Yes, depressing in the extreme.

At the first approximation, the answer to the question “why have gay rights made so much more progress than women’s rights?” has to be “because a lot of gay people turned out to be wealthy white male conservatives or related to them, see Ken Mehlman, Andrew Sullivan, the son of Reagan, the daughter of Cheney, the children of Senator Blowhard, etc. etc.”

But that simply restates the point that sexism is a much more deeply entrenched problem, as it turns out, than even homophobia.

2

JanieM 08.13.13 at 5:06 pm

I’m off to the dentist, so, probably luckily, the long comment I’m tempted to write will probably never get written. But as a gay person living in a female body, I want to make a slight revision:

Feminists have a lot to learn from our natural allies and brothersand sistersin arms, the gay rights movement.

And then, as a person who thinks it’s much more complicated than that, I just want to cite my all-time favorite book title: Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of us.

In general, though, great post, interesting topic. It should be interesting to see who says what in the comments, especially following the racism threads.

3

JanieM 08.13.13 at 5:07 pm

Draft the html, and being in a hurry. I was trying to add “and sisters” to Maria’s sentence, as is probably obvious enough. If anyone who can tinker wants to, feel free to correct it.

4

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 5:14 pm

“how Brazilian pubic waxes are weirdly infantilizing”

Do we have to attack other peoples personal grooming choices?

“But that simply restates the point that sexism is a much more deeply entrenched problem, as it turns out, than even homophobia.”

Not to be snarky but do we have to turn this into the oppression Olympics? Women and homosexuals both face a number of challenges (understatement of the century I know) that in a perfect world they wouldn’t. I do not think it benefits anyone to spend time arguing about which prejudice is more entrenched.

5

pedant 08.13.13 at 5:18 pm

I have no intention of arguing over which prejudice is more entrenched. It is manifestly clear, and a matter of public record, that much faster and more sweeping changes have occurred in public attitudes towards gay people over the last few decades than have occurred in public attitudes towards women. (At least in the US.) Any argument about it would be entirely superfluous.

6

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 5:20 pm

Maria I also wanted to comment that I completely agree with the thrust of your post. It is incredibly frustrating how slow and unsteady progress in this area has been. It sometimes seems like we must have the same fights over and over again.

7

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 5:21 pm

“Any argument about it would be entirely superfluous.”

Well glad you decided that.

8

marcel 08.13.13 at 5:24 pm

pedant wrote:

At the first approximation, the answer to the question “why have gay rights made so much more progress than women’s rights?” has to be “because a lot of gay people turned out to be wealthy white male conservatives or related to them, see Ken Mehlman, Andrew Sullivan, the son of Reagan, the daughter of Cheney, the children of Senator Blowhard, etc. etc.”

I don’t think this works, even as an approximation because those same wealthy white male conservatives are also related to women. And even if we exclude their mothers from that list, this is true of many of them. Your approximation suggests that they should also be feminists, and that does not appear to be true.

9

JanieM 08.13.13 at 5:27 pm

do we have to turn this into the oppression Olympics

“We” don’t “have to” do anything. Reading and commenting here are totally voluntary.

I would love to see a study of how many times the women CTers are told that they shouldn’t be talking about what they’re talking about, they should be talking about something else, as compared to how many times the men get that same treatment.

Anyhow, following up on what pedant wrote: as both a woman (more or less) and a gay person, I think it’s fascinating to try and dig out why the pace and character of change (at least in the US) has been so different in relation to women and gays in my lifetime. (Not to mention racism….) Recognizing the phenomena and trying to understand the reasons for them might even turn out to be useful.

10

pedant 08.13.13 at 5:29 pm

marcel–fair enough so far as the “related to” goes. The asymmetry is clearer if you focus on the first disjunct, i.e. the Mehlmans and Sullivan and their ilk. For them, gay rights matter, and women’s rights never will.

MPAV–sorry to sound peremptory, but the comparison in rates of progress is a given in Maria’s original post. If you want to dispute it, or claim that we ought not even to mention that one change has been swifter and the other more glacial, then I will bow out and you can take it up with her.

11

Michael Collins 08.13.13 at 5:41 pm

Maybe the difference is that the old conservative party line about LGBTQ people was (1) they don’t exist and (2) maybe there are some individual perverts, but we can fix that by prosecuting them as criminals. Kind of like a dike that was designed to exclude LGBTQ people entirely from civil society.

That position, for all its strength, was very brittle. Very oppressive while it lasted, but once the water started flowing in, the whole position was bound to collapse. It didn’t allow for a selective retreat.

The old conservative position on women was more flexible. No dike—no one ever wanted to exclude women from society entirely. The goal was to limit their scope, and what you want for that is something like a spider’s web. Each strand contributes; each one is hard to see and needs pointing out; each is as strong as steel if you try to break it. None of them, on its own, is too intrusive—it’s the cumulative effect that really does the job.

In fact, each strand is a comfort to someone who has been constrained by it for so long she thinks she needs it for support. (And perhaps she does, after all that time. Perhaps it would be cruel to take it from her. That doesn’t make things easier for anyone.)

How’s anyone supposed to take out a web like that? Now and then, you knock out this strand or that, but no individual victory accomplishes all that much. And meanwhile the conservative spiders are crawling all around, denying that the strands were ever there, all the time spinning them back again ….

12

Anderson 08.13.13 at 5:45 pm

I do not think it benefits anyone to spend time arguing about which prejudice is more entrenched.

Correct, because it’s not even close. Prejudice against women has to struggle even to be recognized as prejudice in the first place, because we are so deeply entrenched in it.

13

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 5:46 pm

“I would love to see a study of how many times the women CTers are told that they shouldn’t be talking about what they’re talking about, they should be talking about something else, as compared to how many times the men get that same treatment.”

Looking back at my comment I can see how it could have been taken as trying to tell Maria what she should be talking about. I wasn’t really thinking about it that way but “intentions are not magic”.

Apologies.

14

idonthaveacoolname 08.13.13 at 5:54 pm

Um….. NSA wiretapping anyone?

Just kidding. Carry on.

15

Salem 08.13.13 at 6:02 pm

Part of the issue is that notions like equality, feminism, etc. mean different things to different people. It’s not necessarily productive to start with one’s own (personal) idealised notion of what that means, then ask why society hasn’t moved enough towards it. Sometimes it’s better to ask why this-or-that particular change has or hasn’t happened. From that point of view, it seems clear that:

1. Compared to the OP’s vision of feminism, the success of the gay rights movement has been in much more modest demands, which ultimately amount to “leave us be.” There were (and are) some people with more radical demands, but these have largely made no progress at all. Gay rights hasn’t required non-gay people to do much at all – this is a much easier sell than a version of feminism that requires huge changes to non-feminists’ lives.

2. There is much more consensus as to gay rights. For example, lots of people consider themselves feminists but have no problem with Brazilian waxes or Page Three, whereas the OP views them as a problem. And these differing views of the content of equality are so pronounced that many (most?) women don’t consider themselves feminists. If many or most gay people had opposed the gay rights movement, it would have surely had more difficulty.

16

Barry 08.13.13 at 6:07 pm

It might also be that the subordination of women has been the foundation of most historical societies, while gays and lesbians were a very small minority (and even smaller visible minority). This meant that for many policy purposes, they could be ignored or individually persecuted. The result was that many of the mechanisms for controlling women just weren’t there for gays.

17

Random Lurker 08.13.13 at 6:19 pm

@pedant 1: it turns out that the number of women who are white rich males is surprisingly low.

Jokes apart, I think that a big difference is that almost all gay are strongly pro gay rights, whereas in my experience a lot of women are not feminist at all.

18

Byzantium 08.13.13 at 6:30 pm

Michael Collins’ point seems reasonable, the old conservative line on gay rights does appear to have been brittle.

Is there maybe something also to be said about the strategy chosen by the gay rights movement? This is related to the very first comment and also JanieM’s book citation (thanks!). How Andrew Sullivan and others managed to carve out a space in our traditional, stereotyped views of gender for people who are gay. So “homonormativity” predominated rather than, for instance, a collective questioning of the idea of gender.

In this sense, gay marriage was a strategy to evade challenging the sexism at the core of homophobia. I think the argument in on the need for a more holistic leftist strategy (including the fragmentation behind some of the success of gay rights) is powerful.

19

Bloix 08.13.13 at 6:31 pm

“when they actually stopped thinking gay people were weird, icky and in some pre-ordained way destined to live short, unhappy lives, outside of the natural bonds of romance, matrimony and dullness,”

Some people may be old enough to remember the days that the gay liberation movement was not about trying to live lives inside the “natural bonds of romance, matrimony, and dullness.”

The gay liberation movement was not a movement that sought to the social acceptance of the replication of heterosexual patterns of life among gay people. Gay liberation was a movement that celebrated free love (or promiscuity, take your pick). It did not view monogamous pair-bonding and child-rearing as desirable norms. You may remember the days when gay people referred to straight people as “breeders.”

The major sites of gay liberation were bars and bathhouses, and anonymous sex was not merely acceptable but advocated.

Gay liberation has been replaced by gay rights, which is far more conservative in its goals. I don’t say this as a criticism – my own personal life is profoundly conservative – but as a description.

And the cause of the change was AIDS, which decimated and utterly demoralized the organized gay community, and made anonymous, promiscuous sex a source of sickness and death instead of creativity and life.

The gay rights movement that emerged from the ashes of the AIDS catastrophe is utterly different from the gay liberation movement. It does not aspire to change the world. Its agenda is the acceptance of middle-class gay people as no different from middle class straight people. Not merely the equals of, but no different from, straight people.

You can see this in the two main goals of the gay rights movement in the US. One is gay marriage, the right to enter into paired relationships that subject one’s personal life (including one’s assets, home and income) to government regulation, so that gay people can establish state-sanctioned arrangements that are more or less identical to those of straight people. Maria calls these relationships “natural,” although historically they were rejected as entirely unnatural by most original feminists and by the leaders of the gay liberation movement.

The other is the right of gay people to serve openly in the military: to and fight and kill and die in the service of American imperialism, as the gay liberation movement would have viewed it..

The current conservative gay rights movement is completely unthreatening to straight Americans as they actually live their lives. What they find when they give up their prejudices is that nothing happens to them at all.

Contrary to the ravings of the fundamentalists, gay rights threatens no one’s marriage and has no effect on anyone’s ability to raise their own children. If you are straight, then gay marriage happens to other people. If you are straight with a gay child, then public acceptance of gay people turns out to be a relief, not a threat.

But feminism cannot be unthreatening in this way. Feminism must necessarily transform every marriage, every sexual or “romantic” (to use Maria’s word) relationship, every parenting relationship. It cannot only be about the rights of a minority, because it demands a change in the interactions of everyone. It really does threaten to change the personal lives of the fundamentalists, along with everyone else, and they are right to fear it.

That is, I suggest, why a relatively quick and painless sea change was possible for gay rights, but not for women’s rights.

20

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 6:40 pm

Speaking for myself, I’m accepting of gay rights and ok with (secular) gay marriage, while being bitterly opposed to feminism.

21

qwerky 08.13.13 at 6:41 pm

Lurker’s impression that “almost all gay[s] are strongly pro gay rights” may possibly be true today, when “gay” and “gay rights” are relatively well-defined and (as is observed above) the tide of opinion has swung so quickly in favor of the latter. But even in a slightly wider historical frame this becomes a fairly meaningless.

22

Stradlater 08.13.13 at 6:44 pm

Is the reason homosexuals have made more progress not because they have been asking for less than women have done? It is still to some extent controversial whether gays and lesbians even have a right to exist. Forty years ago the received medical opinion was not that having a vagina was a birth defect.

23

dr ngo 08.13.13 at 6:46 pm

This may be implicit in Barry’s comment (@16), but I would have thought the most obvious front-line answer is that we ALL are involved, one way or another, in relationships with the opposite gender (even if these are not sexual there are parents and siblings and children and workmates) so any change in these relationships – which feminism must entail, if it’s worthy of the name – affects US and calls into question how we conduct and envisage our lives. Not easy.

Whereas for many Americans, (open) homosexuals are not part of their everyday lives, so the issue is more detached. People can get their knickers in a twist about it if they want, and some do, but I think many Americans are happy with some variation on “Let them do their own thing,” secure in the knowledge (delusion?) that it doesn’t affect their own lives directly. If gays want to get marry, what’s the harm? But if women want to invade *my* space, join *my* club, compete for *my* job, challenge *my* authority (political, clerical, familial), it’s not something I can just ignore, or “allow” at a distance. It affects my life, for better or worse.

For the record, I consider myself a feminist (albeit not necessarily a very good one) and am – in theory – willing to abandon (some) male privilege to see women achieve their goals, but it’s a much more personal, visceral matter than that of gay rights. (Which I also approve of, but it doesn’t touch me in the same way.)

24

Bloix 08.13.13 at 6:53 pm

My goodness, three posts in rapid succession that make the same point, each in their own way – 18, 19 & 20.

25

Mao Cheng Ji 08.13.13 at 6:53 pm

Hector, how can anyone be opposed to feminism, let alone bitterly opposed?

And I don’t mean the number of interviewees, but the basic concept: equal rights, no discrimination. If a better qualified woman applies for a job, are you bitterly opposed to her getting it?

26

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 6:53 pm

“Speaking for myself, I’m accepting of gay rights and ok with (secular) gay marriage, while being bitterly opposed to feminism.”

Yet you read Crooked Timber? Pray tell why?

27

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 6:57 pm

“Hector, how can anyone be opposed to feminism, let alone bitterly opposed?

And I don’t mean the number of interviewees, but the basic concept: equal rights, no discrimination. If a better qualified woman applies for a job, are you bitterly opposed to her getting it?”

For what it is worth Mao I have long believed that Hector is an example of Poe’s Law
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

28

prasad 08.13.13 at 7:01 pm

Agree completely with Michael Collins @11. The basic underlying cause of the difference is the closet, specifically the ability of gay people to cover. No-one ever excluded women in the sense of pretending they don’t exist, or making them act like they’re not women. The forms of social and cultural oppression on offer pretty much *have* to be consistent with treating the women in your life, who you love deeply, in that way. Which is to say they have to be subtler, and and must persuade a significant fraction of women (not just men) that the proper way for things to be is one that gives women a necessary and complementary but subordinate role.

And that’s why a simple strategy like coming out is so powerful in the gay case, and there’s nothing obvious of comparable strength in the female case. The oppression is “brittle” precisely because it’s so crude. It’s not just strangers mistreating you, it’s your own parents and siblings and friends and children. That’s a crushing pain for as long as it works, but also contains the seeds of its own undoing, since the people doing the whipping, they know it’s whipping, they just don’t know who they’re hurting. And once you’re out those people discover they can no longer treat you this way. That republican senator recently discovered he has a gay son. He’s always known his wife is a woman. Nor will he discover that some close blood relative is black.

29

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 7:02 pm

Gay rights, to me, is an issue of ‘here’s a small minority of people who want to do there own thing and leave the rest of us to do ours, lets leave then in peace.’ feminism is more an issue of ‘let’s take whatever is good, true and beautiful in Christian civilization and natural law, burn it, and mold a new race of genderless automatons out of the ashes.’

30

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 7:04 pm

Indeed, back when I opposed gay marriage (for a few years: I’m sorry for it) it was largely because I feared it would undermine traditional gender roles and empower the feminists.

31

ChrisTS 08.13.13 at 7:06 pm

Well, I think a number of people have nailed it: LGBTI folks want to be left alone. Women and people of color want to interact in new ways with those who reject those new ways.
And, no, I do no think the small number of people who believe they are being forced to interact with LGBTI folks is a counter point. Those people are just confusing their inner distaste with being made to genuinely interact with others. For the most part, they can ignore LGBTI people.

32

Salazar 08.13.13 at 7:09 pm

I don’t want to spend time arguing about which prejudice is more deeply entrenched, but I think the vast majority of men – and possibly more than a few women – are taught to internalize and legitimize male privilege from their earliest age.

In fact – and building on #12′s comment – sexism is so entrenched I wonder to what extent men can ever really become feminists. An online journalist (sorry, I forget the name) recently wrote a piece on how criticism of Lena Dunham and HBO’s “Girls” had made him a feminist. My question: Can you declare yourself a feminist, just like that, overnight? Or is feminism not so much a philosophy but rather a degree of awareness towards which men can ever merely move, in small steps, as part of a lifelong process?

Not something on which I’ve done a whole lot of thinking but….

33

Brett 08.13.13 at 7:09 pm

“Traditional” gender roles are a myth that developed around the domestic arrangements of 19th century middle-class Europeans.

34

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 7:09 pm

“‘let’s take whatever is good, true and beautiful in Christian civilization and natural law, burn it, and mold a new race of genderless automatons out of the ashes.’”

Hey! That is supposed to be a secret! Did you sneak into one of our lesbian femanazi meetings?

35

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 7:10 pm

ChrisT,

Not all women are feminists, believe it or not. Just like there are some ‘people of color’, like me, who believe that the dreaded white man of Europe invented civilizations that were on the whole, superior to any cultures that my race thought up.

36

ChrisTS 08.13.13 at 7:13 pm

“feminism is more an issue of ‘let’s take whatever is good, true and beautiful in Christian civilization and natural law, burn it, and mold a new race of genderless automatons out of the ashes.’”

1) Not everyone is a Christian and not everyone accepts natural law theory.

2) Even if we restrict your little world to those who are Christians and do accept NL theory, there is no evidence that feminism, as a whole, aims to turn us all into genderless automata.

37

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 7:20 pm

MPA Victoria,

What is Poe’s Law.

I don’t have a problem with lesbianism. I do have a problem with 1) abortion rights, 2) the denial that men and women are innately different and want different things, and 3) the hostility towards women and men who choose to follow traditional gender rolls.

In the future, I suspect gender complementarian marriages will be shunned by the Crooked Timber in the same way that gay marriage are shunned by the Jerry Falwall crowd today.

38

Mao Cheng Ji 08.13.13 at 7:20 pm

‘…neither free nor bond, neither male or female’, Hector. You’re all in one.

39

Anderson 08.13.13 at 7:22 pm

“feminism is more an issue of ‘let’s take whatever is good, true and beautiful in Christian civilization and natural law, burn it, and mold a new race of genderless automatons out of the ashes.’”

And the bras. Don’t forget, we’re burning the bras, too.

40

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 7:25 pm

Anderson,

Why burn a bra when you can burn a Bible.

41

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 7:25 pm

Paper is probably more flammable anyway.

42

MPAVictoria 08.13.13 at 7:28 pm

“What is Poe’s Law.”
I did helpfully provide a link. Though we have already had this conversation I think.

“I don’t have a problem with lesbianism.”
Glad to hear.

“I do have a problem with 1) abortion rights”
So basically you want to make women slaves? Free people have the right to control their own bodies Hector.

“In the future, I suspect gender complementarian marriages will be shunned by the Crooked Timber in the same way that gay marriage are shunned by the Jerry Falwall crowd today.”
I can’t speak for anyone else but what I hope we end up with is a world where women care free to make their own choices.

43

Plarry 08.13.13 at 7:40 pm

As I understand the post, the questions are what galvanizes social change and why isn’t social progress constant. I don’t have answers to them. But, why should we expect that all social movements should move at the same pace and at the same time? So, it is undeniable that the gay rights movement has made incredible strides in the U.S. in the last twenty years; but is this not comparable to the strides the feminist movement made in the fifties and sixties in the U.S., or that the civil rights movement made in roughly the same time frame?

44

Hidari 08.13.13 at 7:41 pm

One point that modern social science makes, which has really not been fully internalised by the public at large, is that almost certainly one person in 10 is NOT gay. Indeed the number seems to be closer to 1 in 100 (maybe a bit more than that, but not much more). I wonder if I may be cynical here and suggest that the spread of this knowledge is related to the current (partial and highly circumscribed) progress in gay rights. Gays can be give full civil rights and, since their numbers are so small, it doesn’t really threaten dominant power structures. To genuinely emancipate women would require a much more fundamental alteration in the status quo. Hence the reason patriarchy, it turns out, is much more firmly entrenched in Western culture even than homophobia.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/official-statistics-reveal-uk-gay-lesbian-and-bisexual-population-2087829.html

http://gaylife.about.com/od/comingout/a/population.htm

45

Ragweed 08.13.13 at 7:43 pm

Poe or not, some Trolls should just be silenced before they do more harm.

46

Michael Collins 08.13.13 at 7:45 pm

Salazar @12:

It depends on what “feminism” means, doesn’t it? You seem to mean a kind of nirvana from sexism: freedom from all internalized sexism. That’s harder for men than for women, because as the beneficiaries of sexism we suffer from cognitive dissonance, but I suspect it’s close to impossible for anyone our society.

If “feminism” is a sincere attempt to overcome internalized sexism, then men are capable of that. Some will be insincere or unwilling to put the necessary work in. And anyone who decided to become feminist yesterday shouldn’t get to pretend to be the Feminist Buddha today.

Now, my own guess is that it all depends on context, that sometimes men can call themselves feminists and sometimes they can’t. We can say “I’m a feminist!” in order to puncture the stereotype that feminists are all misandrist women from a bad 1970s cartoon. We can’t use it to buttress our privilege in a conversation about gender—”Don’t accuse me of sexism, Betty, because as a Male Feminist …”. Etcetera.

47

Trader Joe 08.13.13 at 8:04 pm

@43
Plarry makes a good point. Its easy to focus on “milestone” issues like the passage of keylegislation or big Supreme Court wins and use that as a guage of progress and its certainly one way of doing so, but the day to day blocking and tackling in the workplace, at the shop counter, in the admissions office that’s where these milestones are translated into permanent change.

When Roe v. Wade was affirmed one wouldn’t have expected, necessarily, that 40 years later Texas and Virginia would still be passing the kind of legislation they have been passing….the apparent “milestone progress” had to be matched with efforts to maintain the gains made.

The “DOMA victories” (and related) in the Supreme court and elsewhere belie the same need for diligence and not resting on laurels.

The VRA looked to be an obvious ‘game changer’ back in 1962, and here we are 50 years later….

Getting the law passed is sometimes the ‘easy’ part, getting society to move with that process is a much more gradual process.

P.S. Shouldn’t Daft Punk have the freedom to choose its partners without quotas – they aren’t exactly the University of Texas just because they play SXSW.

48

Theophylact 08.13.13 at 8:08 pm

Of course women are different from men. Some of the differences are essential, some irrelevant (as my wife would put it, “style details”). The question is, to what degree if any should these differences be reflected in rights? All it should take to be a feminist is to answer that question “None”.

49

Rmj 08.13.13 at 8:08 pm

Gay rights, to me, is an issue of ‘here’s a small minority of people who want to do there own thing and leave the rest of us to do ours, lets leave then in peace.’ feminism is more an issue of ‘let’s take whatever is good, true and beautiful in Christian civilization and natural law, burn it, and mold a new race of genderless automatons out of the ashes.’

Um, no; but at the same time: yeah.

I think same sex marriage (if not “gay rights”) is winning (although only what, 8 states recognize it right now? Not quite the same as Loving v Virginia wiping out miscegenation statutes at one blow…..well, someday.) because the “why do we care about how people love each other” argument is winning (it at least won over my 86 year old father when he found out a childhood friend of mine was in a committed lesbian relationship. But in this state, they couldn’t marry; which is (was; she died of cancer) sad.)

And the issue of equality for women both socially and legally, is seen as more of an attack on “me.” An odd bit of a boundaries issue. Used to be that way with gays and lesbians; if they are, maybe I am!!!!! But we got over that, by and large. Still, if women are equal, it might mean men have to stay home and raise kids; or clean toilets; or take out trash; or cook meals. (All things I’ve been doing for 35+ years of marriage, but apparently I’m still the aberration.)

I suspect that’s where the stumbling block is. Or one of them. Along with “If we have to pay ‘em the same, there’s less money to go around.” The “zero sum game” is always the economic argument; in brief, anyway.

My father doesn’t have to change much, in other words, to accept a young person he’s known all her life as a lesbian. But he would have to change a lot to accept women as completely equal in all ways to men. A LOT. It would be good change; but doing it?

Aye, there’s the rub.

50

ChrisTS 08.13.13 at 8:09 pm

@Hector:

Re. “gender rolls” – I believe you should be free to eat any kind of roll you like, so long as it is not made of human flesh.

And, yes, I know that there are women who claim they are not ‘feminists.’ When my female students say this, I ask them if they are in favor of equal pay for equal work, reproductive choice, etc. Turns out, they are feminists, after all.

51

Rmj 08.13.13 at 8:09 pm

Of course women are different from men. Some of the differences are essential, some irrelevant (as my wife would put it, “style details”). The question is, to what degree if any should these differences be reflected in rights? All it should take to be a feminist is to answer that question “None”.

Rights? Or just the way they are regarded in society?

How many hierarchies can we remove?

52

bexley 08.13.13 at 8:14 pm

Agree with those saying that feminism requires far more changes to society than gay rights does.

IMO the reason is that you can’t tell whether someone is gay or lesbian (or bi) just by looking at them, so building exploitation of the lesbigay community into the way society works isn’t possible. This contrasts with race and sex where you can look at someone, know which sex they are, decide to allocate them to one race or the other and open the possibility for societies to build in systematic racism and sexism.

53

Theophylact 08.13.13 at 8:16 pm

Rmj: As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

54

Theophylact 08.13.13 at 8:19 pm

Myself at # 53:

Not to put too fine a point upon it, but that’s where US military law has some work to do.

55

Rmj 08.13.13 at 8:25 pm

Rmj: As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

Well, yeah, law is important. But King’s “dream” wasn’t for a set of statutes.

I have no problem with laws the eliminate “difference,” although just as no law can eliminate racism, neither can it mandate sexual equality. Would that it were that easy. I was assuming that feminism, like the struggle for civil rights of which it is a component, was also about changing hearts and minds and so the culture.

Because we need a Voting Rights Act; but we also need a culture where the legal opinion of Justice Roberts on section 5 of the Act is so specious it would no more be written down than Justice Holmes now infamous “Three generations of imbeciles are enough!”

I don’t think that kind of eugenics is going to make a comeback soon; but sadly, it took the Nazis to kill it. Still, we need to work on making some kinds of social standards unthinkable, and that’s a reach far beyond “rights.”

’twas my only point.

56

prasad 08.13.13 at 8:30 pm

Of course women are different from men. Some of the differences are essential, some irrelevant (as my wife would put it, “style details”). The question is, to what degree if any should these differences be reflected in rights? All it should take to be a feminist is to answer that question “None”.

Vs.

“Traditional” gender roles are a myth that developed around the domestic arrangements of 19th century middle-class Europeans.

This may be one reason many people, women and men, don’t identify as feminists – they share many of the normative commitments, but don’t think all descriptive statements about gender roles or male female differences (including, gasp, innate ones) are myths.

To give one example, since it ties together gender and sexuality, consider the notion that men are (on average, yada yada) more promiscuous or want more casual sex than women. I believe that the moral status of promiscuity has to be gender neutral (no sluts versus studs differences for example), but I don’t think men and women desire it (again, on average, yada yada) equally. And a three-way comparison involving gay male, straight, and lesbian couples illustrates the point.

Feminism as the view that men and women exhibit no differences imposed coercively by Patriarchy commands only minority assent, among men or women. But gay rights as the view that gay people are identical to straight ones is the same. Equal certainly, same rights of course. But there’s no reason to decide purely empirical questions moralistically.

57

prasad 08.13.13 at 8:31 pm

“Feminism as the view that men and women exhibit no differences imposed coercively by Patriarchy “

Ugh, that should be no differences NOT imposed coercively.

58

JanieM 08.13.13 at 8:46 pm

although only what, 8 states recognize it right now

13 plus the District of Columbia.

59

Salem 08.13.13 at 8:51 pm

[H]ow can anyone be opposed to feminism… the basic concept: equal rights, no discrimination.

TLDR: Because for the most part, because that’s not what they see as feminism.

Most movements have claims at different levels. These exist on a spectrum, but we might simplify and refer to the platitude, the claim currently being fought over, and the extreme claim. So for feminism, these might look something like:

Platitude: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” (Rebecca West).
Controversy: “Women should get more maternity leave.” (Current feminist battle)
Extremist: “Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men’s contempt for women.” (Andrea Dworkin).

Now you’ll notice that the three positions are all logically distinct. Nevertheless, activists make use of them to wrap up the claim under controversy and try to make the association more or less palatable: “Unless you’re one of those man-hating feminazis, you’re not a feminist, so you should oppose increasing maternity leave.” “Unless you’re one of those bigoted misogynists, you’re a feminist, so you should favour increasing maternity leave.”

You’ll notice that even non-feminists don’t disagree with the platitude, and the extreme view – while not quite a straw-man, would be rejected by most feminists. But there is nevertheless some truth in the idea that there is a grand battle, because a lot of the pushing is done by ideologically driven people with much more extreme views than the average punter. If feminist activists get their way on maternity leave, they won’t just stop, they’ll move onto the next battle. Ditto anti-feminists.

You’ll notice that your capsule view of feminism – “equal rights and no discrimination” – is at this stage just a platitude. Indeed, how could anyone be against that! Someone else’s capsule view of feminism might be “Special rights for women over men, plus a neo-Victorian sexual prudishness.” And how could anyone be for that!

Note: this is a general phenomenon. We could do the same with environmentalism, socialism, libertarianism, or the Democratic Party, or whatever. Ideally these movements become victims of their own success, as the claim under controversy becomes sufficiently close to the extreme claim that they lose their own supporters. That is the optimistic interpretation as to why feminism has stalled (I am not generally an optimist).

60

Jacob McM 08.13.13 at 9:00 pm

@56

“I believe that the moral status of promiscuity has to be gender neutral (no sluts versus studs differences for example), but I don’t think men and women desire it (again, on average, yada yada) equally. “

One could make the argument that the stud/slut double standard is the outgrowth of biological differences in how men and women view sex and what they find desirable in a partner, and not a completely arbitrary societal construct. I’m not sure I would go down that path, but I’ve seen others do so.

61

js. 08.13.13 at 9:01 pm

I’m not sure I would say that gay people “want to be left alone” so much as that the fight for gay rights, at least over the past few decades in the US, has been defined by the LGBT community wanting participation rights in existing and deeply entrenched institutions. Whereas I think a lot (tho not all) of the flash points for contemporary feminism revolve around demands that if they were met would fundamentally alter existing and deeply entrenched institutions and associated norms. (This much Hector does get right.)

Here, I think this Amanda Marcotte piece about how “radical” contemporary feminism is, historically speaking, is totally on point. (Obviously, I think this is a huge selling point for contemporary feminism.)

62

LFC 08.13.13 at 9:01 pm

The OP refers to the “continued, largely unchanged structural sexual inequality.”

That description may apply to Ireland (and some other countries), but it somewhat obscures, IMO, the amt of progress in women’s rts that has been made — and has not been reversed — in the US and in much of Europe and S. America as well.

Women are still v. underrepresented in the highest business and govt positions, but there are women CEOs, women Senators, and the real possibility of a woman President in the foreseeable future (not something one cd say about the possibility of an openly gay President, btw). The position of women in academia is considerably different than it was, say, 30 or 40 years ago. I don’t know the figures offhand, but a look at the gender composition of the professioriate wd confirm this, I’m pretty sure. (A few yrs ago I was at an event where one female president of an Ivy League university introduced another as the main speaker — unlikely that cd have happened 30 or 40 years ago.)

Re Bloix @19: you give some historical perspective worth being reminded of. But I think you may be overestimating the degree to which feminism ‘threatens’ all traditional arrangements. If considered as a ‘rights movement’ I’m not sure it does: equal pay for equal work doesn’t threaten the fundamentalist or ‘traditional’ family where the wife doesn’t want to work outside the home. Access to abortion doesn’t threaten the person who wd never consider getting an abortion. Etc. “Feminism must necessarily transform every marriage, every sexual or “romantic” … relationship, every parenting relationship” is, I think, an overstatement; “many” yes, but not “every.”

63

LFC 08.13.13 at 9:05 pm

p.s. Recent decades have also seen women rise to leadership positions in major countries, from Thatcher to Merkel (their politics aside; we’re talking about gender barriers). The number of countries in which a woman pres. or PM is inconceivable is quite small.

64

Anderson 08.13.13 at 9:07 pm

Politically, “gay rights” is pretty uniform, whereas “feminism” is all over the map. Very few people are radical feminists (no criticism there, just counting), but the Right tries to equate the equal-rights feminism mentioned at 50 upthread with radical feminism. Hence, perhaps, the belief of many women that they aren’t feminist: virtually everyone telling them what “feminism” is, is against it.

(And the weird spectacle of people like Michele Bachmann, a wingnut U.S. Representative who belonged to a fundamentalist denomination that wouldn’t even let women teach Sunday school.)

65

prasad 08.13.13 at 9:16 pm

One could make the argument that the stud/slut double standard is the outgrowth of biological differences in how men and women view sex and what they find desirable in a partner, and not a completely arbitrary societal construct. I’m not sure I would go down that path, but I’ve seen others do so.

My view isn’t that the slut/stud double standard cannot be explained, quite to the contrary. Understanding the phenomenon and its origin should help us reject it. I’m saying that the double standard is *morally* arbitrary, not that it’s an arbitrary and unpredictable accident that sexual norms would evolve in a society that shame women over sex more than men.

To jog the intuition, I also understand how a special disgust response adheres to anal sex that doesn’t to vaginal sex. (I’ve seen earnest gay rights supporters argue piously that this difference is purely artifact of patriarchy and culture as well. The only people that convinces are those who don’t need convincing and are already on your side.) Fine, but that saying nothing much about whether sodomy should be illegal or stigmatized.

66

Mao Cheng Ji 08.13.13 at 9:20 pm

Salem, I understand what you’re saying, but “equal rights and no discrimination” is the dictionary definition of feminism. The rest, the culture-wars stuff, is something else.

67

Anon. 08.13.13 at 9:22 pm

Let me tell you why gay rights has been so successful and feminism (as you define it) has not: one is looking for equality of rights, the other for equality of outcomes. The former is easy to identify with, easy to support. The latter is thoroughly evil.

And just look at the people your brand of feminism likes to associate itself with: Irigaray, a thoroughly anti-science far-left looney. McKinnon, et. al., women who fear sex so much they have become 21st century puritans. The list, of course, goes on.

You ask “Do we really have to keep re-writing every word of this stuff for each successive generation?”

Maybe you shouldn’t re-write it. Maybe it’s time for a different approach. Maybe “we hate science, rationality, prosperity, and sex” isn’t the optimal message to advance women’s rights.

68

Theophylact 08.13.13 at 9:23 pm

Salem et al.: It’s simply not true that nobody seriously disputes the principle that women should have rights equal to those of men. In this country (USofA) substantial minorities, mainly but not exclusively religious, hold that a woman’s position is and should be one of subservience to the male. Worldwide, with notably rare exceptions, that’s the majority view (sometimes countered, sometimes enforced by national law).

69

LFC 08.13.13 at 9:24 pm

Also I think Salem @59 and Anderson @64 are right about the spectrum of meanings of ‘feminism’.

70

Anderson 08.13.13 at 9:34 pm

the other for equality of outcomes

Since you are so expert, dear Anon., kindly identify for us the school of feminism that demands “equality of outcomes.” Whatever that even means.

71

Anon. 08.13.13 at 9:40 pm

@70

The school which complains about the gender ratio of interviewees on radio shows.

72

Anderson 08.13.13 at 9:46 pm

71: Right, because if women aren’t deemed worth talking to, it’s because men are so much smarter and more interesting. Got it.

73

lupita 08.13.13 at 10:01 pm

So keep digging, girls. I’ve got your back.

Thank you and a gentle reminder that, in Latin America, the struggle against the oppression of women is very strongly linked to struggle against neoliberalism, neocolonialism, and capitalism.

74

Main Street Muse 08.13.13 at 10:01 pm

“…feminism is more an issue of ‘let’s take whatever is good, true and beautiful in Christian civilization and natural law, burn it, and mold a new race of genderless automatons out of the ashes.”

Oh Hector! How many lives have been shed promoting all that is “good, true and beautiful in Christian civilization?” And how is it “natural law?” Think about the Crusades, the Inquisition, what England did to Ireland, etc. and so on! Not so natural after all…

Women who do not want to be financially dependent on a man who could leave on a whim to go chasing that pretty tail (in that naturally promiscuous way of all men, apparently) are not “genderless automatons,” despite what you think.

75

Meredith 08.13.13 at 10:05 pm

Just to urge that people read Bloix@19 for a sense of the pre-AIDS world of gay activism. (The sources of the word “gay” are to be found in this earlier world.) One place to go for a sense of that world in NYC at least — runs as a leit-motif through Jeremiah Moss’s posts, not a theme:
http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/

I also agree with those here who have noted the huge progress made in western democracies (thought elsewhere, too) re feminism. Easy to underestimate the progress if you didn’t live through an earlier era, or are too young now to have heard first-hand tales of women’s lives, say, 110 years ago from, e.g., middle class women in the eastern U.S. For instance, my grandmothers were young women in their 20′s with children before they got to vote. Impressive progressive when you consider how much more deeply and thoroughly and utterly issues raised by feminism challenge our eons-old social, political and economic arrangements than just about anything else does.

Not to limit the discussion to liberal traditions of rights. Thanks to JanieM @2 for the link — maybe transgender struggles will open all of us to taking the next steps….

76

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 10:10 pm

Main Street Muse,

Belief in gender rolls is about 50% genetically heritable, and traditionalists have more babies than feminists. do the match. The future belong to those who show up.

77

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 10:12 pm

MPA Victoria,

Your so-called ‘freedom to control your body’ or whatever the buzzword is in the Santa Monica salons right now, is trivial compared to the life of the embryo. at least, in the minds of morally civilised people. if you choose to adopt the morality of a New Guinea cannibal tribe instead, according to which human people are dispemdable, I can’t particularly help you.

78

Walt 08.13.13 at 10:18 pm

Hector’s completely taken over a thread about feminism! Yay, be still my beating heart.

79

Main Street Muse 08.13.13 at 10:26 pm

To Hector, Hilary Clinton, breeder that she is, showed up to the table. As did Sarah Palin. Oh, and so did Sheryl Sandberg, and millions of others like her. Nice of you to ignore contributions of working mothers. But blindness such as yours requires firmly closed eyes.

And are those gender rolls the kind served with dinner or are they really just delicious cronuts or better yet, flakey biscuits? Just curious…

80

Maria 08.13.13 at 10:29 pm

Janie_M, many thanks for pointing out the absence of sisters in my reference to comrades in arms. I will fix that right away. I was rather lazily foreshadowing my suspicion that some of the reason for the successes of the gay rights movement are to do with many of its adherents being white and male.

MPAVictoria – you don’t need to apologise for anything. You’ve got speakers’ rights around here, AFAIAC.

Hector, you’ve had your fun and I’m not having the thread derailed any more. Please refrain from any more comments on this thread.

81

js. 08.13.13 at 10:30 pm

I somehow missed Bloix’s 19 the first time around. That is a phenomenal comment; I needn’t have bothered with my 61 at all.

82

Nick 08.13.13 at 10:35 pm

72: It could be for any number of reasons. Regardless, its the equivalent of worrying about the ratio of gay marriages to different sex marriages rather than the formal availability of gay marriage.

Which is not to say there isnt plenty of gender-based violence and discrimination that pervade society. Just that some of the focus of some feminists (sometimes the most priviledged and media accessible) is on rather ‘up town’ non-problems.

83

Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 10:36 pm

Maria,

Ok, if you say so.

84

Maria 08.13.13 at 10:50 pm

Thanks, Hector.

85

Maria 08.13.13 at 10:52 pm

Bloix @ 19, thank you for taking the time to point out to this straight person the innate conservatism of today’s gay rights agenda. Demanding the right to get married and join the army don’t exactly challenge our current way of life, do they?

Just one quibble, you say I refer to romance & marriage as ‘natural’. I don’t think they are natural, in the sense of being either for everyone or the norm to which all should aspire. I mentioned the word natural in a description of what I took to be the formerly mainstream view of gay people as “destined to live short, unhappy lives, outside of the natural bonds of romance, matrimony and dullness”, i.e. it’s not my own view. (Though I was basically setting up a rhetorical straw man of the views of others, which maybe isn’t so admirable either.)

86

Suzanne 08.13.13 at 10:55 pm

“how Brazilian pubic waxes are weirdly infantilizing”
– Do we have to attack other peoples personal grooming choices?–

@4: It’s not that simple. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, “personal” grooming choices aren’t merely personal; they’re driven by outside cultural influences. Perfectly serious debates about cosmetics and leg-shaving took place in the early years of modern feminism. Sometimes it got a bit silly, but there was and is a deeper question about the amount of time, effort, and money that women have to spend on outward appearances and the lengths to which women feel pressured to go in altering their natural body shape and look to meet the current cultural norm. The (un)acceptable amount of body hair on women was and is a particularly fraught question.

In any case, fear not — the radicals lost on this one, so we are all still free to “choose” face paint, “makeovers,” painful sessions of body waxing, and costly uncomfortable shoes.

(Cultural history note: I still have my Epilady, a sadomasochistic device once sold behind department store counters that tore out your hairs with “soothing” coils. Why CIA never thought of using these for “enhanced interrogation” purposes I’ll never know.)

87

Metatone 08.13.13 at 10:58 pm

To my mind there’s an elephant in the room which has been implicit in some comments, but not really laid out properly.

If we take two examples, the USA and Ireland, then one major, important difference is that probably 80% of gay people will make gay rights an important part of their political (voting/activism) calculus. For women, the numbers around feminism are lower – and worse where the 20% of gay people who aren’t impressed with gay rights aren’t in the main active against them, there’s a good 30% (at least) of women who consistently vote for anti-feminist politicians.

88

Bruce Baugh 08.13.13 at 11:02 pm

Bloix wrote pretty much everything I thought of as a first response. I think the role of AIDS is crucial. It’s interesting in being a disease with vectors that keep it not quite entirely within fairly normal bounds, most of them encasing already marginalized groups. But it can and does spread outside them. It was a big test for a lot of people’s inchoate sense of natural vengeance on sin and just being the wrong kind of person, and it turned out that the people moralizing it all were, well, wrong. As Bloix said, it absolutely devastated existing GLBT communities, with a huge whack at the leadership of the time; it also shook up a bunch of surrounding society’s certainties about disease and deservingness.

If you spend time with the history of pre-AIDS gay activism, particularly if you get to spend time with people who were part of it, it becomes increasingly clear that it’s very difficult to even imagine what the situation of modern GLBT people would be without AIDS. The movement reconstituted itself in ways that led both to much greater success and to profound diminishment of visions – exactly as folks have written here about the diminishment of visions of alternative to neoliberal capitalism, or perhaps part of the very same social tide.

It’s also true that friends of mine in GLBT activism are quite sure that they get chosen for funding and support because they can put forward genteel-seeming white guys along with the others. They are, in that sense, significantly less socially disruptive than efforts focusing on women’s rights, the rights of people of color, union organization, and the like – even when they take every opportunity to declare their support for all these things, they still make for photo ops and corporate brochure fluff showing commitment to social progress booyah without requiring nearly as much actual change.

89

Hidari 08.13.13 at 11:06 pm

@85

But this is the solution to the gay rights movement’s success, yes? (Also, @61). The current gay rights movement is solely concerned with mimicking and so to speak ‘infiltrating’ the straight world. Joining the army, getting married, getting a job at (and then being laid off from) some multinational corporation….these are the current aims of the modern gay rights movement, as far as I can see. Clearly there is no threat to existing power structures here. What has been completely lost is the radical gay rights movement’s critique of contemporary society, which genuinely questioned institutions like the army, marriage, corporate life, heteronormativity etc. Gay rights have been accepted insofar as the gay rights movement has ditched the radicals. At the end of the day, gays have to adapt to the straight world, not the other way round.

And the same with feminism, although it hasn’t been so successful. Women are allowed to become successful insofar as they behave “like men” (Hilary Clinton, Golda Meir, Thatcher). In other words, they are allowed to achieve power as long as they don’t self-identify as feminists (or if they do, they espouse feminism in such an empty depoliticised way that the word becomes essentially meaningless). The idea that women might gain power in order to seriously challenge patriarchy is simply off the table in modern political discussion. It hasn’t worked so well because it turns out that misogyny is much more deeply rooted in Western culture than we thought, but the basic, ahem, thrust of modern feminism is clear.

And this has occurred at the same time as a genuinely radical critique of capitalism also became essentially unutterable. One wonders if this is a coincidence.

90

Salem 08.13.13 at 11:27 pm

@Theophylact:

Salem et al.: It’s simply not true that nobody seriously disputes the principle that women should have rights equal to those of men. In this country (USofA) substantial minorities, mainly but not exclusively religious, hold that a woman’s position is and should be one of subservience to the male.

Firstly, I don’t agree that you are describing a “substantial minority” (say, 10% of the population). But yes, there are certainly some people who think like that (perhaps even in this thread!), so it’s not quite a straw-man. At the same time, this is hardly a charitable interpretation of most non-feminists views, and someone advancing this is clearly playing the game I described in (59) of trying to disparage a broad coalition group by its most extreme position. Anti-feminists can – and do – play the exact same game. There are lots of not-quite-strawman versions of feminism out there that sensible people would shudder to defend.

This dynamic actually encourages entrepreneurs to come up with ever more straw-like positions, because it attracts notoriety from opponents, and can feed a “holier than thou” dynamic within the movement itself. See e.g. Andrea Dworkin or Ann Coulter. I don’t think it’s in any way healthy.

Perhaps I’m a naive and squishy centrist, but I do think it’s possible to have incremental progress on these questions, through sensible and reasoned discussion. But then, perhaps it looks different to people who think that true feminism involves a genuinely radical critique of society. To me, it would look much like the world we have today, but with less sexual harrassment and a few more women in boardrooms (and prisons).

91

Bruce Baugh 08.14.13 at 12:28 am

Hidari: I don’t want to come off as insulting here, either in presuming way too much or way too little knowledge on your part. Pardon me if I do either. Do you know about the ongoing debate among GLBT activists about ENDA-style statutes?

Oh, hey, it occurs to me that whether or not you know about it, others won’t. Hidari, you can skip the rest of this if it’s old hat.

ENDA stands for “Employment Non-Discrimination Act”. It’s legislation that GLBT Congresspeople introduce every few years, that so far hasn’t gone anywhere. A serious hot issue in the GLBT scene is how encompassing it should be. The Human Rights Campaign, which is by far the most media-prominent G-kinda-L-occasionally-B-no-room-for-T advocacy group, pushes a narrowly construed approach, focusing exclusively or primarily on discrimination on the basis of orientation. On at least one occasion it’s gotten boosters to hold up and dispose of bills that would have ranged more widely – a lot of T and B people regard HRC as the worst kind of ally-talking, enemy-acting neighbor with damn good reason. Other groups would like to see much wider coverage of issues around gender identity and gender expression – basically, not only should you be safe from being fired for not being straight, but also for being more butch or otter than your boss likes, going through trans* transitioning, and the like.

HRC and its supporters are, basically, a very bourgeois group, and very much uninterested in any particular issues facing LGBT people of color, to boot. This probably isn’t 100% unconnected with the relative ease its representatives have getting air time and column space, when compared to groups that do take up these concerns.

In short, the GLBT rights scene is deeply divided right now, and one side of it has a disproportionately hard time being seen or heard by the surrounding population.

92

prasad 08.14.13 at 12:36 am

“What has been completely lost is the radical gay rights movement’s critique of contemporary society, which genuinely questioned institutions like the army, marriage, corporate life, heteronormativity etc. “

I thought the most salient aspect of that critique was of conventional *sexual* mores. Especially in the shadow of AIDS (repeatedly cited here as what cut that that radical movement off at the knees) maybe it’s also possible to say the radical view wasn’t so spiffy as that, and stop acting like teenagers affecting contempt for anything “mainstream.” Not all social constraints on behavior are imposed by mustache twirlers who would seek to control for their own benefit. A culture of rampant promiscuity, substance abuse and instability also runs into purely internal difficulties, so maybe it’s a good thing people are moving on.

93

js. 08.14.13 at 12:54 am

People seem to think you can draw a clear distinction between “radical” and, umm, “moderate”(?) feminism, but this isn’t nearly as easy as it seems. Say you want fair equality of opportunity (in the Rawlsian sense). Totally liberal, non-radical demand. Okay, but pretty immediately you’re going to have to start talking about sharing housework and esp. child-care. At the very least. Because you can’t have the one without the other. And so immediately, you’re knee deep in “cultural” issues. (And I take it that it’s no accident at all that issues around house work have become more prominent as equality of opportunity has in good measure increased—not to say we have anything like fair opportunity of equality now.) Which is simply another way of saying why the resistance is so strong, and why the gains are so hard-fought.

Maybe people think radical feminism = Dworkin, but that seems to be pretty done and dusted—if you look at Marcotte or Feministing, etc., it’s just not there. (And I may well be wrong about this, but my sense is that setting aside the press the anti-porn campaign got, she was always a bit of an outlier.)

94

JanieM 08.14.13 at 1:02 am

equal pay for equal work doesn’t threaten the fundamentalist or ‘traditional’ family where the wife doesn’t want to work outside the home.

Going out on a limb because this is in no way my field, but: yes, I think it does threaten that “traditional” structure, because it fogs up / complicates the relationship between a single full-time job’s wages and what a family can be expected to live on.

95

JanieM 08.14.13 at 1:18 am

1. I haven’t had time yet to read the whole thread, but it’s much better than I expected when I left the house midday.

2. I have led a deeply unconventional life in some ways and a quiet, mainstream one in others. I grew up in a small midwestern town in a deeply traditional Italian-Catholic world (I was in high school before I knew there were Irish Catholics too….except that my mother was a Baptist, so….well, never mind all that now). I quite literally didn’t know that gay people existed until I was discovering I was one, when I was in college. For that matter, never mind homosexuality, I barely knew sex existed, and in the end it became the trigger for and framework of my rebellion against the world I was raised in.

So from my vantage point, whatever you can say about radical goals vs. conservative / mainstreaming / middle class / conventional ones, the ongoing dismantling of the closet is a step in the right direction.

3. Despite the current dismantling, I don’t think we can at all take the gains we’ve made for granted, although at this point it would probably take a wider (than just gay issues) upheaval to unravel them.

96

floopmeister 08.14.13 at 1:24 am

Hector St Clare: “Speaking for myself…”

Never truer word was spoken.

97

Witt 08.14.13 at 2:00 am

equal pay for equal work doesn’t threaten the fundamentalist or ‘traditional’ family where the wife doesn’t want to work outside the home.

In my experience it can be perceived as very threatening indeed — for example, when an employer is faced with the decision of how much to offer a new male hire, and current female staff object to the idea of offering him more for the same job “because he has a family to support.”

98

Main Street Muse 08.14.13 at 2:19 am

To Witt @97 “In my experience it can be perceived as very threatening indeed — for example, when an employer is faced with the decision of how much to offer a new male hire, and current female staff object to the idea of offering him more for the same job “because he has a family to support.”

And the women do not have families to support? And all these sexless women know somehow that this father is making more than them? And this male new hire’s value to the company is determined by the fact that “he has a family to support” – a family that deserves more, somehow, than the family of a female colleague?

The job is the the job. Whether or not the man or woman has a family to support really should not factor into the salary. This is how salary is determined at your place of work?

99

Bloix 08.14.13 at 2:30 am

Having gone back and read what I wrote, I can see that although I think I’m correct in viewing AIDS as a turning point from “liberation” to “rights,” I’ve managed to ignore the very important work of ACT UP in publicizing the need for action on AIDS and in changing the way that AIDS research was conducted. ACT UP was not conservative in its goals or its methods. But it was narrowly targeted at a specific issue and was not an effort to change society in significant ways.

100

Witt 08.14.13 at 3:12 am

Main Street Muse, I find the practice totally objectionable (and no, this isn’t my current employer). But I’ve heard it enough times not to be surprised by it any more.

I cited it just as an example that there are still many people for whom “equal pay for equal work” is NOT actually something they’re fine with, when the rubber meets the road.

It’s particularly boggling when I know women who, for example:

- are expected to send several hundred dollars a month to support an elderly aunt
- have an adult son with severe mental illness and an adult daughter with cancer who both need support
- are preparing to adopt a child as a single parent

…not to mention all of the men and women for whom life’s expenses and demands do not neatly fall into the category of “have stay-at-home* spouse and minor children to support”.

*hate this phrasing but don’t have other handy

101

Mao Cheng Ji 08.14.13 at 6:36 am

Hidari 89 “Women are allowed to become successful insofar as they behave “like men” (Hilary Clinton, Golda Meir, Thatcher).”

I consider you one of the best commenters here, but come on, what the hell is this all about? Do they scratch their balls or something? And is Barak Obama acting too white?

How can you lament unequal outcomes and endorse gender stereotypes at the same time? Or have I misunderstood?

102

Hidari 08.14.13 at 7:24 am

No I am not upholding stereotypes, hence the quotation marks, which I was careful to put in. Whatever ‘is’ the case, many people hold that males uphold the values of war, domination, hierarchy etc. and women don’t: that’s the stereotype anyway. Whether this has any basis in fact is irrelevant for my argument. Thatcher et al acted in the way that society perceived and perceives men ‘ought to’ behave.

“Do they scratch their balls or something?”

No but all three were and are notorious war mongers, who assiduously distanced themselves from feminism. In Thatcher’s case she went out of her way to pursue policies that specifically hit working class women. And in Thatcher and Meir’s case, their ‘breakthrough’ turned out to be nothing of the sort. Both Israel and the UK’s political system remains as male dominated as ever (and, therefore, one might argue, as pro-war, anti-egalitarian, and as ‘macho’ as ever), and the idea of another female political leader of their stature in Israel and the UK is as much of a fantasy now as it was before they came to power.

103

Phil 08.14.13 at 8:03 am

Things have changed. I’m old enough (just) to remember the 1960s, and back then you’d barely ever see a woman politician or business leader or unionist on the news; if one ever got through she’d inevitably get the “as a woman” question, either in banter or because the interviewer was genuinely curious (“how does the balance of payments crisis affect women?”). In the same period – not at all coincidentally – you’d never see a woman driving a bus or a lorry or a mail van, and women in offices were generally there to take dictation [sic] from men. That we can even talk about equality of opportunity as unfinished business shows how far we’ve come in half a century.

In other ways, the OP is right and things are still pretty bloody awful – perhaps more overtly and aggressively awful than they were for women of my mother’s generation (you don’t want to know how long ago that was). I remember seeing the big ad campaign for Wonderbra in the 90s and thinking what happened? where did all those gains go? Lynne Segal argued that what was happening was pushback – trying to put newly-independent women back in their box by attacking them on terrain where they’re still vulnerable. I think that’s just what we’re seeing now. Part of me thinks the vicious misogyny of the anti-feminist tweeters (and Youtube commenters, and others) has a ragged, desperate quality to it, which ultimately bodes well for the future: they’re going for the really nasty stuff now because there’s no one behind them and that’s all they’ve got. But part of me always was a sunny optimist.

104

Gareth Wilson 08.14.13 at 8:24 am

Who’s to say that being a warmonger and attacking the working class is incompatible with feminism? Granted Thatcher specifically said she wasn’t a feminist, so it’s a moot point. But can’t you imagine an absolutely genuinely feminist who nevertheless has other views that you find odious? If you can’t, that’s a funny definition of feminism.

105

Andrew Fisher 08.14.13 at 8:26 am

To me it seems that for as long as gay identities have existed, gay people have been OK as long as they expressed these identities with due discretion in private contexts, and not otherwise. This is still the case now, albeit the values for ‘due discretion’ and ‘private contexts’ have both changed.

So in addition to Bloix’s point @19 (which I certainly couldn’t improve on) there’s also been an interesting change in the role of marriage itself within our culture (at least in the UK, with which I’m familiar). Nowadays we tend to think of the decision to be married or unmarried as a private one.

106

Mao Cheng Ji 08.14.13 at 8:39 am

Hidari, but these are stereotypes: men are from Mars, women from Venus, and all that. Sure, a lot of people do uphold them, but we don’t have to.

And this: “she went out of her way to pursue policies that specifically hit working class women” is implying that you expect women politicians to sympathize with women, and therefore men with men. This is not helpful. They are politicians like any other politicians; their gender is irrelevant.

107

Tim Worstall 08.14.13 at 8:42 am

The OP is arguing that the gay rights movement has been successful (largely so far and will be totally soon enough) over gay marriage.

The comparison is then to women’s rights. But part of the explanation could be that of course marriage rights were already available to women. Err, obviously.

The fight for women’s rights has been more about economic and political rights. Which we might assume are rather harder to gouge out of the pre-existing system. And I wouldn’t say that that fight has been unsuccessful either. It’s only Appenzell InnerRhoden which has even attempted to make the right to vote gender unequal again (and to make the point about gay rights, no one has been suggesting that sexuality has any influence at all on the right to vote. Gender, yes historically, but sexuality no).

On the economic rights, in my lifetime a woman has gone from being the simple economic appendage of her nearest male relative (husband, father, brother, whatever) to being an entirely distinct economic unit. Back in the early 60s a woman could not even have a bank account (in the UK that is) without the signature of some man or other. All of that has gone: by the late 80s we moved to entirely individual taxation. No longer is, economically and in the law, a woman treated as some part of a unit, she’s entirely an individual with exactly the same rights and responsibilities (for her own debts for example, something that wasn’t true those decades ago, husbands could be held liable for a wife’s debts) as any other adult individual.

Maybe things still need to go further, but to say that things haven’t changed, or that the same fights are being fought again, strikes me as being untrue.

@33 ““Traditional” gender roles are a myth that developed around the domestic arrangements of 19th century middle-class Europeans.”

Seriously? The millennia of recorded human history we have where women do the majority of the domestic and child rearing work is all an invention of the 19th century?

108

Hidari 08.14.13 at 9:08 am

“is implying that you expect women politicians to sympathize with women, and therefore men with men. This is not helpful.”

Not it’s not. ‘Sympathy’ is not the issue here. I am merely pointing out that feminism is inherently a political movement (it is in no sense ‘above’ or ‘beyond’ politics), and that women tend to attain power in the ‘West’ only insofar as they distance themselves from it as a political movement. Thatcher went out of her way to NOT promote other women to positions of power. Exactly the same with Obama, who had to go through the ritual of distancing himself from ‘extremists’ (cf Jeremiah Wright) before he was allowed to attain power, and who has again kept African-American political movements at arm’s length. And of course the ‘working-class hero’ who is allowed to ‘climb the greasy pole’ only insofar as s/he distances himself from working class political movements was satirised in John Lennon’s song of the same name.

@104 ” But can’t you imagine an absolutely genuinely feminist who nevertheless has other views that you find odious? “

Of course one finds examples of ‘feminists’ who hate Jews and blacks and poor people. Indeed that’s the kind of ‘feminist’ that tends to get on in the world. But if one empties the word of any sort of political meaning then that’s the definition of feminism one tends to end up with (“I am a feminist because I happen to be a woman, but if I wasn’t then I wouldn’t be”.)

I would argue that it is a strange sort of feminist that would argue “I am a feminist. But I hate Jewish women. And black women. And Asian women. And poor women. And lesbians. And in fact any women who is not identical to me in every way”.

109

Hidari 08.14.13 at 9:09 am

First sentence should have been ‘No I’m not’.

110

Hidari 08.14.13 at 9:14 am

Sorry one last point before I head out: For example, the OP is of course right about all the things it mentions. But one thing it does NOT mention is the current economic war on women. This is structural, insidious, and linked in all sorts of ways to the fact that the current UK government is run by and for white wealthy males.

“The ConDem Government has been accused of declaring all-out war on women with its brutal cuts.

Tax credits and social care are targeted, with a rise in the retirement age and the loss of thousands of public sector jobs, in what Labour’s equalities spokeswoman Yvette Cooper called “the worst attack on women in the entire history of the welfare state”.”

Check out all the latest News, Sport & Celeb gossip at Mirror.co.uk http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/spending-cuts-the-real-victims-of-the-war-255666#ixzz2bvur5lRC
Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook

111

Mao Cheng Ji 08.14.13 at 10:09 am

“women tend to attain power in the ‘West’ only insofar as they distance themselves from it as a political movement.”

In fact, it’s the opposite, IMO. Hardly any politician can attain power in the ‘West’ without embracing feminism. Feminism is the default position, except for some nibbling around the edges (women soldiers in combat sort of things). Equal rights is feminism, and “promote other women to positions of power” is something else.

112

Hidari 08.14.13 at 10:33 am

” Hardly any politician can attain power in the ‘West’ without embracing feminism”.

Really. So could you quote me from when David Cameron said ‘I am a feminist’? Or “I embrace feminism”? Or Obama for that matter? (And the idea that any Republican politician could ever describe themselves as a feminist is science fictional).

“Equal rights is feminism”. That’s actually a highly debatable point,* but let’s assume it’s watertight. When has any political leader in the West (outside the Nordic countries) stated openly that they are in favour of real equal rights for women (not repealing rights that are already won doesn’t count. I’m not suggesting that Obama or David Cameron want to strip women of the vote.)? I don’t know much about the US, but in the UK the Coalition scrapped the equality assessment, that was in place to make sure policies were not going to have adverse affects on minority or vulnerable groups, such as women. Cameron once stated that the under representation of women in parliament was “scandalous” a situation he has gone out of his way to make worse.

Your comment seems bizarre in view of the current UK government which is the most aggressively sexist in recent years. Of course if you strip the word ‘feminism’ of any political or normative meaning then any government on earth (up to and including that of Saudi Arabia) could consider themselves to be feminist. And, in practice, I’m sure they do.

*Actually the more I think about it the more I think it’s nonsense. Are you suggesting that equality won’t be achieved until there are an equal number of rape crisis centres for men and women?

113

Phil 08.14.13 at 11:02 am

I would argue that it is a strange sort of feminist that would argue “I am a feminist. But I hate Jewish women. And black women. And Asian women. And poor women. And lesbians. And in fact any women who is not identical to me in every way”.

How about “I am a feminist, and I oppose all discrimination, whether it be against women, ethnic minorities, LGBT people or disabled people. And I’m crossing this picket line because I believe in management’s right to manage – that equality and diversity policy isn’t going to implement itself!”

Not that it’s up to me, but I preferred “women’s liberation” to “feminism”. Women’s liberation was always about power.

114

Main Street Muse 08.14.13 at 11:43 am

To Hidari @112, the idea that men in power must publicly embrace feminism is false. In NC, the male (GOP) House majority leader just publicly suggested that the female head of public education should focus on her knitting, not the job of education millions of children with an insufficient budget…

And he’s not alone in disparaging women in such a way.

115

Bruce Baugh 08.14.13 at 11:51 am

I admit to wondering what history is like in the timeline Mao Cheng Ji is from.

116

Tom Slee 08.14.13 at 11:57 am

js. @ 61. links to Amanda Marcotte, who writes

I don’t call anti-trans feminists “radical”. I call them reactionary. I don’t even really think of them as feminists, because feminism is about breaking down rigid gender ideology.

I don’t know that I get a vote – being a middle-aged white male – but Marcotte seems to be saying pretty clearly that to qualify as a feminist one must have a particular position, not on women’s rights or patriarchy, but on the struggle of trans people. Hence, that feminism is not primarily about women’s rights. If so, then it seems to me that something is being lost.

More than that, it sounds like one more case of women being told (in this case by another woman) that their cause in and of itself is insufficiently important (in this case, to even qualify as being a feminist!) and needs to take second place to another cause (in this case LGBT rights).

117

Mao Cheng Ji 08.14.13 at 12:04 pm

I was just trying to peel off the rhetoric (“Women are allowed to become successful insofar as they behave “like men””), and bring some clarity. But I don’t think I can succeed, so I’ll shut up.

118

Barry 08.14.13 at 12:22 pm

Bruce Baugh 08.14.13 at 11:51 am
“I admit to wondering what history is like in the timeline Mao Cheng Ji is from.”

One in which a MA Coffee Party candiate for the Senate advocated mandatory castration for any married man at the request of his wife, and joked that men don’t feel real pain.

And won the election.

119

Barry 08.14.13 at 12:24 pm

Tim Worstall:

“The OP is arguing that the gay rights movement has been successful (largely so far and will be totally soon enough) over gay marriage.

The comparison is then to women’s rights. But part of the explanation could be that of course marriage rights were already available to women. Err, obviously.”

Even for you, this is bad.

120

Arolem 08.14.13 at 1:03 pm

@56, 60,65: One can also argue that the perceived difference in women’s desire for casual sex and promiscuity is an outcome of the stud/slut double standard. When that double standard can affect aspects of life from employment to options for partners to self-esteem, what wonder that men inflate and women diminish their sexual behaviors in self reports? Which are the primary source of data on sexual behaviors and desires.

Prasad suggests, “And a three-way comparison involving gay male, straight, and lesbian couples illustrates the point,” but all the above grew up in the same stud/slut culture. Until we have a gender-neutral moral status on sexuality, in place long enough that a generation grows up without internalizing the double standard, I don’t think we’ll have a real basis for comparison of desires.

121

Jace 08.14.13 at 1:27 pm

Am I the only one who senses in this piece a degree of bitterness towards gays and the gay rights movement?

First off, I don’t particularly agree with the comparison of feminism to the gay rights movement. As Barry has put forth, it is a comparison women’s rights to the gay movement. If we were to evaluate the progress of women’s rights versus gay rights in the last 50 years, I think we would all have to agree that the women’s rights movement has been the more successful. It is only recently that gay rights are being recognized in legislation. Still in many countries it is illegal to be openly homosexual and carries a penalty of incarceration or even death. It is not, to my knowledge, illegal to be a woman…anywhere.

As a gay man, I don’t necessarily feel like feminists are my “natural allies”. Feminism is, to me, a very broad term and I could not possibly say I identify with all or even most of the ideals and beliefs it encompasses. As a gay man and more generally as a person who has had to deal with the difficulties of discrimination and hate because of the way I was born, I would consider all opressed people to be my allies in the fight for human rights.

122

hello 08.14.13 at 1:51 pm

Why are shaved pubes infantilizing? At least shaved pubes have a purpose in oral sex (and are done by men and women, gay and straight) as well as arguably more aesthetically pleasing.

Anyone who shaves their legs or armpits or anything else has absolutely no right to criticise shaved pubes and should be called out for the hypocrite they are.

123

Hidari 08.14.13 at 1:59 pm

@114 That was precisely my point. The situation is not that much better in the UK although, because we are British, the sexism lacks the aggressive malice that is the speciality of the American Republican party.

The election of Thatcher, as many predicted at the time, didn’t really change anything in terms of the highly sexist framework of British politics.

“Not that it’s up to me, but I preferred “women’s liberation” to “feminism”. Women’s liberation was always about power.”

But this is what has been lost when the social uprisings of the ’60s and ’70s moved from a ‘liberatory/emancipatory’ framework to an ‘equal rights’ framework. Remember that the first major pro-gay movement to come out of the ’60s was the Gay Liberation Front. Womens’ lib, as you pointed out was about Womens’ Liberation , not ‘equal rights’. And the various socialist/communist movements (which, in the Western colonies were often termed movements of national liberation) have also ‘toned down’ their rhetoric, when they haven’t ditched it entirely. Some things have been gained by this approach. But things have been lost, too.

124

Phil 08.14.13 at 2:30 pm

But this is what has been lost when the social uprisings of the ’60s and ’70s moved from a ‘liberatory/emancipatory’ framework to an ‘equal rights’ framework.

Sure. And Bloix’s comment on gay lib (RIP) fits this model too. IIRC Peter Tatchell said that, even though he supported gay marriage, it represented the defeat of the movement he believed in. This doesn’t suddenly become a radical statement at 3:51.

125

lupita 08.14.13 at 2:37 pm

Hidari@120

And the various socialist/communist movements (which, in the Western colonies were often termed movements of national liberation) have also ‘toned down’ their rhetoric, when they haven’t ditched it entirely.

To the contrary, they are louder and more successful than ever.

126

LFC 08.14.13 at 2:45 pm

JanieM @94
Pt noted and i will think about it.

127

Norther Observer 08.14.13 at 2:54 pm

The longer I observe contemporary society, the less impressed I am with the radical element and the more impressed I am with the goals of the traditionalists, even if I find their rhetoric and strategies misguided. If one were to create a hierarchy of human needs and assign resources to these goals, feminism and non traditional sexual rights would fall quite low on the list. Besides the immediacy of energy, wealth, and environmental issues there is ultimately the question of whether a culture that refuses to reproduce via traditional male female unions will be able to extend its values into a new generation of immigrants born outside the culture. I am skeptical. So I must conclude that until pro NTsexrights and pro feminist rhetoric and policies are proven to produce a culture with robust heterosexual fertility – it quite literally has no future, since the people that can understand and support it simply will not be brought into existence.

128

js. 08.14.13 at 3:03 pm

Tom Slee @ 116:

I had referred to the Marcotte piece mostly for this bit:

In the 60s and 70s, there were radical feminists who were distinguishing themselves from liberal feminists. Radical feminists agreed with liberal feminists that we should change the laws to recognize women’s equality, but they also believed that we needed to change the culture. It was not enough to pass the ERA or legalize abortion, they believed, but we should also talk about cultural issues, such as misogyny, objectification, rape, and domestic violence.

In other words, what was once “radical” feminism is now mainstream feminism.

But even in the bit that you quote, I read her as saying: “[F]eminism is about breaking down gender ideology,” and that if one were to think this through, one would see that this has to have consequences for the struggle of trans people. I don’t know, I guess I find that pretty unobjectionable; certainly the first, quoted bit.

129

nrx 08.14.13 at 3:14 pm

maybe the reason you still see a glass ceiling above your head is because you’re living in a glass house

130

Salazar 08.14.13 at 3:36 pm

@ Mao #101: I don’t know if Obama is “acting too White,” but he may, in fact, have attained political success by not being seen as “too Black,” as someone argues here:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-president/309064/

131

chris 08.14.13 at 3:58 pm

#107: and to make the point about gay rights, no one has been suggesting that sexuality has any influence at all on the right to vote

Strictly speaking, this is not true. In some places and times homosexual sex has been a felony which, if convicted of it, could result in disenfranchisement (in other places and times it could result in *execution*, which would obviously prevent you from voting too).

Of course it wasn’t invariably prosecuted, let alone successfully, but it certainly hasn’t always been true that anyone could admit to being gay and not have their right to participate in democracy challenged or questioned. I think criminalization of homosexuality persisted later (at least in the US) than disenfranchisement of women.

On the other hand, ISTR at least one US president is believed by some to have been gay and to have had a “close friend” that people just didn’t take any public notice of what their real relationship might have been. I’m not sure how good the evidence of this is, though — it may have just been rumor, or I may be misremembering it altogether. But this may go to show that even when homosexuality is criminal on paper, individual homosexuals could still participate in democracy and politics as long as they did it from the closet.

#116: Marcotte seems to be saying pretty clearly that to qualify as a feminist one must have a particular position, not on women’s rights or patriarchy, but on the struggle of trans people. Hence, that feminism is not primarily about women’s rights.

How can you talk about women’s rights without first deciding who is a woman and who is not? (You can certainly use an unexamined definition, but you can’t use no definition at all.) ISTM much of the struggle of trans people (although I am not one) is about precisely that question: how to define and categorize people as one gender or the other, and what we ought to do with people who don’t fit neatly into one of the two most common bins.

Of course if you’re *really* not treating men and women differently, then the question of how to classify any particular individual becomes less important, but as long as we have segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, Olympic events, etc., an individual’s right to use one or the other set of facilities (for example) can be, and in some cases, has been questioned or outright denied. Not having had this experience myself, I am reluctant to underestimate its impact on the person affected.

#66: Salem, I understand what you’re saying, but “equal rights and no discrimination” is the dictionary definition of feminism.

Well, that depends a great deal on who is writing the dictionary, doesn’t it? (Which is perhaps not quite as powerful as writing the history books, but shouldn’t be completely despised either.) ISTM any responsible dictionary writer will at least make a good faith effort to include all senses in which the word is actually used by speakers of the language, and from that perspective, “feminism” does indeed cover a rather wide area. I wouldn’t call it actual polysemy, but ambiguity and misunderstanding is certainly a concern, and potentially equivocation (deliberate or otherwise).

Some people are regrettably Platonist about words having one “real” meaning and similar foolishness, but the reality of language use is messy variation. Or glorious and creative variation, depending on your point of view.

132

JanieM 08.14.13 at 4:07 pm

I think criminalization of homosexuality persisted later (at least in the US) than disenfranchisement of women.

Indeed:

1920 (19th amendment)

2003 (Lawrence v. Texas)

133

Mao Cheng Ji 08.14.13 at 4:55 pm

“Well, that depends a great deal on who is writing the dictionary, doesn’t it?”

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/feminism?s=t
I have no idea who wrote it. You can’t please everybody, so I assume this is the accepted meaning.

“Some people are regrettably Platonist about words having one “real” meaning and similar foolishness, but the reality of language use is messy variation.”

I don’t care about any “real” meaning. All I want is to understand what people are saying, and to be able to communicate clearly myself, that’s all. I don’t think this is unreasonable.

134

Lynne 08.14.13 at 6:32 pm

js @ 124:

Thing is, that distinction Marcotte makes between radical and liberal feminists of the 1960s and 1970s…doesn’t sound familiar to me. I’m 61. Feminism always meant addressing misogyny, rape, domestic violence. Radical feminism (radical = going to the root of a problem, not = to extreme) identified patriarchy as the structure/source of misogyny and sexism.

You said, “I read her as saying: “[F]eminism is about breaking down gender ideology,” and that if one were to think this through, one would see that this has to have consequences for the struggle of trans people. I don’t know, I guess I find that pretty unobjectionable; certainly the first, quoted bit.”

I’ve thought about this and I don’t know what “breaking down gender ideology” means. I do think feminism has consequences for everyone, certainly every oppressed group, but to make admission of the transgendered to “the fold” the gateway to being a feminist, as Marcotte does?

The strength of feminism has been its attempt to embrace other fights, to overturn the grinding hierarchy of the patriarchy for the sake of everyone (feminists have sons!) including people of colour, the disabled, children…everyone. This is also its weakness as it can be diverted too easily to one of these other causes. Yes, they are important. But so is feminism, and it is always being asked to step aside and wait until some other problem has been addressed. It sounds to me like that is what is happening in the argument Marcotte refers to.

Chris @ 126

“How can you talk about women’s rights without first deciding who is a woman and who is not? (You can certainly use an unexamined definition, but you can’t use no definition at all.) “

Watch me.

135

Barry 08.14.13 at 7:52 pm

Jace

” It is only recently that gay rights are being recognized in legislation. Still in many countries it is illegal to be openly homosexual and carries a penalty of incarceration or even death. It is not, to my knowledge, illegal to be a woman…anywhere.”

Using the history of the USA as an analogy, it was never illegal to be black in the USA, but it had ………………… effects on the quality of one’s life.

136

js. 08.14.13 at 8:41 pm

Lynne @133:

I’m happy to defer to you on 60′s–70′s feminism, not having been around then (well, sentient towards the end…). I agree that “breaking down gender ideology” is a dispiritingly vague phrase but I suppose it means dismantling traditional understandings of gender roles etc., as well as the institutions, norms, and expectations that underpin them. And I suppose patriarchy would be chief among these institutions—or maybe it’s better described as an overlapping set of institutions.

Moreover, I really don’t know that I have any very definite view about feminism and trans struggles and how or whether they line up. I do think that Marcotte (here and elsewhere) wants a pretty inclusive feminism—that is, a quite broad understanding of what it encompasses, and I think you’re right to highlight certain dangers of this (though its attractiveness is also pretty evident I think, and it’s something I’m quite drawn to).

Anyway, sorry if this is getting a bit off-topic; like I said the status of trans struggles was not what I had meant to draw attention to originally, and I should have made this more clear.

137

Lynne 08.14.13 at 8:57 pm

js—”I agree that “breaking down gender ideology” is a dispiritingly vague phrase” made me laugh. You may be right about the meaning though Marcotte seems to be seeing something else there.

I agree with you about the attractiveness of a inclusive feminism—I think it’s feminism’s great strength, as I said above. Lately though I worry more about the attendant danger of diverting feminism to one of the causes it includes. It seems feminism is easily fragmented.

138

Fu Ko 08.14.13 at 9:59 pm

chris,

James Buchanan (the only president never to marry) was gay, apparently. He was not exactly open about it, but plenty of people knew.

He was engaged to the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Pennsylvania, but she broke off their engagement for unknown reasons and died shortly thereafter, from an illness. Nevertheless, speculations of homosexuality followed Buchanan throughout his presidency, mainly due to his relationship with William Rufus King. While still in Congress, Buchanan and King began a lifelong “bromance.” Buchanan and King lived together for 15 years prior to Buchanan’s presidency. Their intense friendship earned them the nicknames “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy” and even “Buchanan and his wife” in various political circles, which included Andrew Jackson.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/gay-president_b_1572350.html

139

Chutzpah 08.14.13 at 10:01 pm

I think the other issue is that the gay rights movement is just making us realize a truth. That a large percentage of folks are born gay. These people hurt no one and want rights just like the hetero community. Its easy when you run with biology. Like slavery, we realized that on the whole, everyone is rather equal with their own talents and skin color, facial features, etc are meaningless. That was a reasonable argument to make. However, feminism often fights against the natural strengths of men as detrimental residue and promotes their weaknesses as the right way, and vice versa for women. You cant win rights by going against a natural order. Take abortion rights, you cant say that aborting a 9 month old in the womb is the same as a 3 day old cellular glob and expect to win. As you move more radically away from the logic that a more advanced lifeform has more advanced rights, you lose everytime. Just as the pro-life movement loses traction when they say a blob of cells has the same rights as a more developed fetus. You cant deny males are more physically aggressive, or that they approach the opposite sex in a more visual way. Just as you cant deny some women like to look pretty or behave a certain way to attract a man. This is where feminism drops the ball. Admit what nature has made us and work in that framework. That’s why womens right to vote and work is accepted. It makes sense and doesn’t fight the framework of our biology. But fighting against brazillian waxes is absurd waste of time….like fighting Disney Princess culture or not letting your son play with toy superheroes….it seems clear to everyone except the fringe.

140

stostosto 08.14.13 at 11:07 pm

Bloix makes a good point @19.

I have often thought that gay liberation was a very different goal than recognition of gay marriage . The difference between the right (and desire, and impulse) to pursue personal lifestyle choices even if they militate against prevailing social norms, and the right to be recognised and accepted as no different from anybody else, only gay.

On a slightly facetious note and having a gay son and a feminist wife, I can say it is not my son who is more challenging to my complacency.

141

mud man 08.15.13 at 12:51 am

no-one now remembers when they actually stopped thinking gay people were weird, icky and in some pre-ordained way destined to live short, unhappy lives, outside of the natural

Well. Out here in the sticks, gay people are still thought weird, icky, and outside of the natural, believe it, even when we have nothing against them personally. And there is some strange connection to feminism: it’s an always-funny for The Guys to burlesque cross-dressing and do numbers from Broadway musicals. Or cheerleaders, while some butch girls are playing some reasonably intense football.

So maybe in 20 years when such attitudes really have been forgotten, it will be found to have created a little space for flexible gender roles.

142

Meredith 08.15.13 at 6:28 am

mud man, I have no doubt what you say about “the sticks” is often true, but see also tonight’s Colbert Report story about a gay mayor in rural Kentucky. Keep the faith.

Lynne says, “It seems feminism is easily fragmented.” Like Lynne, I see this as feminism’s weakness and also its strength. An illustration. Back in the 1980′s, as we few first-generation women faculty struggled to create a Women’s Studies Program, we were buoyed by the younger women faculty who were joining us, women who had been studying in graduate school what we were self-taught about. But quickly things turned weird, it seemed to me then. I found myself reading (and talking in committee meetings!) about fist-fucking and all sorts of things that not even the most radical feminists of the 1970′s had prepared me for. Not to mention that we still didn’t have proper maternity leaves and the like!
Decades later (when Women’s Studies is passe — gender, sexuality, any number of words need to be added for these programs) I can appreciate how the fragmentation was definitely a strength, if only because we kept listening to one another. Along the way we got better maternity (later, parental) leave policies. Meanwhile, whole new worlds opened up, for all of us.

It’s happening, apparently, even in rural Kentucky.

143

Meredith 08.15.13 at 6:44 am

Gotta add, re mud man on the sticks and the Colbert-Kentucky story. My grandparents (both born 1890′s) lived in both NYC and what was then a rural county in NY. In said rural county they had friends or knew various people who were gay (including lesbian in that term here) and known by all to be gay, and who were integrated into different parts of the community in different but very tolerant ways (though I have no doubt that the strictures of that tolerance were often difficult for the gay people themselves to negotiate). Since living in rural New England for decades myself, where I have observed the same phenomenon (including those strictures finally have been relieved mightily), I wonder if the small town may be underestimated as a site of refuge and then change, every bit as much as a NYC or San Francisco.

144

Belle Waring 08.15.13 at 1:06 pm

Meredith: I agree that people used to accept as normal relationships which seem to us now, in retrospect, obviously gay. I don’t know that it’s a small-town feature, exactly, although there were “spinsters” or “lifelong bachelors” who set themselves up in the small towns my dad and (separately, the latter being from Tennessee) step-dad grey up in. These “couples” had the support of their family, insofar as the fiction was being supported. But it wasn’t nothing. It might have seemed like a lot, at the time. People probably lived that way in bigger cities too, with more anonymity.

As to feminism’s scope, I have talked to a number of WOC who just refuse to identify as feminist, ever, because they see the mainstream of feminism doing work that only matters to the upper middle class white woman, and no one else. Slamming the door shut behind you is no way to create social change. If feminists don’t care about trans women, do they need to care about gay women? If obviously the latter, why not the former? If patriarchal norms about what women should be like and what men should be like a doing the work of keeping gay/bi men, women generally, and trans people down, what’s the point of just chipping on the part that’s got your chain bolted on at the base? Better to try and tip the whole thing over, surely.

I have discussed this before in comments, but I am related to the man who used to be our nation’s undisputed all-time worst president before GWB got in there (though, frankly, let’s all hate Jackson more than we currently do?!), thus my middle name: Buchanan. I have a plucky Southern ancestress who went by “Bucky”, which is pretty great. As a child I was resentful that I hadn’t been named Blanchard after a different ancestor, but Belle and Blanche is probably laying it on a bit thick.

145

Tommy Deelite 08.15.13 at 1:14 pm

Just had to say, Michael Collins @11 and Salem @15 make some great points.

I’ve thinking to do.

146

Tommy Deelite 08.15.13 at 1:24 pm

I’m not sure we can ignore the economic aspect.

Feminism and (non-gay) civil rights in general have the potential to hit the pocketbook, or at least the appearance of such. Opposition to gay marriage in an economic sense requires more abstraction.

To the unkind eye, feminism threatens old boys’ club advancement, while civil rights threatens that with the spectre of reparations. Gay rights does neither.

Apologies if this has already been stated.

147

mud man 08.15.13 at 2:33 pm

Kentucky is the fringe of the North, whereas I am in Orygun, which along with the rural West generally is Southron without the Black people, it seems to me. We are pretty set in our libertarian, gun-toting, live-off-the-land ways … yes, patriarchal … The comment about refuge is interesting, it’s why I am up here, for one thing. The lack of diversity (and intellectual content generally) is stifling at times, but perhaps anything that resists Modern America is a potential nucleus of change. We do Community relatively well. Hopeful.

148

Wonks Anonymous 08.15.13 at 6:16 pm

“if about one in ten people is gay”
That statistic is bogus.
http://www.npr.org/2011/06/08/137057974/-institute-of-medicine-finds-lgbt-health-research-gaps-in-us

149

JanieM 08.15.13 at 7:17 pm

As to feminism’s scope, I have talked to a number of WOC who just refuse to identify as feminist, ever, because they see the mainstream of feminism doing work that only matters to the upper middle class white woman, and no one else. Slamming the door shut behind you is no way to create social change. If feminists don’t care about trans women, do they need to care about gay women? If obviously the latter, why not the former? If patriarchal norms about what women should be like and what men should be like a doing the work of keeping gay/bi men, women generally, and trans people down, what’s the point of just chipping on the part that’s got your chain bolted on at the base? Better to try and tip the whole thing over, surely.

Thank you, Belle.

I am not a woman of color in the usual sense, though speaking literally I do have the coloring of the Italian side of my heritage rather than the very lily-white of the “old American” Baptist side, which mattered a lot when I was a child in the 1950s in small-town Ohio, where the strata were pretty clearly defined and “Italians” were only one step above you known who.

But for reasons you’ve encapsulated, I’ve always refused to call myself a feminist, even though my beliefs, and my hopes for the world, are certainly “feminist” in any ordinary sense. But what I’ve found is that some of my friends who are very vocal as feminists have always treated me with an attitude that can be encapsulated as, “if you don’t see the world the way I do, you can’t possibly have thought it through correctly.” Gloria Steinem (not among my friends but much admired by some of them) said, “If you’re not a feminist you’re a masochist,” which alone is enough to make me refuse to call myself by that label. I’ve actually lost friendships over this set of issues as the years have accumulated. (Well, over this and other, complicating factors.)

And I have to confess — I have avoided continuing to comment on this thread because I didn’t know how to say this in the context of what people I like and respect a lot — Lynne and Meredith for starters — were writing.

I don’t know where a line should be drawn at excluding people from the causes “feminists” espouse, and I know it isn’t a small problem to figure out where to put your energy in terms of trying to make the world, or even your own little neighborhood, a better place. That’s a huge topic. My own energy goes to land conservation, organic food, and the care of children as major “causes,” with the occasional foray into gay rights or gay marriage campaigns; I totally leave the directly “feminist” efforts to other people, and a lot of the time now, because of climate change, I wonder whether working on anything else but that is like standing around while the house burns down around us. I don’t now the answer to that one either.

In relation to something that a bunch of comments have mentioned or implied — I think a lot about the problem of e.g. gay people gaining the right to marry by virtue of presenting our middle class/mainstream/harmless face to the world, and hoping that the more extremely non-conforming people will just please keep a low profile while we go about it. I hate that, but I don’t know what to do about it. I’m only one person, and as far as changing the world goes I couldn’t even figure out how to get my kids to stop squabbling when they were little, so….I haven’t got much of a clue.

Back to feminism before I lose the thread, and before I get back to work: I am not a trans person, but neither do I fit into a “female” bin which is part of a system that allows of only two bins. I think we need more bins. I think that a feminism that wants to turn its back on or exclude trans people is in effect excluding me as well, and hopefully that goes a long way to explaining why I don’t label myself as a feminist.

As far as that goes, I don’t label myself using nouns, other than maybe “I’m a human being” and “I’m an American” (both incontrovertible). Otherwise I prefer adjectives: gay instead of lesbian, for instance. Another can of worms.

150

JanieM 08.15.13 at 7:19 pm

P.S. I think it’s all about power and greed, or greed and power: who gets what share of the goodies, in the broadest sense. From that point of view, it’s all the same “cause.”

And not a simple one, either.

151

Phil 08.15.13 at 7:20 pm

what’s the point of just chipping on the part that’s got your chain bolted on at the base? Better to try and tip the whole thing over, surely.

I think it’s really important to chip away at your own chain, not necessarily taking any account of how anyone else defines the ‘whole thing’. “If you’re a feminist, why don’t you support my struggle?” is a legitimate question, but it ought to be a real question. “If you don’t support my struggle you’re no true feminist” isn’t particularly helpful; “if you don’t support her struggle (like I do), you’re no true feminist” seems positively disruptive.

152

Lynne 08.15.13 at 11:15 pm

Janie,

“people I like and respect a lot — Lynne and Meredith”—Thank you. The feeling is mutual! I’m sorry to have made you reluctant to post in this thread.

A few years ago gay marriage was legalized here in Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of my country as I was on that day, even though I can’t claim to have been one of the foot-soldiers who brought it about. There are many ways to help make this old world a better and fairer place, and I’m glad other people are out doing things I’m not. One of my own top priorities is addressing violence against women, because it has affected me, and changed me. Not that I’m doing so very much, but…you know, you do what you can.

I first identified as a feminist in 1975 when I was a very young woman. Over the years I have often heard WOC express the same feelings Belle mentioned, and have always felt sorry and grieved and determined to make feminism more inclusive. But it never has become so, apparently (I say “apparently” because it’s years since I was at a feminist meeting and I live in a predominantly white city so most of my info is second-hand). It would be astonishing to my younger self how little progress was made there.

I think we feminists lost that one. That glorious ideal of inclusiveness hasn’t come about, at least in the way we hoped. Now I wonder if that’s just the way it has to be for now, everyone working on something, on whatever seems to be the best use of their energies, and we can all reap the results.

Very few women seem to call themselves feminist now. Understand I have no statistics, only my impression that hardly any women do any more, and I’d be glad to be wrong. I find this very sad, but see paragraph above, maybe that’s where we are in history.

I don’t know if it’s okay to ask this (if not, ignore!) but what do you mean when you say you don’t fit in the female bin? I distinguish sex (M or F) from gender roles (culturally and socially dictated) and the vast majority of humans have either XX or XY chromosomes. This seems simple and straight-forward to me. (though I agree we need more bins as “vast majority” is not “all.”) The gender roles are not so simple and straight-forward. I imagine many people don’t fit in with society’s assigned role for their gender and as I raised my children I was constantly banging into those roles and trying to change them, or at least reframe them.

Well, this has gone on too long but I wanted to get back to you tonight.

153

JanieM 08.15.13 at 11:29 pm

I don’t know if it’s okay to ask this…. The gender roles are not so simple and straight-forward.

It’s fine to ask. It’s hard to answer. Certainly XX-chromosome-wise I’m female, but it’s the social/cultural idea of gender that I question. I do have a whole big theory/metaphor about it, but I doubt I can fit it in a blog comment, so maybe I can get at it sideways by recalling someone who once, when I was going on about this subject, told me that of course there was a whole “spectrum” from male to female, so what was I complaining about? I was just somewhere along the spectrum instead of at one of the ends.

But that’s exactly how I don’t think it is. That suggests that there’s blue at one end and red and the other and purple in the middle, and we’re all distributed somehow along an axis where “essence of male” and “essence of female” qualities and characteristics are combined in different ratios.

My response (which of course I didn’t think of at the time) is: what about green and yellow and orange?

That doesn’t really come capture it either, but like I said, it’s a blog comment.

*****

Also, you don’t need to apologize for how you commented. I like your comments, including the ones in this thread. It’s just hard to find an entry point sometimes that doesn’t require chapters and novellas worth of explaining, and there’s also the concern — that now seems to be part of the meta-conversation here, and I’m glad of it — about what kind of a reaction certain comments are likely to trigger from the usual suspects.

154

Katherine 08.16.13 at 7:51 am

I think modern, third wave feminism is trying to be intersectional in a way that the second wave wasn’t. That’s not to say that it’s got the job done, but efforts are occurring. I certainly respect the right of women who have been excluded from movement feminism not to identify as such.

Of course, this level of intersectionality is pretty marginal, as are all newish efforts. I can only hope that, like many things previously considered ‘radical’, it will permeate into the mainstream iber the years. Given the strength of the current backlash though, I’m less hopeful that I’d like to be.

155

bianca steele 08.16.13 at 1:39 pm

It’s interesting to read about others’ experiences of feminism, especially in this context Meredith’s, which describe the same time I was at university from the other side of the classroom wall. Some groups did seem to throw up gates: you had to take a certain view on separatism (of course everyone was doing separatism then), or later toward men, or toward one’s mother and her values. My own youthful experience makes me insist on calling myself a feminist no matter how narrow some seem to wish to define the term. I imagine things are very different now, anyway.

156

Phil 08.16.13 at 1:57 pm

Certainly XX-chromosome-wise I’m female, but it’s the social/cultural idea of gender that I question.

I can identify with this.

When I was about 18 and was thinking about spending money on clothes for the first time, I went out looking for a coat. I can still see it in my mind’s eye: calf-length, full, sweeping, almost cape-like, in a rich navy wool with (very important) a bright purple lining. God, I wanted that coat. I would have worn boots with that coat. (Don’t even get me started on boots.)

Needless to say, I never found it or anything like it. Never found any boots I liked & could get into, either.

I was reading something a while back by someone called Stephen who periodically goes out as Stephanie (here it is, although I’m afraid it’s paywalled). A lot of the appeal of being Stephanie seemed to centre on dressing up, wearing bright colours and soft textures, and looking good, for values of ‘good’ that don’t usually go with being male. I wanted all of that. (Another vivid memory from my late teens is the sinking feeling when I eventually discovered men’s fashion. These charcoal-grey lapels are slightly narrower than those charcoal-grey lapels, and the sleeve has four buttons on the cuff… give me a break!)

Never wanted to drag up, though; I could never see the attraction. Thanks to the peculiarities of my family I grew up surrounded by girls, and none of my sisters did the heels thing or the party frock thing, or the makeup thing. (Angela Carter says somewhere she thought femininity was a drag act, for women as much as men – girls aren’t born in makeup any more than boys are.) To me this is where Stephen/Stephanie goes wrong:

a workshop on makeup … was helpful but intimidating. ‘To be born woman is to know,’ Yeats wrote, ‘Although they do not talk of it at school,/That one must labour to be beautiful’: adults who weren’t born as women have a hard time learning later on. Among the lessons of the session were that girlish looks need more blush, sophisticated adult looks less, though they may need more mascara.

And so on. Now, there are two meanings in Yeats’s line, and the second was roundly rejected in the house where I grew up: must one labour to be beautiful, just because one was born woman? No way! Liberation from having to labour to be beautiful was one small part of what women’s liberation was about (which is why the stuff about brazilians is relevant now). It’s weird seeing that same compulsion – associated with femininity – being embraced, as a form of liberation from the constraints of masculine identity. Obviously it’s fantasy-femininity, but it still seems retrograde to me. I’d rather have that coat (buttoning left over right) and those boots (in a 9 wide). The irony is that it would probably be easier to find a frock in my size.

157

Josh R. 08.16.13 at 4:17 pm

This entire thread has been fascinating. But I find interesting is the piece of context it has not touched upon and which I actually thought was going to be the subject when I clicked over from my RSS: the very recent dust-up over race and feminism and the Twitter reaction of #solidarityforwhitewomen.

http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201308122356-0022973

The issue of race has been touched upon in a few comments without getting into this context and I’m not sure bringing this up adds much to the broader conversation, but couldn’t resist intruding for a moment to add it into the mix.

158

lupita 08.16.13 at 6:01 pm

It’s interesting to read about others’ experiences of feminism

In poor neighborhoods around Latin America, women get together to protest, demand, fill out paperwork, march, and bang on pots in order to get basic services, such as electricity and water, into their neighborhoods. This is what I call feminism.

Going into # solidarityisforwhitewomen mode, I realize that in Western feminist circles it is not considered feminist for a woman to think she is in charge of the domestic front (procuring water for the household) because doing so strengthens the division of labor between men and women. I really do not care. If poor women are proud of themselves for their success in fighting for justice and the wellbeing of their families and neighborhoods, view the work they do at home as their womanly responsibility, duty, and pride, then that is feminism for me.

159

Suzanne 08.16.13 at 7:34 pm

@158: “Western feminist circles” in the 70s wanted women to be recognized officially (and recompensed officially) for such work.

All such workers at home everywhere have a right to take pride in the work they do. It is also the case that for many women employed as household labor, the ability to stay home and clean your own house and take care of your own kids instead of other people’s has often meant a step up economically and socially, not a step down. That does not obviate the fact that through millenia women have repeatedly been assured of the pride and dignity involved in doing the heavy cleaning and not getting paid for it, and it hasn’t always worked out so well.

160

lupita 08.16.13 at 8:55 pm

Suzanne@159

Continuing in # solidarityisforwhitewomen mode, what is being responsible for a poor household and fighting for water a step down from? Being middle class and working for a corporation? Why would you find it pertinent to point out to me that women can be treated as servants at home and that housework is unpaid and includes drudgery? Are poor women proud of their work and struggles because “women have repeatedly been assured”, not because there is anything actually to be proud of?

161

Fu Ko 08.17.13 at 3:05 am

“women [who] view the work they do at home as their womanly responsibility, duty, and pride” may be imposing limitations on their daughters’ lives. Certainly, to take pride in such inherently valuable work as that of the household is no evil. But this phrase “womanly responsibility” — I find it ominous.

162

Michael M 08.17.13 at 7:38 pm

Maybe the end of an already long comments thread is the wrong place to point this out, but given the nature of the post I think it’s worthwhile to point out that this venerable blog hasn’t done a book event on a book written by a woman since 2006. Which is about as long as I’ve been reading this blog…

163

Suzanne 08.18.13 at 12:49 am

@141: There is some inherent humor involved in hearty men trying to be delicate and “feminine”; a heavy thing trying to convey lightness is in most cases going to be funnier than the reverse. Tomboyism on the other hand has always been acceptable, at least as a phase; everyone understands, consciously or unconsciously, why girls might envy and try to imitate the greater freedom of behavior and expression permitted to boys. A boy who plays with dolls and behaves “girlishly” is voluntarily assuming the emblems of the inferior sex; everyone understands in the same way that this is somehow “not right”.

164

Meredith 08.18.13 at 4:32 am

Coming back very late to this (life has interrupted — in nice ways, fortunately), and I mostly want to respond to JanieM, especially @149. Like Lynne, I can only say, thank you, and the feeling is mutual. I see your name at the beginning of a comment, and I am always eager to read it.
For instance, I really liked your comment about red-blue-with-purple-in-between, but what about green and yellow and orange? Or when you say, “My own energy goes to land conservation, organic food, and the care of children as major “causes,” with the occasional foray into gay rights or gay marriage campaigns; I totally leave the directly “feminist” efforts to other people, and a lot of the time now, because of climate change, I wonder whether working on anything else but that is like standing around while the house burns down around us. I don’t now the answer to that one either.”
That sounds like feminist work to me, but the labels don’t matter.
Many other comments of interest here, but I just wanted to say hello and thanks to JamieM.

165

Maria 08.18.13 at 8:07 pm

Seconding Meredith @164 to JanieM:

“Like Lynne, I can only say, thank you, and the feeling is mutual. I see your name at the beginning of a comment, and I am always eager to read it.”

I feel the same way, too, JanieM, and also about Meredith, Katherine, Emma from Sydney, Bianca and Phil (especially thanks for this, Phil: “Angela Carter says somewhere she thought femininity was a drag act”. Wonderful.)

Is this favouritism? I don’t know. I just know that when one of you starts commenting, particularly but not exclusively about feminism, that I am in for some learning moments and a thread the OP is rarely worthy of.

166

JanieM 08.19.13 at 1:31 am

Thanks to all for the good words.

I too love “…she thought femininity was a drag act.”

Isn’t it? ;)

Anyhow, I’m certainly going to steal/quote it.

This thread seems to have waned, but maybe we can take up these subjects again at some point. I was thinking about it today (the thread) in terms of how nice it is to have a conversation where there’s disagreement but not snark or snideness. It reminds me of something I hadn’t thought about for a long time: a friend of mine in grad school had gotten her bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz, where one of her classes was called (or maybe subtitled), “The Pursuit of Truth in the Company of Friends.”

167

Lynne 08.19.13 at 1:18 pm

As the thread fades away I’d like to belatedly thank Maria for the OP—I have often wondered the same thing.

Phil, I enjoyed your comments—I can picture the coat you wanted and love the thought of femininity as a drag act. I like to think of make-up and nail polish and high heels and leg-shaving as play, or dress-up, and when they are there’s no harm in them; they are optional. The problem is they aren’t always optional, but that’s a whole big topic on its own.

Janie, hope there will be another conversation here soon that can be described as “The Pursuit of Truth in the Company of Friends.”

168

Katherine 08.19.13 at 1:32 pm

“The Pursuit of Truth in the Company of Friends.”

A very valuable concept and one that us particularly difficult to reach on the internet I think. It requires a level of trust and mutual positive regard – another thing difficult to build when one cannot read tone of voice in text as easily. So it’s nice to find that it can exist.

169

ajay 08.19.13 at 1:47 pm

135:Using the history of the USA as an analogy, it was never illegal to be black in the USA

Actually…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundown_town

170

Nathanael 08.20.13 at 4:37 am

“the repeated and yet always surprising head-slap of ‘are we still there? I thought that went out with shoulder-pads’.”

Whenever I get depressed about the rate of progress (and I do), I remember that job ads were sex-segregated in the US until *1972*. (Not sure about European countries.)

Nowadays, do you think any young person would tolerate going back to blatantly, openly segregated help-wanted ads? No!

That’s progress.

171

Nathanael 08.20.13 at 4:42 am

Oh. And on another point.

I believe the *reason* the gay rights movement went so far, and apparently so fast, is the feminist movement.

Basically, as soon as you stop believing in gender essentialism, the arguments against gay people vanish. (“Why not a boy rather than a girl? Why does it *matter*?”)

And despite the ingrained gender essentialism in the culture, *huge* inroads against gender essentialism were made during the 1970s. I feel that we are reaping some of the benefits.

172

Nathanael 08.20.13 at 4:46 am

In regard to what I wrote in 171, I’d like to note that one of the concurring opinions in the California Supreme Court opinion legalizing same-sex marriage In Re Marriage Cases (the original one, before Prop 8) stated outright that discrimination against same-sex marriages was sex discrimination, and as such plainly in violation of the California Constitution.

Now that’s interesting, because it’s *obviously true*. You’ll note that an awful lot of the courts have made all kinds of convoluted arguments to avoid addressing this head on, but finally even some judges are starting to say it outright.

I do not believe that the gay rights movement would ever have gotten as far as it did if feminists had not made a fairly successful frontal attack on gender essentialism around the same time (the 1970s).

173

JanieM 08.20.13 at 3:20 pm

Whenever I get depressed about the rate of progress (and I do), I remember that job ads were sex-segregated in the US until *1972*. (Not sure about European countries.)

I lived in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, and a very popular local produce market would put ads in their window: “Woman wanted.” I complained to them and they basically thumbed their nose at me. I sent a letter to some gov’t agency or other, and nothing happened. Then I moved back east and forgot about it til now.

174

JanieM 08.20.13 at 3:24 pm

As to 171 and 172, I would add something that I haven’t seen expressed in quite this way very often, if ever: to be gay is to defy what is perhaps the most ingrained, taken-for-granted gender stereotypes there is, the one that says who you’re supposed to fall in love with.

175

Craig O 08.21.13 at 2:15 am

As a gay man, I agree the struggles for women’s rights and LGBT rights do make us natural allies. However, I assert that just as many gay men would be threatened with rape if Sir Elton John was proposed for a banknote. And a reassessment of the Second Wave rhetoric about infantilization is required. If you are a man with an unshaven back you get the same negative reactions as a woman with hairs peaking from her bikini. The standard of beauty obsessed with youth is not solely a feminist issue.

With programmes on the tele finally featuring “normal” gay roles, and the Supreme Court decision ever present in the news, we are simply the headliners. And despite the representations of “Modern Family”, I live in Arizona – where I can still lose my job, be refused a job, and lose my kids in a custody battle for being gay with no legal recourse. Granted these things are less likely than 20 years ago, but still not protected. Our movements are contemporaneous, but women stopped being portrayed as TV housewives and received rights enforced in law decades ago. We are still catching up…

Comments on this entry are closed.