Originally published on MHRO february 20, 2014
“Every man who refuses to self identify as a feminist is ignorant, selfish, or cowardly.”
Thus begins an opinion piece published in the Ottawa Citizen last week. Right in the very first sentence, there is a problem that must be resolved before this topic can even be addressed.
There has been a debate that has gone on for decades that divides feminists of all stripes, from the most well intentioned coffee shop feminist, to the most homicidal of eugenics-minded RadFem: Can a man be a feminist? Is that allowed? Or is it more appropriate to self identify as ‘feminist supporter’?
Another debate; is ‘hating men’ a required in order to be a feminist ( Laurie Penny makes her opposition to that position here), is also ongoing at the academic level.
Now, maybe not everybody agrees with this, but I believe that self hatred is not a positive influence; not for the individual, not for the group, and not for the society in which that group exists.
Until those two debates are resolved, a man cannot consider self identifying as a feminist; at least not in all company. At least in the eyes of ‘those feminists’, a male is merely a supporter, a lackey; you can join the “Take Back the Night” march, but march at the back.
But we can separate out those feminists; we can put them in a box and assume we’re not talking about ‘those feminists’. I spent over a decade involved with the anti-racist movement, and I never felt compelled to wear a “Kill Whitey” pin, so surely we can do that here.
As author David Moscrop points out:
“Strictly speaking, we should speak of feminisms rather than feminism.”
So we’re given an ‘out’, we can remove ‘feminisms’ we don’t fully subscribe too.
For instance, maybe you’re not wholly in agreement with anarcho-feminism. Put ‘em in the box.
Or maybe you feel that neo conservative feminism represents a return to traditionalism and is in fact contrary to egalitarianism. Put ‘em in the box.
We’re not including ‘those feminists’.
Of course, we also have to get rid of feminists like this, and this, and this as well, and pretty much anyone who agrees with feminists who say things like these… they all go in the box labeled ‘those feminists’. We’re not talking about them, we’re talking about the ‘good feminists’.
By the way, do you think you could tell those ‘those feminists’ to stop being ‘like that’? They’re making you look bad.
And I am, quite frankly, uncomfortable wearing the same nametag as ‘those feminists’.
When I used to march under the ‘Rock Against Racism’ banner, no one confused me with the BPP. Marching under the banner of ‘Feminist, but not those feminists… see PDF for details’ is a little awkward. If not meaningless.
Moscrop’s article, is a very good read, seriously, read it all the way to the end… that is some stirring stuff. But, I am not convinced that I must “self identify as a feminist”.
What Moscrop has, in fact, established at this point, is that is is acceptable to critique or even flat out reject, aspects of feminism, without rejecting the whole of feminism. However, he is quick to warn against using “crackpot lines”.
There is a glass ceiling in many industries. It’s true, and feminism get it right in fighting those battles.
But I don’t have to “self identify as a feminist’ to be opposed to gender bias in the workforce.
There is a lot feminism does not address… and that’s fine, it’s not within their mandate, fair enough.
But there is a reason 92% of workplace fatalities are male. Overall, men dominate in the most dirty, dangerous, undesirable clearly there is a reason for this.
Yes, there are more women working in mines and on oil rigs then there used to be, and I know, it puts a skip in your step every time you see a woman coming out of a sewer:“Women just doing it!”.
But aren’t you ignoring the five guys that are working with her?
And isn’t Moscrop ignoring the two cooks and a dishwasher that are behind that waitress?
We have to at least entertain the idea that there are gender based biases and pressures – “disadvantages” – facing men that are rarely faced by women.
Women who interrupt their careers for childbearing do risk limiting their earning potential, it’s true. And I commend feminism for establishing paternity leave. Now we just need to convince more men to take advantage of it.
Feminism had a success with that one, but I don’t feel I need to “self identify as a feminist” in order to tip my hat to that victory.
Moscrop brings up the gendered nature of poverty, but quite frankly, he ignores the fact that it really depends on where you draw the line.
Estimates range from 70% to 80% of the homeless are male; and if you want to know what that looks like, volunteer at a soup kitchen for a day.
These are the most economically vulnerable, these are the people most in need of immediate solutions.
Raise the line a bit higher, and yes, you include single parent households. And yes, this is having a significant effect on the gendered nature of low income families.
I applaud the work of feminists in regards to bringing more affordable childcare options to Canadians, however if the gender imbalance is in part due to single parent families, then feminists have some explaining to do.
Prior to the 1980’s, custody hearings began with an assumption of 50/50 custody. That could, of course be changed, depending on circumstances, but that was the baseline the courts started with.
It was as a direct result of feminist pressures that the courts adopted a ‘primary caregiver’ bias. Feminism isn’t the solution to this problem, it was the cause. And that’s OK, a political ideology is allowed to make mistakes… but feminism needs to own up to this mistake.
Changing this, of course, would not solve the issue of low income single parent families, it would only balance the gendered nature of the issue.
But, clearly, I don’t need to “self identify as a feminist” to be concerned with poverty issues.
In bringing up violence, Moscrop compares apples to … nothing. Any fool knows that men are many times more likely to be the victims of violence, but there is no mention of this. If feminism wants to target certain types of violence, so be it, but the problem of violence in society extends far beyond the feminist mandate.
I do not need to “self identify as a feminist” to be opposed to violence in society.
Moscrop goes on to throw out a list of issues, assumed to be self evident. But are they… or at least, is there no room for debate on how best to solve these problems?
Let’s take the first one he lists:
“the objectification of women in advertisements, television, and film”
It does indeed seem self evident. But let’s look at the how we came to be where we are.
1920’s- Women as a group gain the right to vote. The suffragettes, certainly a predecessor to the modern feminist movement, have gained enough of a voice in society to overcome that historic hurdle.
– Media portrayals of women are very modest.
1940’s- due to the war effort, women are present in the workforce in great numbers. women are more active in the community on all levels, and Rosie the Riveter is empowering women everywhere.
– Women can now be portrayed in more sensible clothes, trousers and collared shirts are no longer off limits.
1960’s- Women’s Lib, the feminist movement reaches critical mass on college and university campuses, as well as mainstream media.
– Portrayals of women in the media become openly sexualized.
1980’s- Women’s studies becomes a mainstay as academic feminism is widely accepted. Prominent feminists now occupy positions within politics and the media.
-Going into the 80’s, Madonna shocked the world by showing her belly button; by the end of the 80’s, all bets were off.
And today, I give you slutwalk.
100 years of a feminist voice hasn’t really had the desired result on this issue, has it?
I submit that there is a valid debate to be had regarding whether or not feminism has the solutions to the objectification of women in the media. In fact, there seems to be a very strong argument that feminism is the cause of objectification of women in the media, or at very least, a major factor.
All of this fails to convince me to “self identify as a feminist”. And that was what this piece was about, why one should “self identify as a feminist”.
However, the title says something different.
The title states that there is no excuse for “anti-feminism”, and this belies the true purpose of this piece.
Moscrop is demanding that we either wear the feminism nametag, or the anti-feminism nametag. “you’re either for us, or you’re against us”; he’s drawing the battle lines and shoring up the troops.
This is about nothing less than ramping up an already overextended gender war.
It’s no coincidence that this was published on February 14th, the one day of the year males would be most sympathetic to women’s issues; this is propaganda, well placed to have the strongest impact.
Well, Prof. Moscrop, I don’t like ultimatums.
Are you sure you want me to make that choice?