Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Feminism Learnings

So, thus far, I have avoided posting about many feminist issues in particular.  That is not to say that gender and sexuality aren't important in feminism, but rather, I have avoided talking about the sexism and misogyny prevalent in our society.  The reason for this is that I simply don't feel equipped,  because oh such a large can of worms sexism is.    I read blogs on the topic of feminism (sex positive, radical feminist, etc) and I find myself nodding in agreement, and then I read the comments and find myself talked in circles.

So before I begin to post on the topic of feminism, and it's something that I really would like to talk about, I'll just provide some basic things I've learned in the past few months from reading blogs.  I don't claim to be an expert, oh please don't consider me an expert, but this is what I've learned and I wanted to share it while I get my thoughts better in order.  If you want to know more about the very basic, basic movement you can look from "feminism" on my Terminology Post

Straw Man Fallacy (defined straight from Wikipedia):
 "A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position, twisting his words or by means of [false] assumptions.  To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position."

This is generally where I start chasing down dead ends and initially agreeing with sexists, because I don't even understand what they're saying.

Radical Feminism:
I'm not going to do myself justice on this definition because I don't consider myself a radical feminist.(and you can always go to wiki and look it up, but the definition wasn't as useful to me this time).  The basic idea is that power in our society exists (only) in the form of "the Patriarchy".  The Patriarchy is the society of men that exists to bring power to themselves and keep women oppressed.

I'm trying very hard not to be too judgmental, I really am, because many times I do find myself very strongly disagreeing.  I have frequently seen it argued that women are not (always) in charge of their actions and the decisions because the Patriarchy is so tightly interwoven into women's lives.  And the thing is, I do believe that society influences our decisions to a degree.  I just don't believe that saying that society (or the Patriarchy) is the only thing that dictates my decisions.  I am my own person and am, in fact, capable of rational thought.  But then you get into the degree to which society influences my decisions and I just have to say: Fuck I don't know.  I then tie myself in knots trying to track down the answer to this completely unsolvable question.

Now, for where I do agree with Radical Feminism.  There is a Patriarchy.  A partirachy is defined as a society/hierarchy ruled by men.  Just look at the only 44 women in Congress, which is no where even near 50%.  The Society Pages has some excellent statistics on this dichotomy of power such as this.

Disclaimer: Not all radical feminists believe or say all of the things mentioned above, but I'm just doing my best to say what I have found in my readings.

Sex-Positive Feminism:
I'm slightly more comfortable on this front because I do define myself as a sex-positive feminist and thus can speak to the ideas behind the movement without sticking my foot in my mouth (completely).  What sex-positive feminists believe is that sex is not bad.  Sex is not something to be hid, or ashamed of, and it's not dirty.  It's a beautiful act, done between two or more consenting people.

Sex is not a tool of the Patriarchy.  It is not a tool that women hold over men (or that men hold over men, repeat variations to infinity).  It is not a tool men use to keep women in line.  It is not a tool.  It is not currency.  Women are not the gate keepers, because sex is a two way street.  Sex is an an action and I want people to stop having to be ashamed of it.  If people want to have casual sex, then it shouldn't be a problem because that is their prerogative.  Being a slut should not be a shameful, dirty thing (says the woman with the fairly limited sexual experience).


So, I'm not sure I actually said anything worthwhile at all, but I wish I would have known a lot of this when I first started out reading about feminism.

You can read the comments for me response, because they bring up some important issues.  Firstly, I never meant to imply that these are the only two types of feminism.  As Liam points out, it is a broad spectrum.  And I'll be honesty, I still learning and these (plus equality feminism which Alexa mentions) are the only types of feminism that I have specifically learned about.  So, here is a list of some terms I read over after reading my comments, so that I could educate myself further.

I also didn't mean to say that sex-positive was right and radical feminism was wrong.  That's also really not the case.  I personally do not agree with all/most of the ideas upheld by radical feminists, but that is not to say they're wrong.  These are all opinions and I only expressed my own.


  1. Hello, finally commenting!

    I also would not leave out equality feminism (which I am an extremely strong proponent of) which basically says that all people should be treated equally and given the same opportunities regardless of gender. This actually works very well with sex-positive feminism :)

    The unfortunate thing in our society these days is that there is a popular perception of feminism as radical - i.e. women should take over the world, men are scum - to an extent that extremely few of the most radical feminists would ever agree with. This leads people who ideologically agree with more moderate feminist ideals to distance themselves from the word all together.

    I went to a meeting of successful women in technology not long ago, where the topic was how to get more women in the upper levels of tech companies, and the word wasn't mentioned once.

  2. Alexa, I must say I was really hoping you'd comment, considering you have read substantially more on the subject than I have. I think I was lumping equality feminism under general feminism, my mistake, but I definitely also identify as a equality feminist.

    For a long time I was actually hesitant to call myself a feminist because of the sheer amount of baggage that accompanies the term. But here's the thing, I truly believe that everyone should be equal and feminism is fighting for that, so I will happily call myself one. And as for the business world avoiding the word feminist, I too have run into a lot of beating around the bush.

  3. So, I don't want to be the nitpicky blog reader who just comments on spelling errors, but you should totally read this sentence again, "The Patriarchy is the society of men that exists to bring power to themselves and keep women impressed."

    It's hilarious.

    Also, I get that you don't want to put your foot in your mouth or anything, so you probably just didn't want to go into more types of feminism than the ones you'd encountered(?), but I think there are actually a lot more kinds of feminism than you present here-- you kind of show it as a dichotomy (radical feminism which is wrong and sex positive feminism which is right) and I think the whole thing is more of a spectrum where people choose bits and pieces and put together a type of feminism that feels right to them.


  4. Liam: That...was special and has now been fixed.

    As for your other points, I knew I was going to stick my foot in my mouth regardless of what I did, because my education is no where near complete. I've actually added an addendum to the main post, but I never meant to imply these are the only types of feminism, but these actually are the only ones I've encountered thus far, which I meant to say.

    So thanks to readers for corrections.

  5. Yeah, I totally figured that wasn't what you were trying to say, but I thought I'd let you know what I was hearing so you'd know what was coming across?