The Feminist Gadfly

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

Category: Uncategorized

On Progressivism, Direct Action, and the Boy Scouts of America

by EddyNorthwind

Before I say anything, I want to make it very clear that I absolutely do not support the BSA’s current policy excluding gay youth and adults. As an open atheist in the scouts, I lost a lot of sleep to the fear that someone would decide to tell the regional office about my troops’ unwritten policy of blatantly ignoring the “No Gays, No Godless” rule imposed by the Mormon- and Catholic-controlled national organization; and to this day I’m angry at them for pushing me to lie about my lack of religion in the board of review for my Eagle award. I’m ashamed to call myself an Eagle Scout right now, and I’ve said as much in letters to the national office.

That said, I am not backing out now.

In response to Chick-Fil-A’s announcement that every sandwich will now come with a side of homophobia and the boycotts that followed, a friend of a friend of AJ’s (the internet is weird) posted something on Facebook which nailed down something which has been kind of swirling around in my head for a while now:

It seems that ultra-conservatives follow up their words with actions and money, whereas liberals sit around salivating over chicken they denied themselves the right to eat and doing exactly nothing useful for their causes

I know that the above is a massive generalization and there are plenty of counterexamples, but it also rung true to at least my personal experience. It seems that the first instinct of many progressives is to “not help”, which, to be blunt, hasn’t and doesn’t work. Action speaks louder than inaction. So I’m trying something different with the group that taught me to care about more than my own privilege-filled bubble in the first place.

Instead of returning my Eagle and removing myself from the BSA (which I’ve been considering for some time), I’m going to rekindle my involvement. I’m going to build a network of like-minded people in the organization, and I’m going to see what we can do from there. I know from talking with current and former scouts and scouters that, at least in my area, there’s a lot of anger at the national office for its decision to continue discriminating. I also know from experience that we make things happen when we get organized. We’ll make some noise.

~Eddy

Reflections

by aronjerrison

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but getting settled home after a year away took more time than I had thought it might. Anyhow, here goes:

Although I have been calling myself a feminist for years, this past year* was the first in which I have actually made an effort to immerse myself in the writings of contemporary feminists. This has mostly taken the form of following a substantial number of feminists who blog, and checking sporadically on the works of many more. It doesn’t sound like much, but as a philology student, it was really all I could do to keep up.

This post shall, I hope, present a couple of the more salient thoughts that I have had when reflecting on this.

Looking at it, one of the things that comes to mind is how enjoyable reading these blogs are. It’s one thing to rail against the injustice of the world and have your room mate agree with you, it’s quite another to find other people ranting about the same things. I found a sense of connectivity with those bloggers who are getting angry at the same things as I.

The other big(ger) thing is how much it has opened my eyes. After a year of reading, I am noticing more of the sexism in our system. I take greater note of the inequalities in gender portrayals in tv shows, I am quicker to notice when comedies play into the stereotypes of hegemonic heterosexuality.

Possibly the most important thing is that I’ve become a better person. By nature I’ve never been one to shy away from conflict, but there have been times at which I’ve been afraid to point out someone’s sexism or heterosexism or rape apologism because I wasn’t ready to “rock the boat”. As I’ve read more, I’ve been able to speak out more readily, and I like that.

 

-AJ

*Due to my studenthood, when I refer to years, please take the phrase academically rather than calendrically

My Sex “Education”

by naomiparker

It’s no secret that the state of sex education in the United States is problematic. The sex education that our students receive from public schools is something that we can and should work to improve. Today I would just like to bring down the mood a little and talk about my own sex ed. experience.

In 5th grade, our school had the “Hooray, you’re blossoming into adults!” bit of sex ed. Very informative, no shame involved, slightly more flower metaphors than seemed necessary, but all in all a good experience. That summer I started menstruation and felt that I now knew and had experienced everything about being a woman.

In 6th grade, I was enrolled in my church’s abstinence-only sex program. I’m still working on getting past the fear and shame associated with sexual activity and the mistrust of men that the program instilled.

When I returned to school, I was the only one my age who had seen both a penis and a vagina, and knew what they looked like after herpes, genital warts, and syphilis had struck. I was the only one who knew how a late-term abortion was supposedly performed. I knew that if my boyfriend wanted sex (never once was it mentioned that a girl might want sex), he was a bad person waiting to brainwash me into a life of debauchery and misery. I knew that if I ever once masturbated and/or watched pornography I would become hopelessly addicted. I knew that I was likely to get pregnant even if I used a condom and birth control correctly. I knew that there was a “mental burden” associated with a sexual relationship which would eventually destroy me and my relationship with God. And above all, I knew I would never partake in this ghastly “sex” thing. Ever.

Recently I found my stack of abstinence promoting pamphlets and brought them back to college with me. I needed to laugh at them, needed AJ to point out the ridiculously anti-male imagery, needed a very religious and very chaste friend to dismiss them as over-the-top fear-mongering.

I have no conclusions to make here. As progressive as we want to be as a society, this sort of thing still exists. For the record, I am not suggesting that sex should not be taken seriously, nor am I bashing the concept of abstinence. If you are old enough and informed enough to make that decision, then I respect you for it. But I can’t condone this breed of sexual fear-mongering. I also can’t say we have a right to step in and stop it. People will always impart ugly values to their children via ugly methods. I’m just thankful that it’s semi-reversible, and I hope that it never finds its way into our public schools.

Thank you, Noah Brand

by EddyNorthwind

I often get asked about how I can simultaneously identify as a feminist and a masculist. This is how.

Gender is not zero-sum. It’s incredibly rare that I find something offensive to one gender that is not simultaneously offensive to anyone outside of a very narrow view of the other. That’s not to say that certain specific gender issues don’t have elements of zero summiness (it’s a word, AJ :P) — My layperson’s understanding of economics suggests that at any one time, there are only so many jobs to be had, which leads to some unfortunate situations that can’t be resolved by simply saying “make things better for everyone”. All the same, the goal of a society that is fair to all its members is not too pie in the sky to be the goal of a social movement.

I want to live in a world where one’s gender is considered as indicative of who they are as the precise size and shape of their belly button. I want to live in a world where my gender is considered as indicative of who I am as the precise size and shape of my belly button. I’m pretty sure most people in the gendersphere can agree with that sentiment.

(Note: As seems to be a common problem over on GMP, the comments section of the linked post is mostly ignorance & overgeneralization punctuated by occasional bits of intelligent discourse. I wouldn’t read it unless you’re willing to see some ugliness.)

~Eddy

Revisitation

by aronjerrison

Although my feminist convictions are far from new, it has only been in the past year or so that I’ve actually attempted to make myself aware of the relevant literature and the variety of perspectives. This fact has opened me up to some shocking realisations when I revisit things which I enjoyed in my childhood.

Having been on break from school recently, I found myself with the opportunity to do some reading and television watching which I had been putting off up to that point. Given the temporal proximity of the ides of March, I thought that a reading of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was in order. I was shocked at the levels of anti-female rhetoric. The misogynistic themes in Taming of the Shrew did not elude me when I read it in my childhood, but this was something I had missed.

Both of the major female characters in the play comment constantly on how their constitutions are weaker than their male counterparts. Their advices are continuously ignored, and they both end up unhappy due to their over-reliance on the men in their lives.

Finding misogynistic rhetoric in Shakespeare, however, is a bit like finding hay in a haystack. I won’t say that it’s acceptable, but he was a product of his times. When teaching the plays we can’t avoid talking about these themes, but ultimately one must admire his mastery of his craft. However, I have also watched some thirty episodes of M*A*S*H in the past week, and I was more than a little surprised at what I found, or rather, what I had missed as a child.

I must admit, I have special place in my heart for M*A*S*H; I have a penchant for quick witted one-liners, and Hawkeye Pierce ranks with Groucho Marx in the halls of the gods of that genre. However, despite Alan Alda’s contributions to and acknowledgements from the feminist movement later on, the first couple seasons of the show were replete with misogynistic slurs, sentiments, and acts.

I cannot and shall not deny the wonderful way in which they redeemed Hawkeye in the season seven episode “Inga”. For those of you who are not as familiar with the show, I shall provide a summary. A female doctor comes to visit the 4077th and shows up all of the main cast members. Hawkeye, as is his wont, falls for her. However, he has difficulty dealing with the fact that she is a talented and intelligent surgeon in her own right. Ultimately, he realises the error in his ways, but she is on her way out by that time.

It was a great episode, but it happened too late. Why did Hawkeye do so much to teach racists a lesson or two while not realising his own bigotry?

This realisation may not stop me from watching the show, but it has certainly put it in a new perspective for me.

-AJ

The Obligatory Introductory Post

by thefeministgadfly

This blog arose as the result of an argument. However, before we explain what argument was, we ought first to tell you who we are.

We, the contributors to The Feminist Gadfly, are students at a relatively centrist Midwestern undergraduate liberal arts university. We span a large range of genders, sexualities, socio-economic classes, and geographic origins. (Unfortunately, we have yet to span a wide number of races.) Our differences in backgrounds give rise to numerous disagreements on many topics. The thread that binds our discourse together is feminism.

…or gender egalitarianism. This, you see, is where our argument got its start.

The question was raised “if the goal that we are trying to achieve is that of gender equality, should we not move away from the term ‘feminism’ with its negative popular associations and implications of gender bias?” Our responses divided us.

In our various postings on this blog, we shall attempt to deal with the question of feminist identification outside of the limited context of a gender studies classroom. Do we need a separate movement to deal with the problems men face? Is the gendered nature of the term feminism too divisive for our purposes? Is the negative popular perception of feminism enough to push us away from the term?

Being college students, we are congenitally incapable of avoiding distraction. Therefore, it might behove you to expect much in the way of off-topic discourse. However, as with our differences in views, expect the running theme to be that of gender egalitarianism.

-The Feminist Gadfly