Why I Am a Feminist

Our fellow blogger Taslima Nasreen has been running a series of posts asking other bloggers their answer to the question “Why I Am a Feminist.” I contributed, and you can now read my post: “Why I Am a Feminist — Richard Carrier.”

Others who have contributed answers before now include Bina Shah (the journalist and novelist), Aron Ra (fellow FtB blogger and renowned vlogger and podcaster), Rita Banerji (author and activist photographer), and Skeptifem (anti-sexwork activist), with more contributions from Marcella and Eva and Physioprof.

But in timely fashion, Cristina Rad just recently posted a superb vlog on the issue of why and in what ways sexism still exists even in the supposedly most enlightened countries and societies, which supplements my point quite well, that it isn’t just extreme sexism that’s a problem, and that reverse sexism makes no difference to this fact (see Gender Roles, Trolls, & Sexual Harassment Policies). Once again proving Rad is probably the greatest vlogger on the internet. Her ability to edit video and compose arguments, articulate points, and make an entertaining and unassailable case is truly a thing of awe. (The most relevant part to the present point begins at minute 5:33.)

Feminism is an extension of humanism, which itself is a natural product of any well-thought-out naturalism. Which is really the only intellectually credible worldview for an atheist. And I made this point a while ago as a guest on Crommunist’s blog, where he ran a similar series “Because I Am an Atheist,” asking other people not why they are an atheist (like PZ’s series Why I Am an Atheist), but how being an atheist has changed the way they think or act or see the world. To check out my reply see Because I Am an Atheist — Richard Carrier. I don’t mention feminism there specifically, but you can see from it how my feminism would follow from the same process, and what atheism has to do with that.

Also related to this is my perspective on philosophy and what it should be and how we should all aim at doing philosophy, and doing it well, which was a subject of an interview with me by Daniel Fincke, which you might also benefit from reading. In it I discuss the role of philosophy in making us better, distinguishing rational philosophy from irrational philosophy, and the basis of sound moral values, all of which leads into feminism (though again I don’t specifically connect those dots there, you can). See The Full Richard Carrier Interview.

Because I think philosophy done well always leads to feminism. So if philosophy hasn’t done that for you, you’re doing it wrong.

Comments

  1. techie says

    Was Nietzsche doing philosophy well?

    “Goest thou to woman? Do not forget they whip.”

    Thus Spake Zarathrusta.

  2. DKendall says

    Not everyone defines feminism in the same way you do.

    In my experience, many people who reject the feminist label would still agree that men and women should be treated fairly and equally as individuals, while many people who do identify as feminists wouldn’t consider that to be true feminism. For example, both Marxist and radical feminists reject the idea of individual equality, instead aiming to liberate women as a class from a system they view as inherently patriarchal.

    As Andrea Dworkin put it: “I want to suggest to you that a commitment to sexual equality with males, that is, to uniform character as of motion or surface, is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered.”

    The fact that there’s infighting regarding the meaning of feminism within feminism itself indicates to me that it can’t really be defined in one simple sentence.

    My point of view (and the reason why I wouldn’t call myself a feminist) is that the actions and beliefs of a group are more meaningful than the dictionary definition of their ideology.

    I look at the mainstream feminist groups in my country (the UK), examine the campaigns they’re running and ideology they promote, and simply find more to disagree with than support. That doesn’t mean that I have a knee-jerk reaction against everything from feminist sources, or that I don’t respect and support individual feminists and feminist goals, but it does mean that I wouldn’t want to be seen as a supporter of that mainstream feminist movement. Not that I imagine British feminists are losing any sleep over that…

    I wouldn’t call myself a libertarian for similar reasons. Despite identifying with the simplistic definition of a libertarian as “a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action” found in my Merriam-Webster dictionary, I wouldn’t want to be associated with the right-wing political views that are dominant within libertarian organisations.

    There are liberal feminists I see eye to eye with, and moderate left-libertarians who share my political views, but they are well outside of the mainstream. In my opinion, calling myself either a libertarian or a feminist would entail giving my tacit support to the groups that are more representative of those ideologies.

    Rejecting the libertarian label doesn’t mean that I reject individual liberty and freedom of speech, nor does it mean I’m a sexist if I don’t call myself a feminist.

    • says

      This hijacking of “feminism” is as fallacious as hijacking “atheist” to mean “communist” just because some atheists are communists. Feminism has always meant what I define it as, and means that everywhere online where you read any feminism-101. Don’t fall for the anti-feminist rhetoric and buy “their” definitions of feminism, or define “feminism” by what just some sensational feminists have said or done. That’s like agreeing with Christians that all atheists are commies, and then concluding you shouldn’t call yourself an atheist.

    • DKendall says

      You seem to assume that I’m judging feminism based on MRA straw-feminists or a small fringe of the movement. In reality I’ve come to my current position after experience with some of the largest and most influential feminist organisations in the UK and Europe.

      I’m not aware of any such groups that follow the kind of individualistic liberal feminist definition you’re using. Instead groups like Equality Now, The European Women’s Lobby, UK Feminista, and others that are firmly within feminism’s mainstream, follow an ideology that goes well beyond a simple belief in treating people equally as individuals.

      Just like I know that my left-leaning politics wouldn’t be accepted at a Libertarian party meeting, I know that my POV wouldn’t be welcome in any of those feminist groups. I disagree politically with too many of their objectives, as their more authoritarian policies go against my social libertarian beliefs.

      I consider that disagreement with real world feminism to be more significant than any appealingly liberal and inclusive “Feminism 101″ definition I might find online. That being the case, would it really make sense for me to appropriate their movement’s label?

      To me “egalitarian” seems like a better term for a belief in fair and equal treatment for everyone. Although that comes with some political baggage too.

    • says

      That’s exactly the illogical behavior I called out the first time. You might disagree with the progressive politics of American Atheists or the Freedom from Religion Foundation, but why would that warrant denying you are an atheist, just because some large atheist orgs don’t share your politics? That’s illogical. If you don’t believe in God, you are an atheist. Period. What politics other atheists have is irrelevant. So, too, feminists.

      And that’s even when we consider express mission statements you might disagree with. And you don’t even have that in this case.

      Take, for example, one of the orgs you mention: UK Feminista. Their platform is simply “UK Feminista supports people to campaign for a world where women and men are equal.” Their vision statement reads:

      UK Feminista’s vision is a world where women enjoy all the rights enshrined in CEDAW – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – otherwise known as the ‘women’s bill of rights’.

      CEDAW is a document adopted by the general assembly of the UN. I doubt you disagree with anything in it.

      So you are (supposedly) fully in agreement with the official platform of UK Feminista. It would seem, then, that you are confusing even the organization itself and its mission principles, and certain individual members who may have voiced certain other weird things. (I am being charitable and assuming you actually are basing your opinion on some sort of facts, and not just assuming UK Feminista conforms to misogynist stereotypes because some misogynist told you it does.)

      So you are being doubly illogical. You are not only like someone who denies being an atheist, even though they are an atheist, simply because they disagree with the mission statement of this or that atheist organization (illogical behavior number one), but worse, you are like someone who denies being an atheist, even though they are an atheist, even though you agree with the mission statements of many atheist organizations, but simply don’t like the political views of this or that atheist working for them (illogical behavior number two).

      When we see doubly illogical behavior like that, it usually has an ulterior motive. You are spinning a delusion for some reason, to protect yourself from some sort of cognitive dissonance. What are you trying to avoid admitting? That’s what you need to seriously ask yourself. Because there is no rational reason for your position.

    • DKendall says

      That’s illogical. If you don’t believe in God, you are an atheist. Period. What politics other atheists have is irrelevant. So, too, feminists.

      It’s interesting to read this immediately after seeing comments elsewhere on FtB attacking “dictionary atheists”, and arguing that various other beliefs should be included as part of the atheist identity.

      If that form of atheism became dominant, with the mainstream usage of “atheist” no longer simply meaning “you don’t believe in God”, and I found myself declared a non-atheist by the majority of the movement, I might well reject the label because of that.

      To me meaningful definitions are fluid and determined by usage, rather than static and unchanging. From that perspective, rather than yours, I don’t think that I’m being illogical.

      You’re obviously a “dictionary feminist”, but I don’t think it’s irrational to question the definition you’re using. Plenty of feminists do just that, or at least interpret that definition in a very different way.

      Take, for example, one of the orgs you mention: UK Feminista. Their platform is simply “UK Feminista supports people to campaign for a world where women and men are equal.”

      That’s actually a good example of why a simplistic definition of feminism can be misleading. You’re using it to mean a form of individualist equality, where women are simply treated the same way men are. UK Feminista (and most other feminist groups in my experience) have a significantly different (and far more collectivist) definition of what constitutes equality.

      For example, it’s part of the UK Feminista terms and conditions that members oppose the sex industry and are not affiliated with it. That’s official policy, not the opinion of a few individuals within the organisation. The panel discussing the sex industry at their conference reflected that, being entirely made up of radical feminist “abolitionists”, with discussion focussing on ways of further criminalising prostitution, pornography and strip clubs.

      A friend of mine used to strip, and still dabbles in burlesque and arty fetish porn. As a “self-serving faux feminist funbot” (yes, those are specific words used unironically by UK Feminsta panellist Julie Bindel) she’d not be accepted by them, and I imagine I’d be so tainted by association that I’d automatically be unwelcome too.

      One of UK Feminista’s proud achievements is their role in convincing a number of local councils to adopt a “nil policy” for sex related businesses, closing strip clubs and sex shops in those areas, and putting hundreds of people (mainly women) out of work. Justification for this policy relies on the idea that the collective equality of women is served by it, and that this greater good outweighed those women’s individual choices.

      Needless to say, their authoritarian and pro-censorship stance conflicts with my individualistic social libertarian views. I’ve seen women who share my opinions (and express them more courteously and amicably than I would) banned as anti-feminist trolls for expressing disagreement. They certainly wouldn’t consider me a feminist, no matter how much I quoted your definition at them.

      Equality Now, another organisation that I mentioned, list their goal as working “for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls around the world”.

      Again, that simple mission statement looks like it fits your definition, and sounds like something I’d have to be a misogynistic monster not to support. Unfortunately my contact with Equality Now was due to their campaign (alongside a number of other major feminist groups) for increased censorship of the British press. They want newspapers and magazines to be restricted in the same way as pre-9pm television broadcasts, with them punished for publishing content deemed unsuitable for a child’s eyes.

      They argue that this is a necessary step to improve equality and protect women, with it only to be used to prevent tabloids from printing lascivious descriptions of sexual assaults, or topless paparazzi shots of celebrities at the beach. Despite their assurances, I don’t think you have to be a misogynist or tinfoil hat wearer to be concerned about that kind of censorious control of the media.

      I don’t believe that I’m just cherry picking unrepresentative examples here. I can’t think of any significant UK feminist group that would accept me with my current views. If you could accept that that’s the case, and accept how I choose to define an ideology, would you still think that my discomfort with the feminist label is irrational or disingenuous?

    • DKendall says

      Apologies for double posting, especially after such a long response, but I think going back to my earlier point regarding libertarianism might help you understand my perspective on this.

      I’ve looked at definitions of “libertarian” in a few different sources, and most of them don’t mention anything about free market capitalism. For example, my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary defines a libertarian as “a person who advocates civil liberty” and “a person who believes in free will”.

      I feel that over the last 30 years or so, libertarianism has become so dominated by the political right that the dictionary definition I’ve just quoted comes off as incomplete, if not downright misleading. “Libertarian” certainly needs a qualifier such as “social” added if I use it here, otherwise it’ll be assumed I’m a dedicated Ayn Rand worshipper. Is that really completely irrelevant to the meaning of the word?

      Is it illogical and irrational (to the point of making you suspicious of my motives) that despite holding certain “dictionary libertarian” beliefs, I’m still uncomfortable with the label due to it’s association with certain organisations and personalities?

      If your answer to that question is “no”, then how is that any different from rejecting the feminist label based on the organisations that represent it, rather than its basic definition?

    • says

      It’s interesting to read this immediately after seeing comments elsewhere on FtB attacking “dictionary atheists”, and arguing that various other beliefs should be included as part of the atheist identity.

      I’m unaware of that. It sounds strange to me. Do you have any examples on hand?

      If that form of atheism became dominant, with the mainstream usage of “atheist” no longer simply meaning “you don’t believe in God”, and I found myself declared a non-atheist by the majority of the movement, I might well reject the label because of that..

      But that already happened: most of the U.S. population uses atheist to mean immoral, and until recently, communist. Atheists have had to struggle for the word to be recognized only as just what it means (nonbelief). There is a limit to how much we can let outsiders hijack or disparage what a word means. Which is ironic considering that people thought I was trying to change the word “atheist” even though I very specifically defined “atheist+” not “atheist” and was completely clear as to it being a subset of the latter.

      Feminist has faced the same problem. It gets defined by men and anti-feminists in various disparaging ways. But that no more warrants avoiding the word than the same thing having happened to “atheist” warrants avoiding that word. Likewise, atheists come in all varieties (from radical libertarians to radical communists and everything in between), but we don’t define atheism by what any single atheist group defines itself as (thus, the policies an atheist organization pursues are not assumed to be “atheist policies” but the policies of that atheist organization). So, too, feminists. Or so it ought obviously to be.

      You’re obviously a “dictionary feminist”, but I don’t think it’s irrational to question the definition you’re using. Plenty of feminists do just that, or at least interpret that definition in a very different way.

      But this is where you are wrong. Anti-feminists might do that. But feminists themselves don’t. Just as a Marxist atheist doesn’t say that their Marxism is therefore the defining feature of atheism, so feminists don’t say that their specific policy platform is the defining feature of feminism. None of the organizations you cite do that. They all give pretty much the same definition I do. What they then propose as far as policy is not definitive of feminism. It’s just what those feminists do. Just like promoting Marxism is what those atheists do.

      For example, it’s part of the UK Feminista terms and conditions that members oppose the sex industry and are not affiliated with it.

      Which is unreflective of most Third Wave Feminism, which is currently the leading feminist movement worldwide.

      Thus, UKF’s radical policies are to feminism just like Marxism is to atheism.

      I can point to many such divisions in the feminist movement (just as I can in the atheist movement), for example, the battle between feminists who are inclusive of transgender rights and feminists who are hostile to the transgendered. Atheists are similarly divided on the same issue. But we don’t let that define “atheism”; neither does it define “feminism.” None of these disagreements do, not about acceptance or rejection of sex work, not about what affirmative action policies are good or bad, not about positions on child-protective censorship, not any of that.

      Plenty of self-identifying feminists would be with you on those issues (several blog regularly here at FtB). An analogous division would be between atheists who want raising children religious to be deemed child abuse, and the rest of us who would really rather not see that happen.

      Thus, you start by being a feminist. Then you debate policy within the umbrella of feminism. Just as with atheism.

      –:–

      As for your question about “libertarianism,” you might have a skewed perception again (see my discussion of the different kinds of libertarians in my other post). See Wikipedia. Even the Merriam-Webster entails most of what you might think is “right wing” (I’m not sure just what you are equating with that term), since it entails minimal government regulation and maximum attainable liberty. If by “right wing” you mean pro-corporation or racist or some such, such views would actually be contrary to a libertarian’s own principles (even though many libertarians nevertheless are pro-corporation or racists; ditto many atheists).

      So really, all that makes you a libertarian or not is whether you believe in minimal government regulation and maximum attainable liberty. The rest is add-on. Just as Marxism is an add-on to atheism. Or sex-positivity is an add-on to feminism.

      Indeed, you can be a libertarian feminist, who would be entirely against criminalizing prostitution precisely because that denies women their liberty (and there are such women here in the U.S.: Jessica Flanagan for example).

    • DKendall says

      Thanks for some interesting and thought provoking comments, I wish I had more time at the moment to respond, especially to your points regarding affirmative action and libertarianism.

      Regarding the definition of the feminist label, I think there are primarily two things we disagree on:

      Anti-feminists might do that. But feminists themselves don’t. Just as a Marxist atheist doesn’t say that their Marxism is therefore the defining feature of atheism, so feminists don’t say that their specific policy platform is the defining feature of feminism.

      Particular policies may not be the defining feature of their feminism, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t considered to be an essential part of being a feminist. If that wasn’t the case then surely it would make no sense for any feminists to define their position as “real feminism”, while attacking those who think differently as “faux-feminists”?

      That isn’t simply a matter of those who disagree with their platform being seen as misguided fellow feminists, not when they’re dismissed as not truly feminist at all.

      Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering what a divisive issue it is in the feminist movement, someone’s position on the sex industry often seems to be used as a litmus test for their status as a feminist. I remember a radio interview where a feminist activist was asked about sex workers who consider themselves to be feminists. She responded that they can’t be feminists because they’re holding back women’s liberation, and a real feminist wouldn’t put their individual choices ahead of the greater good. This wasn’t just a matter of them being unwelcome in her particular brand of feminism; in her view it disqualified them from feminism altogether.

      Another example is the way that “Conservative feminist” is often mocked as an oxymoron among feminism’s left-leaning mainstream. There’s real anger aimed at Conservative politicians like Louise Mensch just for using the feminist label. I’ve found that many British feminists agree with Harriet Harman that “you can’t be a Conservative and a feminist”.

      In my experience that’s true of liberal feminists, not just radicals and Marxists. For example, see this article by Tanya Gold entitled “These Tory women are narcissists, not feminists”:

      “Tory women talk about genital mutilation, Page 3 and birth control but, at the very centre of their vision they have class blindness, and this is why feminism will elude them.”

      Clearly there are some feminists who make a specific political position a requirement for being a feminist.

      This article attacking “fun feminism” may take this kind of attitude further than most feminists would (although plenty agreed with it), but its labelling of feminists as “faux” or not, depending on their specific beliefs, is pretty common in my experience:

      “Like other liberation movements, feminism has an ideology and a goal. It is not about personal liberty and freedom, but the emancipation from oppression and tyranny for ALL women, whatever our race or class.

      “Fun feminism” isn’t feminism at all. It is about the rights of the individual. In the “fun feminist” world, anything goes, no matter how destructive or harmful it may be to the individual or to women as a class.”

      To be fair, the “fauxminist” label isn’t only applied to liberal feminists by radicals. I’ve also seen it thrown at radical feminists like the author of that article, accusing them of not being “true feminists” because “feminism is about choice”.

      That’s the kind of thing I’m referring to when I argue that not all feminists define feminism as simply and inclusively as you do. In fact, the one thing that many feminists do seem to agree on is that there are other, more specific, ideological requirements to be met to truly be a feminist in their eyes.

      Which is unreflective of most Third Wave Feminism, which is currently the leading feminist movement worldwide.

      Worldwide? Or specifically in America?

      Where are the “Third Wave” feminist groups in the UK?

      In my experience UK Feminista are entirely reflective of mainstream feminism in Britain. Most significant feminist groups that I’m aware of in the UK follow a similar ideology, or are even more radical-leaning. Even when liberal newspapers like The Guardian report on Feminist Networks, or new grassroots feminist groups, that invariably seems to be the form of feminism they follow, not a liberal feminism compatible with my beliefs.

      Looking at Europe, the European Women’s Lobby is also closer to radical feminism than it is to any sex-positive liberal or libertarian feminism. The most obvious example is their “abolitionist” stance on prostitution, which includes them pushing some rather dubious research from radical feminists like Melissa Farley and Janice Raymond.

      For example, during the 2012 Olympic Games the EWL joined British feminist groups in demanding a crackdown on prostitution in London (despite sex worker groups calling for the opposite). They claimed that sex slaves would be flooding into London due to an increase in demand for prostitution — citing 40,000 women being trafficked into Germany for the World Cup as evidence — when in reality this appears to be little more than an urban legend.

      The EWL is a coalition of over 2000 different feminist organisations and is almost certainly the most powerful feminist group in Europe. I don’t think you can dismiss them as out of step with mainstream feminism. I can’t see any significant opposition towards them from other feminist groups.

      Maybe I’m suffering from confirmation bias and seeing a distorted image of mainstream feminism, but in Europe it seems to me like the more authoritarian/radical form of feminism is the one that’s mainstream, with influence in the media and politics, while it’s actually liberal feminism that’s out on the fringe.

    • says

      Which all cancels out. If every kind of feminist calls every other kind of feminist not a true feminist, then you can’t say feminism is defined by any of those groups, but can only be defined by what they all have in common, which is my basic definition of feminism. QED.

      Likewise, all your evidence proves that plenty of self-identifying feminists oppose policies and attitudes such as you attribute to the EWL, which refutes any contention that the EWL defines what a feminist is.

    • DKendall says

      Except they don’t all have your basic definition of feminism in common.

      Your definition’s emphasis on individualism alone would lead to it being rejected as “fun feminism” or “faux feminism” by feminists like Julie Bindel. Feminism merely meaning that “women should be treated as fairly as men” isn’t compatible with the collectivist/radical/revolutionary stance of many feminist activists. That’s a point I made in my first post by quoting Andrea Dworkin, and many of the feminists around today prove that her form of feminism didn’t die when she did.

      If their different beliefs did cancel each other out, pretty much all that’d be left (apart from the name feminism) is the idea that they’re all working for women’s rights, albeit with differing (and often incompatible) ideas of what that entails.

      By the way, I didn’t say that every kind of feminist calls every other kind a fake. That’d be hyperbolic considering the feminists who do work together despite ideological differences. All that I said was that it’s a pretty common occurrence, and that this refutes the idea that feminists never classify their specific beliefs as an essential part of feminism.

      Neither did I claim that a particular group, like the EWL or any other that I’ve mentioned, fully define feminism themselves. My argument is that a definition like yours is misleadingly simplistic considering all the feminists it doesn’t describe, not that there’s a group that does provide the one true definition.

      Having said that, I don’t think that you can ignore the largest feminist coalition in Europe, especially when looking beyond stripped down definitions and examining mainstream feminism in the real world. Yes, there are individual feminists who disagree with them, and they may not define what feminism is, but over here they’re the groups that typically represent the feminist perspective, with power and influence in politics and the media.

      You may think that I should still call myself a feminist despite so often disagreeing with mainstream feminism, but how many feminists would even entertain the idea that I’m actually one of them? To me that says more than a definition does, and while I do understand the point you’ve been making, that’s more than enough of a reason for me not use the label myself.

    • says

      Except they don’t all have your basic definition of feminism in common.

      Yes they do. Explicitly. We already covered this. I even pointed you to where they define it, and it looks basically just like my definition.

      Moreover, definitions of classes derive from shared properties of those classes, not what some random individual asserts. It’s basic set theory: if A, B, and C call themselves feminists (and each of those groups are very large, and not isolated idiosyncratic weirdos), then the basic definition of feminism is what A, B, and C have in common that is semantically connected to the term, wholly regardless of what anyone, anywhere, ever says.

      That’s how words work.

      You can thus join A or B or C and then participate in the debate between them. Or disavow even the rudimentary feminism they have in common.

      Your call.

    • DKendall says

      Yes they do. Explicitly.

      I think you’re being a bit disingenuous in ignoring how incompatible your definition of feminism is with the radical/Marxist feminist position that’s pretty popular in Europe.

      Feminists who follow Dworkin in rejecting the idea of equality with men under the current system, or attack the whole concept of individual choice when it conflicts with their view of what’s good for “women as a class”, are explicitly rejecting feminism as you define it. Many of those feminists couldn’t make it much clearer that they consider more liberal forms of feminism to be anti-feminist “capitulating to the patriarchy”.

      I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s beyond me how you can reconcile those views with the liberal and individualistic definition of feminism that you’ve provided.

      I even pointed you to where they define it, and it looks basically just like my definition.

      If you’re referring to UK Feminista’s one sentence definition: “UK Feminista supports people to campaign for a world where women and men are equal.” it actually isn’t just like your definition. Theirs is even shorter and simpler, but at the same time it’s much more ambiguous.

      While you specify what you mean by equality, referring to equal treatment under the law and treating people as individuals, UK Feminista do not. Their definition can comfortably include radical and Marxist feminists (which it needs to do considering UK Feminista’s policies and membership), but your definition is incompatible with their collectivist and illiberal stance.

      Julie Bindel, who’s attack on “funbot” faux-feminists I linked to earlier, is involved with UK Feminista, campaigning with them and speaking at their conference. She’s accepted by them and clearly fits their definition of feminism (while sex workers are excluded), but she wouldn’t recognise your definition as real feminism at all.

      As I acknowledged in my previous post, all feminists do share the belief that they’re working for women’s rights, which is basically all that UK Feminista are stating in their definition. That doesn’t mean that their particular idea of what this constitutes is compatible with other, more specific, definitions of feminism.

      Even if a particular group used a definition that’s entirely the same as yours, I think they’d be demonstrating that it’s misleading as soon as they attacked other feminists as “faux-feminists” or “gender traitors”. If they really followed your definition of feminism, throwing that at other feminists due to a difference of opinion on policy would make no sense.

      It’s basic set theory: if A, B, and C call themselves feminists (and each of those groups are very large, and not isolated idiosyncratic weirdos), then the basic definition of feminism is what A, B, and C have in common that is semantically connected to the term, wholly regardless of what anyone, anywhere, ever says.

      If that’s the case then it makes me even less inclined to call myself a feminist.

      As I’ve pointed out before, I disagree with campaigns that all the significant feminist organisations in the UK support. There’s a consensus amongst those major feminist groups that various authoritarian policies are necessary, and I’ll always oppose that.

      There’s a small sex positive and libertarian feminist fringe that I agree with, but they seem to be restricted to individuals on the internet. Their size and influence is minuscule compared with the powerful lobbying and activist groups of mainstream feminism. If feminism is defined by the things that the large groups have in common, with dissenting individuals irrelevant, then surely the mainstream’s authoritarianism would be part of that definition?

      Yes, I understand that things may be different elsewhere in the world, but the reality of feminism in my own country is more relevant to me.

      You can thus join A or B or C and then participate in the debate between them.

      However I label myself, there’s not even the slightest chance that I’d have the opportunity to participate in any such debate. All the major UK feminist groups agree on certain issues, and most make it absolutely clear that no debate is welcome when it comes to key positions and policies. Unfortunately some of those policies happen to include issues that I feel pretty strongly about.

      I know women with gender studies degrees and a history in feminism who’ve been ostracised because of ideological disagreements. Most British feminist organisations are dedicated to the abolition of the sex industry, with sex workers and people who support sex worker rights not welcome in their discussions. The general attitude towards men, even men who are feminists in good standing, is that they should sit down, shut up and listen, rather than engaging in debate. I’ve seen people dismissed as anti-feminists just for debunking blatantly inaccurate feminist statistics. Do you really think they’d welcome a random social libertarian dood, entering their space to challenge some of their core feminist beliefs?

      Even if I did call myself a feminist, I’d definitely end up one of those “isolated idiosyncratic weirdos” banned from the major groups and stuck hanging out with a few like-minded bloggers. In other words, nothing much would change for me at all.

    • says

      I think you’re being a bit disingenuous in ignoring how incompatible your definition of feminism is with the radical/Marxist feminist position that’s pretty popular in Europe.

      You’re repeating the same fallacies. That a given skeptics group harbors and defends ideas that are actually, in practice, anti-skeptical, does not in any fashion whatever discredit skepticism or give you a reason to deny that you yourself are a skeptic (or an atheist or a human rights advocate or [insert any class-identifying term here]).

      Feminists who follow Dworkin…

      Are a minority of feminists worldwide and therefore wholly irrelevant to this discussion.

      While you specify what you mean by equality, referring to equal treatment under the law and treating people as individuals, UK Feminista do not.

      That they fail to live up to their own principles has exactly nothing to do with what those principles are. They themselves call feminism x. That they themselves don’t live up to x is completely irrelevant to what even they themselves admit feminism to be.

      And we’ve already covered the “you’re not a true feminist” blather. That such arguments exist is no more relevant than “you’re not a true atheist/skeptic/human rights advocate/florist/democrat/car mechanic/whatever” is to whether you are any of those things. What defines those things is not what some isolated org or person says. If car mechanics got split over whether a “true car mechanic” repairs electric cars or not, you would recognize that as a stupid dispute, and that obviously the “no true car mechanic” argument in that case is bullshit, and irrelevant to whether someone is actually a car mechanic.

      This is a well-known fallacy called The No True Scotsman fallacy. Only you are using it to arrive at the even more absurd conclusion that no Scotsmen exist (not even in Scotland), simply because some Scotsmen use the The No True Scotsman fallacy (!).

      Carrier: It’s basic set theory: if A, B, and C call themselves feminists (and each of those groups are very large, and not isolated idiosyncratic weirdos), then the basic definition of feminism is what A, B, and C have in common that is semantically connected to the term, wholly regardless of what anyone, anywhere, ever says.

      DKendall: If that’s the case then it makes me even less inclined to call myself a feminist.

      As I’ve pointed out before, I disagree with campaigns that all the significant feminist organisations in the UK support. There’s a consensus amongst those major feminist groups that various authoritarian policies are necessary, and I’ll always oppose that.

      I can fathom no logic in what you just said. You are committing the very fallacy I called you out on, and using that as a reason to claim you aren’t committing that fallacy. Really?

      Consider, for example, the existence of sex-positive, anti-censorship feminist organizations, not to mention world famous feminist activists in that sphere (Susie Bright, Greta Christina, Wendy McElroy, Jessica Flanagan, et al.).

      There’s a small sex positive and libertarian feminist fringe that I agree with, but they seem to be restricted to individuals on the internet.

      It’s not small. It’s huge. In fact, it’s a best selling mainstream in the U.S. They have international organizations, famous authors and intellectuals, and probably millions upon millions of self-identifying people on their side. Most of the feminists I meet across the country, in fact. And we have five times your population. Yet even your country has them (Feminists Against Censorship, Backlash, and UK affiliates of SWAAY).

      The mostly white upper middle class women who push puritanism in the name of feminism tend to have more money and thus may appear to have a larger constituency, but in reality I’ll bet there are far more women who disagree with them (but agree with basic feminism), even in the UK.

      By letting the radicals “define away” feminism is a foolish thing to do. That is the surest way to destroy feminism: create a false dichotomy between “either a radical feminist or not a feminist,” force people to reject the former and thus reject basic feminism along with it. A really good strategy that sexists cheer on with glee. Don’t fall for it. Radical feminists no more represent feminism than radical marxists represent atheism–or indeed even socialism.

      If feminism is defined by the things that the large groups have in common, with dissenting individuals irrelevant, then surely the mainstream’s authoritarianism would be part of that definition?

      Except the “large” groups you are talking about only have memberships in the thousands. In a nation with thirty million women. See a problem with your math there?

      In reality, there are feminist orgs and millions of self-identifying feminists worldwide who do not agree with the radicals you are talking about. Therefore, the radicals cannot by any logical argument define what feminism is. Feminism can only be what is in common among almost all feminists. And that’s what I said feminism is.

      However I label myself, there’s not even the slightest chance that I’d have the opportunity to participate in any such debate.

      That’s silly. You are participating in it here. You can participate in it anywhere: letters to the editor of magazines and periodicals, comments on blogs, actual blogs; and every time the issue comes up in conversation, of what feminism is and what feminists do, which are all fine opportunities to make the very points I have: e.g. “not all feminists agree with the anti-porn lobby” is a simple, short statement you can utter whenever anyone ever says “feminists are against porn”).

      I know women with gender studies degrees and a history in feminism who’ve been ostracised because of ideological disagreements.

      So support them. Encourage them to write, read their stuff, speak out against this kind of abuse in letters to whomever matters.

      Do you really think they’d welcome a random social libertarian dood, entering their space to challenge some of their core feminist beliefs?

      Who cares? You don’t have to “enter their space.” You are part of a public that has plenty of its own, very public spaces for dialogue and expressed dissent. You are also always, by definition, in your own spaces, where you can say what you want. There are numerous sex-positive feminist organizations to join and support. And so on. Everything the sex-positive feminists do to combat the prudes (write books, blogs, letters to the editor, organize, network, speak out in public and in casual conversation everywhere), you could do. Or support them doing.

      The bottom line is: self-described feminists of this kind already exist; so why can’t you be one?

      You have no valid argument not to be.

    • DKendall says

      Apologies for the rather belated response. It’s always annoying when real life gets in the way of chatting on the internet.

      Are a minority of feminists worldwide and therefore wholly irrelevant to this discussion.

      While they may be a minority that doesn’t make them irrelevant, not when you’ve presented your definition of feminism as one that’s inclusive of feminism as a whole.

      They’re certainly not a powerless lunatic fringe to be dismissed so easily. Some of the most extreme radical feminists are women’s/gender studies professors, politicians, or in charge of major NGOs. Even if they don’t represent mainstream feminism, they certainly have a significant mainstream influence.

      If that wasn’t the case, how could their ideas be so influential in politics, academia and the mainstream media? Why would their research and theory so often show up in reports from major political groups and human rights organisations? Why would elements of radical feminist ideology be written the into law in a number of European countries? Why would they be hired as speakers at major conferences, not just of feminists, but also those of large NGOs and political parties?

      Your original “Why I Am a Feminist” piece was posted on a radical feminist’s blog and radical feminist Gloria Steinem was the 2012 Humanist of the Year, yet you’re saying that they’re a complete irrelevance to be ignored?

      This is like dismissing evangelical Christianity as utterly unimportant, despite its influence on American politics. The fundamentalists trying to ban abortion or force creationism into the classroom represent a minority of Christians, but that doesn’t make them irrelevant when discussing the religion.

      That they fail to live up to their own principles has exactly nothing to do with what those principles are.

      The problem with this argument is that they wouldn’t see themselves as failing to live up to their own principles. They may fall short when it comes to your definition of feminism, but that would only be relevant if they accepted that definition.

      In reality, if you actually read what those feminists say or listen to their lectures, it’s the liberal feminists who they view as letting feminism down. In particular, “choice” feminism is consistently dismissed as incompatible with basic feminist concepts like “the personal is political”.

      When they attack the kind of individualistic liberal feminism that your definition describes, they aren’t failing to live up to their principles, they’re actually demonstrating what their principles really are.

      What defines those things is not what some isolated org or person says.

      You yourself are just an individual person. I’m not sure why I should accept that feminism is simply what you say it is, while ignoring most of the major feminist groups active on my continent.

      This is a well-known fallacy called The No True Scotsman fallacy. Only you are using it to arrive at the even more absurd conclusion that no Scotsmen exist (not even in Scotland), simply because some Scotsmen use the The No True Scotsman fallacy (!).

      That’s a rather bizarre interpretation of what I’ve said. In no way am I saying that no true feminists exist. In fact, I’m quite happy to accept that all those different feminists factions are indeed feminist, since that’s how they define themselves.

      The point I was trying to make is that there isn’t a single accepted definition of feminism; at least not one more specific and detailed than the idea of working for women’s rights. I think quite a few feminists acknowledge that when they talk about “feminisms” rather than “feminism”. While some feminists follow a definition of feminism that’s compatible with yours, many others do not, and some wouldn’t view it as feminism at all.

      I find it ironic that you’d bring up the No True Scotsman fallacy. To me that seems to be the argument you’re using to dismiss feminists who don’t meet your definition of feminism. In particular, by comparing radical/Marxist feminists to skeptics who defend anti-skeptical ideas, you’re effectively saying that their ideology is anti-feminist. To me that seems absurd when their ideas are part of the spectrum of accepted feminist theory that’s taught in just about every gender studies classroom.

      It’s not small. It’s huge. In fact, it’s a best selling mainstream in the U.S.

      I’ll take your word for that, but obviously as a Brit/European, it’s local feminism is what’s relevant to me, and it definitely doesn’t resemble the American feminism you’ve described.

      Yet even your country has them (Feminists Against Censorship, Backlash, and UK affiliates of SWAAY).

      I’m afraid this makes my case regarding the state of feminism in the UK better than anything I’ve written myself.

      Feminists Against Censorship are a relatively tiny organisation with few active members, and stand in opposition to pretty much every other feminist organisation in the country. Even small local chapters of feminist groups like the Feminist Network almost certainly have many more active members (and definitely have much more influence) than FAC does nationwide. While local feminist groups can organise hundreds of women to protest outside of Hooters restaurants and shops that sell Playboy (generating numerous articles in the mainstream press), FAC don’t even have much of an online presence.

      Backlash, a coalition primarily formed to fight against the criminalisation of “extreme porn”, are not a feminist group. While they include Feminists Against Censorship, the majority of their membership are anti-censorship libertarians or pro-BDSM activists. Even with that coalition, they still received almost no media attention, and failed miserably in preventing the ban on “extreme porn” from becoming law.

      Most feminist groups actively supported that law and contributed to the moral panic that went with it. Maybe some changed their minds when the law was used to prosecute men like Simon Walsh for possessing pictures of consenting sex, but at the time articles like this typified the feminist response. In fact, the only article I could find opposing the law in the mainstream press was from Symon Hill, of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia.

      As for the UK affiliates of SWAAY, as far as I can see, none of them explicitly identify as feminist organisations. Of course sex worker rights groups include women who identify as feminists, but that doesn’t make them feminist organisations, any more than the presence of religious members makes them religious organisations. In my experience, the hostile reaction they receive from mainstream feminism often leads sex workers to reject the feminist label. That’s certainly true of the founder of SWAAY, and also former sex worker Dr Brooke Magnanti.

      You’re effectively arguing that I’m wrong about feminism in the UK because of one small feminist group that couldn’t be much further from the mainstream. I’m afraid you can’t have it both ways: you can’t dismiss radical feminism as irrelevant, then bring up a much smaller and less influential group as a counter argument.

      Except the “large” groups you are talking about only have memberships in the thousands. In a nation with thirty million women. See a problem with your math there?

      I think you’re moving the goalposts here. We were specifically discussing feminist groups and the feminist movement, rather than women as a whole.

      If I recall correctly, something like 30% of British women identify as feminists, so obviously that’s a far larger group of people than are active within feminist organisations. While I think it’s quite possibly true that there’s a difference between the beliefs of the average casual feminist and the ideology typical within organised feminism, that wouldn’t change the fact that it’s the feminist organisations that have political influence and represent feminism in the media. Even if most non-activist feminists disagree ideologically with those feminist groups, there’s little sign of them doing anything about it.

      Perhaps you just don’t get how dominant authoritarian radical feminist ideology is within the European feminist movement?

      For example, have a look at the planned legislation to further criminalise prostitution in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. In NI various socialist and feminist groups have allied with conservative Christians (including Catholic orders that used to run Magdalene asylums), while in Scotland it primarily seems to be a feminist campaign, with support from left-wing organisations like Amnesty International and various trade unions. All of them, including the Christian groups, are using arguments and statistics from the same radical feminist sources like Gunilla Ekberg and Melissa Farley.

      Looking at the feminist response to this proposed legislation, the only problem they tend to have with it is that it isn’t restrictive enough. For example, Labour Women, among others, have called for authorities to be given the power to disable the websites, internet connections, and mobile phones of sex workers. This kind of authoritarianism, justified for “the greater good”, is typical of the mainstream feminism I’m familiar with.

      Of course sex workers themselves are protesting, but where’s the liberal sex-positive feminist opposition to this? If they’re a significant movement, let alone a majority, then surely there’d be more of a response than a handful of critical posts from a few individuals?

      I look at previous campaigns and it’s a similar story. For example, when the implementation of a “nil policy” threatened the closure of strip clubs, sex shops and adult cinemas, workers in those establishments marched in protest. They had the support of a local vicar, but sex-positive feminists were nowhere to be seen. Instead the major feminist groups were campaigning for the ban, picketing and chanting outside the clubs and sex shops, producing garbage statistics claiming that strip clubs cause rape, and viciously attacking and shaming the women who work in them.

      It may be different in America, but to me that’s the face of mainstream feminism.

      Feminism can only be what is in common among almost all feminists. And that’s what I said feminism is.

      If you had kept your definition of feminism more generic, not mentioning choice and treating people as individuals, then I probably wouldn’t quibble about it. However, I definitely don’t agree that almost all feminists hold your liberal and individualistic form of feminism in common. In my experience, within organised feminism in Europe, your kind of feminism is a minority belief.

      Who cares? You don’t have to “enter their space.” You are part of a public that has plenty of its own, very public spaces for dialogue and expressed dissent.

      That’s true enough, but I don’t need to identify as a feminist to do that. With the exception of Feminists Against Censorship, I can’t think of any UK feminist organisations I’d be either welcome within or interested in supporting. While feminist groups might expect me to use the feminist label, none of the organisations or campaigns that I do currently support make feminism a requirement for participation.

      In fact, even when it comes to the specific feminist campaigns that I do agree with, I’ve never exactly been asked for a feminist membership card when offering support. For example, I’ve supported pro-choice activism, even though the feminist organisers would consider me the worst kind of degenerate scum if they knew my views on other issues. Whether I identify as a feminist or not doesn’t change anything of significance.

      As an aside, I’ve always felt that pro-choice arguments regarding bodily autonomy also apply to things like voluntary sex work. It always confuses me that so few of those feminists using the slogan “my body, my choice” see it that way.

      There are numerous sex-positive feminist organizations to join and support.

      Not in the UK or Europe from what I can see. While I suppose I could join an American sex-positive feminist organisation, they aren’t involved in the activism that’s having an impact over here.

      You have no valid argument not to be.

      I’ve already given you my main reason for not wanting to use the feminist label:

      In my experience, when someone says they’re a feminist it’s generally assumed that they share the beliefs and support the campaigns of the major feminist organisations. This isn’t surprising when one particular perspective is pretty consistently presented in the media as the feminist point of view. Since I disagree with so much mainstream feminist policy and ideology, I think it’s misleading to use the label. Unless I have the opportunity to explain my views in detail, I risk being seen as a mainstream feminist, giving tacit support to an ideology that I generally oppose.

      Apart from that, using the feminist label while belonging to a tiny fringe of the feminist movement (at least locally) would result in tedious arguments about whether or not I’m a real feminist. I’ve seen this happen to other people and it’s a distraction from what’s being discussed. Not using the feminist label at all derails the “faux-feminism” debate when making an argument that’s opposed by the vast majority of feminists present.

      Along with the fact that I just don’t want to be associated with the overwhelmingly authoritarian and collectivist feminist movement in my country, to me those seem like valid reasons not to call myself a feminist.

    • says

      Apologies for the rather belated response. It’s always annoying when real life gets in the way of chatting on the internet.

      DKendall: You were right, your last post somehow got flagged as spam. I found it in the spam folder and approved it. Your second attempt was not flagged as spam. Did it contain any different content? I have kept it in the queue, but if it’s redundant, let me know so I can delete it.

      As to your point, I agree with most of it. It just isn’t relevant. That there are feminists you disagree with has no relevance at all to whether you are a feminist or can defend your feminism against that of others. Like the rest of us are doing.

      Otherwise, you are acting like someone who won’t call themselves an advocate of democracy because they don’t like what the Tory/Republican party thinks democracy is (or Labor/Democratic party, as the case may be). That there are sides we think are totally wrong about what it takes to maintain a healthy democracy has nothing to do with what a democracy is or what principles we defend in common that can be called democratic. So, too, feminism.

  3. says

    I know a couple of men (myself included) who are reluctant to call themselves feminists. Even though they agree that men and women should be treated equally under the law (equal pay, equal rights, etc.), they associate feminism with the idea that men and women actually are equal; the idea that psychological sex differences are only a result of “the patriarchy”.

    I admit that I treat men and women differently in social situations. Does this make me a sexist? If I’m out drinking with a woman I won’t expect her to drink as much as me — or if she’s attempting to keep up with me I’ll suggest that she shouldn’t — because women process alcohol differently than men (even if it was a woman who weighed as much as I do). Or, if I’m in the company of women I don’t know, I try a bit harder to curb any blatantly anti-religious sentiment because in general women are more religious than men; a random woman is more likely to be religious than a random man.

    I just read too much cognitive science that demonstrate the psychological differences between men and women to not have it trickle into social situations. The problem is that a lot of people see “different” as “one is better than the other”. I think Yudkowsky summed it up well here:

    A common pattern in failed attempts to cross the gap of sex and gender, is men who see women as defective men, or women who see men as defective women. For example, if you think that women don’t take the initiative enough in sex, or that men are afraid of intimacy, then you think that your own brainware is the law of the universe and that anything which departs from it is a disturbance in that essential ghost. The human species has two sexes, a male sex and a female sex. Not a right sex and a wrong sex.

    So am I a sexist or a feminist?

    • says

      First, what you seem to think feminism is is some sort of weird straw man built out of hyper-rare weirdos and not the vast majority of actual feminists, now or at any time in history. You’ve bought the bullshit sold by the anti-feminists. The vast majority of feminists, now and throughout history, do not deny actual gender differences. They only deny gender differences there is no actual evidence for, and oppose all fallacious inferences that the actual differences there are entail differences in how they should be treated (sometimes they might, but in most cases they don’t; and even when they might, they do so only in respect to individual differences anyway).

      Second, whether you are (mildly) sexist depends on what you mean by the two actual examples you give. If you assess a person’s tolerance for alcohol based on their body mass and not their gender, not sexist. If you assume women of the same body mass as you have less tolerance for alcohol, sexist. (Indeed, I’m not sure body mass carries all that much difference either: I drink socially a lot, and I drink hard, and yet women who can’t keep up with me are rare in such company…so I have to assume the light drinkers have gone home by then, making even body mass a bad indicator of tolerance, due to bell curve selection bias.)

      Likewise, assuming any woman you meet will be religious while any man you meet won’t be, is sexist. The difference in probability is simply not high enough to bank on a random man being an atheist, any more than a woman, so why would you bank on such a likely-to-fail assumption for either gender? Even when the odds are different, it is fallacious to equate a percentage difference with a 100% certainty. That is as sexist as assuming any woman you meet can’t have served in the military because fewer women serve in the military; or deciding not to discuss service in the military around women because they won’t be familiar with it–rather than just asking them: have you served in the military? Ditto: why not just ask them “are you religious?” rather than assuming gender = religious status?

      Food for thought, yes?

    • says

      The “weird pseudo-feminist” thing where differences between men and women are only a result of “the patriarchy” I actually got from a sociology class at NYU. Maybe it was a result of the professor being some sort of uber-postmodernist, but that was my first interaction with it. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t one of the first-wave-Andrea-Dworkin “all sex/porn is rape” feminists, but this was also like 10 years ago.

      The idea that men and women process alcohol differently even given the same body mass I had repeatedly drilled in me due to briefings in the military (mainly in the context of preventing rapes and sexual harrassment on base). The last briefing I had was actually about 6 months ago. If I recall correctly, it has something to do about the amount of body fat there is on the person, and women generally have more body fat than men even given the same body weight. Of course, if the DoD is wrong I’m not going to start trying to press the issue…

    • says

      Once again, that’s confusing gender averages with individual differences. Many women (especially, but not only, in fields involving physical labor or requiring physical fitness) do not have a large difference in body fat from men, and many women who have a lot of body fat can easily drink you under the table (I speak from experience), while plenty of men have more body fat than the average woman.

      So clearly the military is just oversimplifying and thus inadvertently repeating a sexist stereotype that has little useful application. Certainly, attending to actual body fat is a useful thing to consider, but as that varies enormously, tracking it ignorantly by gender stereotyping is foolish. Especially since body size matters more.

      [See this comparative chart, which assumes average body fat for each gender: notice how little difference there is for a 140 Ib. man or woman, and that a 160 Ib. woman drinks the same as a 140 Ib. man; and remember that a leaner, more fit woman will drink the same at the same weight as a man, since her body fat will be closer to a man's].

      There are likewise various biochemical differences by gender. Women’s bodies tend to process alcohol faster, which can accelerate drunkenness but also accelerates recovery, such that an average woman can drink more than a man if she doesn’t drink as quickly, and a skilled drinker knows how to regulate intake in precisely that way (and I’m sure you know, regardless of gender, experience with drinking matters a lot to inebriation rate and degree, second only to whether you have consumed a meal before drinking). And again, even biochemical differences are on average. Individuals vary considerably.

      Thus, gender differences are easily overwhelmed by individual differences. So attend to individual differences. Don’t just blindly gender-stereotype.

  4. Jeff Hansen says

    “Because I think philosophy done well always leads to feminism. So if philosophy hasn’t done that for you, you’re doing it wrong.”

    I think that if you come to conclusions like this, you’re doing philosophy wrong. When feminism drops their bigotry, goofy postmodern caricatures of science, & cowardly PC attitude toward Islam’s treatment of women I’ll consider taking them seriously again.

    • says

      Thus illustrating how illogical you are. And arguing illogically is the paradigm of doing philosophy wrong. Thus proving my point. QED.

      You have just made the same kind of argument as “When atheism drops its communism and moral and cultural relativism and constant denigration of family values, then I’ll consider taking atheism seriously again.”

      Your argument is just as stupid as that one, and for all the same reasons.

  5. kyoungers says

    Thank you for (1) your feminism post (“If you don’t believe these things, you are a sexist.” Right!) and (2) linking to Cristina Rad’s video – hadn’t seen her before and she’s my new hero.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    By your measure, did anyone except Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa do philosophy right before Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill?

    • says

      Richard, Wikipedia says that Agrippa wrote “Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex, 1529″, putting him in the feminist camp (although possibly in the small misadrist camp given the title), so he was basically asking if you think there is any philosopher that did philosophy right given that until recently most would not have been feminists.

      I’m not sure this can be applied to all philosophers though*, as many might simply not have used philosophy to the question of gender equality and if they didn’t we can’t simply say they are bad philosophers because we think that if they had talked about genders they would have produced some bad philosophy.

      * even forgetting that earlier philosophers might not have had access to as much information about genders as modern philosophers.

    • says

      Oh, I see. Of course, feminist philosophers go way back. The first feminist treatise was probably the book against Theophrastus’ attack on women by the Epicurean philosopher Leontion, but that was not preserved by medieval Christians, likely because she was an atheist, and a woman, and defending women, a trifecta of poison to the medieval Christian mind. But among what was preserved, we have Musonius Rufus, for example (and Plato; likewise the legal philosopher Gaius, etc., cf. Not the Impossible Faith, chapter 11).

      But if we are talking about doing philosophy correctly, yes, one must distinguish modern from ancient knowledge (not just scientific knowledge, but advances in logical and philosophical knowledge as well, and historical knowledge), but one must also note that there is no philosopher before the 20th century who got any substantial amount of things right about anything (the closest to come was Epicurus, but even he got tons of things wrong).

  7. Patrik says

    I don’t get this part:

    “Feminism is an extension of humanism, which itself is a natural product of any well-thought-out naturalism. Which is really the only intellectually credible worldview for an atheist.”

    Are you saying that the intellectually credible worldview for an atheist is a political ideology that subscribe to or personal belief in an unverifiable “patriarchy” and that women as beings are superior to men?

    • says

      Aha! Finally I get a sexist douchebag in my comments section. Well done.

      Thanks for the straw man fallacy and equivocation fallacy, both of which ignoring every single thing I said (from my definition of feminism to my extensive elaboration of what it actually entailed and why it was correct: again, in the essay referenced in the first paragraph), all in defense of a retarded MRA fantasy of what “feminism” is, and making a statement (about “patriarchy” being “unverifiable”) that is disproved verifiably in the ZOMGitsCris video I linked to.

      Thereby proving my entire point!

      Lovely.

    • Patrik says

      Richard,

      I’ve seen your talks on YouTube about Jesus, good stuff by the way, and you call yourself a scholar but you appear blind to what feminism is. How is it possible?

      My take is that you want to alley yourself with fellow FTB bloggers and has therefor invented a new definition of feminism that you can support. What you describe in your text is basically humanism, something that pretty much the entire population of the western society agree with including me. Do you really understand what feminism is? Do you understand what banner you stand beneath? S.C.U.M manifest is a great piece of literature? Really?

      When you watch the ZOMGitsCris video, you don’t react to the absurd claims made by her? Okay, I know you won’t bother to ‘think’ what’s said but at least give this a thought. The “patriarchy” is merely the outcome of evolution and not an evil plan by men. Just think about it and what you support when calling yourself a feminist.

      “sexist douchebag” — Bad troll! No cookie! :p

    • says

      So, you questioned how my feminism could follow from humanism. I showed you (proving you didn’t even check what I meant by feminism). And you now admit my feminism follows from humanism.

      So, I win that argument. You are either a feminist by my definition, or you have no intellectually credible worldview. Agreed. Nice.

      Then you repeat the same goof, and claim something Rad said was false, without stating what that was or presenting any evidence it was false. Pardon me for not trusting you to have checked. You didn’t check the first time, and I burned you for that goof. You can grab this hot stove again, but I suggest you bandage your wounds instead.

      Your only remaining tactic is to play games about what words mean, even though changing what words mean doesn’t change the things they describe. I use the definition of feminism used everywhere in feminism 101 sites and books and videos and pretty much all non-fringe feminist literature, and which describes far and away most actual feminists, and you have the irrational gall to claim I am the one who is using the wrong definition. Right. Because that’s logical.

      And instead of acting like rational person, you cite an extremely fringe bizarro cult book written by a confirmed lunatic as evidence of what “feminism” is, even though no feminist at FtB has defended anything like the views it portrays, nor do any feminists other than only the weirdest, rarest nutbags.

      This is like citing an atheist neonazi author as proof that atheism is a white supremacist movement. Not noticing the huge boner fallacy in that kind of argument makes you not just a douche, but a class-A dork.

    • Patrik says

      Richard,

      I have no problem subscribing to your definition of feminism. The problem is that mainstream feminism is no were near that definition. Perhaps this is more evident in European were [one kind of] feminism has merged with the state and now effects decision and law making.

      I wish you luck in spreading your interpretation of feminism on FtB.

    • says

      Give me evidence that “mainstream” feminism says anything differently than I do. Don’t give me examples of fringe folk. Nor examples from thirty years ago. And don’t cite antifeminists who are making unsourced claims about feminism. Show me that there is a “majority” of self-described feminists in the world today who advocate any definition of feminism relevantly different from mine.

      Evidence or GTFO.

  8. says

    Richard,

    Here are a couple of the problems I’ve found with the feminist movement and the defenders of feminism I’ve encountered (particularly here on FTB):

    1) To define feminism the way you’ve defined it (even if it is defined this way universally) is simply unsupportable. There are exactly two sexes. To claim to support social and political equality between the two by specifically referencing one of them is unjustifyable. This would be no different than claiming to be a “lefty-ist” because you support equality between right-handed and left-handed people. Would such a term be accurate or even useful? I find that “humanist” is quite sufficient to describe a person who advocates for the welfare of human beings.

    Wikipedia says ” A feminist is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women”.” The exclusivity of this statement is undenyable. It is absurd to claim to advocate for the equality of one demographic with another while actively and deliberately excluding the “other” from consideration.

    Wikipedia also says that the definition of “humanism” is ambiguous and depends largely on context. In the context of this discussion – where social and political equality are concerned – I see no need nor any justification for advocating for the rights of one demographic at the exclusion of consideration for the other. It sort-of takes the “equal” our of “equality”, doesn’t it?

    (It is important to note here that you’ve already precluded yourself from making the argument “Ah, but women are still in a socially subordinate and repressed situation” because you made the statement “I would be a feminist even if women all the world over were treated as fairly as men and there was nothing more to be done.” The fact that even if women did suddenly achieve 100% social, economic, and political equality you would still call yourself a feminist is astounding! What, then, could your motive possibly be?)

    2) The ferocity with which advocates for the “other” are met by those claiming to advocate for “equality for women” betrays the true nature of the argument.

    To wit: If you walk into any FTB comment section and say “I support the equality of women!” you’re a hero… but god help the person who walks into any FTB blog and says “I support the equality of men!” But those two statements are epistemically indistinguishable! It’s simple math – A=A. To say “2+2 should be treated exactly like 4″ is no different than saying “4 should be treated exsactly like 2+2″ However, if I was a “fourist”, the former statement would enrage me, while the latter statement would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And this “fourist” response is *exactly* the response we see from feminists, particularly here on FTB.

    That is exactly the sort of behavior that reveals the disingenuousness of the feminist movement (or at least the feminists that populate FTB).

    But you know what the worst part is? You don’t even *have* to claim to support equality for men in order to be labelled a MRA, sexoist, misogynist, or whatever… all you have to do is NOT BE A FEMINIST in order to merit those lables. If one deigns to refrain from siding with one sex over the other, one has (according to feminists) planted their flag firmly with the enemy and is now a sexist, oppressive force to contend with. If you doubt this, I can direct you to a good number of comment threads to quickly settle the matter.

    These are the main reason I can never and will never identify with the feminist movement. Now, I’m sure you have a bingo card somewhere that you’ll put a few chips on after reading my comments, but I’d sure like it if you could address at least those two points and explain how you reconcile those with a philosophy of reason, and why a feminist label is even necessary for someone who regards themselves as an advocate of social, economic, and political equality for all humanity.

    • says

      kacyray:


      To define feminism the way you’ve defined it (even if it is defined this way universally) is simply unsupportable. There are exactly two sexes. To claim to support social and political equality between the two by specifically referencing one of them is unjustifyable.

      I don’t see how this is a criticism of anything I have said on the matter. Did you not even read what I said?


      It is absurd to claim to advocate for the equality of one demographic with another while actively and deliberately excluding the “other” from consideration.

      Show me one example, anywhere on FtB, of any blogger here (not lunatic commentators, but bloggers), me or otherwise, who has ever “deliberately excluded [the rights of men] from consideration.” You seem to be attributing to me ideas I have never voiced, and which make absolutely no sense in the context of what I did say. Even Rad’s video, which I linked to, mentions in what ways men’s rights matter, too. So obviously, you didn’t watch that, either.

      In short, it doesn’t look like you know what you are talking about.


      In the context of this discussion – where social and political equality are concerned – I see no need nor any justification for advocating for the rights of one demographic at the exclusion of consideration for the other.

      No one I know (beyond fringe lunatics) has ever done that. So you are obviously building a straw man here.

      As to why we need to attend more (not exclusively) to the problem of women’s rights, you would know the answer to that if you had read my actual statement on why I am a feminist. So you obviously didn’t. You evidently just skimmed the first paragraph and fell asleep or something.


      The fact that even if women did suddenly achieve 100% social, economic, and political equality you would still call yourself a feminist is astounding! What, then, could your motive possibly be?

      Because feminism is literally the belief that women should have equal rights, and since that is always true, then by definition, if you believe that, you are always a feminist. Basic commutative logic: A = B, B = C, therefore A = C.

      So, either you, too, are a feminist, or you do not believe women should have equal rights.

      Your denying this is not painting you here as particularly rational.

      Instead you seem to be advancing the fallacy that if I believe women should have equal rights to men, that I therefore believe men should not have equal rights to women, which is a contradiction in terms.

      So either you are mired in some form of delusional irrationality, or you have some weird bug up your ass about wanting a corresponding word for the belief that men should have equal rights to women–just in case you find yourself trapped in a weird Star Trek style alien culture where the men are mistreated and marginalized by the women and you want to have a word for being against that.

      Well, that would normally be virism (from the Latin: femina => feminism; vir => virism), but that word has been claimed by male supremacists, who use it in exactly the opposite sense. Which means that’s no longer available.

      So when you fall through a rip in the space-time continuum and find yourself in that weird world where you need to pervasively fight for the equal rights of oppressed men, apparently you’ll have to come up with a new word to describe your position.


      The ferocity with which advocates for the “other” are met by those claiming to advocate for “equality for women” betrays the true nature of the argument. To wit: If you walk into any FTB comment section and say “I support the equality of women!” you’re a hero… but god help the person who walks into any FTB blog and says “I support the equality of men!”

      Give me an example. Cite an exact URL in a comment thread where this occurred. Then we’ll talk about that.


      You don’t even *have* to claim to support equality for men in order to be labelled a MRA, sexoist, misogynist, or whatever… all you have to do is NOT BE A FEMINIST in order to merit those lables.

      Correct. Since feminism = belief that women should have equal rights, ~feminism = belief that women should not have equal rights. That’s by definition sexism.

      And since feminism does = belief that women should have equal rights, your not wanting to be a feminist has no rational basis. Since you claim to believe that women should have equal rights, which makes you a feminist by definition; so denying the label is contradicting yourself.

  9. says

    I don’t see how this is a criticism of anything I have said on the matter.

    That’s because it wasn’t intended to be. It was a statement on the problems I’ve found with the feminist movement – not a criticism of comments made by Richard Carrier. Brother, your dukes are up but no one is throwing punches.

    Show me one example, anywhere on FtB, of any blogger here (not lunatic commentators, but bloggers), me or otherwise, who has ever “deliberately excluded [the rights of men] from consideration.”

    I didn’t say any FTB bloggers exclused men from consideration, I said the description of feminism (as stated on Wikipedia) is one that ostensibly seeks equality yet does so while excluding men from the equation. As I tried to demonstrate metaphoically, if someone were to constantly stump for equality for ONE side of any “equal” pairing, and even define themselves using the word that describes that ONE side, all those who truly see the two sides as equals would find that person very suspect, and with good reason.

    Here’s the description that wikipedia offers: Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.[1][2] In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women”

    Do you not see here the specific advocacy for women? Do you not notice the exclusion of men? “An advocate or supporter for the rights and equality of WOMEN”. How can you not see the exclusivity here? There is NOTHING Here that states that a feminist need be concerned with equality for men. In fact, if the tide WERE to swing the other way, there’s nothing here that states that a feminist should worry about it at all. I simply don’t understand how this can escape you!

    You seem to be attributing to me ideas I have never voiced

    Again – I am commenting about my experiences with feminists and the feminist movement.

    Because feminism is literally the belief that women should have equal rights, and since that is always true, then by definition, if you believe that, you are always a feminist. Basic commutative logic: A = B, B = C, therefore A = C.

    The logic may be sound, but my issue is with the premise. First of all, the term “feminism” is attached not just to a movement, but to ‘a collection of movements’, so to say “I’m a feminist” associates one with not just a movement (with which one might agree), but also a ‘collection of movements’, some of which might hold positions with which one disagrees. What of those who don’t wish to be attached to these movements?

    Secondly, the term “feminism” is – whether you like this or not – associated with a lot of ideas packaged in, many of which are either in dispute or that some (like myself) reject outright. An example of one of these ideas is the the idea that no power differentials ought to exist between the sexes (I believe that certain such differentials are “built in”, such as the physical stregnth of men and the sexual stregnth of women).

    What label would you give someone who simultaneously supports and agrees with political equality for all citizens of the world, yet desires no association with any movement and especially none of the potential packaged ideas (such as the one I’ve described)?

    This statement “If you believe women deserve equal treatment under the law (as the 14th amendment requires) and if you believe women ought to be treated in business and culture and personal relations as individuals the same way men are, then you are a feminist.” seems to leave no room for such an individual. But it also seems to be inconsistant with the description of feminism as described in Wikipedia.

    (I realize you haven’t personally endorsed Wikipedia’s description as-is, but I am aware of no single, authoritative manifesto of feminism endorsed by all self-identified feminists, so wikipedia will have to do).

    Wikipedia’s description indicates that activism is an inherant part of feminism. What of those of us who support those rights yet do not wish to be activists? With which label will you describe us? Why are we morally obligated to choose between a label that doesn’t accurately describe us (feminist) and a label that doesn’t accurately describe us (sexist)?

    So, either you, too, are a feminist, or you do not believe women should have equal rights.

    Again, feminism is described as a “collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.” This renders your statement a false alternative. There is a third choice. There are those who fit the feminist description (activists), those who oppose equality (sexists), and then there are those who are not activists, not part of any movement, yet support equality for all and treat all others accordingly (guys like me).

    It is the refusal of feminists to recognize this third alternative that makes feminism and feminists so damn frustrating!

    Wikipedia’s description establishes two very important realities about feminism, neither of which are acknowledged in your own personal description. One – that feminism is an activist position. Two (and the more important of the two) – that feminism is a COLLECTION OF MOVEMENTS, and not a SINGLE MOVEMENT with a SINGLE, ESTABLISHED, AGREED UPON IDEOLOGY. This is vital! Surely you understand why someone would reject a label that, while attached to certain beliefs with which we do agree, is also associated with many ideas with which we do not!

    Surely you can understand why some us us who fully support the idea that all world citizens ought to be treated equally human and be granted political equality do not want to be saddled with a label that MAY or MAY NOT have other ideas packaged in with it which which we do not agree (such as my example above). Surely you recognize the third alternative I’ve posited as a legitimate alternative. Surely you must recognize that the rejection of identification with a MOVEMENT does not plant ones flag in the opposing camp! I simply can’t accept that someone as clearly intelligent as you are would so adamantly fail to acknowledge this.

    • says

      I said: I don’t see how this is a criticism of anything I have said on the matter.

      You said: That’s because it wasn’t intended to be.

      No, you had said: To define feminism the way you’ve defined it (even if it is defined this way universally) is simply unsupportable.

      That is a criticism of what I said.

      You then failed to provide any logically valid support of that statement. I called you out on it, and your tactic was to pretend you didn’t say it.

      Ask yourself why.

      I said: Show me one example, anywhere on FtB, of any blogger here (not lunatic commentators, but bloggers), me or otherwise, who has ever “deliberately excluded [the rights of men] from consideration.”

      You said: I didn’t say any FTB bloggers exclused men from consideration.

      No, you had said: the defenders of feminism I’ve encountered (particularly here on FTB)

      So you were saying this about FtB.

      Indeed, you had said: If you walk into any FTB comment section and say “I support the equality of women!” you’re a hero…but god help the person who walks into any FTB blog and says “I support the equality of men!”…[a hostile] response is *exactly* the response we see from feminists, particularly here on FTB. That is exactly the sort of behavior that reveals the disingenuousness of the feminist movement (or at least the feminists that populate FTB).

      I then asked you to prove this with an example. You have so far provided none.

      You are therefore fabricating a straw man out of your own imagination, and substituting it for feminism as a whole.

      Why?

      You said: I said the description of feminism (as stated on Wikipedia) is one that ostensibly seeks equality yet does so while excluding men from the equation.

      How can “equality with men” in any way exclude the rights of men? Equal is equal.

      You are committing the same fallacy you “claim” feminists commit against you (but have yet to provide any evidence they actually do): you are here acting like a “fourist.” I called you out for this already. You are being illogical, and treating a statement of “I support the equal rights of women” as if it means “I do not support the equal rights of men,” even though the latter statement directly contradicts the former.

      Why are you behaving so illogically?

      There must be a reason. Ask yourself what it is.

      You said: The logic may be sound, but my issue is with the premise.

      Which is illogical. You either believe women should have equal rights, or you don’t. You say you do, but then deny the premise that you do. That’s textbook irrationality. Own it. Or stop it.

      You said: First of all, the term “feminism” is attached not just to a movement, but to ‘a collection of movements’, so to say “I’m a feminist” associates one with not just a movement (with which one might agree), but also a ‘collection of movements’, some of which might hold positions with which one disagrees. What of those who don’t wish to be attached to these movements?

      This is another illogical behavior. Atheism is also a collection of movements, including neonazi atheism and Marxist atheism and supernaturalist atheism (certain forms of Buddhism, for example; UFO cults; etc.). So would you deny being an atheist, because you disagree with some atheist movements?

      That would be stupid. Right?

      But that’s what you are doing here. Which makes it equally stupid.

      See my discussion of this irrationality above.

      You said: Secondly, the term “feminism” is – whether you like this or not – associated with a lot of ideas packaged in, many of which are either in dispute or that some (like myself) reject outright.

      So is atheism. That doesn’t change the fact that you are an atheist. (Assuming you are. If not, then substitute whatever you are for that, and the conclusion still follows.)

      Thus, you are coming up with completely irrational excuses to avoid admitting you are a feminist. Which suggests you have some ulterior psychological motive, some cognitive dissonance you are trying to avoid. What do you want to avoid admitting? Ask yourself that. Because it’s driving you into delusional irrationality. And you need to do something about that.

      You said: An example of one of these ideas is the the idea that no power differentials ought to exist between the sexes (I believe that certain such differentials are “built in”, such as the physical stregnth of men and the sexual stregnth of women).

      Very few feminists disagree with you. So why don’t you join us feminists?

      After all, I call myself a feminist, and I explicitly said just what you did, that some differentials are built in, even though highly variable (many a woman is stronger than you, and many a woman has a stronger libido than you–which is what I assume you mean by “sexual strength,” although how that relates to being a “power differential” is beyond me). So either you are a sexist (and deny that many a woman is stronger than you, and many a woman has a stronger libido than you, a false belief) or you are a feminist (and admit that gender differences exist on average but individuals need to be treated as individuals since you can’t assume any random woman will be weaker than you in any attribute, because many individual women won’t be).

      So which is it? Are you in agreement with us (the majority of feminists) or not?

      You said: Wikipedia’s description indicates that activism is an inherant part of feminism. What of those of us who support those rights yet do not wish to be activists?

      So, you believe women should have equal rights, but don’t believe in doing anything about it?

      Okay. That’s hypocrisy, but whatever.

      Let’s at least not lie about the facts. Nowhere in the Wikipedia entry for feminism does it say “activism is an inherent part of feminism.” To the contrary, it repeatedly says only “some” or “many” feminists engage in activism of one sort of another. It never once defines feminism as feminist activism.

      So in your delusion, you are now not only behaving multiply illogically, you are fabricating facts, as if hallucinating things on the wikipedia page that aren’t even there.

      You don’t see a serious problem with that? What is the root cause of this delusional behavior? What are you so terrified of, that you would descend to such irrational desperation to avoid it?

    • says

      Here’s the description that wikipedia offers: Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.[1][2] In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women”

      Do you not see here the specific advocacy for women? Do you not notice the exclusion of men? “An advocate or supporter for the rights and equality of WOMEN”. How can you not see the exclusivity here? There is NOTHING Here that states that a feminist need be concerned with equality for men.

      Except for all the uses of the word equal. You are using the fact that tehy are being implicit by not saying “with men” each time they say “equal” to claim that they don’t want equality. Let’s try to rephrase that definition by putting back the implicit “with men” part:

      Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending political, economic, and social rights for women equal with men’s rights.[1][2] In addition, feminism seeks to establish opportunities for women in education and employment equal with men’s opportunities. A feminist is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women with men.

      This is the same definition, with some word order rearranged and repeated, which makes it clunkier; which is probably why they used the implicit version as most people (except you apparently) would get it that 1) equals necessitate something to be equal with and 2) that something is men.

      Or do you think that women are trying to be equal to, say, the trans* community, which would mean being as discriminated against as trans* people are (sometimes by feminists, unfortunately).

      This explicit version of the wikipeia definition shows your other objection to be baseless:

      In fact, if the tide WERE to swing the other way, there’s nothing here that states that a feminist should worry about it at all.

      The word “equal” does, as shown by replacing it with the explicit expression “equal with men” as if the tide were to swing then women would still not be equal to men, they would just be on top of the privilege ladder then.

      so to say “I’m a feminist” associates one with not just a movement (with which one might agree), but also a ‘collection of movements’, some of which might hold positions with which one disagrees. What of those who don’t wish to be attached to these movements?

      Would you say that you are not a human because some humans might hold positions with which you disagree? What if you don’t wish to be attached to a common identification with Ted Bundy or Fred Phelps?

      What you can do is be more precise. Instead of simply saying that you are a feminist you could read about intersectionality and see if you identify with that label better.

      Wikipedia’s description indicates that activism is an inherant part of feminism.

      Even if they do/did, what do they mean by the word? What do you mean by it? What do most people mean by it?

      For me, in one sense I am not an activist in that I am not in any feminist organisation nor go to protests and such. On the other hand, i try to spend some time reading about it to see where I have blind spots and then try to correct them. I also call out others when they are being sexist/racist/… to change the tone of society from one in which such language is acceptable to one in which it is a little less.

      I consider that to be (low level) activism, in that it is activity that is necessary to achieve equality, even if it is not as visible or as time consuming as a traditional activist.

      Hell, you could say that responding to you is a form of low level activism in that we are trying to get you (and undecided lurkers) to see that feminists (by and large, with some extremists exceptions) are not your enemy, unless you believe that women should not be treated as equals to men.

  10. says

    Let me caveat that last post with this….

    I stated that “Wikipedia’s description establishes two very important realities about feminism, neither of which are acknowledged in your own personal description…”

    In the spirit of accuracy, I do acknowledge that you very clearly articulated the moral necessity for activism on the part of any rational person who recognizes the need for progress where women’s equality issues are concerned. This is something you made clear in your elaboration on how feminists ought to behave however, not in your definition/description of a feminist.

    I just don’t want you to still think I didn’t read your post. I read it, and the reason I don’t address your points is because I pretty much agree with you across the board on the realities of the issues currently facing women.

    My point here is not to dispute the problem as you’ve framed it. My point is to dispute the suggestion that if you aren’t part of this nebulous, loosely-organized, diversely factioned group of movements, then you are an opponent of women’s equality. It just ain’t so.

  11. mojo.rhythm says

    Do I think that women deserve the same remuneration, status and benefits as men for putting in the same effort and sacrifice, even if women hypothetically have a lower average marginal contribution to productivity (just for the sake of argument)? Yes, I do.

    Do I also perceive various forms of subtle discrimination against men in Western Society which should be addressed? Definitely.

    Gender equality is a prima facie noble goal. The debate gets sticky when those in the debate have to make it clear what needs to be equal.

    The extreme ends of the spectrum are easily identifiable: forcing every male to undergo gender reassignment and extensive hormone replacement therapy would be completely out of the question, for example.

    So where do we draw the line in the sand? Everybody has their own unique “gender equality” value, i.e. their self-drawn line on the spectrum. Feminism is a messy topic which I don’t really know much about, so my line wavers like the Dow Jones average on election day.

    Bottom line: there are many goals I share with certain feminists, and many goals I share with Men’s Rights Advocates. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

    • says

      The difference is that feminism is simply a belief in the equal rights of women, whereas the MRA movement does not define itself that way, but is built on a system of fantasies about how men are “put down” that in fact are mostly just men being treated equally and fairly (as individuals). If you can find a single MRA organization or website that actually disseminates a platform based on true facts of the world (and not delusions of oppression only sprinkled with a few legitimate complaints), then please post the link here. It would be nice to know such a thing existed.

      But in any case, if you support the equal rights of men, you by definition support the equal rights of women, so you are a feminist. As long as that’s what you actually support: equal rights (in respect to gender).

  12. Patrik says

    Richard,

    “Basic commutative logic: A = B, B = C, therefore A = C.”

    If A is a super set that includes B then A will not be equal to C.

    That is, women asks for the same “rights” as men but not the responsibilities. Women work less than men but expect to be paid equally. Women get leaner prison sentences then men. Society condones male gender mutilation but no female. The list of male inequality is nearly endless and you don’t hear feminist-101 believers say anything about this.

    As a humanist, I believe that men and women should have the same opportunities and responsibilities and that no gender should expect to be treated more “equal” then the other.

    • says

      First of all, if A is just any superset including B then “A = B” is false.

      But if you are saying A = B is false, then you are saying women should not have equal rights (because A = B : feminism = the belief women should have equal rights).

      So I can only assume you are saying now that women should not have equal rights because they are not accepting equal responsibility–which is a false remedy: if women are not accepting responsibility, then the solution is to put that responsibility on them, not to deprive them of rights–or you are saying feminists are saying women should have equal rights but not equal responsibility–which is false: no feminist says that (other than fringe lunatics).

      Your own examples illustrate the point:

      Women work less than men but expect to be paid equally.

      Identify one woman, anywhere on earth, who has ever said this. And who is not a fringe lunatic.

      Feminists have never advocated any such thing. They have only advocated equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity to work.

      Women get leaner prison sentences then men.

      And white men get leaner prison sentences than black men. So do you think we should deny equal rights to white men because of this?

      Or is the correct remedy to end the disparity, and not deprive anyone of equal rights? The answer is obvious. And commutes to the case of feminism.

      So, again, either you believe women should be treated equally (and you are therefore a feminist), or you do not believe this (and you are therefore a sexist). Which is it?

      (Although just FYI, the disparity between sentencing of women and men in the U.S. federal system is only nine months on average per every six years of sentence, which is pretty small. But it is still wrong, and an example of the disparities favoring women that Rad also denounces in the video I linked to. By far most feminists are against that disparity as much as you and I. Because it doesn’t treat women as equal, but as superior. Just as giving more lenient sentences to white men does not treat them as equal but as superior to black men. That is racist; the same disparity with women is likewise sexist. All sane feminists agree.)

      Society condones male gender mutilation but not female.

      Actually, a great many feminists are against male circumcision, too; and those who aren’t, are generally not against prepucectomy in boys or girls (which is not clitoridectomy; the male equivalent of clitoridectomy would be removal of the glans, not the foreskin).

      So there is nothing here to support your claim that feminists are against equal treatment.

      The list of male inequality is nearly endless and you don’t hear feminist-101 believers say anything about this.

      This is false twice over: the list is not nearly endless (it is comparatively short), and feminist-101 believers not only say a lot about this, I myself am an example of a feminist-101 believer who mentioned it, and I pointed readers to Cristina Rad’s video in which she even listed some of the examples, thus again completely refuting your bullshit claim that “you don’t hear feminist-101 believers say anything about this.”

      Get out of your delusional worldview. Please.

  13. mojo.rhythm says

    Richard,

    Reasonable feminists and reasonable MRAs both accept the proposition that both sexes deserve equal rights. In that strict sense, feminism and MRA are different interpretations of the same philosophy.

    Each camp differs in its focus. MRA attempts to highlight cases of pro-woman bias and gender discrimination in favor of the female sex. Feminism addresses the unequal preference of males over women in the legal sphere, everyday life, politics, culture, etc.

    Your statement that feminism is strictly concerned with gender equality, and nothing else, doesn’t seem to me to be entirely correct. It is definitely the exception to the rule to hear a feminist advocating passionately for the abolition of certain forms of pro-woman bias in society (I’m not saying it never happens). If something of that nature is seen, I expect an MRA to be responsible (and vice versa too).

    Feminism seems to me to place the vast majorities of its energy on unearthing and eradicating the social phenomena which put men at default advantage over women, of which there is definitely plenty. Not surprising; there is a reason the movement calls itself “feminism” and not “gender egalitarianism.”

    MRA takes this same attitude towards male discrimination and pro-woman bias.
    My motivation for not dismissing MRA out-of-hand (like you seem to have done, given your ostensibly mocking and contemptuous tone) is based on harrowing personal experience with pro-woman bias in the legal system. My stepfather has been partnered with my mother for about 6 or 7 years now. His ex-wife is a sociopathic nutcase with the most vindictive and spiteful temperament that I know of. During the first 12 or so months, Stepfather had to fight tooth-and-nail to try and get the children out of her care and into his; she was never home, never cleaned the house, didn’t take care of the kids, mistreated her animals, neglected the home to the point that it became literally unfit for human occupation, and so on. The kids had to be taken out of her care in emergency fashion multiple times and handed over to Stepfather temporarily. Then they were handed back to her and the cycle repeated itself.

    But, while the kids were with us, they started doing visibly better in all aspects of their life. They became more sociable and talkative, they went to school everyday, they did their homework, they enthusiastically partook in extra-curricular activities, you name it. Bottom line: Stepfather and my Mother were giving a stalwart effort and raising the children proper, while Ex-Wife was being a grotesque, narcissistic, destructive, hurtful, neglectful bitch.

    The custody battle stretched out over 5 or 6 years. During this time, Ex-Wife did a series of highly rotten, fucked up things, each of which alone should have mandated the permanent and final expropriation of the kids from her. But the legal system, despite our robust legal case and plethora of evidence, refused to budge from the side of Ex-Wife. It didn’t matter what she did; they kept the wool totally over their eyes, danced around the issues, and didn’t seem at all interested in pursuing the just and moral legal course of action.

    Long story short: Stepfather only managed to win full custody two years ago (and only because they had no choice but to hand them over; Ex-Wife had gone too off the rails to be considered sane by then). And before that two years, the stress of the custody battle, and the overwhelming pressure of having to cope with the machinations of a psychopathic bitch on a daily basis, culminated in a very brutal late-night heart attack. Shortly after-wards, he had to give the kids over to Ex-Wife. There wasn’t any other way. If he kept them, there was a good chance that the stress and infernal anxiety of the whole situation would have killed him dead or caused him to have an unprecedented nervous breakdown.

    Anyway, ever since they have been in our custody full-time, the children have finally been able to enjoy a normal and fulfilling life with their father and my mother. They are back to normal, and Stepfather is finally at ease, glad that he no longer has to swim against the current of a legal system biased in favour of the mother.

    Since one personal experience of something ought not to be taken as normative of the situation-at-large, I did my research not long ago, and found that Australia has a cornucopia of gender-biased legal travesties mirroring this one. So much so that it has precipitated the creation of many NGOs that are dedicated to seeking out and handling the egregious mistreatment of single fathers by the justice system.

    In conclusion, I think you ought to re-examine your position on MRA. It may contain more crap than content, but please don’t use this as an excuse to mock its honest and thoughtful facets. To do so perpetuates stereotypes that cause active harm and mistreatment to honest, hard-working, compassionate people like my stepfather.

  14. says

    Woah there, I am not an “anti sex worker activist”. What the fuck. That is like saying a critique of factory farming makes one an “anti food activist”. I am against pornography and the sexual exploitation of women, not women who work in those industries.

    • says

      It says “anti-sexWORK activist”, not “anti-sexworker” activist. You do seem to be in favor of abolishing sexwork (even if only voluntarily, i.e. not purchasing what sexworkers are selling). But if I am wrong, i.e. you are okay with a morally and fairly run sexwork industry, then let me know. Because I definitely do not get that impression from your writing.

  15. Susie says

    Feminists who follow Dworkin…

    Are a minority of feminists worldwide and therefore wholly irrelevant to this discussion.

    WOW. I love how you just utterly and completely disregard a whole lot of women in your “yay-feminism” rant. DKendall is right about the position of Radfem and Marxist feminism in the sense that they think collectively because women are oppressed as a class. Some women, especially white middle-class women, have much more agency and autonomy that they can think and fight individually for their own benefit–but that hardly makes them invulnerable. Indeed, Richards idea of making feminism into whatever it means to you is something I’d classify as fun-fem.

    The point of equality is not something this culture is built for. The archetype of masculinity is the point of normal. This “normal” is an insane ideology and one that oppresses men by other men and oppresses women wholly. For one to be successful or “equal” in this culture is to be measured as with masculine ideas of success. To be considered equal this way is not equal–man or woman.

    I’m a radical feminist and I don’t don’t fight to be equal in a society destroying itself with masculine ideas of control and power. While I don’t agree with DKendell’s stance, I have to say they seem to have some minimal dabbling in feminist philosophy. Before debating for feminism and then wholly dismissing feminism, may I suggest you understand it, especially before dismissing it so casually and easily as you do. That is not advocacy, it’s ignorance.

    • andrewviceroy says

      What is not “irrelevant” is that the superior label “gender equality” doesn’t allow for the extreme factions to propagate within the movement like the label “feminism” does. We should correct our labels if they truly do intend to promote equality. This is something everyone can get behind. It’s a way to heal this rift in the movement now. The “strawfeminist” argument falls flat under this crucial pragmatic modification. IMO, any attempt to undermine a more incluse and accurate label such as “gender equality” in favor of “feminism” really does show one’s true colors.

    • says

      The only thing that hinders extreme factions are moderate factions. Like me. If you think a generic “gender equity” movement wouldn’t generate extreme factions, you either are very naive, or haven’t been reading very widely.

      I can easily find you one appallingly misogynistic MRA article for every radfem article you cared to list. There are plenty of extremists on both sides. So if you want to believe the extremist MRAs don’t represent all MRAs, you will have to concede extremist feminists don’t represent all feminists, either. And just as there are extremist feminists and MRAs, so there would be extremist gender equity advocates even in your hypothetical world where the terms “feminism” and “MRA” no longer exist.

      It’s basic Golden Rule: if you don’t want to be straw manned by your opponents, don’t straw man your opponents.

  16. andrewviceroy says

    Clearly, I should have posted here, rather than in the A+ thread. I guess what I’m most curious to understand is WHY so many feminists are opposed to the clearly *more accurate* label “gender equality.” Even if the label has always historically meant to include male equality, it is still a less appropriate title, much the same way that “In God We Trust” is simply not true nor appropriate for all Americans. Maybe you have an issue with eliminitivism. IDK. But labels as banners for ideas DO make a difference. Just look at what’s going on now. Even as a merely pragmatic issue, it’s not a good thing. I propose to you that the unwillingness to change the label *is evidence* of a lopsided sexual evaluation beyond a compensatory, reparatory, or temporary role. “gender equality” is more accurate and reasonable. If A+ truly is progressive, let’s see some semantic progress.

    • says


      WHY [are] so many feminists are opposed to the clearly *more accurate* label “gender equality.”

      Why are you opposed to the clearly *more accurate* label “humanist”?

      Why are animal rights activists opposed to the clearly *more accurate* label “complex living thing rights activists”?

      Why are black rights activists opposed to the clearly *more accurate* label “human rights activists”?

      Why are gay rights activists opposed to the clearly *more accurate* label “sexuality rights activists”?

      Now that you realize the flaw in your form of argument, maybe we can talk like reasonable people?

      You are welcome to be both a feminist and a gay rights activist and a racial equality activist and a men’s rights activist (like this guy). None of these terms are exclusive of the others. And each signals where you agree there are problems to address and that you want to address them, or keep them from arising again.

      Thus, I am not aware of any feminist (but for extremely rare radicals) who are not gender equity advocates. It’s just not a very efficient word (I’m a gender equityist?) nor does it capture what we want to add to the conversation (if you aren’t already a feminist, you should be; just as if we aren’t already in favor of making men equitably treated in certain domains as well, we should be, but most of us already are).

      The real problem is if you are scared of the word feminist, then there is something you need to deal with in yourself. We are already past that. And moving on.

  17. andrewviceroy says

    My last post (thank goodness!) I would say don’t make a series about black history and call it “Black History Week.” Put the same amount of black history into ALL history shows as white history and Asian history and Native American history and simply call it “history” ALL YEAR. This is how equality is established. History belongs to everyone, always. The same goes with the Arts or sports. When you isolate race or gender or sexual preference culturally, you perpetuate victim identity and gender/race/sexual preference based morality.

    When you institutionalize a polemical label, then you eventually lose the ability to abolish it when it becomes inappropriate. In this one, people are seen as ‘women haters’ if they do not want to adopt a label that is both semantically inaccurate and unproductive. It’s just a fact that the label ‘feminism’ is less effective at preventing extreme factions who DO have a more unbalanced evaluative position from pushing their agenda. The banner ‘gender equality’ is much more likely to prevent the fringe positions of both men and women from actually taking over and/or from being perceived to be taking over.

    Do you disagree with this? That would blow my mind. It would be like saying that members of the ‘purplism’ movement actually really have as much of a propensity to be for all the colors in the rainbow as a group called “rainbowism,” rather than a higher propensity for members who favor a more purple agenda. Get it?

    The accuracy of labels matters, because, as professional technical writers will tell you, a title/label is the promise of what’s inside. Accuracy is critical here. THIS is what upsets me: the willingness of professional academics to compromise their integrity when there’s no good reason why they should have to do that. If ‘feminism’ truly does mean ‘gender equality’ at its heart, then we are still one step away from semantic accuracy. And it matters. Why does it matter? Because ‘gender equality,’ as a concept, is ETHICALLY BETTER than ‘feminism’ simpliciter.

    • says

      The labels of “black/gay/women’s rights advocate” do not ever need to be abolished. Even when all equity is achieved, one does not then cease to be an advocate of the rights achieved. We still support them and seek to maintain them. Likewise the word feminism.

      There is also no sense in which women’s equity has been achieved. So even your implied premise (that it’s time to retire the label “feminism”) is false. But your conclusion, that when that time is reached we should retire the word, is also false. As the very second sentence of the article I am referring to in the article you are replying to says: “I would be a feminist even if women all the world over were treated as fairly as men and there was nothing more to be done.” Why? As the very next sentence says: “Because feminism is the view that that is the way things should be, and thus the way we should endeavor to keep things going.”

      In addition to feminism, we should be in favor of all other aspects of social justice (by race, class, sexuality, and so on), and in that broad category are several issues of disfavor toward men, too (in measured respect: hence what this gal says, especially in light of her further thoughts, and again what this guy says, both self-described feminists, and both advocates for male gender equity as well).

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