It seems like there's a lot of criticism out there of "feminism" as a label. Often the criticism isn't of any of the actual beliefs of a particular feminist, but simply of the fact that they're identifying as a feminist. Frankly I think it's a bit silly to get too much into the label--would it help if I called myself an oogyboogykajoogyist and changed none of my beliefs?--but I wanted to take a moment to defend it from two of the most common criticisms.
Because I'm not an "equalist," a "humanist," a "supporter of equal rights for both genders, but don't label me," or a "I'm not a feminist, but." I'm a feminist.
1. The "fem" in feminism.
Some people seem weirdly offended that feminism would dare to refer to women, instead of being about men and women absolutely equally. Feminism is about gender and sexual equality, feminism certainly addresses masculinity, but yes, feminism is mostly about women and women's issues. Suck it up, deal, and go ask the gay rights people what they've done for straight people today, or something. (Actually, they got "sodomy" laws that also applied to straight people repealed, so there's that.)
Here are some statistics on why dealing with women's issues is still relevant:
-For full-time, year-round workers in the United States, the average woman earned 77 cents for every dollar the average man earned. [US census data.] (Yes, this is partly because women work in different careers than men. That's the problem.)
-1 out of every 6 American women will experience a rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. [National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.] (And for that matter, 1 out of every 33 American men wil experience a rape or attempted rape in his lifetime. That's not a counterargument, it's a second problem that feminism is facing more directly than any other movement.)
-Men are 1.2 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than women... but 4.8 times more likely to be perpetrators. [US Department of Justice and FBI statistics.]
-Right now 17 out of 100 Senators are women. 72 out of 435 Representatives are women. 28 of the Fortune 1000 companies have women as CEOs. [CNN Money.]
-Women's cultural contributions are continually ghettoized, trivialized, minimized, and generally treated like "whatever, chick stuff," while our bodies are put on display as objects completely divorced from our personhood. Men's cultural contributions form the vast majority of the "mainstream." [I have a television.]
Understand, these aren't just complaints. These aren't things that I expect to slap on the table and say "so you better be nice to me" or "so I'm a saint just for living through this" or "so go fix this, people." But these are the reasons the "fem" in feminism is relevant and necessary. They're the reasons to keep doing the work of feminism in the big and small ways that I can, if it means donating to women's shelters and rape crisis centers, if it means supporting girls' education and career planning, if it means advocating for victims of violence at my workplace, if it means educating people about gender and sexuality. Declaring these things is not the end of feminism--it's the beginning.
And no, feminism isn't a movement for female superiority or rulership. That's a misreading of the name as facile as thinking that Libertarians are fetishists of the Statue of Liberty.
2. The association with fringe radical feminists.
Yes, some outrageous things have been said in the name of feminism in the last forty years. Andrea Dworkin said all sex is rape, doncha know! Well...
A) Andrea Dworkin actually never said that. In fact, a lot of "radical feminist goes too far" quotes are urban legends.
B) Some of these supposedly "radical" quotes kinda have a point. A recent criticism of one of my posts on feminism, for instance, linked to an article about Stanford University reducing its burden of proof in sexual assault cases. This was, I guess, supposed to prove that Feminism Has Just Gone Too Far, but my only reaction was "well... good." Stanford isn't a government agency and doesn't have the force of law, so this isn't a Constitutional issue, and this brings them in line with national guidelines and helps combat the ongoing huge fucking mess that is sexual assault on college campuses. If this is feminism gone too far, I'm all for it.
(The implicit harm, of course, is that this will further our Huge National Epidemic of False Rape Accusations. God I'm so fucking sick of that bullshit. You know what? I'm sick of playing along and going "yeah, false accusations are terrible, I really feel for any man caught in that evil female trap, blardy blah." You know what I really think? I think these dudes know damn well that false rape accusations are rare and almost always lead to acquittal, and they're not actually worried about being randomly accused. It's just a way to shame, discredit, silence, and punish women who've been sexually assaulted.)
C) So what. So there are things really said by certain feminists that I really don't agree with. That's a reason for me to criticize them, either as "that's not really feminist" or "yeah, I guess that's feminist, but it's just wrong." Besides, it's a big, relatively old movement with a lot of members and subsections and internal disagreements. It'd be weirder if we were in lockstep.
Think of it this way:
Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and in the salvation of human souls through Christ?
Then you're a Christian.
But wait! Some people call themselves Christians and commit horrible acts of discrimination, selfishness, and even violence! People have been murdered by Christians!
Is your response:
i. "Well, those were some suck-ass Christians. I hope to be a better one, myself."
ii. "Oh shit! I better stop calling myself a Christian!"
I believe in the equal status, rights, and safety of all genders and sexualities, and for this reason, I am a feminist.