Oct. 22nd, 2013

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Feminism is a very broad term. Every time I start trying to describe how broad I freeze up, because I know I'm only familiar with the kinds you find on the internet, which is not perfectly represented, and even then I'm much more familiar with some parts than others. Mostly the parts that are relevant to me, like consent culture and paying highly educated women more money.

Feminists make fun of the term "I'm not a feminist, but...", implying that the speakers want the benefits of feminism without the social cost of admitting it. My own mother said I was spitting on the back of Susan B. Anthony when I (age 14) said I wasn't a feminist. This only makes sense if you consider feminism synonymous with equal rights and opportunities for women. That's a pretty bold claim to make. A lot of poor and non-white women have criticized feminism/The Feminist Movement for focusing exclusively on the problems of upper middle class white women (e.g. the leaky pipeline in academia) while ignoring problems affecting them (e.g. the mistreatment of pregnant women in prison). At times their goals can be actively contradictory because their situations are so different- rich white women are denied sterilization they request while poor black women are sterilized without their knowledge. When these women refuse to identify as feminists, they're not saying they're okay with the status quo, they're not failing to give Susan B. Anthony her due, they're just refusing to pretend that TFM is working for them. Which is probably why mainstream feminists get so upset about it.*

That is a really charged example, but there are lots of other ways that people can disagree about what counts as "advocating for women". I wish I was informed enough and clever enough to point out ways this is happening that no one else has thought of, but I'm a dilettante with a lot of privilege, so I can't. The ways I can think of are things other people have already pointed out: the second wave fought for the right to say no to sex, the third is fighting for the right to say yes. People are simultaneously fighting for the right to have children (and have the costs of those children subsidized by other people**) and fighting the stigma against childlessness. The second wave fought to get women into corporate jobs, parts of the third are fighting for greater respect for the work of childrearing. None of these are strictly opposed, but supporting one without hurting the other requires an inconvenient level of nuance.

Ultimately the question is: do we want the same world we have now, except without gender based-proscriptions, or do we want a different world, and if so, which one? If feminism were strictly about equality, than success would be black women being discriminated against exactly the same as black men, and racism itself would be orthogonal. I of course think racism is bad and being racist makes you a bad person***, but it's not clear to me it should make you a bad feminist. Feminism is not a synonym for good things.

The Feminist Movement seems to be a lot of more socialist than I am, and finds severe income inequality in and of itself problematic. I believe that income inequality is often symptomatic of a problem, and extreme poverty is a problem, but do not care if some people make truly ridiculous amounts of money in a fair system. And while I think gender-based discrimination is morally wrong, I dislike a lot of anti-discrimination laws on both practical and moral grounds. I should be able to disagree about means without feminists accusing me of secretly hating women or not caring about discrimination.****

I wish Lean In had taken a little bit wider view and discussed the work system as a whole. I think the live-to-work mindset is hurting women and men both. I really wish Sandberg had talked about why she finds striving for the top so rewarding, instead of taking it as a given. As I was typing this a friend sent me a link to The Messy Link Between Slavery and Modern Management and before I finished the description I dismissed it as "that's not fair to tar trade by mutual agreement with the same brush as slavery, just because the same tool can make both better." It took me a few minutes to question "why is maximizing number of widgets the goal?". I know why it's the goal of any given company, but how did the system end up that way? I have this nagging feelings that there are systems where that wouldn't be the case, but I can't conceive of them any more than a fish can conceive of brachiation.

If I have a point, it's that I wish more people questioned more assumptions, and I wish that was decoupled from the feminist movement. I may even wish there wasn't A Feminist Movement, but that feminist was an adjective applied to other movements, like socialism and anarchism and especially libertarianism and/or free market socialism, whichever one I end up going with.

*I tried to find good blog posts to demonstrate this. The first page of results for "feminism racist" is exclusively white feminists and mainstream news, plus one by a PUA. The white bloggers linked to black bloggers: almost all of their blogs were either gone or restricted access. Part of this is that I still pine for 2007 and have failed to adapt to a post-twitter world, but part is that race and gender bloggers have a frighteningly high burnout rate.

**My belief is that once the kid is here, it's a defenseless person and society does have an obligation to give in a decent shot at life. But I'm very uncomfortable with that framed as the right of the mother to have as many children as she wants, regardless of her ability to take care of them.

*** to the extent that being bad person is a thing, which it mostly isn't, and it's even less rarely a helpful framework, but I really want to risk condoning racism and it makes for a really nice parallel sentence structure

****Something no one has said to me personally, but is often said about people with similar beliefs. People who may well be acting in bad faith, but the idea that someone could believe in gender equality but think preserving the right to free association and the commerce clause was more important than the marginal benefit from this particular law is never even considered.

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