I Guess, in the End, My Asshole Antifeminist Commenters Were Right About Me

So, feminism.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of thinking and talking, lately, about whether or not to self-identify as feminist. I wrote a post about it, had a discussion on the atheism plus subreddit, and have had a number of discussions with friends about it. One such friend lent me a copy of “Feminism Is for Everybody”, by bell hooks, after we talked, which was a helpful introduction to some of the history of feminism as a movement.

My chief apprehension about identifying as a feminist has been that there are a lot of feminists who hold views I am entirely opposed to, most (but not all) of which fall under the bracket of sex-negativity. I generally like my labels to communicate things about me that are true, and in some cases I wasn’t sure feminism was a label that would do this.

That said, one of the nice things I got out of reading more history was a better understanding of the breadth of different views that have, at one time or another, fallen under the umbrella of feminism. While I was already aware that feminism is not a monolith, it took reading about its history for me to really appreciate how laughable the idea of anyone ever thinking of feminism as a monolith is.

It also made me realize something else: that feminism is, has to be, by its nature, an umbrella under which there are going to be a lot of different, contradictory views about how to get things done. It’s a broad net that covers a lot of different people, and the one thing most of them have in common is strong feelings about improving the world. It would be absurd not to expect such a movement to consist in large part of people who I have very strong disagreements with.

More to the point: if I were to wait to identify as feminist until feminism as a whole only represented views that I, personally, identified with, I would probably be waiting until the hard parts were already over.

So, I guess this is my way of saying I’ve decided to try on the label*.  I think the fundamental principles that unite feminists are principles that I am entirely behind, and I am finding, with a better understanding and sense of historical context, that my reservations about the disagreements I have with some subsets of feminist thought aren’t the deal-breakers I thought they were.

Thanks to everyone who helped me mull this over.


*Feminist of the Third-Wave Persuasion

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7 comments on “I Guess, in the End, My Asshole Antifeminist Commenters Were Right About Me

    • I completely agree with it. It almost seems like a trivially obvious yes, to me. In my experience, feminism has been, in part, about advocating against all forms of the repression of consensual sexual choices (though obviously it gets a little bit murkier when we’re talking about choices that reinforce harmful norms, and there is a little bit more context dependent). It’s just icing on the cake that polyamory has the added benefit of subverting harmful cultural norms.

  1. Charlie Glickman’s made a really awesome case for not identifying with things; have you seen this article yet? http://www.charlieglickman.com/2012/04/queer-is-a-verb/

    I attended the presentation that accompanied the article and one of the exercises we did was removing our identification from labels and figuring out how they apply to our actual lived lives – so taking the umbrella term out of the abstract. So I’m a feminist would become I believe in feminist values, or I practice feminism as part of my worldview.

    Unfortunately the article doesn’t go very far into why identifying as something can be a p.i.t.a, but there’s a little of it in third paragraph. It’s really hard for people to not make assumptions about you when you tell them I am ________

    I’ve found the practice not only helped me make piece with things that were important to me, but I felt awkward identifying as, and has also lead to a lot more conversations about what words actually mean to me in my life.

    Cheers!

    • yeah, labels are imperfect, problematic, and they can be abused or limiting.

      AND they’re also valuable tools, especially to help make the invisible more visible. This helps bring more people and issues to the table.

      It just depends on how you use the labels you choose. Personally I think reflexively avoiding labels contributes to as many problems as rabidly clinging to them.

      • No argument here that labels can be really valuable…. I often think the problem lies more in how *others* use the labels I choose more than me though – and I’m half joking, half serious.

        I *do* think we have a tendency to over-label as a way of simplifying complicated concepts though, So I don’t see Dr. Glickman’s article (or what I suggested) as a call to reject labels – and especially not reflexively, but to put careful consideration in to how we live our labels, which ones we want to keep, and which ones we want to avoid.
        .

  2. Reblogged this on SoloPoly and commented:
    Excellent blog post by a poly guy who’s also a friend of mine — and a thoughtful writer. In this post, he says:

    ” If I were to wait to identify as feminist until feminism as a whole only represented views that I, personally, identified with, I would probably be waiting until the hard parts were already over.”

    Oh, hell yes. In fact, this applies to almost any choice to out yourself in any way, including as polyamorous or nonmonogamous.

    Choosing to out yourself in any non-mainstream way (including claiming an identity label) is a very personal choice. Some people really struggle with it. Sometimes this is based on concrete concerns such as: I’m concerned if I’m out as poly, I might not get promoted at work. Or: my ex-spouse would challenge our child custody arrangement.
    But very often, people choose the closet because they fear ostracism, stigma, or challenging the beliefs or opinions of others (especially family of origin).
    No one is required to be out, or should be forced to be out.

    Still, consider this: If you wish the world was a friendlier place for people like you, and it is possible for you to be at least somewhat more out than you are, and you still choose to remain as closeted as you are, then how exactly is that friendlier world going to happen?

  3. ” if I were to wait to identify as feminist until feminism as a whole only represented views that I, personally, identified with, I would probably be waiting until the hard parts were already over.”

    Oh, that applies to so many aspects of outing oneself in any particular way….

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