The Feminist Gadfly

Discussing the problems of feminist identification in the context of gender egalitarianism

Month: April, 2012

Word Order

by aronjerrison

Before I get to the body of this post, I should like to, as much as I hate both the word and the concept, indulge in a bit of “blogsplaining”.

Finals are upon us here at Midwestern liberal arts university, and conscientious students that we are, Naomi, Eddy, and I have let this blog sit on the back burner as we move academics to the front.

That being said, I will be putting my work aside for a short while so as to write about something which has been on my mind for a while.

As I have made my way through the feminist blog-o-sphere, particularly the more radical areas of it, I have repeatedly come across the phrase “feminist man”. Because no disclaimer that I could write would be enough to convince everyone that I am not attempting to “correct”, “educate”, or “fix” feminists and feminism, I am hoping that this meta-disclaimer will make some progress towards that end.

The phrase “feminist man” poses for me, a couple of problems.

The first, and most trivial, of them is that I dislike the double use of ‘feminist’ as both a noun and an adjective. I would much prefer that the term ‘feministic’ see a rise in usage.

The second is its gendered implications. If we accept this terminology, we are implicitly accepting gender as our identifier, with feminist as a mere modifier. I have written before about what a feminist is, but I feel a need to reiterate my point here.

A feminist is, asThe American Heritage Dictionary tells us, “a person whose beliefs and behaviour are based on feminism.” This definition has no gendered implications, and adding them seems counter-productive.

I will not deny that gender is an important thing to take into account when considering feministic (see? it works–right?) discourse, but having it as our primary identifier doesn’t help. When I am discussing an issue and feminism comes up, the fact that I identify as a feminist is much more relevant than the fact that I identify, however marginally, as a man.

This is why, when the issue of identification comes up, I call myself a male feminist. My gender is indicated, but it is not my primary identifier. Men are not monolithic. If I am identified as a man, nothing can be divined about me, the fact that I am a feminist is significantly more telling. This is not to say that feminism is monolithic, merely that having a similar goal provides more of an association than having a similar sex or gender.

I would like to continue this post, but it’s nearly 5.00 AM, and I have papers to write.

-AJ

Give Your Child A Barbie

by naomiparker

There must be a version of Godwin’s Law which states that as an intro Women and Gender Studies course approaches completion, the probability of having a discussion about Barbie approaches one. My class had that discussion last week. One classmate, in passing, mentioned that she had a Barbie, but “didn’t treat her right”. To my surprise (and relief) a murmur of solidarity passed over the class, followed by a murmur of shock and concern directed toward the Barbie mutilators. The conversation moved on, but I was lost in contemplation of my own relationship with Barbie.

When I was young, every holiday brought a new Barbie toy. In addition to a plethora of dolls with various outfits and accessories, I had Barbie’s convertible, a (gigantic, early-90s) toy cell phone, and bright pink child-size cleaning supplies. While I’ll admit a fondness for following my mother around with my tiny broom, I absolutely despised my other Barbie toys. I knew exactly what personality to attribute to my dolls, and they were all superficial, narcissistic, and privileged in every way. I loathed them for their vices and envied them for their social dominance. My Barbies would be punished, sent flying across the room, and replaced with a toy more akin to a giant robotic insect.

Mattel has always promoted Barbie as an independent career woman, a role model for girls. In reality, Barbie is a foot high plastic toy. She isn’t realistic and she doesn’t have an inherent personality. She is, however, a representative of our society’s perfect adult woman. This makes her an extremely valuable parenting tool.

As an adult I constantly dismiss most portrayals of women (and men) in advertisements and media as unrealistic or insulting. Children, boys and girls alike, can’t make that distinction. Even the most careful parents can’t completely shield their little feminist from this patriarchal bombardment. As much as we’re working to put a negative stigma against these unfair portrayals of femininity and masculinity in the media, they won’t change overnight, and they are affecting today’s children harshly. Barbie is thus essential as a window into a child’s still-malleable conception of gender roles. I know now that I had a twisted view of the perfect adult woman, but I would not have begrudged learning that lesson a bit sooner. So after all my Barbie hate as a child, I’m standing up to defend the innocent piece of plastic. Give your child a Barbie, teach them that real bodies aren’t meant to look like hers, stand back, and watch.

-Naomi

“As a Feminist”

by aronjerrison

Although I would like to keep my record pristinely clear of on-topic posts, I have mentioned today’s post multiple times in the past two weeks to both Naomi and Eddy, and I thought that I really ought to write it up to share with you.

As I go about my life, both on the internet and out in the big bad world, I am confronted with far too much anti-feminist rhetoric. I have found that the image of the “humourless feminist” is still a popular one, much to my chagrin. As much as I would love to point the people who accept this stereotype to a link to Jo Brand, in the real world, due to the socio-economic (primarily economic) barriers keeping me from smartphone ownership,  I do not always have that option.

The result of this is me finding myself attempting to break that stereotype by describing myself as having both a sense of humour and feminist convictions often uttering that unfortunate phrase: “well, as a feminist, I…”

My problem with the phrase is not the unhesitating allegiance to feminism to which it seems to pledge me. I have no problem with that. Instead, I fear that I am committing some grievous breach of etiquette for a male feminist (more on the syntax of “male feminist” in a later post). Having seen so many straw-feminists formed out of a misunderstanding and generalising of one feminist’s comments, I do not want to allow my elucidation of my own feminist ideology to reflect in a potentially negative manner on such an important movement.

This may seem presumptuous to even say, but I would hate to see my thoughts pasted around the internet as an example of why feminists are evil and wrong.

What I need to do is find a more convenient shorthand for “this is what I, being informed by my feminist convictions, think about the topic under discussion. Please do not take this as the view any feminists other than those who state it.” Until I find that shorthand, I would like to, as a feminist, say good bye.

-AJ