The good kind and the bad kind

One of the inescapable tropes about feminism is that there are two kinds of feminism, the good kind and the bad kind. You know how that goes. There’s the good sensible who-could-possibly-disagree kind that’s about equal pay and maybe more daycare, and there’s the bad crazy who-could-possibly-agree kind that’s about how people actually think and talk about women. This binary gets different names depending on who’s talking. One popular pair of labels is equality feminism v gender feminism. A new one I hadn’t seen before is equal rights feminism v protectionist feminism.

Protectionist. Hmm. That’s interesting. It’s interesting because it’s so insulting – as if not wanting to be treated like shit is somehow precious and spoiled and princessy.

Anyway, I’m crowd-sourcing it. Anybody familiar with that one? Anybody know the source?


  1. says

    Wendy Kaminer identifies another conflict between forms of feminism, the conflict between what she calls “egalitarian” and “protectionist” feminism

    But very few references out there… This year only you and ->

    Those feminist heavyweights, Ed Clint and Damion saying they’d rather have Kaminer than Watson and her “protectionist feminism”

  2. Ulysses says

    Wendy Kaminer wrote a book A Fearful Freedom: Women’s Flight From Equality in which she promoted egalitarian feminism and slammed protectionist feminism. I don’t know if she coined the phrase protectionist feminism but she used it repeatedly in her book.

    I found these comments about Kaminer’s book (PDF):

    In her characterization, egalitarian feminists focus on promoting equality between women and men, and giving women and men equal rights. Protectionist feminists prefer to focus on legal protections f or women, such as employment laws that specially protect female workers and divorce laws that seem to favor women, sometimes advocating restricting rights for men, such as free speech (specifically, the right to produce and consume pornography). Though the book predates third-wave feminism, Kaminer identifies both protectionist and egalitarian currents within first-wave feminism and second-wave feminism.

  3. says

    “Equity feminism” is another popular term for the nice and polite type of feminism, where the dears don’t get too uppity and excitable.

  4. hjhornbeck says

    Here’s a long piece by Kaminer, which should give you the gist of her views. I find it a frustrating read; she has some legitimate complaints against second wave, but will drop lines like “Much as they dislike admitting it, feminists generally harbor or have harbored categorical anger toward men.” Third wave addresses most of those concerns, but she’s oddly silent about that (despite demonstrating excellent knowledge of contemporary feminists). It’s primed for quote mining and misunderstanding, whatever the case.

  5. says

    Basically it boils down to “Feminism which does not challenge the average person to consider and change their views and behavior,” and “Feminism which does challenge the average person to consider and change their views and behavior.”

  6. Simon says

    Yup, folks beat me to it but it does indeed appear to be Wendy Kaminer. It’s also in her Wikipedia.

  7. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Equity feminism v gender feminism is something Christina Hoff Sommers promotes, I’m not sure if she coined the term. Her book Who Stole Feminism? is a favorite among Men’s Rites Advocates and some popular atheists.

  8. says

    Ah, Wendy Kaminer; thank you.

    Ironically (or not) I like Kaminer. I’d forgotten about her take on feminism, though I’d seen it and been not altogether convinced. I think another person who sees some feminism as protectionist is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

  9. leni says

    Much as they dislike admitting it, feminists generally harbor or have harbored categorical anger toward men.”

    This implies, or at least seems to (maybe she doesn’t mean it the way I think she does), that the anger is unjustified. Is it a secret that injustice and unfairness make people angry?

    As an atheist I have no problem admitting that I harbor anger towards religious people. I also harbor anger towards men.

    That does not mean that I am personally angry with every man or every religious person I meet. Or that I can’t feel empathy even if I am angry, or that I can’t distinguish between people who make me angry and people who don’t, even if they all have penises.

    That said, the attitudes that make me angry come from somewhere. It’s not like being angry at a tidal wave or hurricane. Those things aren’t moral agents of whom I expect better. I understand that anger isn’t always productive or useful, but I’m not going to pretend it isn’t there. Yes, I feel moral outrage. I don’t really see a need to apologize for that.

  10. Stacy says

    Much as they dislike admitting it, feminists generally harbor or have harbored categorical anger toward men.

    Ooh, anger toward men. See there!? That means…something! Something that discredits feminism, anyway!

    “Anger toward men” has been a shibboleth intended to dismiss feminism since forever.

    Yet “categorical anger” of men toward women is fucking ubiquitous. Hell, a number of well-respected and highly successful authors based their careers on it.

    But Cthulhu forbid any feminists should harbor any anger toward men. Because, Anger’s Always Bad. Also, misandry!!1!.

    P.S. I like that weaselly “harbor or have harbored….” Are you now or have you ever been a feminist who harbored categorical anger toward men?

  11. Stacy says

    To be fair, yes, I think there have been some proposals made in the name of feminism that were poor in conception and in proposed execution. I don’t agree with feminists who want to ban porn, for example.

    I can see calling some specifics “protectionist,” but claiming that feminism can be divided into two parts, whatever you call them–utterly bogus.

  12. Stacy says

    The first I remember hearing of “two kinds of feminism” was when Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice came out.

    Seems to me I remember the “gender feminism” or “difference feminism” vs. “equity feminism” dichotomy tracing back there. Hoff Sommers criticized IaDV, but that may have been long after Gilligan’s book came out.

    (I haven’t read Gilligan, but everything I’ve read of IaDV describes it as unwarranted gender essentialism. Nobody gets to place me on a “side” when the whole split is a bullshit contrivance to begin with, kthx.)

  13. says

    Difference feminism was one of my first subjects when starting B&W, in the fall of 2002. I really dislike In a Different Voice.

    It was also part of Why Truth Matters.

  14. says

    When I was a trade union official I would come across women with some grievance against their employer who were convinced, usually correctly, that what had happened to them was unlikely to happen to a man. But who would want to mke it clear to me that, although they were in favour of equal rights, they were not one of those (nasty, shouty) feminists. Perhaps some though that I or the union wouldn’t take them seriously if they were (horror of horrors) feminists, but I don’t think most of them had thought it through. It seems much more likely that it was usually a result of popular media making “feminist” a dirty word.

    Could this idea of “good” and “bad” feminists be a manifestation of something similar?


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