Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Feminism

So many fools, and me so powerless to cleanse them. sigh.

I've decided to discuss today my opposition to the use of the term "feminism". This argument arose from my (admittedly limited) readings of feminist philosophy. The ideas expressed herein are my own and so if I am stepping on anyone's prior theorizing then too bad! My argument runs as follows: (P=premise, C=conclusion)

P1: Those professing to be feminists fall into (roughly) two groups.
The first group maintains that issues relating to sexism (towards males or females) and racism, as well as other forms of discrimination are equally important and valid, and claims no special place for women. Let us call these feminists inclusive feminists.
The second group singles out women or women's issues as somehow unique or important in a special way above and beyond other forms of discrimination or other issues. Let us call these exclusive feminists.
P2: "Feminism", with its feminine root, most properly denotes a philosophy which in some way singles out women or the feminine.
C1: "Feminism" therefore most properly denotes, of the two feminist philosopies, the exclusive feminist philosopy.
P3: In the intrests of clarity, theories should be described as accurately as possible by their names. The theory of Evolution, for example, would be badly served by being called the theory of Revolution!
C2: The inclusive feminist philosophy should be seperated from the exclusive one, and renamed in order to better describe its commitment to ending all discrimination. For example "equalism" or "anti-descriminationism".
P4: Forms of ideology which place the intrests of one group above others or which consider the issues surrounding one group as more important than those of others are wrong and should be stamped out.
C3: From P1 and C1 and C2 and P4: Feminism, in its only accurate meaning, is wrong and should be stamped out.

The word feminism, then, is either mistakenly used or signifies a vile odious, and dubious contention that women's issues are inherently more important then those of other groups.
In my opinion, it should be used only to describe the bad type of feminism. The good feminists deserve to be inducted into the ranks of those who are without predjudice, and should no longer be tainted by the predjudice of the exclusionary feminists.
I am convinced that this argument is sound on the whole. The argument is likely not quite as logically correct as it might have been had I paid more attention in Logic, but I think it will suffice. I will address minor issues with it as they become apparent to me.

Thought for the Day:
“Faith walks hand in hand with ignorance, and turns its back on truth.”
-The Doom Of Fools

An Update:
The view expressed here is, like all my posts, at best a snapshot of my thought. As a result, I here offer a qualification to it, which has become apparent to me in conversations with people who did not entirely agree with my view. 'Feminist', I think, does have a place as a legitimate term to describe certain studies. In particular, studies which focus upon things which are essentially female in nature, including, but not limited to, studies of female socialization, can legitimately be called 'Feminist'.
This still leaves out, of course, the epistemological and other such theories which are sometimes referred to as 'Feminist', insofar as they do not offer conclusions which are either only comprehensible to or only about women. Theories such as these, which offer more or less universal conclusions, need not be identified as feminist, any more than theories about epistemology written in the 19th century need to be identified as masculinist. In either case, the theories in question are either right or wrong irrespective of the sex of the person who wrote them.
There is one way in which such a theory could be referred to as 'Feminist' which would not be problematic. This would be if the theory arose from the tradition of thought which was started with the Feminist movement. In this case, however, the term is being used more in a historical sense, to locate the theory in time. It has no bearing on the theory as such.

Thought for the day:
"Rigidity begets annihilation, flexibility begets survival"
-The Doom of Fools

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Andrew, it's Craig.

It just so happens that I have a lot to say about this argument.

First, the word "feminist" no longer denotes the "exclusive feminists", regardless of its root. Language is funny that way. However, words like "equalism" are vehemently objected to by almost all feminist philosophers and critics because of their rhetorical use in undermining the valid claims of what you call "inclusive feminism". The "equalists" therefore tend to be sexist males, especially politicians, who, to combat the calls for affirmative action (needed in many cases because the status quo is anti-woman sexism, albeit rather subconscious nowadays), will condemn feminists as sexists because *he* is an "equalist". The balance of power still rests with men, and so any gender discussion (save a few rare instances) will be about the lack of power women have (hence the feminist monicker).

Feminist philosophy tends to distinguish the different types of "feminisms" by separating feminism into three waves. The first wave occurs during the late 19th and early 20th century, when women generally fought for rights to do certain things, such as work and vote.

Second wave feminism enters in during the late 50s and the 60s when women have all the same rights as men within the law, but are still harassed, discriminated against, and subjugated in more subtle ways than can be dealt with in law. These women then begin to tackle questions of social hierarchy and the need for a "sisterhood" to combat the "brotherhood" or "boys' club" established over the centuries of a patriarchal society.

The third wave isn't really a coherent wave, but it comes as a reaction to the previous idea of "sisterhood", which was really just the point of view of white, straight, academic women. This is the modern concept of feminism. This is where homosexuality makes its first appearance in feminism, and where cultural and social differences show that there is no "sisterhood", and no one woman can say what every other woman wants. This wave finally gives a voice to men in feminist theory, and in recent years has given rise to discussions of the construction of masculinity in our culture. Very interesting stuff, but feminism nonetheless.

June 4, 2004 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger the zero god said...

Doom Of Fools: It is I, the (one and only) zero god.

Regardless of Craig's knowledge of the history and practise of Feminism qua either inclusive or exclusive Feminism - which I do not dispute as it is inevitably greater than mine - I believe he has missed the point. I may be wrong, but... is your problem solely one of terminology? Is it that the word itself denotes a form of discrimination, as does the obsolete term "chairman" (for those wondering, the newspeak term is simply "chair", which objectifies men and women equally as objects and nothing more)? If so, I applaud your brief philosophical effort here and hope to see more of its ilk in the future.

If not... well, I still agree with this line of thought as I understand it.

Keep up the good doom,

Josh

June 5, 2004 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger Doom Of Fools said...

Ok, let's see. It’s kinda long, but I hope it makes my point more clear.

A couple of points, Craig:
I understand that there has been a shift by many people (including most modern feminist philosophers) towards attempting to make "feminist" mean "equalist". In fact, this is what my argument is attempting to combat. In my opinion, “feminism” has feminine overtones at the very least, and I see little chance that the word will be stripped of those connotations, given its root. Regardless, as it stands the concept imprecisely describes the theory which modern feminists attempt to attach it to (an equalist one). Either that or perhaps the theory they are describing is not in fact one of equality?

On that note, let me move on to my second point, regarding such things as legalized, enforced discrimination (aka affirmative action). I freely grant that, despite women now having complete equality under the law, there is much ingrained discrimination still remaining in many sections of society. I also grant that women are often not hired as much as are men for certain jobs because most of the hirers are men (either sexist or perhaps who simply have more in common with other men). I also grant that much of the discrimination is subconscious.

However, I take rather severe exception to legalizing, indeed enforcing, discriminatory practices in order to ensure that there is an increase in women hired. Further, the last time I checked, discrimination was unconstitutional. I suppose my question is: Is discriminating against someone because of their race, sex, creed, etc always wrong? If so, then affirmative action is wrong. Plain and simple.
Many people argue that it is necessary to right the imbalance of women and men in certain jobs, however, and so affirmative action is justified. To that, I can only offer my opinion to the contrary. First, with time, I think it is certain that education and the fact that discrimination is both frowned upon and illegal will result in a levelling of the playing field. I grant that affirmative action may speed up the process, but for me at least, mortgaging my principles speed up the process seems unacceptable. Indeed, even if affirmative action was the only way to avoid subconscious discrimination, I have my doubts as to whether it would be acceptable to allow discrimination. Two wrongs, after all…

Let me make it clear that I do realize that many sexist men use “equalism” as a dodge to allow them to criticise legitimate laws and the women’s movement in general. This does not detract from the validity of an equalist position any more than the use of “feminism” by sexist women to attack men detracts from the position of those who sincerely believe that feminism means equality. What I am saying is that we should call sexist equallists just plain sexist and equalist feminists just plain equalist (and sexist feminists just plain sexist as well).
Calling a discussion about male issues “feminist” strikes me as somewhat silly, though.

I think third-wave feminists are on the right track, though. If they could just manage to let go of the concept of “feminism” then perhaps they would fully come to appreciate the most important fact. It’s not just that all women are different, it’s that all people are different. Women, men, or something in between, we’re all just human beings. Let’s treat each other that way.

Come to think of it, that last sentence makes a good Thought For The Day.

-The Doom of Fools

June 5, 2004 at 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only problem with eradicating the word "feminism" is that, overwhelmingly, the issues that need to be dealt with are pertaining to the subjugation of women, not men. So the pursuit of gender equality, specifically, is in fact to raise the status of women in society to that of men. Until men start being the subjugated gender, I would say that it is still aprropriate to call the fight for gender equality "feminism". On another note, the word "equalism" is not, in fact, a word. But I digress.

feminism - Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

June 5, 2004 at 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, that last one was me, Craig, and I forgot to add something.

The principle of affirmative action is not reverse discrimination. The principle advocated by myself and most others is that, in a job setting, all things being completely equal (experience, school, etc.), women and so-called minorities should be preferenced. This would no longer be neccessary as soon as we see a shift in the balance of power from the 'old boys club' to a more equal playing field of minorities and women as important people in the corporate hierarchies. It is, however, important to question affirmative action; not to outright dismiss it, but every so often to ask "Do we still need it?". Right now, I think we do, but who know what the situation will be like in 10 years.

June 5, 2004 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger the zero god said...

Regarding Craig's last comment:

Affirmative action would no longer be necessary after establishing a commensurate percentage of so-called ethnic individuals as executives/"important people"?

This is, sadly, a form of discrimination. It is essentially an endorsement of quota-based hiring, which is fundamentally flawed and may, in fact, encourage more open racism than it prevents. I say this because "preferencing" (btw, I don't think "preference" is a verb, so saying someone should be "preferenced" may be just as invalid a step as saying feminism should more properly be called equalism [a term which may not be recognized, but which has certainly been in use longer than the "verbed" noun "preference"]) an individual because of their ethnicity, if it became known in the workplace (and it would - gossip/bullshit travels about one million times faster than useful information), would lead to people believing that an individual was hired solelybecause they were black/hispanic/indian/aboriginal/oriental/etc. (which would be, in essence, true). Knowing that someone was hired because of this, even if they know that the person's qualifications are perfect, could lead to resentment of race R in general because of the preferential treatment given to individual I.

I support the efforts of all people - and there are no borders in my mind to who is a person - in bettering themselves and striving to find the best positions available. I simply feel that the goal of bettering oneself cannot be truly achieved by relying on some non-qualification-based factor as a sticking point. I hope that's clear.

Josh

June 5, 2004 at 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Josh, many people don't share your enlightened view of racial equality. The fact is that a person is more likely to hire someone they can more readily identify with culturally. Right now, white males, free of any affirmative action policy, will stand a better statistical chance of getting a position (regardless of qualification) than, say, an asian woman. Until the balance of power does not rest in the hands of the white male, something needs to be done to level the playing field. I don't think affirmative action should be government legislated, and I don't think it should be public knowledge that a company is engaging in it in any particular case, but I do think it is necessary for some circumstances, especially when it comes down to a few equally-qualified candidates. I guess it comes down to whether or not you beleive the "old boys' network" can be trusted.

I apologize for the use of the word "preferenced", as I probably should have used the word "preferred", but it must be noted that the English language readily verbs (:D) nouns without any prior precedent. It's one of the more intersting traits of the language.

June 5, 2004 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Doom Of Fools said...

Yeah, "Verbing weirds language" heh, Calvin and Hobbes

Anyway, just to jump in here, what's at issue is not the statistical numbers at all. Neither is it the fact that there is an old boys' club. The problem is pure and simple: IF hiring a man over a woman because he is a man is wrong, THEN hiring a woman over a man because she is a woman is wrong!
Indeed, to my mind, it is far worse when the discrimination being practiced is state-sponsored and legalized, rather than individual (and illegal, and open to being punished). At least in the latter case the person wronged has some recourse.
If you believe that discrimination is never right then you must oppose affirmative action (AA). If on the other hand "Social necessity" is a sufficient justification for AA, then who defines "social necessity"? Was it socially necessary for Jews to be destroyed in Germany in the 40s? Many people in positions of power thought so!

-The Doom of fools

June 5, 2004 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger the zero god said...

Andrew:

Quite.

Craig:

Many people indeed do not share my enlightened view - and whether that monker was sarcastic or not (text emotes poorly), thank you - and this is why we need me to rule the world with an iron fist. :)

June 7, 2004 at 3:36 AM  

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