I remember a party at a neighbour’s house where we were discussing dating and ‘red flags’. The hostess, a headstrong and independent young woman who really had her shit together remarked that what she liked was a ‘manly man’ (by which I assume she meant a guy who closely adheres to societal gender norms). I replied that, while she was entitled to her preference, I thought that she might be precluding a lot of decent guys simply because they didn’t meet her standards for ‘macho’. Her reply was “I guess. I just really hate feminists, you know?”
Puzzled, I responded that were that the case, she hated me. The other guy in the room (who would later go on to become her boyfriend) responded in kind. I dare say that I imagine that, had she looked up the definition, she probably would have identified herself as some kind of feminist, just “not one of those feminists”.
Which kind? The kind made of straw:
As I’ve said before, my feminism (like my anti-racism) is simply one expression of my general skepticism. You could call it ‘gender skepticism’ if you wanted to. It’s a philosophical and methodological approach to evaluating claims made about differences between sexes and the social constructs built around them. Are women more nurturing? Are men more naturally assertive? Is gender a binary state? How does biology inform a gender role?
These are questions about which evidence can be gathered and appraised, and in the absence of which it is reasonable to assume the ‘null hypothesis’ (i.e., that women and men are equal). We can reject ‘tradition’ or ‘common sense’ or assurances that “it’s obvious” as persuasive arguments and demand something better. We can observe systematic forces and recognize their influence. We can find reasonable rubrics by which to measure inequality. And when anti-feminists (or simply those who think that the whole exercise is unimportant or ‘overemphasized’) trot out their creationist-like claims, we can reach into our bag of common refutations.
We can do better. All without needing to buy into a caricature of feminism as some kind of reactionary and illogical stance based in anger and/or the desire to camouflage our intentions long enough to get laid.
Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!