Defining Feminism: Once More, with Feeling

I was about to post this over at Matthew Yglesias, but got distracted (silly work, don’t they know I’m leaving so soon that I no longer care?). By the time I returned, the discussion had rambled around so much that my sparkling brilliance would’ve been sadly contaminated by the dullwittedness of others. So I’m posting it here.

[F]eminism isn’t all about choices. It’s about equality.

So close, yet so formulated to attract antifeminist loons!

Feminism is also about the context surrounding people’s choices. Two beliefs pretty much all contemporary feminists have in common are that social, cultural, and economic contexts are really important, and that it’s improper to speak of someone’s “choice” as if its presence somehow absolves us all of our roles in creating those contexts. Many feminists, myself included, would characterize social pressure as a lesser cousin to forcible coercion, which doesn’t need to meet the same standards as the use of force but still ought not to be applied willy-nilly.

I’m pretty sure that giving the stinkeye to a woman who fails to take her husband’s name is an unjustifiable use of social pressure. It’s tempting to say that another woman’s choice to change her name might encourage such things, and therefore we ought to condemn her if she bows to the prevailing norm. So she’s damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t – which, if I understand these things correctly, will make her super-feminine and therefore help her marriage. Really, we should devote our energies primarily to condemning the folks who hand out stinkeyes in the first place, and secondarily to anyone who fails to appropriately berate them when they do. Then if we’re not too pooped, we can move on to world peace and shit.

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  1. Definitions for “Feminism” | "Espécies de Espaços" on 11 Jan 2015 at 2:43 pm

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  2. wolfangel wrote:

    And talking about not this at all, but you watch Gilmore Girls: how did you take the last episode? And tell me that I’m not the only person who thinks that Rory is pregnant.

  3. yami wrote:

    Gilmore Girls is feminist-y, sometimes; the last episode was not in particular one of those times, but. Rory’s doing that thing where she suddenly starts to let her identity be defined by her relationships with men. I’m not sure if they’ll make anything out of that, though – the writers seem to have a hard time giving Rory much depth on her own. The Logan/Rory pair is IMO the only couple on that show with any chemistry, so I’d really like to see her explore the role of witty arm candy next season.
    You are the only person who thinks Rory is pregnant.

  4. wolfangel wrote:

    No, no, I can’t be! Otherwise, that was a huge-ass waste of an episode (the one before this, where the obstetrician (I assume) had apparently never heard of EC). And if Lorelei’s not pregnant, and we know Lane isn’t, and Emily’s not — Paris? But I still claim that the intent was to have Rory be pregnant.
    No, the last episode was not high on the being feminist scale. It was sort of — odd.

  5. yami wrote:

    I was also weirded out by the Ob’s failure to mention EC. Maybe it was a Catholic hospital? Also, do you ever watch Everwood? With the at least 3 flagrant violations of HIPAA in each episode? The WB in general does not show a great deal of regard for the details of medical practice.
    But Lorelai’s pregnancy scare was just to make her realize that she wants to settle down and have babies with Luke. His Freudian slip and her proposal were that particular subplot’s fulfillment; why read any more into it?
    I kinda liked this episode anyway, though – well-executed mother/daughter parallels, and finally some Mama Kim even if she was acting completely out of character.

  6. Josh Canel wrote:

    it’s improper to speak of someone’s “choice” as if its presence somehow absolves us all of our roles in creating those contexts.
    I repeat like a mantra a lesson learned from a philosophy prof during a discussion on Sartre: sure, we all make choices, but who chooses the chooser? Ergo, choices aren’t made willy-nilly in a vacuum isolated from cultural context. Often they are limited and guided by that context.
    (Sorry that I couldn’t contribute to the Gillmore Girls talk. I don’t watch TV.)

  7. yami wrote:

    Yeah, mantras are good. [Insert snarky remark about Simone de Beauvoir here.]
    And if I didn’t watch the Gilmore Girls, I would never know what brand of tampon my demographic is supposed to buy!

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