Everyone can be discontented if he ignores his blessings and looks only at his burdens. ~Thomas S. Monson
Question #92603 posted on 09/15/2019 10:18 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Would you say you're a feminist? Why or why not?

-Judith Butler

A:

Dear Judith,

You may consider me "old school", but I still don't like the word feminist. I prefer to be seen as a humanist. Yes, I came up with that term, and I'm certain someone else has used it before me. I worry that the feminist movement will move the pendulum a little too far. I would rather take a humanist approach to ensure that everyone is loved, respected, and has rights and protections.

Yes, I understand that I am a little different in this regard to my fellow writers, but that isn't new. 

-Sunday Night Banter

A:

Dear Jude,

The short answer is "That depends."

I've learned recently that I'm really not a fan of labels. I briefly touched on this in Board Question #92363 while discussing my political leanings, and I have problems with the label "feminist," too. Because I'm so pragmatically inclined, I don't like words that obfuscate or require a lot of clarification, and in my experience, what feminism means to different people is so wildly varied that it's essentially a useless label (much like the word "cult" is a virtually meaningless pejorative in religious discussions). If I talk to someone and they say, "I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!" I can reasonably infer a few useful generalities about their beliefs and practices from what I know about Church members (which is quite a lot, in this case, since I am one myself). Not so with feminism. To talk to a self-identified feminist is to immediately require further clarification, largely because there's no one central creed or catechism to which I can refer. To describe myself as a feminist likewise requires me to clarify, since I have no idea what Board readers or fellow writers assume that to mean, and they may end up attributing beliefs to me that I don't agree with at all. Now of course you can lay groundwork ahead of time--but compared to a label like "Latter-day Saint" or even "Mormon," "feminist" is too ambiguous for my taste. Especially in a question stripped of context like this one.

For example, most if not all of my liberal feminist friends growing up accepted axiomatically that elective abortion was part and parcel of real feminism. If you didn't support it, you didn't support women, and you didn't really care about feminist causes no matter how much you said you did. But I've also read commentary from conservative feminists who maintain that the only real standard of feminism is a fervent commitment to the equality of the sexes, and such tertiary issues as abortion have nothing to do with one's commitment to the cause. Then there are radical feminists, who go much further than either group in both arguing about the burdens women face and castigating those who disagree as weak-willed, duped, or misguided.

Which of these groups constitutes "real" feminism? Everyone is free to argue for their favored definition, but so far as I can tell, there's no universally agreed-upon reference point. (It's not unlike the incessant insistence from mainstream Christian churches that we are not under the Christian umbrella, despite the fact that from our perspective we couldn't possibly be more Christian if we tried.)

So really it depends on your definition. If by feminism you have in mind the basic equality of men and women, then yes, I'd qualify as a feminist--although I imagine most people likely would; it's not a terribly high bar to clear in the developed world. If your criteria for "real" feminism includes as its axioms such things as uncritical acceptance of reproductive freedom, or pornography as feminist empowerment, then no, I'd pretty clearly fail the test. I suppose you could say I'm one of those people who shies away from the word because of the fringe voices and unfortunate associations, but for me, association is everything, and labels are just a collection of associations. So far as I'm concerned, my actions, thoughts, and beliefs should precede and inform any labels someone wants to attach to me, which is why I'm responding to a simple question like this one with another patented 9S essay (9Ssay?). That seems preferable to accepting a label beforehand and allowing it to color someone else's perceptions of me.

Genuinely,

9S

A:

Dear Judy,

I feel like my previous Board answers probably make it quite obvious that yes, I consider myself a feminist. Ardently

It might be a bit strange for me to delve into the world of investigating social inequality and not come out a feminist (though this is not unheard of. Some people draw some very different conclusions from the things I, too, have learned.) 

We ought to note, of course, that what 9S has to say is perfectly valid and should be considered in this discussion. Sometimes, people take a label and run with it to the point that they actively work against their own original purpose. I do not agree with the feminists who claim that because men have dominated women for so long, it is time to band together and take revenge and squash them all down like the bloodsucking parasites they are, establishing a matriarchal society. That's not inherently better. That version of 'feminism' taints the word and the message with violence and hate when it is meant to be about goodness and strength and passion and intelligence. True, without the righteous anger behind the movement, we wouldn't get anywhere. But certainly, seeking to raise yourself and your group by destroying others is what got us into our societal conundrums in the first place, right? In any case, I'm very disappointed that the word feminist has been polluted such that people don't always comfortably feel they can immediately claim it. Because they should. Everyone should.

Here's a quote from one of my textbooks: 

"Feminists have always been subject to accusations of disliking men. But as you should begin to see, feminism is not about positioning men against women in some kind of epic battle for power, though that might make for an interesting video game. As feminism has evolved over time, questions about how to involve men and how feminism matters for men have become increasingly important... a comprehensive understanding of gender must examine both men and women." (Ryle, Questioning Gender, 3rd Ed.) 

While we're thinking about that, please watch Emma Watson's He for She Speech and Michael Kimmel's TEDtalk on Why Gender Equality Is Good For Everyone.

Did you click the video links?

I'll give you some time. Seriously. Watch them.  

Of course, maybe we're all wrong. According to Pat Robertson, "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." 

Silly Pat, we gave up witchcraft ages ago when your lot burned us at the stake for using umbrellas and being falsely shown to weigh as much as a duck. Also, just because women don't love you doesn't mean they're lesbians. It's completely understandable why you want to blame other people for you problems. I mean, let's face it, YOU'RE the fool that's destroying capitalism with the very callous, greedy principles it was founded on (turns out exploitation isn't as sustainable as you'd hope!) Also, men make up 80%+ of the family annihilators annually, and while it is true that women initiate 69% of divorces, it can be due to a large number of factors, particularly substance abuse, infidelity, and domestic violence. How's THAT for facts and logic?

We need feminism in the world because all women know the rules about not walking alone. Because women don't apply for jobs unless they feel 100% qualified, while men apply if they feel they meet 60% of the qualifications - we don't have faith in ourselves. Because women who ask for raises are just less likely to get them.  Because we don't have family leave policies.  Because the Pink Tax is real. Because controlling for external factors, the wage gap DOES still exist. Because this year's Forbes' "100 Most Innovative Leaders" list included only one woman. Because FREAKIN' LIZZO. Because our social history has led to this world where toxic masculinity exists, and men cannot be seen as effeminate without being looked down on - as if feminine qualities are bad. Because gender is largely socially constructed. Because a newborn baby shouldn't have so much of their life determined for them by the arbitrary color of their blankets... and why are we forcing gender norms on an infant??? Because there's still work to do, because the world is meant to have men and women on equal ground, contributing their own strengths.

Like a girl, 

Guesthouse

A:

Dear Judith,

I'm 100% a feminist, and I think it's a GREAT word. To say that you support the cause of women but won't call yourself a feminist because you also support men is to ignore the fact that women are the ones who have been systematically put down over centuries in most cultures around the world. Men don't need extra support to get them equal rights; they've had more than equal rights all along. Women are the ones who have been marginalized and ignored and treated terribly for hundreds of years.

-Alta

A:

Dear person,

Yes. And it saddens me that the word "feminist" is still controversial.

-Sheebs, off to brew potions and cast spells

A:

Dear Judy,

Heck to the yes! I've come to realize that there are ways in which our current society treats women unfairly, and I'd like to see those change. I think feminism is important because people need to be aware about the issues facing women. Many people assume because women can vote now that there's nothing to fix and there is. The more I've learned about these issues (health issues, sexual assault, corporate and academic hierarchies that favor men, and the lack of decent flipping pockets, etc.) the more I've realized how important and relevant feminism is.

While part of my motivation for feminism is empathy, most of my motivation is honestly selfish. I believe that women are just as hard working, intelligent, bold, strong, and creative as men. And when I look at the realms of buisiness, government, science, engineering, etc. and I don't see a lot of women I fear that we are missing out on the talents and contributions of women. We need to create an environment that helps women make these contributions instead of pushing them away. For example, I think there would be a lot more women in the engineering program if the guys in the engineering program were less sexist, or at the least less obnoxious.

Anyways, go feminism! Feminism will benefit the entire world--men and women--so I'm all for it.

Peace,

Tipperary

A:

Dear Dr. Butler,

Yes! Because I think being willing to use the word reduces the stigma around it.

Sincerely,

Cerulean

A:

Dear Judith,

Yup! I think men and women are equal and should be free to pursue their dreams without societal hinderances. Men and women shouldn't feel constrained to fit one certain standard. You go working men/women and stay-at-home dads/moms!

-guppy of doom

A:

Dear Jude,

Most definitely. I believe that woman and men are equal and that social systems should be rectified/put into place to treat them as such. 

~Anathema

A:

Dear Judith,

My definition of feminism is a belief that all genders are fundamentally equal, and that no one should be forced into specific societal roles based on gender. I consider being a feminist the same as being a decent human being, and I like to think I fall into that category.

Love,

Luciana

A:

Dear Judith,

I am absolutely a feminist and I am completely comfortable using that word. Women deserve equal treatment and equal opportunity to control their own lives. Guesthouse pretty much said everything else I would have said on the issue.

-Quixotic Kid