Oct. 16th, 2012

apple_pathways: Whatever floats your boat! (Whatever Floats Your Boat)
Right here: me. I am a feminist. I am raising my hand, and opening myself up to questions, if you have any.

Recently, discussions about feminism, sexism, and the nature of privilege have been popping all over the place. (At least: in places I frequent. Anyone else noticing this?) And what do I see in each of those arguments? Straw men and misinformation.
A straw man argument attempts to counter a position by attacking a different position – usually one that is easier to counter. The arguer invents a caricature of his opponent’s position – a “straw man” – that is easily refuted, but not the position that his opponent actually holds.

taken from Top 20 Logical Fallacies at theskepticsguide.org.

Up on [livejournal.com profile] fail_fandomanon right now, there is a thread where people describe what makes them a "Bad Feminist": things like wearing pink, liking men, being a stay-at-home mother, and writing slash.

A meta in the Sherlock fandom that offered to explain why the show isn't sexist made the claim that people call the show "sexist" because the female characters don't live up to a "feminist ideal". When I pointed out that the "feminist ideal" she described is absolutely not a claim made or supported by feminists, but rather a mischaracterization of feminist thinking by opponents and detractors: she said she used that argument because her idea of the "feminist ideal" is something that exists in "the popular imagination". (Why feminists should have to defend a claim they did not invent or advocate for and amounts to little more than a bigoted stereotype she did not explain.)

In a discussion on Twitter, someone told a member of my flist (who is from/lives in the UK) that the word "feminist" has a "different meaning" here in the US: basically, that feminism is something negative, and we just don't have a word that means "someone who advocates for equality between the sexes".

This could easily turn into a rant, and since I want people to actually read this, I will limit myself to a few bullet points:

  1. Feminism is not a monolith. It is not a closed doctrine of ideals and arguments. There is no governing body who decides what is and is not said about it. There will be people who call themselves feminists that you do not like; there will be people who make arguments about feminism that you do not agree with. There are many people who will stand up and make proclamations about what feminism is and who gets to call themselves a feminist. They will exclude this person or that person, this idea or that idea. Including me.

    This is where your own critical thinking faculties come in: you have to decide for yourself what you're going to believe about feminism. Is it what "everybody says" it is? Who is "everybody"? What purpose and what motive does someone have for making claims about feminism? Have they thought about what feminism means and what it can accomplish, or are they just repeating what "everybody says" because it supports ideas about the world they're not willing to examine or give up?
  2. Feminism is about equality. But no: equality does not mean "treating everybody the same", just like making a building accessible to people in wheelchairs and with disabilities does not mean they are "unequal" to people who don't need ramps or lifts.
  3. Feminism does not mean you can't wear pink. It doesn't mean you can't enjoy makeup or shopping or gossiping about boys. It doesn't mean you hate men. It doesn't mean you can't stay home to raise your kids.

    Yeah, I said there's no one definition of feminism, and to be wary of people who will try to define it to serve their own needs. I encourage you not to take my word for it and to look further for yourself.

    Feminism is not about limiting what you can do: it's about giving you more options. (Men, too.)

    There is plenty of societal support, recognition, and encouragement for women who choose and enjoy "traditional" female options/traits, and lots of hate, discrimination, and disdain for men who make the same choices. If someone wants to make you feel guilty/bad for choosing something that's "traditionally feminine", that's wrong. However, standing up for your right to make that choice shouldn't erase the overwhelming prejudice women can face for choosing something else.
  4. Feminism and fandom. The overwhelming popularity of male characters and pairings over women is a symptom of sexism and prejudice. (There are notable exceptions.) I know you've heard that said before, and I can imagine you might be tired of hearing it. Especially if all your favorite characters and ships are men.

    I'm not going to make the argument that you shouldn't like what you like: you should absolutely like what you like. Your favorite slash pairing doesn't make you sexist, and conversely, being into femslash doesn't make you a virtuous feminist saint.

    But I'll say it again: the overwhelming popularity of male characters and pairings over women is a symptom of sexism and prejudice. Mostly unconscious. Mostly invisible ideas about women, men, and their roles in society. Discussions about women characters in fandom are important. They may not always be kind, well-spoken, or tactful, but they are important. They shouldn't be shut down just because because they make people feel uncomfortable or guilty.

And that's it: the points I wanted to get across. Feel free to discuss! Openly and kindly, please. Despite my copious (and sloppy) use of the word "you", I am not talking about YOU. I just find this an important conversation to be had, and it's time I stopped being lazy and expecting other people to have it for me.

OH: and my link-fu is rusty. If you have links saved to what you consider to be essential reading about feminism, fandom, feminism and fandom: please share! I need to build up my resources. (Book recs are good, too!)

And if you want real-life examples of how everyday women (mostly in Western culture) are affected by sexism, try Everday Sexism, on their website or on Twitter. (@everydaysexism)
Moonlines and apple-pathways

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