About Men and women.
When discussing gender roles, feminism, sexism, etc, I think that the setting is extremely important (and that is the first thing that should be agreed upon by everyone participating on a debate).
The situation of women (and men) in, say, Muslim Africa and North-West Europe, are so different that the same principles do not necessarily apply. I think a big deal of the confusion, clashes and offence generated by this debate stems from overlooking that fact.
I agree with classical feminist principles and actions where women are clearly discriminated, dominated, disenfranchised.
But I oppose feminism (classical or otherwise) in all places where any of these statements are true:
As I said above, it depends where.
In places where women are unjustly oppressed, I am a feminist. Where a radical stance is necessary to endorse progress, feminism is not only justified, but necessary. There are still many areas of the world where feminism is necessary, as one of the answers to obscurantism.
What about liberal, secular, developed democracies? Am I a feminist in Spain, Italy, England, the US… — today?
I don’t know. Intuitively, I feel that those places and times fall under the categories listed above, for circumstances where feminism is not a positive force.
My knee-jerk reaction is to say: “No. Of course not.” Why would anyone want to align themselves with any movement that favours one portion of society over another, starting right from the name of the movement itself?
This is not an important argument, but feminism would attract more supporters if it rebranded itself to better reflect its alleged goals. Why don’t we have equivalent terms to refer to people who are against discriminations of other types (race, sexual orientation, aspect, age, religion…? If you don’t call yourself a gipsyist, a fattist or a poorist, why do we accept feminist so naturally? The name itself is a banner under which many people can reasonably find it troubling to gather (me among them).
I prefer “equity feminism” (👤 Christina Hoff Sommers) or “liberal/libertarian feminism”, as opposed to “gender feminism”.
“I do not label myself a feminist, because I refuse to burden myself with defending the views and actions of too many of those who choose that label.”
“ I call myself a feminist, absolutely. I simply belong to a dissident wing of feminism, and I think that the error made by all these people was not to understand that my wing of feminism had been suppressed and silenced at that point for 25 years. […] I’m an equal opportunity feminist, by which I believe that all obstacles to women’s advance in the political and professional realms should be removed. What I’m also saying is that there are huge areas of human life that are not political that have to do with our private spiritual nature, and that is a place where legislation will always be helpless and hopeless, and indeed, intrusive, so I think that feminism’s made enormous gains in terms of there was a time that women were totally dependent on father, on husband, on brother, for their survival. Now, women can be self‑supporting, can live totally on their own. It’s part of this whole Western world powered by capitalism that our university curricula are now habitually always demeaning. Capitalism made women’s emancipation possible. I think that the problem right now is that young women have been taught that to somehow identify their own sense of personal unhappiness with men, and men are responsible for our unhappiness.”
The aspects of modern mainstream feminism that I may agree with are mostly inheritance of older, less exclusive philosophies: humanism, englightenment, secularism, egalitarianism, liberalism…
If we took modern politically-correct feminism and got rid of the horrible inclinations some of us see in it today, I would happily join its ranks. But then, it would not be “feminism” any more — we would call it “progressivism”, “egalitarianism” or simply “not being misogynist”.
Those negative aspects, by they way, would be:
I sympathise with many of the opinions of the self-proclaimed feminist 👤 Camille Paglia. She is on record since the early nineties at least (probably before) fericiously attacking the same set of bogus tenets that are so alarming today. See this interview from 1992.
More recently, I like the views of 👤 Christina Hoff Sommers, 👤 Warren Farrell and a few other “alternative feminists” (perhaps 👤 Germaine Greer, too).
The existence of some misogynistic, regressive, apologetic types (👤 Mike Buchanan) and those hateful so-called “pick-up artists” (👤 Julien Blanc, 👤 Roosh Valizadeh) is a disgrace for those of us who are criticising contemporary feminism in a serious, constructive way. Those guys often do have a point when they talk about sexism affecting men too, and about biological differences between men and women playing a huge role. Also, it is refreshing that they speak frankly about sex and about working on techniques to get sex from women, changing their behaviour and what they say to those women (there is nothing immoral in wanting sex — and just sex — from another person; and there is nothing immoral about modulating our demeanour and not disclosing our real thoughts and intentions in order to get other people to like us, be nicer to us and do things for us — we do it all the time). But it is clear by listening to them, and by reading what they write on the internet, that most of them also harbour really immoral attitudes towards women; misogynistic, degrading, at times bordering on the violent.
I think most of us are at least somewhat sexist (and at least somewhat racist, xenophobic, ageist, aspectist…). At a personal level, discriminating certain groups of people (or put it in another way: favouring certain groups of people) seems to make complete sense. There are all kind of practical reasons, which have nothing to do with bigotry, to feel more empathetic towards, and to be nicer to, people who are like us.
We are not “colour-blind” (or “gender-blind”).
Since that seems true, deciding what forms of sexism are acceptable, and to what degree, is not a trivial question. (Again, the same argument applies to other forms of group discrimination).
However, this only works at the level of individuals — social norms, and laws, can’t be prejudiced in the same way.
Also, this does not mean that we should not question and correct unjust attitudes
💭 Example: I once joined a meeting of a sort of “book club” where I did not know anybody. It turned out that the few people who could make it in the end were all women, except for me. We were a small group (six or eight people, I think) chatting at a café about books, and writing, for a couple of hours. I didn’t like the fact that I was the only man at the event. Sometimes the conversation steered to topics that I found boring, or about which I had nothing to say (female topics, if you will). I felt that the rhythm and the tone of the conversation was difficult for me (men are known to be less skilled with language, and within men I think I am a particularly bad public speaker; I also felt that the shades of humour and the kind of personal experiences and thoughts that participants were sharing were sometimes quite different from those I’m used to). If I were “gender-blind” (as some feminist wants everybody to be, apparently), I should not have felt any uneasiness. Or, if I felt it, I should have worked to overcome it. [TO-DO]
There is a dissonance between how wrong certain acts feel (how immoral they seem) and how worried society is about them happening,
I think most people would agree that murder is a far worse crime than rape or physical violence. However, we seem much more concerned about the portrayal of rape in works of fiction and in the mass media than we are about violence or murder. Kids nowadays see way more instances of people killing other people, and people torturing or beating other people, than people raping other people.
Violence, torture, cruelty and assassinations are ubiquitous in TV, film and video games. Violence is the basis for so much of contemporary popular culture (many video games; products about “super-heros”; products about cops, spies, the military, wars; action films…).
Those forms of murder or extreme violence happen, interestingly, usually between male characters.
And still, there is public outcry whenever a remotely realistic or detailed scene of rape appears on those media.
Why is that?
It does not add up, from a moral point of view.
I suspect this has to do with these factors:
There isn’t one. At least, not in the sense the media has been using the term in recent years.
Calling “rape culture” collectively to the instances of sexual abuses on American campuses (or, in general, in Western liberal democracies) is abusing the term “culture”. The problem of sexual violence would be better understood and addressed if instead of bending the meaning of certain words and coining hyperboles, we used studies, numbers and statistics to illustrate it.