Saturday, January 24, 2009

RIP "Feminist"?

I'm tired of writing about Palin. Really, I am. But she did pose an interesting quandary for those of us who call ourselves feminists. Because...you know...SHE called herself a feminist.

A Feminist for Life.

That's a feminist who doesn't believe women should have a choice about what they do with their own bodies. A feminist who believes equal rights is being "one of the boys."

For a long time, I've believed that anyone who identifies as a feminist IS a feminist. Who am I to say they're not a "real" feminist? And then Palin came on the scene.

I don't think she would've kept the feminist thing going if it hadn't come out that she was a member of Feminists for Life. But it did, and she took it and ran with it. Smart.

Still, I don't think, as this article suggests, that she killed the word itself by "eliminating the taboo."

I don't want people to be scared of the word. I want everyone who truly believes in equal rights to be able to proudly say that they're a feminist. We don't need a taboo to keep us going. We need people on our side.

And that's what bugs me about Palin. I don't think she's on our side. Obviously, feminism means something entirely different to her. She can call herself a feminist, but a politician who believes "that women certainly today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed, and to try to do it all, anyway" is not someone who is fighting for women's rights. It seems like she just wants to maintain the status quo. And that's not enough.

But the KKK didn't kill the word "Christian" and Palin didn't kill the word "feminist." She can call herself whatever she wants, but she doesn't represent feminism. She doesn't speak for us. And terrorists who call themselves Muslims don't speak for Muslims everywhere.

I'm not, in any way saying Palin is comparable to a terrorist or a member of the KKK, I just think people can use words to describe themselves without changing the definition for everyone.

I don't think Conservative Christians are anywhere near co-opting the word. I think it's still scary, just not AS scary. And that's a pretty good place to be.

Michelle Obama is not ready to call herself a feminist (she "doesn't like labels"). And I think that proves the point. People are still afraid of the word. I would love for that fear to end, but it hasn't.

It isn't time to read the "feminist" obituary, but when that time comes, it will be because it's second nature to believe that men and women should be on equal footing. (That's why we don't call people man-ists.) The death of "feminist" won't come from some female good ole boy, it will come from hard work and revolution. When everyone's a feminist...THEN it will be time to retire the word.

30 comments:

The Sexist said...

Hi, thanks very much for taking the time to read my piece on "feminist" (and sorry for resurrecting the ghost of Sarah Palin). I think your perspective is a fine one, and am glad to see another person improving the reputation of "feminist." After the Obama Ms. cover, there were a lot of calls to "reclaim" the word feminist, but others are just saying that we need to remember there are a lot of "feminisms" out there---and we just need to be clear about which one we align with. I can see why you (and others) are glad to see it become more mainstream. I'm glad to see the ideas be adopted by the mainstream, but am so annoyed to see even anti-women candidates adopt a word that is supposed to signal change, not complacency, that I thought, why not consider retiring it? . Anyway! Thanks for joining in the conversation.

-Amanda

Andy Swan said...

Hopefully, between the success of Palin, Clinton and Obama this cycle, we can put to rest the culture of victimhood that makes these insane conversations possible.

Believing that a child who hasn't been born yet is more than just a part of the woman's body is NOT grounds for accusing someone of being sexist.

Amanda said...

Thanks for weighing in, Amanda. I actually wrote a post about the Ms. cover, and you can probably guess what my thoughts were. (http://thepeeledapple.blogspot.com/2009/01/feminist-freak-out-ms-magazines-obama.html)

As for you, dismissive Swan, I'm not sure how "the culture of victimhood" has anything to do with this post. I'm also not sure where you saw me accusing Palin of sexism.

noms said...

Feminism isn't the only word, as you mentioned in the article facing difficulties. All of our labels have different meanings for different people. I catch myself using all sorts of labels and they don't mean the same thing to everyone. I agree that we don't need to hang up the labels for good just because there is variance in them but that also means we better not get hung up on the labels either.

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