Sunday, September 26, 2010

I, Post-Feminist

I describe myself as a humanist.  Eighty years ago, I might have been a feminist - but feminism as a cause is dead.

"No," protest modern feminists, "we still carry the flag."

What flag?  What is the cause of modern feminism?  Feminism collapsed in the seventies and eighties, as it turned on itself, and became an argument, fundamentally, of whether or not women should be allowed to decide for themselves what their gender meant to them; on the one side, you had a group which was called anti-pornography feminism, on the other, sex-positive feminism, but in truth what was at stake in this fight was whether feminism as a cause had any right to tell women what they should be allowed to do and to be.

Sex-positive feminism wasn't just defending sex, nor was it about pornography; it also defended the rights of women to be stay-at-home moms, to continue in traditional gender roles, to be who they chose to be.

Anti-pornography feminism was trying to redefine the concept of "feminine," and wasn't above revoking the womanhood of any woman who deviated from that definition.

Feminism isn't even a battleground anymore, it's the ashes where a battle was once fought.  The lines are still drawn, on opposing ends of the field; you see feminists declaring that Sarah Palin isn't really a woman, calling her names which feminism as a cause would once have sought to eradicate, because she isn't fitting the definition - pushing for abortions, rather than a choice in the matter of abortions.  You see feminists defending her, defending sex, happily speaking publicly about how they like to be submissive during sex.  And fundamentally this has become what feminism is about; trying to define the word "feminist."  Most people don't fit neatly on one side or the other; fundamentally, almost every feminist has some idea of what they think feminism -isn't-, and these unwitting targets are the topic of most attacks.

That's not the cause, that's the absence of one.

I am a humanist - the word has a myriad of meanings, all more or less coming down to "Relating to human interests," mostly focusing on what those interests are.  In this sense, I mean it as furthering humanity as a whole, without regard to gender - what is sometimes referred to as post-feminism.  To my mind, the post-feminist title is a (doomed) attempt to erase the (frequently misandrist) excesses of anti-pornography feminism in particular.

It can't be done.  Feminism, as a cause, is no longer regarded as a positive force, but just another special-interests group, populated primarily with extremists.

"But I'm not extremist!"  Yeah, and I'm not a blind slave to Ayn Rand's every word, but I still put up with the fact that I share the name "Objectivist" with quite a few such blithering fools.  If I want to make it clear I think for myself - I have to make it clear that I think for myself.

The thing about ideological labels, like religion, is that we take them on as a matter of choice.  I call myself an Objectivist KNOWING what other people say and do under the auspices of the title.  I am free to take on another name for myself.  So their actions reflect on me, because I have put myself in a position where they do.

I know Muslims who will say this of the extremists: "They're not Muslim, they don't follow the faith."  Sorry, but it doesn't work like that; you're free to change the name you use, you're not free to force them to change the name they use.  Yeah, kinda sucks.  Once upon a time I could have called myself a liberal, but some asshats stole the name, and now it's associated with any number of nasty things, like universal health care.

So if you want to call yourself a feminist, yes, you have to put up with the backlash of ideas you never proposed and may hate, because they borrowed some of their authority from the name you're using - and by using it, you're granting credence to those ideas.  The only way you can disassociate yourself from them is by either rebuking the ideas, or by choosing another name.

So, I follow the ideals of post-feminism.  But I am not a post-feminist.

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