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Oct 20 2012

This shit is sexist, and feminism is the fight against sexism

Soraya says hell yes she’s a feminist.

Remember the woman who asked Romney about the wage gap?

You know what she got for her efforts?  A good and proper Slutshaming 101 from conservatives who dug up her Facebook page and her Twitter account to reveal that she has in the past used alcohol and maybe suggested her interest in sex. Like Sandra Fluke, she’s a whiny, entitled trollop who should shut up and go home.  Now, Fenton might not have memorized the Slut Manifesto, but she sure as hell knows that a man asking this exact same question would not be treated this way. Just like Jim Lehrer’s weight hasn’t become an Internet discussion point, while Candy Crowley’s has.  As Chloe Angyal so succinctly put it earlier today in Feministing, “This shit is sexist, and feminism is the fight against sexism.”

Furthermore, sexist shit is everywhere, so the fight against it is needed.

When people say “I’m not a feminist” or “I’m a feminist, but…” they invariably imply that it’s undesirable error made by an unhinged fringe.  This is a testament to the success of at least 40 years of conservative backlash branding feminism the devilish work of man-hating, barren, aggressive, ugly (no greater sin), humorless, lesbian, she-devils.

Fucking fools who call people like me and my colleagues and friends “radfems” for example. This? This isn’t radfem, you clueless goons. It’s just fem. You sound like people who scream that Obama is a communist. Obama! For crying out loud.

…we don’t have one easily recognized national celebration or public marker of any kind testifying to the sacrifices made in the movement to secure women’s civil rights or to celebrate its achievements.  Instead this history is buried under a thick tome of historical denial. We’ve left an entire generation bereft of the knowledge of a powerful legacy and sedated by the idea that, as XOJane put it, “anti-feminist behaviors are feminist because feminism is about choice.”

They think it’s all done and dusted. That’s so sad. They’ll learn better, but it will be sad.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    pipenta

    There hasn’t been a time that I’ve heard someone say “I’m not a feminist, but…” that I haven’t had to fight the urge to projectile vomit. This crap has gone on for decades and decades and decades.

    And then you have those weird women-hating people who call themselves feminists, like Camille Paglia.

    Ugh.

  2. 2
    xmaseveeve

    Ha! They want us to stay in the binders! Nae luck!

  3. 3
    SallyStrange

    They are EXACTLY like the fools who call Obama a communist or a socialist–and they are on the same reactionary side of the political spectrum.

  4. 4
    JA

    Fucking fools who call people like me and my colleagues and friends “radfems” for example. This? This isn’t radfem, you clueless goons. It’s just fem. You sound like people who scream that Obama is a communist. Obama! For crying out loud.

    This is a very apt comparison. Goons want to play fearmongering by labeling their opponent as the most extreme of the extreme, and push the discussion even further in their direction no matter how asinine their claim.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    It’s the Big Lie approach, and all the more ironic given the way they constantly shout about how ideological and dishonest we are. The Karl Rove school of blogging.

  6. 6
    callistacat

    Wasn’t there someone who called the Dixie Chicks fat sluts when they criticized George W Bush? The name escapes me.

    Because a female person’s sexuality and weight are important things to consider when assessing the validity of their political opinions.

  7. 7
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Okay, so the point about you not being a radfem is what, exactly? That you’re far to the right of actual radfems? What is a radfem to you?

    Certainly radfem in some circles is about being unrepently existentialist, but usually radical feminist just means very-left-wing feminist in popular discourse, and in other, more specifically feminist circles merely a feminist who wishes to end sexism at its source rather than treat its symptoms (however much it actually implies an existentialist ethical system and a particular cultural outlook, those are add ons rather than necessary components of meaning).

    I’m a radfem in many circles, and yet those people who are labeled “radfem” by my feminist friends are so labeled because of a specific existentialist and cultural outlook that is so far from my viewpoint it would be silly to call me a radfem.

    In one context, I have no problem embracing radfem. In the other, I wouldn’t want to be known as a radfem merely because it would communicate some very inaccurate things about my philosophy and likely behavior.

    So…

    With you is it just that you think you’re not nearly as radical as actual radfems? I’m really uncertain what you’re trying to say b/c I don’t know your particular relationship to feminism.

    In fact, that might make an interesting post on its own.

    –)->

  8. 8
    Sylvia Sybil

    @Crip Dyke,

    I can’t speak for the OP, but I’ve always heard “radfem” used to describe a specific subgroup of feminists who are transphobic and verging on misogynistic in their narrow definitions of who is “allowed” to be a woman and the “proper” way to be one.

    A quick googling found me this individual, for example, who says, “I don’t understand why people who support transgenderism still call themselves radical feminists. It’s not a pick and choose kind of feminism like liberal feminism. It’s not choosy choice. To ID as a radical feminist, you must be gender-critical, anti porn/prostitution/BDSM, pro female liberation and the removal of patriarchy, and you must prioritise females. It’s really very simple.”

  9. 9
    JA

    From what I understand, Radical Feminism’s essential aspect lies in the desire for a complete elimination of gender roles and to a large extent I find myself agreeing with it. However, the way ‘RadFem’ is used doesn’t seem to care about this and something as simple as Rebecca’s request or striving for equal pay gets labelled as ‘Radical’ to cast it as an extremist crazy idea. In general I oppose the idea behind this tactic as it’s not engaging the actual ideas but instead appealing to some undefined golden medium as the sane position by default.

    There have also been additional elements, such as anti-porn or transphobia, incorrectly bundled into Radical Feminism due to certain proponents having those beliefs. But those are not inherent to Radical Feminism itself.

    Helpful Link on (Radical) Feminism: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/everything-about-feminism

  10. 10
    emily isalwaysright

    I think “radfem” connotes separatism, no waxing or make-up, sex negativity (Dworkins’ infamous “all sex is rape” for example).

    But it’s often used to simply label anyone who actually speaks out about sexism or misogyny in social situations: I get it all the time.

    And don’t forget “militant”: feminists were “militant” a long time before atheists were.

  11. 11
    Argle Bargle

    “Radfem” means “someone, usually female, who believes women are human beings and whose comments or arguments I’m trying to dismiss.”

  12. 12
    callistacat

    “Dworkins’ infamous “all sex is rape” for example.”

    Except she never said that. If you’re going to trash someone, at least get your facts straight. You know, like a good skeptic?

    “No, I wasn’t saying that and I didn’t say that, then or ever. There is a long section in Right-Wing Women on intercourse in marriage. My point was that as long as the law allows statutory exemption for a husband from rape charges, no married woman has legal protection from rape. I also argued, based on a reading of our laws, that marriage mandated intercourse–it was compulsory, part of the marriage contract. Under the circumstances, I said, it was impossible to view sexual intercourse in marriage as the free act of a free woman. I said that when we look at sexual liberation and the law, we need to look not only at which sexual acts are forbidden, but which are compelled.”

    “It’s important to say, too, that the pornographers, especially Playboy, have published the “all sex is rape” slander repeatedly over the years, and it’s been taken up by others like Time who, when challenged, cannot cite a source in my work.”
    Andrea Dworkin

    It took until 1992 for marital rape to be completely illegal in the U.S. Raping your wife used to be legal. That’s the generation Dworkin came from.

    You’d think that the way women get misquoted around here they’d be able to have some empathy for a dead woman being misquoted over and over again. Where’s the skepticism, the demand for proof, links?

    http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/MoorcockInterview.html

    Radical gets confused for extremism or fanaticism. But I don’t find anyone on this blog network to be any of the above.

  13. 13
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Sylvia, JA & Emily:
    Yep. I’m quite familiar with all those specific examples of how the term “radfem” is used. And I don’t think that Ophelia remotely qualifies as the transphobic, existentialist feminist-type you’ve mentioned. So I can definitely see why she would not want to be referred to as a radfem in that context.

    However radical feminism has had a huge history and impact, both of which are largely misunderstood by people not as steeped in feminism as Ophelia. It seemed from context in the original post that the person might not have been using it to say, “Your feminist standpoint requires you to adopt a position on the universal woman’s experience that disallows the existence of trans people, and as such you contribute to oppression.”

    But what was the speaker trying to say? You’re a left wing feminist? You’re really, really feminist? You’re a non-skeptical feminist? You’re a radical feminist (in the broader sense that one is dedicated to eliminating root causes of sexism rather than treating symptoms)?

    Or, possibly, Rodney’s great phrase:

    “Radfem” means “someone, usually female, who believes women are human beings and whose comments or arguments I’m trying to dismiss.”

    I was asking Ophelia because although I’m not at all a radfem in the sense of someone whose position on existential gender negates the possibility of trans existence, I’m more than happy to embrace radfem from the ignorant jerkwads just trying to silence me.

    This made it hard for me to understand her point, and her comparison to Obama. I can certainly understand one sense in which it might be appropos (Obama is to the left of me, the farthest left my brain can imagine is communist, therefore Obama is a communist::Ophelia is more feminist than me, the most feminist my brain can imagine is someone who is a radfem – even though I don’t even really know what that means – therefore Ophelia is a radfem). Yet I have little idea if that is what she meant in her OP.

    I was just asking for a little clarification. i don’t want to run away from radical feminism any more than I want to run away from feminism in general. If “radfem” gets taken out of the contexts in which it was originally used and just becomes a label used to make women fear social punishment, then it is no different from screaming “feminist” or “lesbian” in past (and even current) debates. People are just looking for something that still is as effective in creating fear as lesbian once was when such cries initiated the lavender purges of the 70s.

    If the definition in the context of the OP was Rodney’s, I’d want us all to stand up and call ourselves radfems – while still retaining the ability to have earnest discussions within our own communities about how damaging has been the myth of universal gendered experience derived from the existentialist feminism of de Beauvoir and her successors.

  14. 14
    Ophelia Benson

    Well the version I grew up on was separatist.

    The clueless goons seem to mean different things at different times – but also to conflate the different ones for purposes of deniability, as political Big Liars always do. “Oh I meant ___, not ____.”

    They often define it as wanting to kill all the men. Yeh if that’s “radfem” I’m not a radfem. Der.

    But they also mean by it something like “anyone who thinks there is still sexism and it’s still a problem.” Abbie Smith for instance likes to rant about how she has faced no sexism whatsoever in her career, and to conclude from that that anyone saying there is still sexism in science is both lying and a weirdo radical.

    I am “radical” in the sense of thinking that stuff matters. I do think the media matter, for instance. Imagine that! But I have a hard time seeing that as “radical” when it seems so…blindingly obvious.

  15. 15
    Kim Rippere

    apparently “radfem” now means “has ovaries.”

  16. 16
    bastionofsass

    The opponents of equality for women have managed to distort the meaning of “feminism” so that many of those who support it are loathe to use the word to describe themselves.

    It’s very similar to the distortion of “liberal” in the public mind.

    We feminists and liberals need to take back our words.

  17. 17
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Well, back when ah were a lass, a radical feminist was a feminist who believed that patriarchy was the root of all evil oppression. Note: radical is from radix, which means root.

    The main contrast was with socialists and liberals. Socialist feminists were about broader views, insisting on the key importance of the intertwining of class oppression with the oppression of women (and often race, too). Unlike the straight-up socialists, who thought all that would go away with the glorious revolution so you could just ignore it and go make me a sammich. Liberal feminists were all about civil equality and rights.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah well by that definition I am a radfem. But when ah were a lass it meant separatists. That idea never appealed to me for a second!

  19. 19
    karmakin

    I guess I’m a Socialist Feminist then.

    By the definitions in this thread, I think there’s two qualifiers, in most people’s minds that come out when they’re talking about a “radfem”. First, the belief that patriarchy is the root of all oppression…or more accurately stated, the sum of all oppression. That’s a bit overkill/strawmannish, so I would say that an rejection/ignoring of intersectionalism is a better fit. Especially class issues. (As I said. I’m a Socialist Feminist)

    The second is female prioritization. Now I think that the whole thing on you have to focus on the mens issues! is of course overblown and unfair. But that said, language that indicates that the end goal that oppression for men is OK because then they’d know how it feels, and it’s needed to truly balance things out is unhelpful in that it feels fundamentally unfair to most people. I don’t really have a problem with it in the abstract, but in the reality it’s torpedoing one’s own movement.

    When people talk about “Radfems” it’s my understanding that it’s along one of those two vectors.

  20. 20
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Thanks for the response, Ophelia.

  21. 21
    Glaor

    “Fucking fools who call people like me and my colleagues and friends “radfems” for example. This? This isn’t radfem, you clueless goons. It’s just fem. You sound like people who scream that Obama is a communist. Obama! For crying out loud.”

    “Fucking fools”? Is that really appropriate language? Too many modern feminists talk like this online and it’s off-putting.

  22. 22
    callistacat

    Ladies using the F word? Oh dear. I won’t listen to these modern feminists now.

  23. 23
    shanesimmons

    Well, and there’s also feminists who believe the oppression and struggle of all women is equal. I know there are people who will nod their heads and say, “Well, yeah, exactly, that’s true!” If you do, you’re claiming the oppression of privileged white women in the US suburbs is equal to the oppression of women in the DR Congo.

    And you know, there’s a reason POC have womanism.

    And we won’t even talk about how outlets like Feministing seem to worship people like Dworkin. Why would conservatives want to distance themselves from someone who saw intercourse as rape and described the parent-child relationship as primarily erotic?

  24. 24
    Ophelia Benson

    Huh? Why are you commenting on a post from six months ago?

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