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January 6, 2007

Who’s marginal?
Posted by Patrick at 01:32 PM *

Atrios quotes a recent Media Matters column by Jamison Foser, addressing New York Times nitwit Anne Kornblut’s persistent claim that Democrats must beware of letting themselves be accused of wanting to “cut and run”:

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: This isn’t 2004 any more. This isn’t 2002.

People. Don’t. Like. This. War.

How hard is that to comprehend? It’s been the truth for a long time. A very long time. President Bush and John McCain are pushing an Iraq policy—escalation—that has the support of only about 11 percent of Americans. Eleven percent! That’s in “would you like to be kicked in the head” range. People overwhelmingly oppose this war; they want to end it; and leading Republicans are talking about escalating it.

Surveying these facts, pundits declare that Democrats better watch out, lest they be branded “cut-and-run[ners].” And these people get paid to utter this nonsense!

I made a similar point the other day, in the comment section following an unsigned Guardian thumbsucker (“The Democrats get their turn”), in which it was asserted that “Feelings on the left of the party are running high over Iraq and there is much pressure for immediate action”:
Are you nuts? Feelings on the left, center-left, center, and center-right are running high over Iraq. In poll after poll it ranks as the most urgent question on the national agenda. Approval for Bush’s Iraq policies is down to 23%.

The notion that only the “left” urgently wants to put brakes on Bush’s Iraq adventure is a profound misreading of the national mood. Most of the country wants this, save for the last-ditch, hard-core war fans who would vote for George W. Bush even if he ate a live baby on national TV.

At this point, I think it’s urgently important to correct the media every time they say—or imply—that opposition to this war is in any way “marginal” or confined to the “left.” It’s not. It’s the position of the solid majority of the American people. An even larger majority is opposed to sending more troops, and no politician who advocates that should be regarded as anything but a marginal, extremist loser.
Comments on Who's marginal?:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 02:06 PM:

For Pete's Frickin' Sake, Oliver Friggin' North has come out against sending more troops.

When they lost Ollie North they lost support even in the hard right.

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Okay then, now we're down to the people who'd support GWB even if they saw him eat two live babies on national TV.

While drinking the blood of puppies.

Mixed into a grape fizzy.

#3 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Two live snowflake babies.

#4 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Folks -- it gets even better:

To the best of my knowledge, none of the agencies of the Federal government have had their appropriation bills passed. This may include the Departement of Defense.

On Friday, my boss told me that HHS may be working under a continuing resolution for the rest of the year.

Now, if Defense is in the same boat -- what does this tell you about the state of things in DC?

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 02:36 PM:

Meanwhile, it looks like what the Decider has decided is that Surge and Stay the Course is the New Way Forward, and that we won't be able to stop him. I'm looking forward to the Decider's upcoming speech announcing this.

#6 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Lori Coulson (#4) wrote:
...HHS may be working under a continuing resolution for the rest of the year.

The Dept of Energy is in the same boat. I got hammered by that--continuing resolution basically means you get funded at the same level as the previous year and can't do anything new; my division didn't even exist until last June, so our funding last year was about half of what we'd need to do everything DOE wants us to. The folks at the big synchrotron down the road were supposed to get a half-billion in new funding--they're sending out emails to all their users to lobby Congress for the money.

#7 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 03:07 PM:

I say nuke everything. Bag-dad, Moggie-dish-you, McCaw, all them.

Then Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Ottawa, Mexico City, Berlin, Brussells. Then New York, LA, San Francisco, Sydney, Buenos Aires, and any other city with a population of more than 100,000.

Then just blow up a bunch of nukes in the atmosphere, and/or in some active volcanos. Use some H-bombs to start firestorms in the rainforests. Don't forget the seafloor too; a couple good Hellbomb blasts could release all the toxins that have been building up there over the centuries, and kill most of the plankton besides.

Oh, and torch oil wells everywhere, and nuke the surrounding countryside so it's too radioactive to go into; this will really improve the particulates in the atmosphere.

I think if we can just gather a coalition of the willing to do all that, we can end the threat of terrorism for good.

If you don't go along, You Must Hate Freedom.

#8 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 03:18 PM:

#2: What's really scary about the poll you linked to, Patrick, is that, according to it, 51% of Republicans apparently approve of how W is dealing with Iraq. Have they been paying any attention to the news?

#9 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 03:50 PM:

JC @ 8:
Yes, they have been paying attention to the news. Fox News.

#10 ::: Janice E. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Well, W. just replaced Generals Casey and Abizaid (both of whom had publicly expressed skepticism about a "surge") with a new General and Admiral who are more tractable. So much for, "He listens to the generals."

#11 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Rebecca #9- Quiz question: What name of an animal also means "emphatically not"?

#12 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:17 PM:

23% of Americans, but 51% of Republicans, approve of Bush's handling of the war. What that means is that only about a quarter of the public is willing to tell pollsters that they're Republicans. Bad news for the Repubs in 2008....

Meanwhile, McCain:

The winner [of the daily Worst Person in the World] is Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, [who] told us today that he knew that the war in Iraq war was “probably going to be long and hard and tough,” and that he was “sorry” for anybody who voted it thinking it would be “some kind of an easy task.”

Sen. McCain on CNN on Sept. 24, 2002: “I believe that the success will be fairly easy.”

Sen. McCain on CNN on Sept. 29, 2002: “We’re not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies.”

Sen. McCain on this network [MSNBC] on Jan. 22, 2003: “We will win this conflict. We will win it easily.”

#13 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Ollie North, for all his faults, attained high enough military rank that he was likely exposed to the problems of logistics.

Over on The Sideshow, Avedon has linked to The Ideological Animal, an article about the psychological differences between conservatives and liberals. Read it all: it's evidence that fear of death makes people react as conservatives, but that's an essentially emotional reaction. If you can get them to think, the effect ceases.

Logistics, and most military staff work, is about rational thinking.

Trouble is, without the moral and ethical foundations, it's as easy to plan trains to Auschwitz as supply trains to your army. Is Ollie North talking aboot what should be done, or what can be done?

#14 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Janice @ 10

So much for, "He listens to the generals."
Strangely enough, it proves that he is listening to them. Unfortunately he has learned to change generals until he likes what he hears. It's a behavior seen before from somone losing a war.

It reminds me of an exchange in A Man for All Seasons. Henry VIII arrives in Chelsea to "informally" visit Thomas More at home. His daughter wonders why:

Margaret: What's he really coming for?

Norfolk: To talk about the divorce. He wants an answer.

Margaret: But he's had his answer.

Norfolk: He wants another.

#15 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 05:27 PM:

I like pointing out that more Americans favor banning private ownership of handguns and legalizing marijuana much more - three times more - than they support anything like the "surge". For that matter, by Fox News' survey data, twice as many Americans want gay marriage as want a surge in Iraq.

It's very difficult to overstate how out of touch the administration and punditocracy both are.

#16 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 06:54 PM:

Is it too much to hope that at least this promises to seriously fuck with McCain's presidential aspirations? An escalation isn't going to result in good war news two years from now; surely he isn't going to be able to distance himself from it.

#17 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 08:49 PM:

I wish the media would stop using the Bush language ("surge") and call his proposed escalation an escalation. "Surge" summons up images of something like a tsunami -- the wave comes, then it goes, and it's over. Which is in the "yeah, right, suuuuuuuuuuuuuuure, and let me buy that bridge you're selling, too, it sounds like a great deal" category, to my mind.

#18 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 09:29 PM:

Please keep in mind that I don't support a "surge" or escalation at this time (we should have had more troops at the begining, not now, and only if we press that reset button).

But, the President, acting as CnC, should do what he thinks is appropriate for the situation (this is a military thing, not just on anything in the world, like he thinks he should be able to) regardless of the "popularity" of the decision. In this regard (to making the decision because of the best interests of the military situation) he is correct in ignoring "popular opinion." I just wish he would have listened to his Generals in the first place (Kashvilli, etc) and now instead of holding the golden ring of combat command up in the air and seeing which general/admiral jumped the highest.

Then, of course, becuase we disagree with the decision, we vote the bastard out, or at least make sure we don't have such a personality there next time.

#19 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 09:34 PM:

I forgot to add that the argument for the surge just sounds way to close to the German side of the Battle of the Bulge for me to be comfortable with it.

#20 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 09:52 PM:

But, the President, acting as CnC, should do what he thinks is appropriate for the situation.

Steve, I would feel more comfortable agreeing with this if I believed George Bush was capable of thinking about the complexities of Iraq, or of making decisions based on what's good for the country. I don't think he handles complexity at all well, and I think he is too invested in his own ego and what feels right to him, i.e. that famous gut-think, which as based on the track record is wrong a whole lot more than it's right. I hate saying this, by the way. No gloating here -- only fear for us, for the troops, and the Iraqis. I have two friends who are as we speak getting ready to deploy to Iraq.

I respect General Petraeus, but I do not think he is going to be able to fix this. Have other people seen the speculation that the troops which are going to be thrown into Iraq are going to be 1/3 Americans and 2/3 Kurdish peshmurga? That's going to go over well with both the Shiites and Sunnis.

#21 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 12:45 AM:

I have no talent for video editing stuff, but I keep imagining this "Rocky Horror Picture Show" version of Bush's invasion of Iraq. Anytime someone says "Bush", the audience shouts "Moron!". Anytime someone says "WMD", the audience says "not!". Anytime someone says "surge", the audience shouts "Escalation!"

"Condi" can get "slut!" I suppose while we're at it.


#22 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 01:36 AM:

Nice SEO in the last three links there, Mr. Nielsen Hayden. Bravo.

#23 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 01:53 AM:

#12 James McDonald:

Er, am I missing something? If about half the people are Republicans, and about half the Republicans think Bush is doing a good job in Iraq, that'd be about 25%, right? So that looks pretty consistent with the number--half the people still self-reporting as Republicans.

I'd love to see the wording of the question, though. I don't know many people who think Iraq is going well....

#24 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Isn't there some pithier term to use to counter "surge?" Escalation is almost as bloodless. "Stick the rest of your d--k into the sausage grinder" is picturesque, but maybe not slogan material. Maybe "dig faster?"

The only model of Bush's decisionmaking process that makes sense to me is that he's trying to find some way to save his reputation from disaster. He's a young and healthy man, and he's honestly looking at 30+ years of life expectancy spent being remembered less fondly as a president than Jimmy Carter. If there's anything that's going to drive him to despair, drink, and bad decisions, I think that's the thing. So one more push, just in case somehow it all comes together and the Iraqis back down from their impending civil war, and form some kind of minimally stable government. (At this point, nobody is going to care if it's Saddam-level nasty, so long as the streets aren't red with blood.)

#25 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 02:37 AM:

albatross #24: I think "mass murder" would be a good replacement term, but then I guess you'd have to get more specific. He's been responsible for so many...

#26 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 03:01 AM:

In passing - Albatross at #23: half the people aren't Republicans. The percentage of American voters registered as "Republican" is closer to 30% than it is to 50%.


Going back to the post: one way of reading it is that yes, it's true that "the left" is against Iraq disaster - because most of the American public are "leftists".

It's only the recent distortions of American politics that have masked this fact.

Americans tend not to self-identify as "leftists", because the term has been demonized for at least the last 30 years. But sit them down and talk to Americans, and they're for equality of opportunity, for living wages, access to health care, respect for the environment, withdrawal from Iraq - - a majority of Americans are in favor of ALL of the items on the dreaded "leftist" agenda.

The fact that "leftism" has been widely accepted AS a term of abuse is a major factor to the problem with the pundits' lame analysis.

When policy is set by the Lunatic Right, it distorts the entire conversation about the political spectrum. I can recall when Barry Goldwater died, even HE was being scorned by the Reagan lunatics as being "Too Liberal".

So when the pundits say that "the left" is against the war - one way of looking at it is that they're actually conceding that, yes, 70% of the country is actually ON "the left". They just don't know that's what it's called.

Heck, a lot of American would punch you out if you called them a "leftist". But they're reachable, they're on our side.


#27 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Bob: Fair enough. In elections, about half the people vote Republican on average.

Other than Iraq, you're not describing policies in your list, you're describing outcomes. Who is against affordable health care or a living wage? It's like saying "the majority of Americans are for peace and prosperity, so they're Republicans, cause we're for those things, too." The question is what policies you expect to provide those things.

And there are plenty of popular conservative positions (laws against flag-burning) and unpopular liberal positions (affirmative action). You're cherry picking to come up with a hopeful message, I think.

#28 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 01:37 PM:

#20 Lizzy L, I agree completely. Except I would add that his "gut-think" is actually that "lump in the suit" from the debates, formerly known as the remote control device Cheney keeps the control box to.

#29 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Re #16: If McCain can finesse his position to stay slightly more aggressive than what actually gets committed to, he could try going "Well, we would have won if people had listened to what *I* said we should do," and present himself to the war-leaning crowd as the strong, maverick leader who unfortunately could't stop the appeasers from stabbing the country in the back. It's easy enough to say that what you supposedly recommended would have worked if you make sure your recommendation doesn't get tried.

If that's in fact his strategy, what you would expect to see is him shifting his position over time to keep ahead of the risk that that his is the course actually tried and seen to fail. Which, if the quotes I've seen upthread are accurate, may be what we're actually seeing, when we go back to check the record. (And that's part of why I urged folks to grab and archive all the "surge" presentations, to better notice and call out goalpost-moving.)

To be fair, cover-your-escape rhetoric like this isn't limited just to the right wing. If you see any sort of complex political or strategic guide saying "don't expect good results unless *all* that we recommend gets enacted", you're probably dealing with the same sort of take-the-credit-or-duck-the-blame calculus. (I've heard the ISG report has this sort of dodge in its recommendations, but I haven't read the whole thing of that one yet.) Any complex political, diplomatic, or military strategy will run into the need to replan or compromise as you go along, so a strategic recommendation without room for contingency plans is not all that helpful.


#30 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Albatross at #27: You're cherry picking to come up with a hopeful message, I think.

Well, sure. I have to, to keep going. But I do talk to people who say they hate liberals; and in the same breath will say that they don't understand (...to cherry pick another example) why there needs to be a cap on employee contributions to Social Security.

You talk it through, and it turns out that people have a whole slew of "liberal" positions, yet they call themselves "conservative".

(This is related to young women I meet in the work force - college-educated, independent wage-earners - who are hostile to the label "feminist". Apparently because the progress won by feminism ("equal pay for equal work", say) is like air to them.)

#31 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Albatross: Isn't there some pithier term to use to counter "surge?"

Flush.

#32 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 02:44 PM:

29: I see your point, but if that's what McCain's trying, I think it's a miscalculation. I think very few of the people who are against escalation would be in favor if it were just a bigger escalation, or are going to think warmly about a man who is taking that position after two more years of military disaster.

#33 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Yep, I think a lot of the dancing around the issue of Iraq we see right now, left and right, is all about *not* having some inconvenient 30 seconds of interview footage where they're plausibly to blame for the disaster. "Well, I think we should have done the invasion better, and now we should get some European allies to help out, and maybe we could talk to Iran, and...." Because almost any simple proposed policy that might be implemented might end in disaster.

You say "Let's get the troops out as fast as possible," that happens, and Iraq turns into a nightmarish multiethnic bloodbath that makes the Balkans look like Switzerland, and that sentence will be played back at you a thousand times before the next election.

Alternatively, you say "We need to make a real push, send everything we've got into Iraq, and regain control," and then the place goes up in flames, we lose another 5000 people and a bunch of equipment, and pull out in a humiliating way, with our former friends hanging onto the skids of the chopper as it flies away from the burning ruins of Baghdad. Your opponents for president will be playing that video in their campaign ads.

The safe answer is to say nothing in some way that makes you sound like you're just too smart and deep to make any testable recommendations. Extra points for profundities like "Well, we need to address the Palestine/Israel issue to get peace in Iraq" or "We need to get a big European force in there," since both of these are somewhat less likely than my winning the lottery next week.

#34 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:13 PM:

On #32, the rhetoric isn't so much designed for people who were always against the war in principle; it's more designed for folks who have misgavings about how it's turned out and been fought. That includea a fair number of the people polled who "don't. like. this. war." Basically, it'd be an attempt to win both the right and the uneasy center.

And regarding escalation, I would be for it if I thought it had a decent chance of working (where "working" means "managing to allow us to extricate ourselves in a few years without either a bloodbath or a political climate in the Middle East serisouly worse than now".) And if it makes sense to have one, a bigger escalation that still within the Armed Forces' reach makes more sense than a short-term, smaller "surge" during which insurgents can just lie low till it's safe to come out again. (That might well be while the "surge" is still in progress, once its weaknesses have been probed.)

However, I'm still against an escalation simply because I have no confidence that it *would* work in practice (especially given the highly optimistic assumptions and lacunae I'm seeing in the "official" escalation proposals.) So it's no use sacrificing a lot more lives and money to be stuck in the same situation or worse 2 years from now.

(Unless, of course, you occupy political office now, and want to postpone the final reckoning to the next administration. That's what I'm afraid is all it'll be good for; to pass the hot potato if it happens, or to find an excuse for failure, and convenient scapegoats on the other side of the aisle, if it gets blocked.)

#35 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:43 PM:

how many quagmires does it take to get to the hollow center of a chicken hawk?

I mean, seriously. How many times do we have to make the same damn mistake with "hearts and minds" wars before the nation figures out they don't work?

I'm gonna keep bombing you until you love me.

Didn't Gladriel say something like that? She at least had sense enough to give the ring back to Frodo.

Sometimes the stupidity just gets me so depressed.

#36 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:45 PM:

#35:

Do what I just did Greg.

Reinstall Civilization III after a year on the wagon.

#37 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Yeah, I'm not any kind of an expert on this stuff, but I just don't see how the kind of increase in forces we're talking about will solve anything long-term. I mean, it makes sense as an attempt to give the Iraqi government and people a little longer to try to resolve their irreconcilable differences and avoid civil war, but what indication do we have that a little more time will actually prevent that? We aren't going to show up with enough force to hold down the civil war. We could plausibly pick a side and make sure they won, but that wouldn't be politically acceptable, especially since the losers' wives and children are likely to end up in some of those lovely bulldozer-dug mass graves. We probably aren't going to pick a strongman and make sure he holds down the country in an effective way, since that also probably involves mass graves and torture chambers and nightmarish secret police.

What we appear likely to do is to show up in enough numbers to calm down Baghdad for awhile, without resolving any of the underlying issues. When we leave (we will, because very few people in the US care much about what kind of government Iraq has, while a lot of us care about our soldiers getting shot and our money being spent), the place just goes back to the civil war, apparently scheduled for Real Soon Now.

What a pity the President didn't have a wise, experienced Secretary of State to advise him--some ex-general who would have pointed out that holding down Iraq would be hard, that the people wouldn't really greet us with candy and flowers, some diplomat who would have told the President that once we invaded Iraq, we'd be held responsible for whatever happended to it. But then, he'd probably have just used up such a man's credibility by sending him to tell the UN some cock-and-bull story about metal tubes, centrifuges, etc.

#38 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 05:16 PM:

Reinstall Civilization III after a year on the wagon.

Crap. I just played a game last night. And I'm thinking about playing another game tonight.

I can finish a game in about three or four hours.

That 'splains a lot, though...

#39 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 06:02 PM:

Hey, there's a double feature of Top Gun and Independence Day on the ABC Family Channel today. After watching Tom Cruise and Will Smith zap soulless bogies I just know I'll be prepped for the success of The Surge!!1!!1 I am so looking forward to a healthy increase in the broadcast of similar films as an effective propaganda tool to educate an intractable populace such as we have now.

#40 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 06:08 PM:

Leaving aside the soft drink, every time I hear the expression 'surge the troops' I get the image of soldiers, sailors, marines and air force folks being rushed out of a pipe.

#41 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 09:58 PM:

"Who is against . . . a living wage?"

George Will. He wants the minimum wage to be $0.00.
(Granted, he presumably imagines that market forces will magically make everything alright, but . . .

#42 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 10:01 PM:

"Okay then, now we're down to the people who'd support GWB even if they saw him eat two live babies on national TV."

'Sure, he bit the head off a live dove during the State of the Union address, but that only sends the message that we're strong! After all, *they* only understand strength . . .'

#43 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 10:05 PM:

"Isn't there some pithier term to use to counter "surge?""

Spurt.

"Reinstall Civilization III after a year on the wagon."

Must . . . resist . . . must . . . be . . . strong . . .
(although in my case, we're talking Civ I. I'm a traditionalist . . .)

#44 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 10:09 PM:

Civ3. Victory. Only blew a few hours of my time.

Bush is still president, eh?

hm, maybe one more game before I go to bed.

:(

#45 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 11:19 PM:

They're sending Serge to Iraq?

#46 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 11:59 PM:

larry,

They're sending Serge to Iraq?

....i was waiting for that.

but maybe if we call it a serge instead of a surge, it will play on neocons' intense hatred of french people.

#47 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 09:28 AM:

(This is related to young women I meet in the work force - college-educated, independent wage-earners - who are hostile to the label "feminist". Apparently because the progress won by feminism ("equal pay for equal work", say) is like air to them.)

Actually, the reason I (college-educated, independent wage-earning 30-year-old woman) don't call myself a feminist is because the feminists have told me not to, pretty much in so many words.

I am not even remotely joking. Lists of required feminist qualities tend to exclude me quite neatly around the time they tell me that I'm not allowed to sleep with the people I'm interested in sleeping with--that if I "won't" be a lesbian, I have to be celibate, or I'm not a feminist. That's not the only qualification I'm missing, but it's one that shows up every time: not gay=not feminist.

Around the fourth or fifth time that I read one of these lists, I start thinking, huh, I guess they're right, I'm not a feminist.

It does make me wonder what I am, though.

#48 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Miriam (#46) -- I'd been thinking that too. But Serge, I bet you're glad you pronounce your name a la Francais (sorry for lack of proper accent marks; it's too early in the a.m. for me to hunt them down). Surge/Serge? No similarity at all, no no, quite different!

#49 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 09:35 AM:

Larry and miriam @45-46... Yeah, I was waiting for that one too. (*) Did I ever tell you of the days of yore when security was so lax that a common programmer (that'd be me) had the authority to shut down a database? The users didn't get mad at me, but they did say they now needed a serge protector.

(*) As for the joke about the similarly-named fabric, Teresa came up with that one a couple of weeks ago

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Faren... I can't put the squiggle under the 'C' of 'Francais' either, not on American keyboards anyway. The closest to my first name's correct pronunciation would be 'sehr' followed by a soft 'J'. I'm used to 'surge' though. My family name though daunts quite a few people, with my favorite pronunciation being 'maalox'.

#51 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 10:25 AM:
President Bush's new plan to quell the violence in Iraq calls for adding at least 20,000 U.S. troops, sources said. Debate within the Bush administration has been whether to send in all troops as a "big bang" force, or phase them in from month to month, sources said.
-- CNN

Yes, the man is stupid. Yes, his advisers are insane.

It's going to be "phased in from month to month" because they don't have a spare 20,000 troops lying around. But the Decider wants a "big bang," and he's going to hold his breath and turn blue if he doesn't get it. That's the "debate" right now.

All that putting a trooper on every street corner in Baghdad would mean is that the Mehdi Army snipers wouldn't have to travel very far to find a target.

Meanwhile, in Iraq:

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

So now we know what was being discussed in those secret energy-policy talks with the oil companies that Dick Cheney was having back in 2001.

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 10:40 AM:

Jim @ 51

Holding his breath until he turns blue sounds almost like a reasonable strategy, if he would just do it. (Hi, NSA guys, just kidding!)

Having heard stories of people well into their 50s getting recall letters from the DoD, I think they're going to try to escalate.

#53 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:04 AM:

#47:

It's not too descriptive to label anyone who thinks women ought to be allowed to vote, own property, and work in whatever field they like, feminists. So what people mean by that term tends to be something different. The most vocal and visible feminists typically seem to be saying stuff that I and most people I know really don't agree with. It would be kind of silly to identify myself with ideas I don't agree with, right?

This happens often with movements that achieve their goals. There's still a civil rights movement in the US in 2007, and it still has important stuff to address, but the issues it faces are almost unrecognizeably different from the issues of 1950. Many people who wholeheartedly supported the civil rights movement when it was mainly about getting rid of Jim Crow laws and sunset laws have little interest in fighting for affirmative action laws. The set of issues changed, and the label changed meaning.

I think this is really common. As an idea takes hold in a society, the advocates for that idea either fall away ("my work is done") or find other related issues ("now, we can fix the next set of problems").

The mix of people changes. The advocates tend to become more shrill, because while it's *easy* to see the evil of cops busting the heads of blacks for trying to vote, it's a lot harder to tell whether (say) the relative lack of black CEOs or physicists is the result of some kind of terrible evil or injustice. It's easy to see that women who aren't allowed to vote or practice law or medicine or own property aren't being treated properly. It's less clear that women who aren't allowed to be combat infantry are facing the same kind of mistreatment, and not clear at all (at least to me) that women who have to live in a world with sexualized pictures of women, or with gendered pronouns and widely assumed sex roles, are being mistreated.

#54 ::: Lorax ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:16 AM:

Incidentally:

My partner just switched on Morning Edition as I was reading these comments. The first words I heard were "the word 'surge' is misleading". (The person speaking then proceeded to explain that 'surge' conjures up a wave of fresh troops, rather than people who've already been in Iraq for a year not getting to go home when they were supposed to.)

#55 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Albatross @53, on defining feminists: Good points. In a way it's analagous to a theory I heard about the crazed insistance on safety in today's society: Everyone wants their kids to be safer than they were--how many times have you heard someone say words to the effect of "I'd never let my kids do the kind of things I used to do"? But as the world as a whole has gotten safer, the things left to protect against get more and more trivial.

Similarly, we've worked through big stuff like voting rights and (in theory) no exclusion from the workforce; self-identified feminists therefore have to focus on ever-more-trivial issues, till we're down to gendered pronouns. And the people willing to do that are a lot more committed and fanatical than, say, me.

It just steams me when I encounter one woman saying, "I like my career, it's fun and makes me oodles of money" and another, who talks loudly and frequently about how women should be able to make their own choices, responds, "But you're a sex worker, so you're EVIL!" Again, an actual example, and I'll provide a link on request.

#56 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:49 AM:

I'm a feminist. It seems to me that women are still being marginalized. Part of that is a broad and subtle attack on our language. Making people feel uncomfortable about calling themselves feminists is not helpful for feminism. cf. liberal

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Carrie S #47: The link you connected to is, I'd say, lesbian separatist rather than feminist. I find the author's misandry appalling. But then, I'm a man, so what do I know?

#58 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Dan S. #43: "Isn't there some pithier term to use to counter "surge?""

Spurt.

Splat.

Including connotations of splatter and "throw it at the wall".

#59 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 12:10 PM:

I don't see how we can claim the goals of feminism have been accomplished. Sure, we have changed some laws so in theory women could have equal rights, and the part where they don't is just culture. I don't buy it. Maybe if the ERA had actually passed. Meanwhile, the backlash is in full swing. The activists against abortion rights are also against contraception. Their idea of traditional marriage is equally creepy: the anti-gay marriage activists have been quite open in saying they feel the real problem is divorce. I am hoping that they fail, but we can't count on them failing all by themselves. We shouldn't be complacent.

#60 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 12:22 PM:

Carrie S #47: The link you connected to is, I'd say, lesbian separatist rather than feminist.

Well, if I accept the list for purposes of describing me as "not feminist", I have to accept the sites when they call themselves "feminist". And from the number of drivebys more moderate/useful sites get, the radfems do seem to be a recognized subset of feminism in general.

I find the author's misandry appalling.

To misquote one of my favorite movies, you are not the only one.

But then, I'm a man, so what do I know?

Fragano, never say that again, seriously*. One of the things about that variety of feminism that makes me the angriest is the automatic discounting of everything men say, just because they're men and therefore can't possibly understand. Because that attitude bears no resemblance whatsoever to the attitudes about women that are still distressingly common, right? I said, RIGHT?

*I realize you meant it as sarcasm.

#61 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Making people feel uncomfortable about calling themselves feminists is not helpful for feminism.

Oh, I don't feel uncomfortable about it at all, and it's not anyone but the radical feminists who have led to my decision.

It's that there are these people who say that they are feminists, and that anyone who doesn't agree with them is not. I look at their positions and am completely unable to agree with them, hence I shrug and say, "OK, I'm not a feminist".

It bugs me only insofar as I am annoyed that a useful word has been co-opted by counterproductive extremists.

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Including connotations of splatter and "throw it at the wall".

That's just it. Iraq is a wall they've been banging their heads against; now they want to throw troops at it and see if they'll stick.

Splat.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Carrie S, to paraphrase Mohammed (pbuh), if you say someone else isn't a feminist, ONE of you isn't.

#64 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Xopher (#63): Logically, shouldn't that be that at least one of you isn't?

I hardly ever get asked if I'm a feminist (comes with being a female professor of engineering), but my response to any soi-disant feminist who tells me that there is only one correct way for me to lead my life would be to point her to the Karen Marcelo quote I have on the bulletin board outside my office:

I'm not a role model - I'm a bad influence.

#65 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Carrie S - Rather than abandoning "feminist" to extremist wackos and the right-wingnuts who love to bash them, isn't it better to reclaim the word?

#66 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Larry:

If you want to communicate, you have to deal with the language people around you are using. If the common definition of feminist in use is someone who believes that gender pronouns and etymology of words are major issues, or that sex roles are 100% cultural, or that there's something demeaning about a woman deciding to get married and stay at home with her kids, then people who don't hold those beliefs probably shouldn't self-identify as feminists. This is true in the same way that I don't self-identify as a liberal (in the older sense that's somewhat close to libertarian now)--it would just confuse people about what I do believe.

#67 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 01:53 PM:

If the common definition of feminist in use is someone who believes that gender pronouns and etymology of words are major issues, or that sex roles are 100% cultural, or that there's something demeaning about a woman deciding to get married and stay at home with her kids

If this is the common definition, we're in trouble, because the wingnuts are taking over.

(I was lucky: I had someone tell me, before I got to high school, that I could be almost anything I wanted, and my mother would probably have shown up at school and read the riot act to anyone who had tried to tell me otherwise. She wasn't job-limited by gender either.)

#68 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:00 PM:

albatross - By surrendering our words, we surrender our power. Liberal has become a hate-word. But I'm a liberal. So how do I communicate my values concisely? Only be reclaiming the word, or finding a new one (e.g. progressive).

I look to the LGBT community as a great example on how to leverage language. They've pretty much neutralized "queer" as a hate-word.

FWIW, I did a marketing project for an LGBT youth services group in SF, which started out kind of awkwardly. The people I was working with really encouraged me to listen to and embrace the language they chose to use. I can now use "queer" in marketing copy, but still have a hard time saying it unless I know the people I'm talking to and they know me. It's definitely not like the N-word anymore.

#69 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:01 PM:

Only *by*. Sheesh. There's undoubtedly another typo in there too.

#70 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:19 PM:

On #26 - Actually, yours seems not to be a completely fair metric.

70% of the American public: "...They're for equality of opportunity, for living wages, access to health care, respect for the environment, withdrawal from Iraq - - a majority of Americans are in favor of ALL of the items on the dreaded "leftist" agenda."

Of course, most of these are now embraced by MOST Republicans as well. (We are excepting the fringe, many of whom are in office.) Even that last, "withdrawal from Iraq," is being accepted by a larger and larger segment of people who consider themselves "rightists".

Equality, as well as environmentalism, to some degree, is a value embraced by a very significant majority of Americans, and if that means that they are all "leftists", why do the republicans consistently get more than that 30% of the vote that they seem to deserve according to your logic?

Since about 50% of voters vote for each party, we see more of a bell curve in the distribution of political views. Because of this, we should phrase it more fairly: at least 2/3 of all people in the country are mostly centrist in their political views.

Feel free to call those positions you detailed "leftist", but in that case it's not a distinction worth pursuing. These are no longer "leftist" agenda items, just like having free capital markets is no longer just a "rightist" ideal.

#71 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Carrie S.@47:
Hypocrites and exclusionaries come in all stripes. I know lesbians who--in public--snarl that there's no "right way" to be queer and nobody had better tell them how to live or not to live, but who in private shred closeted lesbians or bisexuals or cross-dressers. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have their own definition for "feminist." I know plenty of self-identified Christians who inform me that anyone who believes in evolution, abortion, gay marriage, or a non-literal reading of the Bible isn't Christian.

Why should I surrender terms to these people, to define as they please? To do so is to give them the power to poison words. If I stop calling myself liberal, queer, feminist, or anything else because these people inform me I don't meet their standards for that label, I've given them the ability to define me. They don't get to do that.

#73 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:34 PM:

Tom B #59: It's because we've got rid of so much pain that what remains horrifies us so much (more or less quoting John Stuart Mill).

On the other hand, the people who want to regulate the lives of others, removing as much joy and pleasure as possible, in the interest of maintaining the historic structures of male dominance, racism, and so on, are, in part, trying to stop changes that frighten them -- because their identity is bound up with a status quo that is fast disappearing. We should understand them even as we condemn them for seeking to empower themselves at the expense of everyone else's liberty and dignity.

#74 ::: Cari-all ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:34 PM:

P J, debcha, Carrie S.,

On modern, college age women not wanting to be feminists:

Feminism can be used by some women use as a way to control other women. Independent young women who want to do whatever the hell they like with their lives are not keen on being told by other, older women that they aren't doing it right.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Whoa! It's not the just the patriarchy anymore! You don't seriously suppose people stayed home with the kids in the old days solely because of male power or disapproval, do you? If that was the case, could there have been any women doctors, inventors, engineers, or soldiers before 1950? Or any progress on voting or owning property?

Necessary, but not sufficient.

The "Mother drive-by" thread is great for examples of how crappily women treat each other in these stupid power struggles. The wingnuts are able to score points off of this negative view of feminism because it has just enough of an echo of reality for us.

To me, feminism isn't about the girls vs. the boys (that's the stupid wingnut caricature again), and it certainly isn't about adhering to someone else's damn manifesto. Feminism is about the contest between each women and everything and every one else in the world that tells her that she's not entitled to be herself, including, and maybe now especially other women. Particularly that pack of meddling aunts, grandmothers and peers who harp on what kind of career, kids, sex, and weight women should have. Damn them all.

Damn, this turned into a stupid rant. Sorry. Didn't mean to be rude. :(

#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Carrie S #60: I shall avoid doing so henceforth.

(I found the part about not having children as a keystone of feminism particularly appalling. I'll respect anyone's choice to have or not have children, but I was under the impression that feminism was about equality, respect and humanity, not extinguishing the human race. On the other hand, I have a good friend who tells me that contraception is bad for women because it divorces sex from procreation, and who had her tubes tied thirty-some years ago....)

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Cari-all @ 74

Literally, the only woman I've ever gotten anything like that ('every woman must want to have children') from was, by her own words, a good advertisement for feminism, not that she'd ever have admitted it: ex-bartender, and several other tales of her life (and her husband's) that have no place here.

#77 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Cari-all #74: At bottom it's not about the power of men over women, women over men, parents over children, children over parents, or any category X over any category Y (or vice versa). It's about power, plain and simple.

#78 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 03:14 PM:

This is probably a good time to also point out that lots of people express and explain their disagreement with other people's choices that they would, nevertheless, fight to defend if someone tried to take those choices from them.

I try to get across to young women of my acquaintance--those I know well enough to have this talk with--that planning your career with a ten-year time-out in the middle to raise the kids in mind while your partner takes it for granted that his career will be uninterrupted by the arrival of children creates a power imbalance that may never be rectified. This does not mean I wouldn't have strong words for anyone who tried to tell those young women how they "have to" plan their lives. It also doesn't mean I think those young women aren't feminists.

Why do I have those discussions with them? Not because I'm telling them they're wrong; because I talk to people I like, and like to toss ideas back and forth. I like having intelligent discussions on issues that matter to me.

#79 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 03:17 PM:

Carrie S. and everyone: I'm sure you've all seen these before, but they're worth bringing up. The good thing about a t-shirt (or a pin, or whatever) is that anyone can wear it.

The thing about sex workers being evil is horrifying to me. Listen to Bikini Kill ("I can sell my body if I wanna / God knows you already sold your mind"), go to The Sex Workers' Art Show, read Bust magazine, do some research into the third wave of feminism...awesome stuff out there. I'm proud to be a feminist.

Margaret Cho, whom I'm not otherwise a huge fan of, has one really great quote which has made me love her forever: "Feminism is not debatable. If you're not a feminist, you don't deserve to live."

#80 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 03:20 PM:

One other thing: a great way to counter someone who brings up a negative reading of the word feminist is to say, "Oh, I'm sorry you think that. I'm a feminist." You can immediately see them pause, think, and redefine the word in their mind. They also start asking lots of questions. I think I had a hugely positive impact on a lot of the people at my last job by doing just that.

Of course, it only works if the person likes you.

#81 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Cari-all (#74): Independent young women who want to do whatever the hell they like with their lives are not keen on being told by other, older women that they aren't doing it right.

Agreed, although I wouldn't link it to age. I'm a little shocked at how difficult it is to get across the concept that it is okay to think for yourself. (Admittedly, it is a lot harder to get across the concept that the way you view the world and even frame the problem is likely to be highly gendered or otherwise shaped by your experience.)

Fragano wrote (#75): I found the part about not having children as a keystone of feminism particularly appalling.

I found it appalling for the hypocrisy it represented, actually, since - in contrast to the 'live your life to make other women's lives better' approach advocated by the author - this is a complete and utter abdication of such a huge area of power imbalance between the sexes (cf Aconite #78). It's tantamount in my mind to saying, 'Don't work for suffrage - just remove yourself from politics entirely.'As if somehow that will magically make the world better.

Feh.

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Debcha #81: I am reminded of those black American activists of the 1960s who objected to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts on the grounds that if the white man was willing to extend such rights to blacks they couldn't really be worth anything.

#83 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 04:18 PM:

It sounds like what feminism is missing is a sufficient number of denominations. If somebody says, "You can't be a feminist because you have sex with men," you should be able to go and join the congregation of Feminists who Have Sex with Men. The arguments will still continue, but at least you'll have your own posse to back you up.

#84 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Hi Laurence. I think the denominations are there. Any feminist movement that is willing to count me as a member is pretty inclusive. And yeah, my posse created the Tiptree Award. How cool is that?

#85 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Hi Tom -

The Tiptree Award is super cool. But does your denomination have a specific name? I have heard the story of the genesis of the Tiptree before, but I'm blanking on the details.

#86 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Laurence@84:It sounds like what feminism is missing is a sufficient number of denominations.

Friend, I hope this comes across as politely as it's meant: If you think that's the case, you really need to learn more about feminism.

That's a lot like saying, "I think what's missing from Christianity is a sufficient number of denominations. If you don't believe in Papal infallibility, you should be able to go find a Don't-Believe-in-Papa-Infallibility denomination."

#87 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Aconite @86

If you think that's the case, you really need to learn more about feminism.

Well, whether or not it was what Laurence meant, what I would like to see is more denomination names, so I can identify myself in one phrase and get the "you aren't a feminist if you still do men" gang off my back.

Let them argue whether I am truly a feminist the way people argue whether Jehova's Witnesses are really Christians. Just let them do it...elsewhere.

Until then, I take comfort in the fact that, because no one issued me with an official feminist card, they can't revoke it when I use pain relief during childbirth. ("I can't believe we fought so hard for maternal choice so you can just throw it all away." "Throw it all away? This is my choice.")

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:31 PM:

This you're-not-this-if-you-do-that thing reminds me of one of my young male Hispanic co-workers when I lived around the Bay Area. One day he and I went to the nearby Max's Diner and had lunch. Later, one of my female co-workers told me how relieved about my sexual orientation my Hispanic co-worker was. What had happened? My usual behavior had left him unsure of where my interests are, until that lunch, when I mentionned liking Barbara Eden's outfit in I Dream of Jinnie.

#89 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Ursula Le Guin, in response to those who say "I am a feminist but...", said "Don't be a feminist butt." I definitely adhere to the precepts of the "Don't be a feminist butt" denomination. I'm also a member of the Secret Feminist Cabal that David Brin was so alarmed about. Please feel free to join. Of course, you do not have to be a space babe yourself, but you should be comfortable around highly empowered women with futuristic weapons. Just watch out for the Lady Poetesses from Hell.

#90 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Just watch out for the Lady Poetesses from Hell.

Why? Are they a freeform only group, who say I'm not a LPfH if I write in any form that existed before 1827?

#91 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:50 PM:

BRIAN: Are you the Judean People's Front?
REG: Fuck off!
BRIAN: What?
REG: Judean People's Front. We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front. Cawk.
FRANCIS: Wankers.
BRIAN: Can I... join your group?
REG: No. Piss off.
BRIAN: I didn't want to sell this stuff. It's only a job. I hate the Romans as much as anybody.
PEOPLE'S FRONT OF JUDEA: Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhh. Shh. Shhhh.
REG: Schtum.
JUDITH: Are you sure?
BRIAN: Oh, dead sure. I hate the Romans already.
REG: Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans.
BRIAN: I do!
REG: Oh, yeah? How much?
BRIAN: A lot!
REG: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
P.F.J.: Yeah...
JUDITH: Splitters.
P.F.J.: Splitters...
FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
REG: What?
LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
REG: We're the People's Front of Judea!
LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
REG: People's Front! C-huh.
FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
REG: He's over there.
P.F.J.: Splitter!

#92 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:54 PM:

I'm a feminist, and I definitely have sex with men, and so do all the men I have sex with. So there. And since I'm a feminist, I have a feminist butt. Nyahhhh.

#93 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Aconite (#86): I have to throw my hat in with Abi. I think Laurence made an excellent analogy, and a described a good conceptual framework in which to reclaim the word 'feminism.' After all, everyone in each of the Christian denominations thinks that they are a Christian, even if people in the other denominations disagree. More importantly, everyone outside Christianity agrees that all the different denominations are Christian. That seems fairly useful to me.

Perhaps you could say a little more along the lines of 'learning about feminism' to make your objections clearer?

#94 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 07:09 PM:

Feminism means you believe women should be equal to men. Everything else is wittering.

#95 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 07:19 PM:

Xopher, I'm sure that what you have is a tush.

#96 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 07:47 PM:

Show me a tush, and I'll show you a butt!

#97 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 10:07 PM:

Carrie S: IMO, the people who originally referenced can call themselves anything they want, but the proper label for them is "fanatic". (Anyone remember the pocket game "Illuminatus!" Entities could be any one of several opposed pairs of alignments -- straight/weird, liberal/conservative, ... but the opposite of fanatic was fanatic.) If you can't send them to the same desert island as those half-twits who told Dave L that only head-banging white noise was rock, at least send them to Coventry.

#98 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Christianity is composed of four major divisions of Churches: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Protestant. Each of these four divisions has important subdivisions.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

Catholicism
1.1 The Catholic Church: Churches in communion with the bishop of Rome
1.2 Churches claiming to be Catholic having broken communion with Rome
2 Eastern Orthodoxy
2.1 The Orthodox Church (aka, Eastern Orthodox Church)
2.1.1 Western-Rite Orthodox Churches
2.2 Other Eastern Orthodox Churches
3 Assyrian Church of the East
4 Oriental Orthodoxy
4.1 Oriental Orthodox Communion
5 Churches of the Reformation (often described as 'Protestant')
5.1 Protestants before Luther
5.2 Lutheranism
5.3 Anglicanism
5.3.1 Anglican Communion (in commmunion with the Church of England
5.3.1.1 Independent Anglican and Continuing Anglican Movement Churches
5.4 Reformed Churches
5.4.1 Presbyterianism
5.4.2 Reformed / Congregationalist Churches
5.5 Anabaptists
6 Methodists
7 Pietists and Holiness Churches
8 Baptists
8.1 Spiritual Baptists
9 Brethren
10 Apostolic Churches - Irvingites
11 Pentecostalism
11.1 Oneness Pentecostalism
12 Charismatics
12.1 Neo-Charismatic Churches
13 African Initiated Churches
14 United and uniting churches
15 Other Protestant Denominations
16 Society of Friends (Quakers)
17 Church of Christ, Scientist
18 Messianic Judaism
19 Restorationism
19.1 Latter-day Saints
19.2 Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement
19.3 Southcottites
19.4 Millerites and Comparable groups
19.4.1 Sabbath-Keeping Churches, Adventist
19.4.2 Sabbath-Keeping Churches, Non-Adventist in north Pennsylvania
19.4.3 Sunday Adventists
19.4.4 Sacred Name Groups
19.4.5 Other Adventists
19.5 Russellite Groups
19.5.1 Jehovah's Witnesses
19.5.2 Bible Student Groups
19.6 Anglo-Israelism
20 Nontrinitarian Christianity
20.1 Unitarianism and Universalism
21 Religious movements related to Christianity
21.1 Manichaeism
21.2 Swedenborgianism
21.2.1 Episcopal
21.2.2 Congregational
21.3 New Thought
21.4 Christian mystery movements
22 Ethnic or syncretic religions incorporating elements of Christianity
23 Christianism

#99 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 10:32 PM:

What about someone like me, who would indignantly reject the idea that I can be a feminist, on the grounds that I am actually, willy-nilly, a member of the oppressing class? I am a white heterosexual male, long happily married.

I can have no idea of what it is like to fear rape, to live in a society in which it is my body that may be used as a commodity, to speak a language that specifically excludes me, and to know, as a fundamental given, that most power and authority will be wielded by the opposite gender. I cannot therefore be a feminist, and it would be grossly presumptuous and insulting to claim to be one.

#100 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 10:52 PM:

abi@87, debcha@93:
Feminism is about equality between (or among) the sexes. If some people want to say it's got to be defined more narrowly than that, they are quite welcome to go off and form their own names for themselves, which some have done ("lesbian separatists," for example).

I don't desire to define myself any more narrowly than "feminist," and I don't think it's necessary. The word covers a whole spectrum of belief, the way "catholic" used to. Within it, I find many people who believe much as I do, as well as many who believe differently.

debcha, those within certain Christian denominations consider themselves Christians, and those outside Christianity may consider all members of the various denominations Christians, but not all members of all denominations consider members of the other denominations Christians. Isn't that exactly the problem we're talking about with feminism: some feminists saying other feminists aren't feminists? So what would naming the denominations solve?

#101 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 10:56 PM:

Dave Luckett@99: Isn't that rather like saying I can't campaign for a cure for breast cancer because I haven't had it? Or, for that matter, that I can't object to the war in Iraq because I'm not Iraqi?

#102 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:10 PM:

Aconite #101: No, it isn't. I don't benefit from breast cancer, nor from the war in Iraq - somewhat to the contrary. I do benefit from the assumption that it will be people like me who fill most positions of power, prestige and authority. It would therefore be wrong of me to attempt to claim membership of the group whose opportunities are in this way restricted.

#103 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Dave Luckett: It seems to me that you're confusing "woman" with "feminist."

You are not a woman, and do not experience the world as a woman. To claim you do or can would be offensive.

But a feminist is someone who believes in equality of the sexes. I fail to see how that excludes you.

#104 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2007, 11:29 PM:

I am a feminist, a Christian, and a liberal (actually, I tend to be a bit beyond liberal on environmental and social justice issues). I am married, a stay-at-home-mom made obsolete by time, a farmer. None of those things contradict each other.

Any woman who would restrict the ability of another woman to live her life as she choses is a very dubious sort of feminist.

#105 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:47 AM:

JESR, amen. That is MY definition of feminism.

#106 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:50 AM:

TomB 89: I'm a bit at a loss as to who you imagine you're addressing. Mostly you seem to be saying "I'm in on a bunch of cool in-jokes and you're not." Constructive message there. Definitely, Sticking It To The Man.

#107 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 02:22 AM:

Seriously, the impression I had from Laurence's questions was that he was basically a good guy even if he really had no idea what the hell he was asking about. Feminism isn't a religion, certainly not an organized one. So I gave him an answer. The truth is that the feminist science fiction fans I like to hang out with are really fun people. We're not all dire, humorless dykes who can only talk about hopelessly depressing and foreboding subjects. Like me for example, I'm not a dyke, and I'm only depressing on alternate comments. And if it means I'm in possession of a bunch of in-jokes, well the big joke about the Secret Feminist Cabal is that they're anything but a secret. You can order books from them, and if you're lucky you might even score a temporary tattoo.

#108 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 02:37 AM:

Aconite (#103): Yes. I remember talking to a very cool guy who disavowed being a feminist, using basically Dave's argument. He was being hyper-careful not to arrogate any standing he might not deserve. But we really could use a word for someone who supports women's rights, as distinct from women themselves. And funny thing, we already have a perfectly good word for exactly that. So why not use it?

I think it's very appropriate that we're having this discussion in this thread. A solid majority of the American people would call themselves feminist if only they understood that it is the right word for how they feel.

#109 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 03:55 AM:

Dave Luckett #102: I do benefit from the assumption that it will be people like me who fill most positions of power, prestige and authority.

Really? I don't believe that. Look at the white males who are filling those positions of power.

Just because you don't know what it's like to fear rape doesn't mean you can't know what it's like to deal with the rape of a loved one, and it certainly doesn't mean that you can't try to change our rape culture. Just because your body isn't used as a commodity (which I would also argue with, but that's a different topic) doesn't mean that you can't see the effects of that commodification on others, and it certainly doesn't mean that you can't oppose it. And so forth.

It's nonsense to say that just because you can't know what the experience of female is like, you therefore can't be a feminist. Perhaps you can't have exactly the same insight into feminism as a woman could, but that's as far as it goes. A white male myself, I would never claim to fully understand what it's like to be anything else, just as I would expect that anyone who is not a white male would never claim to fully understand what it's like to be a white male. But to tell me that I can't be a feminist--that I'm being presumptuous by calling myself a feminist--is completely, utterly, dead wrong, not to mention insulting.

Once you become aware of your own privilege (which can be very difficult) you can do your best to ensure that that privilege is extended to others.

And yes, I understand that this post is a bunch of muddled, unorganized thoughts. Struck a nerve.

#110 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 06:56 AM:

ethan #109: I have no wish to insult you, but I still think it presumptuous to call myself a feminist.

Intellectual understanding is a pale shadow of visceral committment to a cause. Feminism is not merely a political ideal, the approval of the liberal value of human equality. It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed. As a movement, it cannot be separated from those roots, which are part and parcel of it. Therefore, to say that I am part of it is to claim, falsely, that I share them.

#111 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 08:40 AM:

Dave Luckett@110: It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed. As a movement, it cannot be separated from those roots, which are part and parcel of it.

Now, that I find offensive--that my personal beliefs on this matter come from being "broken," and being angry and sad about that, and there's no other option. It gives me very much the same feeling that hearing "You sleep with women because you've been abused by men" does. No. Women are not my fallback because men give me the creeps; I choose women because I like women. I'm not a feminist because there aren't other options open to grieving, furious, female me. I'm a feminist because in feminism I see something good and grand and desirable.

#112 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 08:59 AM:

"Feminism is not merely a political ideal, the approval of the liberal value of human equality. It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed. As a movement, it cannot be separated from those roots, which are part and parcel of it. Therefore, to say that I am part of it is to claim, falsely, that I share them."

The civil rights movement was likewise both things: about "human equality," and "an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed." This didn't stop plenty of white Americans from supporting it and identifying with it. For one thing, it's entirely possible to be grieved and outraged on your fellow human beings' behalf.

I'm a feminist because justice demands it, and also because it seems to me wrong when one kind of human being arrogates unearned privilege to themselves and unjust power over others. I don't claim to have telepathic insight into the infinitesmal nuances of what it's like to be a woman. I don't need to. What I can see in the plain light of day is plenty.

#113 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 09:14 AM:

Aconite, tell me, what do you find offensive in the notion that you - and others - are grieved and enraged by oppression?

If you can find any form of words in which I implied or in any sense seemed to suggest that you or anyone else in the feminist movement was "broken", would you mind pointing it out, so that I may unsay it instantly? I must confess, I can find none.

You see something good and grand and desirable in feminism, and rightly. That is, you show not only an intellectual attachment and approval of its ideas, but an aesthetic, indeed a visceral identification with them.

For proof of this, I can only point to the fury of your response. Misinterpreting what I wrote as belittlement, you turned on me with genuine anger. It was not belittlement. It was an acknowledgement that you have been mistreated, that you have a right to be angry about it, and that I have not for it was not done to me. That anger, I say again, which is legitimate and honestly come by, is part and parcel of the feminist movement, which is why I can't claim to be a feminist.

#114 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Aconite, tell me, what do you find offensive in the notion that you - and others - are grieved and enraged by oppression?

I am not Aconite, but I can answer that--it's the idea that the only reason to be a feminist is because one is angry and grieved. That, basically, if women were so wired that we didn't mind being oppressed (even if the oppression were still unnecessary and bad), there'd be no reason for feminism. It makes feminism into a reaction rather than a goal in itself.

If you say you have to be a member of an oppressed group in order to truly support that group, you're doing a lot of things. One of them is claiming for yourself a staggering lack of empathy. No, you can't really, deeply, in the cockles of your heart know what it's like to go through life aware of your potential as a target for rape (men can be raped, but the consciousness of it isn't the same). In the same way, I can't really deeply know what it's like to go around aware of the fact that some of the most delicate organs of my body are dangling outside it. But I can imagine the experience I don't have, and so can you.

Further, the attitude you're displaying is, frankly, condescending. You say "I can't be a feminist because I'm a man". Women who identify as feminists say "But you support the same cause in all the important ways; that makes you a feminst". You say "No, you're wrong, because I am a man". This does precisely what you're claiming to not want to do, that being discounting the opinions and perceptions of women. Feminist women say you're a feminist. Unless they're deluded, I'm afraid you're stuck with it. :)

#115 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Dave, folks are unhappy (and worse) with your expression of your viewpoint because it paints feminists as victims. For many feminists, however, it's exactly about reclaiming their own moral agency, about acting constructively regardless of their mood of the moment, to do a good thing because it's good. I've known some feminist organizers whose own lives have been remarkably free of stress and hassle, whose motive is very simple - they think all women should have as few worries about the basic needs and dignities of life as luck gave them. They are as genuine feminists as those who've decided to transmute deep personal suffering into relief for themselves and others.

I'm not 100% sure of this next part, and I'm open to counter-examples. But I think that any attempt to explain a widespread and diversified movement in terms of emotions and responses is going to end up striking some of its members (and some bystanders) as too reductive. Some people run on emotions, positive and negative, others on logic, others for other stuff.

#116 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:04 AM:

I think that the fundamental thing behind feminism is not "women" but "equality". Actually, not "equality", but an emotional capacity called "mirroring", which is a more technical term for "empathy".

Mirroring is a fundamental emotional ability that most people have. (some forms of mental disabilities show a lack of this ability, but that's another thread) The basic experience of mirroring is being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes. This ability (or lack thereof) can be measured empirically by measuring electrical activity of the brain via the skin.

Once instrumented, a subject will be asked to do some basic activity, like pick up a ball. Instruments record the brainwaves for that motion. The task is repeated several times until some form of consistent response is understood by the sensors.

Then the subject watches someone else do the same activity. People with the capacity to mirror will actually show the same brain response, even though they aren't doing the action themselves. (people who have certain forms of mental disability will only show the response when they do the action, not by watching someone else do the action)

This is an objective measure of a subjective experience. The experience may be described differently by different people, but some possible descriptions are to say the subject empathized with the person they were watching, they put themselves in the other person's shoes, and so on.

From a more linguistic point of view, the sense of "I" is transferred to "you".

I think this is all pointing to the fundamental mental capacity that is behind the high level principle we call "equality".

The thing of it is that this mirroring occurs whether the subject are the same gender or not, the same race or not, the same (insert way of differentiating people) or not.

That's the point.

WIthout mirroring, there is only "I" and the concept of "you" is very weak. Without mirroring, I differentiate and disaccociate myself from all of you.

With mirroring, I differentiate myself from "you" (having an awareness that we are separate), but I can also mirror you to me, and integrate the mirror effect and come out the other end with the idea of equality.

The basic point here being that mirroring doesn't trigger off of the differences between you and I. It triggers off the similarities. Subjectively, I think this is what gives people the fundamental ability to look at someone's physical body standing before them and understand that there is another consciousness over there.

I don't think the physical differences of gender, race, whatever, really affect this ability. It isn't "There's a white man in front of me" or "there's a black woman in front of me". It's more like "There's another human being before me" and on some level we get we are equals.

So, I don't think one must be of the female gender to be able to call themselves a feminist. Gender is a physical difference, and mirroring is a more fundamental experience, an experience of seeing "human" when we look at other people, no matter what the differeces are between us.

The most fundamental difference is that "I" am not "you" and minor differences such as gender and race pale in comparison to that fundamental difference.

#117 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Patrick, I am perfectly happy with "supporter", for both feminism and civil rights. But "identify with"? I don't think so. I think there is a difference between the two. I don't think I can identify with an experience that I haven't had.

Yes, I can feel grieved and outraged by injustice - and, despite my somewhat fuddy-duddy prose style, I actually do feel that. But I would be feeling those things on another's behalf, not for myself, and it isn't the same.

To be a feminist, or to be a black civil rights activist, I think the emotional lading has to be actual, not vicarious. Otherwise we run the dreadful risk of discounting the injustice by assuming that our perceptions of it are the same. They are not, and cannot be.

#118 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Dave,

I don't want to join the pile-on, but if being a feminist requires me to be angry, I'll give it a miss. I don't like being angry, even when I have cause to be, because it's a destructive emotion.

The last thing I need is to allow my life to be poisoned by anger and regret. How does that forward the cause of the species (and I believe that feminism is good for the species as a whole)? How does that change the paradigm that women are disproportionately afflicted by the woes of the world? Adding anger to oppression seems rather like piling Pelion on Ossa.

This is different than being passionately committed to change, which is a constructive rather than a destructive emotion. I'm happy to be associated with that, thanks.

#119 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Carrie (#114): Bravo for that mention of empathy! Admit the presence of that (and imagination, which should be abundant in this crowd), and the urge to come up with "proper," narrow definitions of terms like feminism can/should become irrelevant.

#120 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:23 AM:

Carrie S: You appear to say that I imply that "the only reason to be a feminist is because one is angry and grieved."

In response, I can only point to what I wrote: "Feminism is not merely a political ideal, the approval of the liberal value of human equality. It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed."

That is, it is neither only the one nor only the other. It is both, but both are necessary, and neither is sufficient on its own.

Bruce Baugh: Of course you are quite right, but the converse is also true: any attempt to paint any great sociopolitical movement as a cool debate decided on entirely intellectual grounds is going to end up striking some of its members (and some bystanders) as too reductive in the other direction. I am one of those bystanders.

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:23 AM:

Faren @ 119... imagination, which should be abundant in this crowd

I was wondering when someone would finally bring that up. For example, I don't know what it's like to be a human/Vulcan hybrid caught between two worlds, but I can figure some of it out from my imagination and/or personal experiences which, while not a match, allow me to extrapolate. I also don't know what it's like to be one of our four dogs, but I understand what they need, which is to belong.

#122 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:31 AM:

Oh, and Carrie S: Feminist women do not say I am a feminist. (Or if some do here, they'd be the first.) If they are saying it now - with, I might say, no justification that I have given them - then I will accept the badge as an honour, and wear it with pride.

#123 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:31 AM:

#116: sigh. I do tend to ramble, don't I?

#124 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:38 AM:

abi said: Well, whether or not it was what Laurence meant, what I would like to see is more denomination names [in feminism].

Yes, that is what I meant.

#125 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:43 AM:

That is, it is neither only the one nor only the other. It is both, but both are necessary, and neither is sufficient on its own.

And the rest of us are saying that anger and grief are not necessary.

My mom didn't have to teach me I could do anything I wanted to, because I just assumed it--I can remember being about five and saying I wanted to play football when I grew up, and neither of my parents said anything beyond, "Well, you'll have to grow up to be really tall then". The closest I've ever gotten to being sexually abused is that I was dating a man who was a decade older than me when I was in college. I have never in my life felt personally oppressed because of my sex* and I fear walking alone at night in just the same way anyone with a wallet does. The whole concept of sexism is not one I would have come up with on my own; it had to be explained to me. I am am not angry; I am not sad.

Nonetheless (despite my carping) I am a feminist, because it seems self-evident to me that everyone should have the maximum possible room to do what they want to with their life. You're telling me that that belief is not sufficient. It's a fine way to marginalize feminists, because it requires that to be a feminist I must also be a victim. I'm not; I refuse to be.

It's also unfortunate to claim feminism requires anger and grief because those are two emotions that tend to dominate the lives of the people who feel them. Every bit of energy I spend on being angry and sad is a bit I don't have to dedicate to actually changing something. Counterproductive.

*Words have gender. People have sex.

#126 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:45 AM:

Dave Luckett@133: Others have already said pretty much what I had to say: that your attitude boils down to, "You have to be a victim to be a feminist." In other words, you have to be or have been "broken" in some way. Can you understand why, apart from any feelings I have about sexism, that might piss me off? What you did was, in effect, to pat my hand and say, "You poor thing--of course you're angry. But I can't possibly be as angry as you about this, because I'm not wounded, so count me out."

I will also point out that one of the cornerstones of feminism is that sexism hurts men as well as women. You have also been hurt by sexism--by the lack of freedom to express all aspects of yourself, by being deprived of good leaders, doctors, teachers, and so on because the women who would have filled those roles were denied the opportunities to take them up, by being deprived of relationships that are built on true and full equality, and so on.

Paternity leave came about in this country as a result of the efforts of feminists.

#127 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Dave L at 122: read Aconite at 103 again. For your convenience, I quote: "...a feminist is someone who believes in equality of the sexes. I fail to see how that excludes you."

I do believe Aconite's female, and a feminist.

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 10:58 AM:

I have never in my life felt personally oppressed because of my sex

I have.

I am in no way minded to go into it, but when I say that anger and regret are poisonous, and that adding them to the original problem is destructive, I know what I'm talking about.*

The perception that one has to be angry to be a feminist is like the perception that one has to have a surgically clean house to be a good mother - just another drain on the energy. It gets in the way of doing the actual task at hand.
_________
* Anger, as a tool to separate one's self from the blame of a matter that is not one's fault, is a very good thing. Continuing anger, beyond its span of usefulness, is another matter. It's a deep well, and you never drink it dry.

#129 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 11:19 AM:

I lost track of academic feminist theory when I left university approximately a decade ago. (My degree is in engineering.) But I wanted to point out that what Dave L has written reminds me an awful lot of what was in vogue (at least at my university) then. The argument, in part, was that men are the benefit of the societal oppression of women. Thus men can not have the proper standing to be feminists.

This is analogous to the academic feminist definition of racism. The most obvious consequence of that definition is that non-Caucasians can not be racist because there is no way for them to express their racial discrimination in a way which results in societal oppression of Caucasians.

(BTW, I am not using the term "academic feminist" pejoratively. The only people who I knew held these definitions were academic feminists.)

I guess there is a valid point in there somewhere. Not all racial epithets are created equal. I think that sexism has hurt women far more than it has hurt men. However, these sorts of definitions strike me as codifying the status quo rather than pushing us forward to a genuinely non-racist and non-sexist society. That is, they enshrine the notion that differences in race or sex are significant and result in inevitable differences in privilege.

Maybe it's a case of a once descriptive definition unwittingly made prescriptive. I mean, I imagine there was a time in the past when all feminists were women. Thankfully, that's no longer the case. In any case, wouldn't it be ironic for the feminist cause to disenfrancise willing participants because they were the "wrong" sex?

#130 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 11:35 AM:

"Feminism is [...]also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed."

And then you said it required that part.

So when I am proud of my aunt, first woman to plead a case before the Supreme Court, am I not feminist?

(She won.)

#131 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:03 PM:

No, Aconite, not "in other words". The words you wish to put in my mouth do not follow. You are not a victim, or broken. I never suggested that you were. I did suggest that you were entitled to feel righteous anger for past wrongs. If that offends you - and it seems to, though I can't think why - I'll withdraw it. But if you're not righteously angry, what are you angry about?

For you and Carrie S are obviously angry. Can it truly be only with my skepticism about the idea that feminism is completely a reasoned position, held without emotional lading? That it has emotional lading you have demonstrated for all to see. My point is not only that it has this emotional lading, but that it should have it.

I can't think where you get the idea that I am decrying this fact. Surely we can agree that cool logical reasoning is not the only proper engine of social progress? Surely we can allow a certain passion, a certain righteous anger, to colour our responses? I must say, on other issues - and even on this one - I have seen no lack of it hereabouts.

But if feminism is only the belief that everyone should be treated equally, then fair enough. I'm a feminist, I guess.

Nevertheless, I'm unhappy saying that I'm a feminist like the workers in the two Women's Shelters that I negotiated with about what social security should be payable to battered women sheltering there; and the co-proprietors of the West Wimmins' Print Collective with whom I had to come to an agreement over whether they'd be prepared to interview a male cleaner (we have a thing called the Sex Discrimination Act, 1984, here, and it was part of my duties to act in accordance with it); and sundry others. I think they'd be unhappy about it, too.

#132 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:26 PM:

David Luckett@131: You said, It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed. As a movement, it cannot be separated from those roots, which are part and parcel of it.

There is no way you can claim that and not also therefore claim that, as a feminist, I am angry and grieving over my oppression, and that's a necessary part of being a feminist. I didn't put those words in your mouth. You did.

Why am I angry about that? Because, as I explained, by saying that, you are saying that I am a feminist because I am angry and grieving, and I have explained several times that this is not so, and yet you persist in telling me it is. You are denying my own experience, and I find that condescending.

I can be angry about sexism without that being the basis for my feminism. It isn't, and I'm tired of being told it is.

As for there being some feminists who wouldn't agree that you are one--if you've been following this conversation, you'll note that most of us who identify as feminists have been told by others that we aren't, for one reason or another. So what? That's what the discussion about "who is a feminist" was about.

#133 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:27 PM:

I feel very fortunate that I grew up in a family with strong women. (Sometime I should tell you about my grandmother, or my great-great-aunt M, my great-grandma B., and my great-grandma C. All of them smart, tough, strong-minded and really interesting women.)

When my mom was in high school, she was discouraged from taking math classes because it was inappropriate for women. She really is the smartest person in my family; she's done okay, but society will never know what it lost by marginalizing her. She has told me about some of the other things she went through that led her to decide she is a feminist. I trust her judgement completely.

My sister, by virtue of being a generation younger, had much better opportunities. Progress is good. I want to make sure that her daughter (my mom's granddaughter) can flourish in an even better world.

#134 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Aconite, I didn't say you were angry and grieving over your oppression. I said that feminism, as a movement, arose from the anger and grief of women over oppression.

When a woman is discouraged from undertaking an engineering degree because she's only a girl, do you not feel anger? Does it not infuriate you when a battered womens' refuge is closed for lack of a few thousand dollars in funding? When a workmate is sexually harrassed, or denied a promotion she clearly deserved, are you not angered? I think you are, or would be.

Is there no component in this anger of a reflection that it could happen to you? That these things concern you directly, in a way that - no matter how much I sympathise - could not apply to me?

If you could never feel angry or grieved about such things, and if you truly believe that I could or would experience them in exactly the same way as you, then you have reason to excoriate me, and my belief that I have no right to claim to be a feminist. If not, not.

#135 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:48 PM:

I should have said that feminism as a movement partly arose from the anger and grief of women over oppression. Partly is enough.

#136 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 12:52 PM:

Is there no component in this anger of a reflection that it could happen to you?

Speaking only for myself...no, there isn't. It's the same anger I feel when hearing that someone is denied a promotion or harassed or beaten because of their race; I'm white, racially based crimes (whether legal or ethical) aren't likely to happen to me in the society in which I live. Who cares? They're still wrong, and they still make me furious in exactly the same way as the examples you list.

#137 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Back in 1979 or so, I took Marilyn Frye's Philosophy of Feminism course. She was and perhaps is a Radicalesbian (sic) Separatist, but she had to admit men to her class because of university rules, and she was scrupulously fair in grading (for example, only our student numbers identified our papers, so that she could eliminate even unconscious bias).

She gave one analogy that I thought was marvelously evocative. (Well, actually, she gave many, but this one is relevant to the present conversation.) The wall of a prison stops you from going forward no matter which side you approach from; yet everyone on both sides is acutely aware that the wall exists for the benefit of those outside it and to the detriment of those inside.

In that same way, she explained, a few things are relegated to "the sphere of women," and men are punished (social censure, beating, death, depending on the offense) for attempting to act within that sphere. All else belongs to men, and women are punished or outright prevented from acting outside that sphere.

(No, this wasn't completely true even in 1979, and it's much less true today, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.)

At that time and in that place, I believe her answer to "what can men do to help?" would have been Malcolm X's answer. She would argue for the idea that men should be eliminated by attrition (i.e. no more male babies). Up the road from MSU (at the Helen Diner Memorial Women's Center, called the "Lesbian Center" by everyone*) were women who would argue that all men should be killed, but she was never in that camp. I don't know whether she would still promulgate those ideas today.

It was a common saying theren** that "feminism is the theory; Lesbianism is the practice." Also that "any woman can be a Lesbian." And some distinguished between "realesbians," who'd been Lesbian since adolescence, and "politicalesbians," who'd come to Lesbianism as an expression of Radical Feminism. (Please sprinkle sics here and there as appropriate.)

In that context, there were many who would deny that a heterosexual woman could be a feminist. And bisexual women? They were considered the very worst. A bisexual friend of mine was called on the carpet by the Ambitious Amazons (the "kill 'em all" Separatists who ran the Lesbian Center) for "draining energy from the Wimmin's community." Men, you see, have no energy of our own; we depend for our very existence on a parasitic relationship with women, and by sleeping with both men and women she was a conduit for that parasitism.

A man who claimed to be a feminist in that environment would have been laughed to scorn. They'd have said that if he called himself one he obviously didn't understand what it meant! I embraced the philosophy and politics of feminism, and helped bring Meg Christian and Chris Williamson to campus for performances, but I didn't dare call myself a feminist, even though I considered myself one.

For that reason, I still understand Dave's discomfort. There will still be women who take "I'm a feminist" as fighting words when they come from a man. Fewer with every passing year, happily. I internalized that concept for quite some time myself. I still get a little twinge when someone refers to me as a feminist, or when another man refers to himself that way, even though I believe that feminism is a philosophy and a political stance, and that saying that only one sex can believe in that philosophy and hold that stance is sexist. In the same way, I believe that "African Americans cannot be racist" is itself a racist statement. Sure they can; they can do anything European Americans can do, including things no one should do.

Back in East Lansing, I just said I was "anti-sexist," and left it at that.

*They would have called it the Lesbian Center officially, but Michigan Bell refused to print the word 'Lesbian' in the telephone directory. Remember, many companies at that time had written policies making homosexuality grounds for dismissal. Times have changed; not enough, but I don't think we're going back to that, not ever.

#138 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 01:06 PM:

**'theren' and its companion word 'wheren' are words I made up. They mean "there and then" and "where and when" respectively. They appear in a story where a character of mine makes them up, but I find they've crept into my vocabulary. Deal. :-)

#139 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 01:22 PM:

For you and Carrie S are obviously angry.

Well, actually I wasn't before, but I'm getting there. But I'm not angry at men in general for being sexist; I'm (beginning to be) angry at you in particular for condescending to Aconite and, to a lesser degree, to me.

Can it truly be only with my skepticism about the idea that feminism is completely a reasoned position, held without emotional lading?

Dunno about Aconite; for me it's that I keep telling you I feel something and you keep denying that I really feel it. This is the same thing I got ticked at Steve Brust for, several months ago.

#140 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 01:25 PM:

#133: When a woman is discouraged from undertaking an engineering degree because she's only a girl, do you not feel anger?

Dave, anger is one, but not the only, response. But the thing is it is a RESPONSE, not the thing itself. Your writing suggests that it is a neccessary response. It isn't.

The neccessary component is that an event is run through your subconscious "Fairness meter". It appears to be a capacity that even some non-human animals have. But it's a mechanism that basically announces "Fair" or "Not Fair" in your brain. That's it.

From there, you have a number of different possible responses, including, but not limited to anger. One might also respond with something above anger called "clarity", see the problem, see the solution, and move towards it. One might get depressed and do nothing.

My point simply being that the response of anger is not a hard link to a "no fair" indication on your internal meter.

#141 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Oh, and (as if I haven't gone on already) I have some examples of how a man can personally suffer from sexism. If not for sexism, I believe I would now play the flute. You see, the flute belonged to the "sphere of women" when I was young, and only girls played it. I was in fifth grade when I was told this (along with "you don't have the manual dexterity to play the flute" - which I believed for years), so I couldn't really argue.

Also, it is my belief that homophobia cannot exist without sexism. (And I also believe that while being feminist (or anti-sexist) certainly carries a belief in eradicating sexism from one's own psyche, it does not imply that that effort has been completely successful, and in fact few if any people in the world are completely without sexism.) While it's theoretically possible to hold men and women completely equal, but believe that they should interact sexually only across the line, so to speak, I don't believe there are any such people.

If there were, I'd say to them "You're still sexist, because if a woman can have sex with a man, why can't a man?"

#142 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 02:11 PM:

#141 Xopher:

Yep. In fact, rigid sex roles are pretty hard on both sexes, since people vary a lot more than the roles can allow for. Thank God they're not nearly so rigid now as in the past.

It seems like at least some of the people who self-identify as feminists tend to have their own fairly rigid roles, which they want to see everyone follow. I suspect this is just some fundamental of human psychology--it's easier to define rules and expect everyone to follow them than to just accept wide variation in decisions and lifestyle.

#143 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 02:19 PM:

albatross #142: Yep! People have a marked tendency to assume other people are like them...or that if not, they oughta be! But what's worse is, they think other people are like that too (logical considering the underlying psychopathy); thus people who think gays are out to make everyone gay, but it's worse with religion. I tell people I'm Pagan or Wiccan and they immediately assume I'm trying to persuade them to convert. In fact proselytizing is one of the few things my religion strictly forbids!

I don't want to live in a world with all Wiccans, or all men, or all homosexuals of both sexes, or all white people or all anything. I like a certain amount of human "biodiversity." Fortunately I live in the most diverse place on the planet, so that's OK.

#144 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 02:25 PM:

Dave Lucket@134: Is there no component in this anger of a reflection that it could happen to you? That these things concern you directly, in a way that - no matter how much I sympathise - could not apply to me?

I don't know if I can get this across to you, but I'll try. When I identify myself, or anyone else, my primary identification is not sex. That is, if someone were to ask me, "Who are you?" my first answer would not be "A woman." It wouldn't even be my fourth or fifth answer. And the fact that someone is of the same sex as I does not engender an immediate sense of identification with that person in me.

I am not a feminist because "these things have happened/could happen to me." I am a feminist because those things are wrong. Yes, I do recognize they could happen to me--but that's not why I'm a feminist. My feminism is not based in fear, anger, grief, or any reactive emotion. It is based on the belief that all human beings are equal and deserve equal opportunities and dignity.

#145 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 04:11 PM:

I graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1974: that should be all I need to say about my experience with radical separatist lesbian academic feminists (rearrange modifiers at will; the order actually defines denominations as fiercely exclusive as Garrison Keillor's Sanctified Brethren). They exist in a dimension as far removed from the day-to-day operation of feminism as the Chicago School from the unemployment line.

In daily practice, equality of opportunity has damned all to do with whether you are a "natural lesbian" and everything to do with whether, as a woman of any sexual orientation, you can be hired to drive a public transportation vehicle and have the same career opportunities within the bus system as a man. It has to do with whether, as a man of any sexual orientation, you have equal access to family leave to care for your child, parent, or partner. It has to do with whether, as a public school student of either sex and any or no sexual orientation, you have equal access to all classes and extra curricular activities (my sister, who graduated from high school in 1974, and has farmed for a living since, could not take auto shop, small engines, or vocational agriculture in high school, nor could she join FFA).

Academic feminists, in general, live in the same old-fashioned intellectual space as archaeologists who ignore subsistence-level residential clusters in favor of grand tombs, historians who look at the retreat from Moscow and ignore the importance of the louse in defeating Napolean, and economists who laud Walmart's low prices while ignoring... well, everything else they do.

#146 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 04:35 PM:

I wanted to add, before I had to run, that I don't consider myself to be a particularly good feminist. I'm learning as I go along. But I don't have any qualms about calling myself a feminist. Being a feminist is not an accomplishment where I have to do something important or be the right kind or person. Feminism, to me, is a responsibility and a challenge. That's why I want more people, definitely including other men, to call themselves feminists, and then try our best to live up to it. In exchange for that commitment, we receive "Get Out of Patriarchy Free" cards. As a bonus each card comes with an infinite license to take joy in the empowerment and equality of women. It's really a good deal, and worth the effort.

#147 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:02 PM:

JESR:

I wonder how many bundles of ideas get a terrible reputation because they get taken over by academics, and the underlying ideology goes into a kind of arms race of shrillness and ideological purity. It seems to me that something similar happened to a certain subset of conservatives, leading to neoconservatism (though the incubator in this case was think tanks rather than universities). There's probably some aspect of "black studies" that has gone this direction, as well.

This leads to a kind of annoying discounting of associated ideas. When the most visible advocates of some set of ideas, like equal rights for women or smaller government or equal rights for blacks or protecting natual systems from destruction, are obvious wackos, it's easy to assume that the whole set of ideas is not necessarily like that.

It also leads to people disassociating themselves (is that a word?) from labels like feminist or environmentalist or, for that matter, conservative.

#148 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:07 PM:

Xopher #92: That's a very fundamentalist statement.

#149 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:12 PM:

#143 Xopher:

You're not trying to make everyone gay? But, then how do you explain this news story?


Highly_Respected_News_Source

I mean, if you were just contradicting the New York Times or something, I'd buy it.

Geez, next you're gonna tell me Ernie and Bert aren't really gay, and that the Teletubbies are just an inane British childrens' show.

#150 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:15 PM:

JC #129: That isn't just the academic feminist definition of racism. I heard it from one of my students who, while quite bright, had his head shoved way up his rear that day. ('Black people can't be racist because they have no power' So powerless that they run entire states?)

#151 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Albatross #147: "There's probably some aspect of "black studies" that has gone this direction, as well."

The 'probably' should be dropped.

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Fragano #148: Is that an a posteriori conclusion?

#153 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:54 PM:

I'm not going to worry about the "black studies" departments until they control the "black helicopters".

#154 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Xopher #152: You have a bottom of good sense.

#155 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2007, 07:31 PM:

maybe i never got scared out of calling myself feminist because i grew up in an unabashedly old-school feminist household, so i was exposed to & in love with feminism before i ever got to college (i learned the word "dyke" from reading our bodies ourselves at age ten or so).

& maybe i should mention, a feminist household where my mother was a stay-at-home mom until the last kid was in kindergarten.... after that, she promptly went back to school & got a degree in chemistry, a pilot's license, & an r.n.

i'm really loving this discussion, by the way.

#156 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 12:08 AM:

albatross@147: I wonder how many bundles of ideas get a terrible reputation because they get taken over by academics, and the underlying ideology goes into a kind of arms race of shrillness and ideological purity. It seems to me that something similar happened to a certain subset of conservatives, leading to neoconservatism (though the incubator in this case was think tanks rather than universities).

From what I've read, this is a case where there is \not/ a mirror image; the savages who call themselves neocons have existed for decades, but they got power once they bought think tanks to twist words to their position, making their savagery respectable.

But I expect there are other cases for which your description applies; e.g. (JDM to the contrary) I find plausible some of the arguments about subtext being omnipresent, but have never tried to follow sort of hairsplitting that even Harper's occasionally throws up.

Dave L: the people you describe (as having grounds to attack if you called yourself a feminist) define feminism about as much as the recently-recalled headbangers define rock. You may let the extremists play Humpty Dumpty if you please; many of the rest of us see the words as embracing more than excluding. From a more practical perspective, you might consider whether the earliest users of words have some role in their definitions; just as the early users of "rock" didn't have heavy metal (or even any narrow definition) in mind, so the term feminism (at least when it exploded here in the late 1960's) was not used nearly so exclusively. There were of course proponents of exclusion -- but the 1960's involved no small amount of political childishness, along with all the advances.

#157 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 12:24 AM:

Ok, Aconite. I understand fully that for you, there is no personal component, no self-interest in your feminism at all, and no motivation based in anger or any emotion, for yourself at least, and only a general concern for justice and fairness for all. Accepted. Proven. Not doubted.

Now, can we please get away from the idea that a general historical statement ("Feminism is not merely a political ideal, the approval of the liberal value of human equality. It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed") must necessarily apply to each and every individual, and that by making such a statement, I am in some way denying your personal feelings and insights, or Carrie S's, or anyone's? Or, worse, that by mentioning those emotions at all, I have attributed to you, personally, the negative qualities that you (but not I) attach to them: brokenness in your case, domination of life in Carrie S's. I have made no such reflection. I am not telling you how you should think.

If anybody is doing that, you are. I say that I would never make so bold as to call myself a feminist. Certainly I would quail to do so in the hearing of people I have known who - unlike you, unlike you, granted, accepted - bloody well do regard themselves as wimmin, feminists, and liberationists, first, last, always and forever. (And who can tell who is listening, here?) Your response, essentially, is that you don't think that way, and therefore that I may not do so.

I am not ignoring your lights. I am asking you to posit that other people think differently to you, that their differences might be rooted in different experiences, and that they might have completely legitimate ideas, even if you don't share the experience or the idea.

And if there is something offensive in that, so be it.

#158 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 08:25 AM:

Dave Luckett@157: Now, can we please get away from the idea that a general historical statement ("Feminism is not merely a political ideal, the approval of the liberal value of human equality. It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed") must necessarily apply to each and every individual, and that by making such a statement, I am in some way denying your personal feelings and insights, or Carrie S's, or anyone's?

What you are missing is that several people here have pointed out to you that your "general historical statement" isn't backed up by fact. Feminists here have explained to you that your statement is not a given. Even if you claim your statement doesn't mean every single feminist feels that way, you are claiming a genesis of the whole movement that undercuts one of the cornerstones of the movement: that it is about embracing a positive, not reacting to a negative. It isn't just that you're saying I am angry and grieving; you're saying that the movement itself is, and furthermore, that it's an inseparable component of the movement.

If I can be a feminist without being angry or sad or needing to base it on my personal experience as a woman--which you've just granted--why can't you? If you choose not to, it's your own business, but your logic for your choice doesn't hold up.

You did, after all, say, @122: Feminist women do not say I am a feminist. (Or if some do here, they'd be the first.) If they are saying it now - with, I might say, no justification that I have given them - then I will accept the badge as an honour, and wear it with pride.

But then--puzzlingly, to me, after Carrie S. pointed out @127, I said that as far as I was concerned, you were a feminist--your reply @131 seemed...lackluster: But if feminism is only the belief that everyone should be treated equally, then fair enough. I'm a feminist, I guess.

Nevertheless, I'm unhappy saying that I'm a feminist like the workers in the two Women's Shelters that I negotiated with [...]

(Perhaps I'm just not the right kind of feminist, and a badge from me inspires no pride nor honour. Sigh. Always a bridesmaid....)

I can't help but get the impression you simply do not want to call yourself a feminist, and that you are looking for reason after reason not to. Again, what you choose to call yourself, or not, is your own business, but when the logic of your stand is flawed, people are going to point that out.

#159 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:13 AM:

Dave, I just want to be sure I understand your position.

You say that, as a man, you (and by extension any male) have no right to call yourself a feminist, because only women (all women?) have experiences that can make them feminist. Is that fair?

And yet you provide an exclusive definition of "feminist" which all the women and self-described feminists in this discussion disagree with, but you assert that, in fact, they are wrong and must use your definition of feminism.

Here's how I see it: you're welcome to the first part if you'd like, but that implies that you then must shut up and let actual feminists define their own terms. You have no standing -- by your own logic -- to define it.

Or, alternatively, you could accept -- as everyone has been telling you -- that there are many definitions of feminism in use, and that many actual feminists (I include myself) would welcome your inclusion as someone who believes in equal justice for men and women.

#160 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Aconite: There were and are many people who would not only reject with contumely my claim to be a feminist, but yours as well, precisely because of your lack of outrage. It is no use saying that isn't fact. I know different. What you say is true for you. It is not true for them.

But very well, for you there is no validity whatsoever to the ideas that feminism implies outrage at oppression, specifically of women, and that men, being the authors of that oppression, have no right to the outrage. And if you don't believe those things, then I guess I needn't. So all right, I'll accept the badge. I said I would, if others gave it to me. I'm just not going to give it to myself.

But do you mind if I'm careful about the parts of town where I wear it? Because here's the thing - I accept that you are right not to feel outrage. I'm glad you don't. But, having studied on the matter somewhat, I really do think that other feminists are just as right to feel it. And I still cannot avoid the dreadful feeling that many of them - no, no, not you, not anyone here - would regard my calling myself a feminist as an insult to their long struggle and their hard journey.

#161 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 10:32 AM:

I accept that you are right not to feel outrage. ... other feminists are just as right to feel it. And I still cannot avoid the dreadful feeling that many of them ... would regard my calling myself a feminist as an insult to their long struggle and their hard journey.

Good grief. You are what you are inside, whether or not you use the word outside, publicly, to describe yourself. Your principles are internal. It doesn't matter a rat's ass what someone else thinks. If you are a feminist, you're a feminist. If you are not, you are not.

Personally, I don't give a damn either way. I'm not here to recruit you into the "feminist" principle. Principles don't work that way.

But I am here to make a couple points which you can then summarily take on or reject as you see fit:

(1) You are what you are, regardless of the label you publicly attach to yourself. Saying, or not saying, that you ARE a feminist (or that you are NOT a feminist) does not change the principles you actually hold. You are or you aren't. What you say doesn't change it.

(2) There are a lot of people in this world who feel outrage, and some of them even have legitimate cause to feel that outrage. But I would offer to you that there will always be some people who, no matter what you do, will always feel outrage. And if you operate in the world with a "dreadful feeling" that saying the truth of who you are will make someone, somewhere feel outraged, well, then you're setting yourself up for a permanent state of dread.

(3) Feminism isn't defined by its "long struggle and hard journey". Human principles are not defined by the mode of suffering you've gone through. Principles aren't defined by the past, they are defined by the present and the future. Say in a thousand years, the human race has achieved complete sexual equality. For another thousand years, no one suffers the pain of sexual inequality. Are there no feminists at that point because no one has suffered? Gawds, I hope not.

(4) My personal view on life is that the only way to achieve the best world possible is to have every single individual living true to their principles, living full out, living in whatever way that is the biggest expression of who they are. I have a faith in humanity that most individuals have higher principles in them that the world needs and would see the individual thrive were that individual to fully express.

This is the principle I'd recruit you into: living true. If you support the principle of sexual equality, I'd offer that you will experience a lot more freedom if you say so. If you don't, then simply say you don't. But don't confuse the principle within with the world without. Living true means the internal principle, the external way you describe yourself, and the stand you take in the world, all line up, even if some will feel outrage at your lack of past suffering, even if some dont support your principle, even if some want inequality.


#162 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:31 AM:

#156 ChiP:

Can you suggest some references for this stuff? I have only a very rough understanding of the history of the conservative movement in the US. Where did the neocons originate? It seems like a lot of the movement is driven by a wish to have the cold war back. (Hence, we make up a huge scary monster called Islamofacism which we must now go off and slay.)

#163 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Greg, if the world were ideal and if I were a verray parfait gentil knight, you'd be right. It isn't and I ain't. I have to deal with the external as well as the internal world. And in that external world, what I call myself - what labels I wear - is important, to me and to others. Manifestly. Witness the aforegoing.

But equally manifestly, I am not good at picking labels. After all, I didn't think I'd be angering anyone by saying that I don't claim to be a feminist, because it seemed to me that I would be claiming something to which I have no right, having not had the experience of oppression. You therefore have a point - any position will anger someone. The trouble is, twenty years ago I came to that particular one for what seemed sound logical reasons, provided by people I respect. I now have to revise it. Internal reasoning can be false. "To thine own self be true," said Polonius. But Pilate was snickering behind the arras.

On one other point, I have to disagree with you. What we are not only includes, but mostly consists of, what and where we've been, and where we've come from, and how we got here. We, and everything we do, are all those things. The journey defines the destination. The struggle marks the cause, and often shapes its very definition. That is, the cause is often defined and shaped by the past.

#164 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Dave Luckett: OF course there are people who say I'm not a feminist, for a variety of reasons. I mentioned that myself. There are also people who say I'm not human because I'm queer. There are people who claim their holy book requires my death because of my beliefs and/or practice. What do I care that I don't meet with their approval? I don't live my life to make them happy, and I don't let them decide what the terms mean that I use to define myself.

Greg London said all of this more elegantly than I: You are what you are; you will never please everyone; living true to yourself is really the only way to be fully human. In fact, several people upthread have said nearly everything I had to say far more eloquently than I.

As for whether or not I care if you use or don't use the term to define yourself in certain circles: It's not up to me to tell you how to live. I don't think I've ever given anyone here reason to believe I think everybody has to be or act a certain way (outside the obvious things, like "respect your fellow humans and act like civilized people"). And even if I had...see above re: who the fsck cares what anyone else thinks about how you live.

#165 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 12:02 PM:

what I call myself - what labels I wear - is important, to me and to others. Manifestly. Witness the aforegoing.

The aforegoing was nothing more than vigorous discussion. Words. Even in my most ideal verion of the world, where equality is universal and people live true to their principles, there would still be plenty of vigorous discussion, passionate discussion, of ideas and principles and whatnot. But it's still words.

And even in my most ideal version of the world, there will still be people who will be angry towards you for one reason or another.

I'm just offering the idea that you be true to whatever principles are yours even in the face of vigorous discussion and even heated arguments, and that you remain true to your principles even in the face of someone else's anger directed towards you. Your princples do not cause their anger. They've got some other issue they need to deal with.

What we are not only includes, but mostly consists of, what and where we've been.

But our principles are not. "Equality" as a principle is not based in the past. It is a principle that at any particular moment you either take on or don't. You either are or you are not. Whether you were in the past is a record of history, but has nothing to do with giving the principle life.


#166 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 12:15 PM:

The struggle marks the cause, and often shapes its very definition. That is, the cause is often defined and shaped by the past.

I remember a political cartoon I saw on Veterans' Day some years ago, which showed a couple of kids running around and playing in a soldiers' graveyard. The children's father apologized to the grandfather, there in uniform, "I'm sorry, Dad. They don't understand what you went through."

The grandfather replied, "That was the whole point, Son."

#167 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 12:24 PM:

Aconite: "who the fsck cares what anyone else thinks about how you live"?

Me. I care about it. Not above all other things, no. But I do care about it.

#168 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 01:17 PM:

Personally, I'd put "publicly supporting good principles" over "trying to avoid the anger of angry people who have anger issues".

I mean, if I told someone "I'm a feminist" and they got upset at me because I'm a man and "I just don't understand feminism", well, people have a choice to be stupid and angry, and I have a choice to ignore them or tell them to "get stuffed".

#169 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 02:22 PM:

In fact, it would be sexist not to tell someone to get stuffed just because she's a woman.

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 02:29 PM:

When I was around the Bay Area during the holidays, I often had to help my nephew pretend he was Superman. One day, during a break from that, I mentiooned to the kid's parents that Superman's original mission was to fight truth, justice and tolerance. The kid's dad then told me that their friends who are in same-sex unions do not like the word 'tolerance'. Is that true?

#171 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 02:37 PM:

I mentiooned to the kid's parents that Superman's original mission was to fight truth, justice and tolerance

*coughing Coke out of my sinuses* Okay, I'm in Bizarro World. Good to know. *g*

#172 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 02:41 PM:

A more serious answer, Serge: Some people don't like "tolerance" because of its connotation of enduring something bad, like tolerating a broken leg or a case of stomach flu. Personally, I'd prefer celebrating diversity, but I'll settle for tolerance as a step along the way.

#173 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Thanks, Aconite. I could see how 'tolerance' could be interpreted that way, but it'd be quite sad if it became a dirty word.

As for Superman's motto... Major 'oops' with major blushing...

#174 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 02:57 PM:

I assume you actually told them "fight for truth, justice, and tolerance," but if not, that was a pretty weird thing to say.

#175 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Me am Bizarro-Serge, Xopher.

#176 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Xopher #141, TomB #146: I couldn't have said it better myself, mostly because I'm not very good at saying things.

Dave Luckett #157: Now, can we please get away from the idea that a general historical statement ("Feminism is not merely a political ideal, the approval of the liberal value of human equality. It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed") must necessarily apply to each and every individual ... ?

I think the reason you're upsetting people is that you did say that it "must necessarily apply to each and every individual," or at least impied that it must, by using it as your entire reason for not being a feminist. Surely if the lack of personal identification and rage is what disallows your feminism, you're implying that its presence alone can allow the feminism of others.

As for myself, following this discussion I'm glad I came of feminist age after the lesbian separatist movement pretty much died down. When I was in college, that would probably have been called "hooey." Once again, I offer up the term "third-wave feminism" and its wikipedia definition; very basic, of course, and I've seen some vandalism on it recently (idiots), but it gets the point across. Also, note that, in response to the stagnation of academic feminism, the third wave arose from rock and roll bands, and one of its best expressions is in a TV show. Academia, by the time I (very recently) intersected with it, was catching up.

#177 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 03:49 PM:

By "its presence alone" I mean "only its presence." Got a little confusingly grandiose.

#178 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Feminism started before feminist theory.

It was an off-shoot of the the Civil Rights movement, a mix of suburban house wives and women who'd been politically active fighting for the rights of black people. What we think of as feminism today is often the attempt to understand feminism via theory and the codification the actions and feelings of a powerful social movement. The theories grew right along side the active movement, but a lot of the theory of feminism was a retroactive explanation. What was happening was fast, multi-faceted, constantly re-interpreted, and its identity was less important than its goals. When there was time to take a deep breath, the theory of feminism came to the fore.

Identity issues are always important and incindiary. The same thing was happening in the Civil Rights movement. Black Studies in the universities, Black Power, and a struggle for identity. Were Afro-Americanws really African? In order to be whole, did they need to reclaim that part of their heritage? Can a white person really be anti-racist? The Black Panthers didn't think so. Malcolm X believed for much of his life that the white man could give nothing to the black man without oppressing blacks.

All of these complicated, contradictory theories of action and reaction within a society, as well as intense struggles of identity, are not proof that feminism failed. They're proof that it succeeded in some of its most important goals. We're not a footnote in history, we were and are a vital force. And we still don't completely know who we are or what to call us.

I believe that we'll get our feet underneath us, again, and gain momentum, again. There's plenty of injustice to address, many feminist goals that we haven't achieved -- one of the simplest, equal pay for equal work, is not yet achieved. Tied to that are many complicated issues of social justice, which have to be a part of the solution.

I don't know if the next stab at these problems will be called feminism. And pretty soon, I think that people are going to get bored arguing about what they're called and start arguing about how to be who they are.

#179 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 05:27 PM:

Footnote: I should specify that I'm talking about the latest round of feminist action. Feminism has a long history, and anyone who's never read "Ain't I a Woman" by Sojourer Truth is hereby instructed to go do so.

#180 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Lydia Nickerson #178: Third-wave feminism in the United States was also influenced by the anti-war movement of the 1960s. Both the Civil Rights struggle and opposition to the Vietnam War mobilised large numbers of women who, not surprisingly began to apply the ideas that were developing at the time to their own condition as women. This was helped by the work of such scholars as Betty Friedan.

And #179: Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published in 1792. Olympe de Gouges wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen in 1790.

#181 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 06:52 PM:

On the topic of names:

Names are inevitably about identity.
They're also about something else: solidarity.

Feminism is a political movement, which means that among other things, it is a group of people creating more power by their numbers than each person would have alone.


When you're choosing whether or not to call yourself a feminist (or a liberal, or whatever), you should consider the information that statement will convey to the person you are talking to. If you're talking to someone who can't (or won't) distinguish between a someone who believes in equal rights for women and a Lesbian separatist, then this is the time for you to use the label Feminist.

When someone accuses you of being "one of those feminists," the instinct is become defensive and try to explain what you believe, and say that labels don't really explain you properly. Unfortunately, having to explain yourself strips you of the initiative and turns the conversation into a dissection of your beliefs. This is always a losing game.

What you want to talk about is equality, not the hair-splitting definitions of feminism and humanism. So don't hair-split. Use a word that means something to the person you're talking to. Feminism is the word that she knows, the one that she'll recognize, it's a word of power. It's an explicit connection to millions of women who worked for and still work for equality. Interpretations of feminism that don't have gender equality as a primary goal aren't feminism. Say so. (Hmm. I've just defined Lesbian Separatists as not-feminists. I think I'll stand by that.)

With luck, instead of ending up in an argument about your exact beliefs and some hair-splitting over whether or not you're a feminist, you'll be accused of being a lesbian separatist, or a man-hater, or a feminazi. Now you have the opportunity to have the conversation on your terms. You have the initiative; instead of having to explain yourself, you can explain gender equality and why it's important.

And you have this huge advantage: you're right there, in front of him, and you are not sprouting horns, frothing at the mouth, or threatening her with a knife. If you're friends, then you have personal credibility on your side as well. You give feminism, which was a terrifying blank power, a face and a human voice.

And that's why I think that you should use the word feminism, even if the hair-splitters have offended you.

I'm on your side. I need you to be on my side. Hang with me, because I surely do not want to hang alone.

I'd give you a rousing rendition of "Whose side are you on?" but I can't sing.

#182 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 07:10 PM:

(Hmm. I've just defined Lesbian Separatists as not-feminists. I think I'll stand by that.)

I think they just have a different way of achieving equality, and of exercising their equal rights. I have no problem defending the right of women to not associate with me. I can try not to give them any additional reasons, but ultimately it's their choice.

Otherwise an excellent comment and I completely agree.

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 08:07 PM:

What's in a name?
A lot.

#184 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 08:16 PM:

Serge @183:


The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

T.S.Eliot

#185 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 08:38 PM:

Lydia #181: Exactly. That's why I said before that whenever anyone makes a disparaging comment about feminism or feminists in my presence, I'll say, "I'm a feminist." It makes them think of the word in a different way.

#186 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 08:42 PM:

Lydia @ 184... a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

Mine is known as Jefferson, and the Bad Cat. That's only two, I know.

#187 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:21 PM:

(Hmm. I've just defined Lesbian Separatists as not-feminists. I think I'll stand by that.)

Welllll...there are some forms of Lesbian Separatism that DO have gender equality as a goal. Just not for several generations. One of my bisexual women friends explained it something like this: "Whenever women and men are together, they play sick games. Separatism is the belief that they should live separately until they can stop playing sick games." She apparently knew some who believed that men and women could get back together after that period of separation. Myself, I believe that cultural drift would make getting back together impossible.

#188 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:27 PM:

"What's in a name?"
...............An am.


"-*coughing Coke out of my sinuses* Okay, I'm in Bizarro World. Good to know..."

Well, now *that* certainly explains the last couple of years . . .

#189 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:29 PM:

ethan: The nearest I got to your "must necessarily apply to each and every individual" was the much-criticised:

"Feminism is not merely a political ideal, the approval of the liberal value of human equality. It is also an expression of grief and outrage, arising from the fury of the oppressed.

'That is, it is neither only the one nor only the other. It is both, but both are necessary, and neither is sufficient on its own."

I still believe this to be true as historical fact for the movement, and incidentally for all the great liberating causes. They did not arise, and do not continue, in my view, solely out of intellectual or objective committment to principle, but have, and must have, an emotional component, a visceral rejection of oppression. From this I reasoned that, not sharing the full emotional content - and it would be idle to pretend that I do - I could not share the cause itself. Hence, to identify myself with it were impertinent. Insulting, in fact.

But I am now brought face-to-face with the fact that individuals can identify with the cause, and yet reject its emotional lading. That for some, the very suggestion that there is such a component of their beliefs is seen as condescending and belittling. Insulting, in fact.

(I must admit that this reading had not occurred to me. I don't regard anger over injustice and grief over loss, where righteous, as anything but cleansing, enabling and, yes, liberating, and I had not the least notion that others would see them as unworthy, or associate them with brokenness or disability.)

But now, which of these ideas must I choose? For I must choose.

I took refuge in the reflection that what is true for an entire movement, a large historical cause, is not necessarily true for every individual in it. Aconite is a feminist who rejects outrage against the patriarchy and grief over loss, and yet is unequivocably a feminist.

Well, all right. Can I be that sort of feminist, too? Alas, I must admit I am still uncomfortable with the idea, no matter how much I approve, intellectually, of the principles involved.

Well, there are many feminisms, I am told. Can I prefer one definition to apply to myself - one that would exclude me - while happily agreeing with Aconite that she is a feminist to whom that same definition of feminism doesn't apply, either, but she is still a feminist by another definition, which I do not choose to apply to myself? It seems tortuous, but that's the best I've been able to come up with.

What are the sources of my discomfort, then? They are not entirely intellectual, or precisely reasonable - but this is consistent with my premise. It may be as simple as guilt. Long, long ago, a young woman observed to me, "When a man tells me he's a feminist, I always know he's trying to get into my pants." I hadn't told her that, thank God, (and didn't do the other, either) but the fact that the idea had crossed my mind, with precisely that connotation, was and is deeply shaming. The only thing I can think of to mitigate the shame is that the actual intention had not formed quite so explicitly. It was there somewhere, though, lurking about, and I still feel ashamed of it, and of myself. That colours my ideas on the subject to this day.

We fool ourselves about what we think, about our motives, about our intentions. Or at least, I do. Undisturbed, we hold mutually contradicting ideas and never examine them in the light of unexpected new information. Internal reasoning is limited and fallacious. We cannot be true to ourselves without the criticism of others. That's why I distrust completely the notion that I should discount what others think, and that's why I'm here. One reason, anyway. The others have to do with weasels and archaic verse forms and putting the boot into publishing scams. Eh, well, it can't all be fun stuff.

#190 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Serge @186:

Hey, don't take it up with me, take it up with Eliot. There is a great deal more of the poem, though, you know.

I have no idea what the musical actually used, since I've not seen it or heard it. The one song played for me worked so badly that I just didn't want to deal with the rest. (I think it was Jellical Cats.)

#191 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:41 PM:

Rule #1 of Pontification:

Do not talk about things that you know nothing about, because as sure as god made little green apples, someone will point out your error and you'll feel like a fool.

If I could edit the post, I'd remove the remark about Lesbian Separatists. I agree with your friend that men and women interact in sick ways. I don't know if separation is a better answer, but I can see why it might be.

Mea culpa.

#192 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 09:59 PM:

Dave Luckett's reasoning in #189 (and throughout this discussion) is of the kind that I'm having trouble formulating a response to it. I'm sure he doesn't intend it this way, but to me at least it seems like that kind of argument (I'm sure there's a word for it) that is constructed to force its opponents into making statements that they themselves disagree with--not because of either party's actual views, but just because of the way the words are strung together. Until I find a way to avoid disagreeing with myself, I'll just respond to one bit:

Long, long ago, a young woman observed to me, "When a man tells me he's a feminist, I always know he's trying to get into my pants."

I hope that she didn't mean this literally. To me this sounds like a computer program or something, "If a then b," circumstances and context be damned. In real life, I imagine the young woman has the ability to judge statements in their contexts.

Coming at it another way, I would like to think that a woman who considers herself a feminist wouldn't let a man who does not consider himself a feminist into her pants.

#193 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 10:22 PM:

albatross #162: no formal references, unfortunately, which is why I hedged. To some the neocon movement started the instant Goldwater lost, to others it was later (e.g., when Vietnam started obviously going down the tubes (whenever you want to mark that point)). I've seen the idea (that they started with wants and got think tanks to drag the arguments their way) particularly in Harper's, but also scattered around elsewhere.

#194 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 10:34 PM:

I am a feminst.

I am not a lesbian. I most emphatically do not hate men. I think keeping a home and raising a family are noble and worthy endeavours, and I think they should be equitably compensated for anyone who wants those occupations and who can do them well.*

I believe that men and women should have equality before the law, equal earning potential, and equal opportunities.

I believe that competence, fitness, health, honour, bravery, decisiveness, and merit can be applied equally to men and women, and that the metrics for these qualities should not privilige one gender or experience.

I believe that there are lots and lots of genders, and that recognizing only two, and basing those on plumbing is unnecessarily limiting and rather boring.

I believe that everyone who wants to should have the opportunity to dance in a twirly skirt.

I believe that everyone who wants to should have the opportunity to walk topless in the sun, though it's best if they do so in warm weather.

I believe subsidized child care, access to contraception and abortion, and paid parental leave that doesn't have a negative effect on a person's career.

I believe that as long as women represent a higher proportion of people living below the poverty line, as long as women are still represented in common law as chattel, as long as Greg London can call a female politician, however vile, however unsuited for her position, however evil, a "slut" in political discourse and not receive censure for using a gendered insult, as long as medical and health standards still use men as their baseline, and as long as we're still framing the child-care debate as whether mothers (not parents, but mothers) should stay home and "sacrifice" their careers, we haven't made it, and I will still proudly and vociferously call myself a feminist.

Anyone who says I am not isn't worth arguing with.

*But I don't think the should represent a life sentence, any more than I think any job should.

#195 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 10:41 PM:

My queen was Melisande Anastasia. Or Myrtle, or Myrt. She came into a house with two cranky older cats, looked around and went, "bow in the presence of royalty, fools.' They had been scrapping and once she got big enough she beat both of them up and enforce the peace.

#196 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:02 PM:

There are circumstances in which I think people's feelings are very important. In others, I think that it's important to say that people's feelings are irrelevant, or at least not the basis for sound judgment. Consider, for instance, the case of a believer in racial supremacy, firmly and honestly convinced that one other ethnic group or all others are inferior. I would be happy if they changed their mind, but I wouldn't suspend a policy of equal treatment under the law until they do.

I also think that judging the feelings of people unlike me in some important way is very difficult at best, and the further the separation, the harder it is. I'm aware of the limits of my imagination. But I also know that I don't have to understand someone's feelings thoroughly to understand some of what they've felt and more about the reasoning that spring from whatever their feelings were, and still more about the actions they took, for whatever combination of emotions and logic. It doesn't actually matter, in the end, what the specific mix of interior elements is seldom matters, not least because the triggers themselves change as the mix is transformed into action. Someone might, for instance, first act to protect someone else out of a simple sense that someone's got to do it and they're there, and then make a career of it because they find it rewarding and something they're good at and can make a living at.

Greg Luckett, this is your error. You are giving final weight to what is only an initial impulse. But initial impulses aren't inevitable triggers. One person might combine anger with a lot of other things and end up a feminist. But someone else can feel the same anger and a different mix of things and end up a seeker of personal privilege, or just a whiner. You don't seem to have any curiosity about the practical motives of people actually doing things, as opposed to having at one time felt something. And when people tell you about those practical motives, their own and the well-documented ones of others, you keep passing them by. It's rather like reading restaurant reviews by someone who's only interested in the presence or absence of lemon peel in each dish. Lemon peel is an important ingredient in some cooking and its absence can mar an otherwise good dish, but it has nothing at all to do with a very great deal of the real experience of cooking and eating - a focus on lemon peel would not, for instance, let you compare many different potato dishes, or how a sauce tastes on steak versus chicken, or what makes different degrees of rareness seem appealing or not to a particular eater.

If at any point you'd like to become more aware of motives and goals in practical terms, a lot of us would be glad to help out with pointers. As it is, though, it looks like right now you're just getting the all-too-familiar experience of being the lone correct person excused from needing to do anything by virtue of grasping a truth too painful for others to handle. I feel a lot happier and more useful since giving it up.

#197 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:10 PM:

An interesting thing here is that there are two different threads of argument:

a. A sort of inclusive definition of feminism, applied basically for the purposes of coalition building and working together on a set of social and political goals. By that definition, probably everyone in this conversation is a feminist, since the requirement is simply believing that women are full human beings with the same rights as men.

b. A set of exclusive definitions of feminism, applied basically for the purpose of identity. In these definitions, the person defines feminism in a pretty specific way, often involving feelings or experiences. But while these are often much more expressive and detailed, they don't work well for coalition-building. One person says you have to be a woman, another that you have to have a sense of outrage, another than you must have a deep concern for womens' issues.

I can see parallels with a lot of other ideologies--think of the way the Religious Right includes Mormons and conservative Jews for purposes of building a coalition, despite pretty fundamental religious differences.

#198 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:12 PM:

Dave Luckett. *sigh* I'm sorry about getting your name wrong, Dave.

#199 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:16 PM:

Albatross, I'm inclined to say either "there are many feminisms" or "there are many schools of thought and practice within feminism". Depending on my mood, I find one or the other helpful for thinking about the reality behind both.

#200 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 11:27 PM:

I think the original discussion was about self-identifying as a feminist. And the problem there for me and I think a few others in the discussion is one of communication, right? Many visible and prominent feminists hold positions I completely disagree with, and that seems to be a part of the practical definition of feminism. Now, perhaps it's a pity that those definitions have come into widespread use. But if I want to be understood, I need to use a different label.

This is a generic problem in politics, right? To identify yourself with a large-scale movement is often to get associated with stuff you don't really agree with. Since I'm both Catholic and more-or-less libertarian, this comes up pretty frequently--how much time do I want to spend distinguishing my own positions from those of the Church or of other libertarians?

#201 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:10 AM:

"I am large, I contain multitudes."

The coalition building use of the word feminism and the exclusionary use of the word feminism are both statements of identity. We are both, the people who believe in the same core belief, and the people who seek to understand their relationship to that core belief. I think that it is to the common good, especially in the current society, that the inclusive use of feminism be used publically, willfully, and profligately. The closer reading of feminism is also valuable, but too often we replace the one with the other. This is being forced onto the defensive, the equivalent of, "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

"I'm a feminist, and I don't believe that, therefore feminists don't all believe that. Now, getting back to equal pay for equal work, why are you against that?"

Where does the issue of whether or not one can be a feminist and wear high heels come up in this conversation? It's a red herring, and a particularly old and smelly one at that.

#202 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Bruce Baugh: If I have "passed by" the practical motives for feminism - by which I take it you mean the wider choices for all concerned, the greater freedom, the better relationships thus made possible between men and women, and many other considerations - it was because I took these as givens. It would seem redundant in this company to say that these are good things. Consider it said.

I give "final weight" to how I feel about something, after having carefully thought about it, and after having assimilated new information, and while remaining open to more. I regret that I cannot claim to be a feminist, because I do not share the experience of women, and I have benefited in some ways from their oppression (while losing in other ways, granted. But nevertheless). That this is dissonant with some legitimate definitions of feminism that reasonably and properly satisfy others who have better credentials than I causes me discomfort, but not as much discomfort as the alternative, which is to claim a distinction to which I don't feel entitled and of which I feel unworthy.

Notice: "feel". It is precisely this that seems to me to be incomplete about holding a great, noble, and passionately espoused cause as a series of positions, intellectually valid, and implemented for the excellent objective reason that there is a net benefit contained in them. For me - I do not speak for others - if there is no anger at injustice, there is no passion for justice. If there is no sense of loss, no grief, there is no urgency for redress. If there is no outrage at oppression, there is no thirst for liberation.

For me - I do not speak for others - this emotional content shapes my response to the world. It does not define or legitimise a cause, but it is a vital aspect of every cause. I aim to be a thinking being, but I know with absolute certainty that I am a feeling being. Logos and mythos. Reason and intuition. Intellect and emotion. I cannot have, and do not want, the one without the other.

Practical considerations and motivations are fine things, eminently reasonable and excellent things, but for me they do not cut it on their own. Thank you for your offer to provide pointers on them, but I fear it would be unlikely to succeed in the face of such intransigent adherence to my own guiding lights.

#203 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 02:46 AM:

Long day spent with middle-aged husband and young adult children, and then reading this conversation, both of which have reminded me of one sorry certainty of human communication:

When you get right down to it, nobody really understands anybody. My sister, who I have lived near and worked with for most of my life, is a constant mystery to me. I've always suspected that my husband was sent here from another planet, in the style of Ford Prefect. And my offspring? God save me, they are the greatest conundrum of all.

We label ourselves and each other in an attempt to get through the confusion and find solid ground, but what ends up mattering is what we do, when we have a choice to behave as a feminist/egalitarian/et'c (chose label as appropriate to circumstance).

#204 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 02:47 AM:

Dave: A feminist does not speak for women. He lets women speak for themselves. Big difference.

#205 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:02 AM:

Dave Luckett @202:

I want to tear my hair and yell, "But don't you care?" Of course, you do care. You've made that clear. But by choosing to dissociate yourself from the word feminism, you are dissociating yourself from the values that you say you hold.

The general understanding of the word is not near so discriminating as your understanding. And you don't seem to be such a shrinking violet that any criticism of your beliefs causes you great harm. In the mean time, allowing the word feminism become marginalized because people are afraid of being associated with aspects of it that make them feel ashamed or inadequate or angry, you allow the whole set of ideals based on the equality of women to be marginalized.

Quick, you have 10 seconds to describe your political philosophy on gender issues. What could you call yourself other than a feminist that properly conveys your beliefs?

#206 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:09 AM:

An egalitarian. Did I make the time limit?

#207 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 04:09 AM:

TomB: Of course, of course. In earnestly belabouring the point that I was speaking only for myself, I neglected the other half of your aphorism. What was I thinking? Lydia, Aconite, Carrie, all others: I'm letting you all speak for yourselves. Isn't that a refreshing change?

Good heavens, Tom, they're calling me a sexist pig asshole again. Whatever shall I do?*

*This is industrial grade irony, not to be confused with sarcasm, which is an inferior product. Nothing herein is to be taken as reflecting the real views of the management.

#208 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 05:38 AM:

Dave: Someone once said, right in front of me, "I am a scientist, I've studied feminism, my wife is a feminist, I know orders of magnitude more about feminism than these women." I am very grateful I was there to experience that. It gave me an instant lesson about what feminism isn't. Compared to that, I don't think you have anything to apologize for, or even to explain. An egalitarian is good enough for me, and you're clearly one who includes gender equality.

#209 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 08:21 AM:

Dave Luckett: What makes an egalitarian different from a feminist?

#210 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 08:28 AM:

Dave Luckett:

Blast it, hit Send too soon.

You keep saying that those of us who have said that anger and grief and outrage aren't necessary components of feminism don't feel those things. You've misunderstood our position.

I'm angry when anyone--of any gender or sex--is denied opportunities for no reason other than what is or isn't in their pants. I care that people have been and continue to be hurt, and I hurt along with them. I am passionate about fairness and justice. But this is not what makes me a feminist. It makes me human. What makes me a feminist is the belief that all people are equal and deserve equal opportunites and dignity.

It's not that emotion isn't there. It's that the emotion isn't what defines feminism.

#211 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 09:14 AM:

I wish we could all agree to stop arguing about "isms" and labels in general, since it's much more fun (for Some of Us) to discuss cat names -- says the food provider for Emperor Horton/Fuzzball/Noisebox, or sometimes just *Bad* Cat!

#212 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 10:12 AM:

Lydia wrote -
If I could edit the post, I'd remove the remark about Lesbian Separatists. I agree with your friend that men and women interact in sick ways. I don't know if separation is a better answer, but I can see why it might be.

The problem with this is that, as far as I can see it, while men and women (sometimes) interact in sick ways, so do men and men, and women and women (again, sometimes). This is not, to my mind, inherently a "women and men" thing - it's a "people" thing, and is as much about society as it is any inherent interaction constructs between men and women

#213 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Faren... I'll second that. Cat names. And atrocious puns.

#214 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 10:39 AM:

#189: It may be as simple as guilt. Long, long ago, a young woman observed to me, "When a man tells me he's a feminist, I always know he's trying to get into my pants." ... the fact that the idea had crossed my mind, with precisely that connotation, was and is deeply shaming. The only thing I can think of to mitigate the shame is that the actual intention had not formed quite so explicitly. It was there somewhere, though, lurking about, and I still feel ashamed of it, and of myself. That colours my ideas on the subject to this day.

I would start by stating the obvious: This woman was not a feminist. She clearly did not view men and women as equals. She's saying that women can hold the space for equality between men and women, but men cannot. She is, to use a more technical diagnosis, messed up.

I'd probably have replied by asking her whether she thought sex between a man and woman could be mutually empowering for both individuals. I have a feeling her answer would be 'no'. The idea that the thought crossed your mind with the same connotation would make me wonder how you'd answer the same question. You use the word "guilt" and "shame" a lot, and I"m not sure where it's coming from, but its coming from something that has nothing to do with equal rihts between men and women.

This isn't about definitions of what feminism is. For you, it's about the shame.

I have no clue where this shame is coming from, but it's not something that can be sorted out in blog comments going back and forth. It's a tricky business, emotions.

So, I'll restate the obvious: This woman was not a feminist.

And the guilt and shame you are feeling around the idea of calling yourself a "feminist" is undeserved.

You don't have to call yourself a feminist. I'm cool with that. But I'd rather you do it out of choice, not out of guilt.

#215 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 10:42 AM:

Lydia, I'll sing it for you, if you want.

What I meant by my "I believe..." nonsense above is that I have a parcel of beliefs and goals that fall loosely under the umbrella of feminism. Not all feminists (card-carrying or otherwise) share all of my particular beliefs or goals. Some have beliefs I don't share, and goals that I don't much worry about. Fine. We can discuss the merits of our respective platforms in a civlized way, perhaps over coffee, or we can discuss how to achieve the goals on which we all agree--equal pay for work of equal value, equal access to education and opportunities, in general equal access to choice and respect in society.

A lot of the discussions within the movement about what constitutes feminism, or what Teh Feminist Position on a given issuse might be comes from negotiating the ways in which people think we're going to achieve equality. If we want equality can we legitimately say that X (where X may equal prostitution, porn, breastfeeding in public, shirtlessness, the gender binary, lipstick for women only, income-splitting for tax purposes ... or insert your own hot topic) furthers that goal? If yes, please support your argument. If no, does it actively subvert the goal? Please support your argument. And finally, what do we, individually and collectively, propose to do about it?

(Please note, I do not wish to threadjack and initiate a discussion on any of the issues I mentioned above or on their validity as feminist questions. There are places all over the internets where you can go and opine on these issues. I am just choosing examples from some of the feminist discussions I've had over the past year or so.)

Dave Luckett, (and anyone else reluctant to apply the F-word to themselves) it matters very little to me what you call yourself, as long as you show up for the meetings, write the letters, and stand up to be counted among those of us who share similiar goals.

#216 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Faren Miller: I wish we could all agree to stop arguing about "isms" and labels in general, since it's much more fun (for Some of Us) to discuss cat names [...]"

You nominalists are all alike.

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 10:51 AM:

You nominalists are all alike.

Them's fighting words, Aconite.

#218 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:02 AM:

Re (in a vague way)Greg London's comments @214:

When I'm interested in someone, I'm going to play up the aspects of myself I think will make me attractive to them. I'm going to make sure I smell nice, that I'm polite and considerate, that I mention I'm a Joss Whedon fan and I read a lot and I love being in the country--all of which are true--if I think those things are going to be appealing to the person whose attention I'd like to attract.

As long as I really am interested in/believe/like the things I'm playing up, that's just a logical thing to do. Telling someone I'm a feminist to increase the chances of his/her positive response to my interest is only scummy if it's not true. Otherwise, it's like brushing my teeth before I go on a date: something nobody in their right mind would neglect to do.

#219 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:03 AM:

Doncha mean them's fightin' names, Serge?

#220 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Well, Aconite, names are words. But if you insist...

Them's fighting names!

#221 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:28 AM:

#218:

note the original quote: "When a man tells me he's a feminist, I always know he's trying to get into my pants."

Being quite happily married, I can say that ALL instances of revealing that I am a feminist would be for reasons other than sex.

Yet, she says such a blatantly blanket statement that my telling her I'm a feminist must neccessarily mean I want her body.

Uhm, no.

Certainly there would be ways to woo the person of your affection through words. But that's far different from saying all men who state they're feminists are trying to have sex with someone.

#222 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Aconite: Difference: If male, he makes no claim to any special understanding or insight into the issues of women's empowerment, opportunity, or fair treatment.

As to emotion: With respect, that wasn't quite what you said before. You said "I can be a feminist without being angry or sad or needing to base it on my personal experience as a woman." Again: "My feminism is not based in fear, anger, grief, or any reactive emotion." And again: "Now, that I find offensive--that my personal beliefs on this matter come from being "broken," and being angry and sad about that, and there's no other option." The last seemed to me to imply that you find it offensive to suggest that anger or sadness is a proper response to injustice, ill-treatment and loss, because such feelings are symptomatic of being 'broken'. This was wrong, but I think you can see why I might have made that mistake.

Emotion isn't the reason you're a feminist, I understand that. But I'm a different person, and my motivations, perceptions, world-view, and inwards reality are different to yours. For me, it makes no emotional sense to say that I am both a feminist, and also a member of the group that has always dealt unjustly with women, and is still privileged. That I am a member of that group is manifest and inescapable. I can change that, a little, but I'll still be damned if I'll imply to any woman that I know where she's coming from, or to any feminist that I'm the same as she is. I haven't been there, and I'm not the same, and it would be sheer bloody effrontery and nonsense to suggest that I am.

#223 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:45 AM:

#222
Dave Luckett--can you handle for that fine old Cold War term "fellow-traveller"?

#224 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Just so we're clear on this, the "fury of the oppressed" is not the sole property of feminism. There needs to be enough fury left over to direct at the ultra-rich.

#225 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Greg London: Oh, I wasn't disagreeing with you at all. Didn't mean to give that impression. To me, the young woman's response was as puzzling as hearing someone say bitterly, "Any time I smell mouthwash on my date's breath, I always know s/he's just trying to get into my pants."

Dave Luckett: I can change that, a little, but I'll still be damned if I'll imply to any woman that I know where she's coming from, or to any feminist that I'm the same as she is.

Hell, I don't know where any other woman is coming from, and I'm not silly enough to think I'm the same as any other feminist just because we're both feminists or both women. Just being of the same sex or same gender isn't enough for two people to understand each other in a better way than two people of dissimilar sexes or genders can or do. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that because I'm female, I can understand another woman better than you can. It depends on the individuals involved, regardless of the genitalia involved.

#226 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Um, Greg, and I mean no offence here, but the young woman in question was, I believe, making an honest observation rooted in her own experience, and I don't think you have any right at this distance to question her call. I certainly wouldn't.

I remain one of the few men she's on friendly terms with. I put this down to the fact that when she was fragile (because she had been abused, though I didn't know that then) and confused about her sexuality I had, through the direct intervention of the legion of guardian angels I wore out in those days, the good sense not to try anything. She might have gone along with it; probably would have, in fact, but it would have been utterly disastrous and disabling for both of us. She's now happily out, and doing what she always wanted to do, which is work on motorbikes. At last count, she had twelve of them. (No, I am not making this up, but I'm afraid you'll have to take my word for it.)

Greg, you're never going to get the opportunity to tell her she's not a feminist, but if you were ever to do it, I would bid a pretty penny for the popcorn concession.

#227 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:09 PM:

Speaking of names, Aconite... May I ask why your nom-de-plume comes from (...a poisonous substance from the dried tuberous root of Aconitum napellus, which contains aconitine and other related alkaloids; it causes potentially fatal ventricular fibrillation and respiratory paralysis. It was formerly given internally as a febrifuge and gastric anesthetic. Called also monkshood and wolfsbane...) ?

#228 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:17 PM:

fidelio: An excellent suggestion. I've always wanted to be someone of whom Senator McCarthy would have disapproved.

#229 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:21 PM:

the young woman in question was, I believe, making an honest observation rooted in her own experience,

Oh, hogwash. She was making blanket statements of future events. She wasn't saying "Three men have told me they were feminists and each time it turned out they just wanted to screw". She said all men, all the time. Crap. Crap. Crap.

I don't think you have any right at this distance to question her call.

Not her experience of the past, no. But her blanket statements of all mankind for all eternity. Certainly. It's crap.

And she's not a feminist for it. Least wise, she isn't a "men and women are equals" type of feminist. Were I to take her statement regarding all men and mirror it back to women, one might say something like "All feminist women are lesbians", which shows just how assinine a statement it is.

I would bid a pretty penny for the popcorn concession.

The sparks, if any, would not be flying from me.

#230 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:31 PM:

#228 Dave: You're welcome!

#229 Greg: The sparks might not be flying from you, but if she found you as exasperating and obnoxious in debate as many others here do, there's no telling might might be flying off of you, if she resorted to the use of adjustable wrenches to express her aggravation.
Do you have any idea at all of how offensive you can be in these discussions?

#231 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Do you have any idea at all of how offensive you can be in these discussions?

Now would be your chance to say.

#232 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Come ON, ladies and gents... Can we give it a rest?

#233 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:04 PM:

#231 Greg: I fear that my descriptive abilities may not be up to the task, but once you are well-mounted up onto your Horse of Righteousness, decked out in your Armor of Utter Certainty and waving your spear of I-Am-Right-and-Why-Can't-You-People-See-It, you begin to bear a certain resemblence to a dog that can't stop barking. Only your generally good intentions save you from being a complete thread-killer at times.

Once you are on any of your particular hobby-horses, like copyright, you manage to combine the obsessiveness of a terrier with the tact and sensitivity of bowling ball.

There is a difference between a discussion of opinions and experiences and a debate which seems to escape you. These are discussions here. No winner will be declared. There will be no trophy to take home, and there is nothing about participation here that can be listed on a university application or a resume. In a discussion, there are no points off if you fail to refute (or attempt to refute) a statement you disagree with.

Please do not attempt to explain to me why I am wrong about what you are doing, or what you think you are doing. Just stop typing and consider what sort of impression you make on others at times, and if that impression is making this party as pleasant for others (which includes the people who may just be reading and not commenting) as it could be.

#234 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Serge@227: There are two plants with the common name "aconite," and varieties within each. The yellow variety of wolfsbane was said to be a remedy for certain poisons, and other varieties are used medicinally. That part is to remind me that certain qualties are healing in small amounts, but poisonous in large.

"Winter aconite" (Eranthis hyemalis) is one of the earliest bulbs to bloom in the late winter. It's a cheerful promise of better days after a grim time. I needed that part badly when I chose the name.

And why did you chose your nom de screen?

#235 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:29 PM:

"choose." Often, I can spell.

#236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:34 PM:

Thanks for the explanation, Aconite. As for my nom-d'ecran, I didn't choose it. It' is the name I was baptised with. And yes, I am a man. I think.

#237 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:40 PM:

*g* So, the reason you chose your screen name is that it's your mundane name? As good a reason as any, I suppose. Some people do that, I hear.

#238 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:53 PM:

...your mundane name... Some people do that, I hear...

It is indeed a rather mundane name, Aconite - where I come from anyway. On the other hand, it does stand out, in an anglophone context, and is easy to remember - if not to pronounce. And I think that, even in English, people know this is a man's name, although some comments I had made just before LAcon had some(*) wondering who or what they should be looking for. It might have been an interesting experiment, using a female name and see how this'd have colored people's perception of this here babbler, but I'm not big on having people think I'm something other than what I am.

(*) yes, I do mean you, Susan.

#239 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 01:54 PM:

once you are well-mounted up onto your Horse of Righteousness, decked out in your Armor of Utter Certainty and waving your spear of I-Am-Right-and-Why-Can't-You-People-See-It, you begin to bear a certain resemblence to a dog that can't stop barking.

Heh-heh. Look at that dog riding a horse!

#240 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Serge: Sorry; confusion of terms, I think. In SCAdian terms, "mundane" means "outer world" (aka "real").

#241 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 02:14 PM:

I think 'Greymalkin' is a feminist cat name.

#242 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 02:31 PM:

Aconite @ 240... No offense taken. I understood what you meant and decided to respond using both meanings of 'mundane'.

#243 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 02:38 PM:

#239 Alex Cohen: When I comes to mixing metaphors, I beat Cuisinart.

#241 Xopher: Ask Debra Doyle.

#244 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:10 PM:

#233:
a dog that can't stop barking

I have made a point, starting since the copyright discussion of months ago, to reduce the number of post I make to Making Light. Perhaps I should redouble my efforts to halve my posting quantity.

With regard to the "feminism" thread, I've made 3 posts on the 11th, 3 on the 10th, and 2 on the 9th. I wouldn't consider 8 posts to be like a dog that can't stop barking.

Horse of Righteousness
Armor of Utter Certainty
I-Am-Right-and-Why-Can't-You-People-See-It

Uhm, what? Maybe this is leftovers from teh copyright discussion from way back when, but I'm pretty sure that I haven't made any "I-Am-Right-and-Why-Can't-You-People-See-It" statements about feminism. The only thing I said with absolute certainty is that the woman's "any man who says he's a feminist wants in my pants" is rubbish. As an assertion of universal truth, its wrong, and I'll stand by that. Otherwise, I think I told Dave at least once, maybe twice, that I'm not attached to him saying he's a feminist, that I'm not trying to draft him into being a feminist or using that specific word.

But I will try to be more conscious of what I'm saying going forward. Maybe I'm missing something.

Perhaps the next time you see such a statement from me, you could point it out in the moment. You have to catch the bad dog in the act, ya know. Otherwise, we never learn the lesson.

#245 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:27 PM:

#244 Greg: Thank you for accepting the shaking of the rolled-up newspaper so benignly.

All too often the problem is not the intent of the post, but the tone. If you look at your last interchange with Dave Luckett, the problem I have is not that you think his friend was mistaken, but the manner in which you say so. Simply saying "Her opinions are her opinions, but I don't feel that there's anything in there that logically disqualifies either you or me from being a feminist" is fine. However, the manner in which you expressed what may have been that sentiment was distinctly unpleasant. Dave, or anyone else here, may find that their mileage varies, but it really got up my nose, and it was distinctly similar to something you've done here a lot in the past: when people do not fully gree with or concede a point, the desk-pounding begins.

Sometimes, the Khruschev at the UN impression does not improve the quality of discourse.

#246 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Aconite #237: I've heard that too.

#247 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:40 PM:

You mean 'Fragano' is your real name and not some obscure reference to a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta? Next, someone will say that 'Faren Miller' is called Faren Miller out in the real world.

#248 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:47 PM:

desk-pounding begins. Khruschev at the UN

All I can say is that I didn't feel like pounding a desk as I typed it. But that doesn't mean it didn't land that way.

A few months ago, I got some feedback on a fiction story that it could use "a lighter touch". I'll try expanding that advice beyond just my fiction writing.

#249 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 03:47 PM:

You know, if Dave Luckett prefers to decline the label of "feminist" on the grounds of non sum dignus, who are we to say him nay?

#250 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 10:07 PM:

Greg@214ff: you make no distinction between words and deeds. Using mouthwash is a deed; calling oneself a feminist is words. I also don't see in your posts any allowance for context; there's a great deal of difference between a general conversation and one man directly addressing one woman. Dave's quote didn't surprise me; I recall a time when that was a common suspicion, since "I am a feminist" (in one-on-one) had become for some people a slightly less blunt version of "We are revolutionary spirits not bound by tired old mores". (I'll requote with the bark on if necessary.)

#251 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2007, 11:05 PM:

Serge@247: \which/ G&S operetta?

#252 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 12:14 AM:

you make no distinction between words and deeds. Using mouthwash is a deed; calling oneself a feminist is words.

I'm not sure where you see this occuring. If I did, it was a failure from assumption, not omission. I have, for the last few years, been quite enamored with ken wilbur's idea of varios levels of human development, starting with physical, then emotional, then language, then being, and then some. He's obviously not the only one who's come up with the idea, but his was the one that sunk in for me. Anyway, the point is that a person's deeds, emotions, words, and principles are four distinctions I always try to keep in mind. And when they don't line up, I might point it out.

My guess is that Dave's a feminist in action, and principle, but he refuses to be one in words, and I think that is because of some of the emotions of guilt and shame he mentioned. (and in case anyone's wondering, no I'm not certain of this, no I won't demand I'm right about it. I'm quite willing to have a conversation and discover I'm wrong, but we create impressions based on what we've seen, and this is my impression)

Way back when, a day or so ago, I posted something about "living true". The basic idea of that is that all four (and more) levels of your identity (physical, emotional, language, principle) all line up with each other.

It didn't seem to me like Dave's four quadrants were lining up. He seemed to support the principle of equality that's behind feminism, but he didn't want to use the term, and the term apparently had some negative emotional baggage. Mostly I was trying to point out my perception of a mismatch and figure out if I was perceiving wrong or if Dave would confirm it or not.

So, if anything, this entire conversation for me has been nothing but taking the differences between words and deeds into account.

I also don't see in your posts any allowance for context; there's a great deal of difference between a general conversation and one man directly addressing one woman. Dave's quote didn't surprise me; I recall a time when that was a common suspicion,

Well, when I said "she is not a feminist", you can take that to mean "she was not a feminist at the time she said that" with the added implication that "If she's changed her mind since then, obviously this doesn't apply."

But I guess its a personal rule of thumb of mine that sort of goes back to my idea of "living true", but it's my belief that you "are" something like a "feminist" only when all levels are in alignment with that. If you're a feminist in action but not emotionally, I would say you are not a feminist. If you say you are a feminist with words but your deeds don't line up, I'd say you are not a feminist. Unless all four levels are in alignment with doing, emoting, saying, and being a feminist, you are not fully a feminist.

You can replace "feminist" with any label you want. It isn't about "feminism", it's about whatever label being true throughout your whole self.

And now that I'm completely gun shy about sounding righteous, I don't mean that to say that you're "wrong" to call yourself a feminist if your emotional self is out of whack because you're doing it out of guilt rather than choice. I believe my words to Dave about it were something about the idea that he would feel a lot more freedom around it if he did not call himself a feminist because he chose not to, not because he felt guilty about it.

I recall a time when that was a common suspicion,

Except Dave didn't mention it as a historical footnote. He mentioned the quote then said he had the exact same suspicion himself, and this was presented sort of as his reason for why he doesn't use the term "feminism" today.

So, yeah, it was something that may have been long in the past when cultural norms would say its prevelant. That wasn't what I was focusing on, though. Dave mentioned the quote, said he had the same suspicion, then mentioned a whole lot of guilt and shame around that feeling, and it appears that that very same shame and guilt is present for him now and is part of the reason he doesn't use the term "feminist".

(sigh. yet another disclaimer: no. I don't know if that is certainly true. I was trying to point out the percieved mismatch around Dave's emotions, the guilt and shame he mentioned, and try to understand if that was running him now, and if that was why he wouldn't use the descriptor "feminist", and understand more where that was coming from. The basic curiosity for me was I percieved a mismatch. Further discussion would either disprove or reinforce that perception. The conversation got sidetracked before it really got settled out.)

#253 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 12:34 AM:

Dave @206:

Maybe that's my problem. Egalitarian doesn't substitute for feminist any more than it substitutes for anti-racist. IMO, you've got the cart before the horse. Egalitarianism will not lead to equal rights between sexes and races. It is the equality between those groups that is necessary to egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is a nice ideal, but feminism deals with the facts on the ground.

#254 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 12:56 AM:

Greg: "Dave mentioned the quote, said he had the same suspicion, then mentioned a whole lot of guilt and shame around that feeling"

I didn't have that suspicion of others. I had it of myself. I cannot speak to the motives of others, unless I see evidence that I can rely on. But I can speak of my own, and my motives would not have been pure. I did have an interest in getting into the young woman's pants. That interest was hovering off-stage, as it were. Its presence was not fully acknowledged, not even in my own mind, and it never did make, if you'll pardon the expression, its entrance. But it was there. Under the circumstances that turned out to apply, I'm ashamed of it. And rightly so.

Greg sounds as though he's saying that guilt and shame are always wrong. They're unpleasant and painful things to bear, sure, but (rather like anger and grief, I think) they can have a cleansing and redemptive outcome. I learned something about myself from that remark, and I didn't like what I learned. I hope I have done better since.

#255 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 01:47 AM:

Aconite's name reminded me of the lost wonder-herb silphium and its down-market relative asafoetida. While researching, I found this interesting claim:

John C Duval reported in 1936 that the odor of assfoetida is attractive to the wolf, a matter of common knowledge, he says, along the Texas/Mexican border
This means that asafoetida is the anti-aconite. Since asafoedita when cooked has the taste of onions and garlic, I wonder if this has anything to do with the legend about garlic repelling vampires.

#256 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 02:08 AM:

#254

ah. so, the sequence is she said what she said, and then you felt guilty because you realized it would have some truth to you specifically? plus or minus?

This happened a number of years ago? And you mention it in explanation as to some of the reasons you don't use the label towards yourself today. And the thing I don't yet quite understand is why that feeling then still applies to you today.

No, guilt is not wrong. But if guilt from one incident years ago where your 'crime' essentially was to have had wicked thoughts, if that guilt is getting in the way today, then I don't understand something. (which doesn't mean your reasons are wrong, just that I don't understand, I'm in the dark, I lack information)

I mean, you said you didn't do the deed, and that your actions towards this woman have been such that you "remain one of the few men she's on friendly terms with" to this day. So, the "crime", the source of the guilt, is the thought of doing the deed with her, a thought you had years ago. That's what I've pieced together so far based on what you've said.

Your emotional state is wholly yours, and this isn't an attempt to say your feelings are wrong or invalid. But based on what you said, and putting myself in the same situation and gauging my own reaction, I'm left with the impression that you are way too hard on yourself about this.

You had a thought. You may have had the thought for some time, but it was transient. What you thought then does not define who you are now. And given the bits you've said about the relationship as it is now, your punishment far outweighs your percieved "crime".

Unless of course, I'm not understanding something. I'm not claiming certainty or righteousness or anything. I'm just saying that given my understanding of what you've said, you are being too hard on yourself making yourself feel guilty for something that is forgivable.

#257 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 05:40 AM:

Lydia: You have an understanding of the terms 'feminism' and 'egalitarianism' that is different from mine. Neither of us is wrong. I have my own definition of 'feminist', which I don't meet, and of 'egalitarian', which I do. That does not mean that I am applying my definition to you, or to anyone other than myself. You are a feminist, because you meet a definition that satisfies you. I am not, because I don't.

#258 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 07:35 AM:

Greg: I was contemplating an utterance for a duplicitous motive. The utterance never happened, but the contemplation of it was and is dishonourable, and this is true whether or not it were possible to defend the truth of the utterance. And if I was guilty of that then, I am still guilty of it now. For this purpose, there is no practical division between the past and the present.

The effect was rightly shame, which might perhaps be the ultimate source of my reluctance to be labelled in this way. I don't know for sure, because there are parts of my mind that I don't know anything about, except that I know that they are not rational. But the rational basis for the reluctance - which is a different thing - is as I have already said, and it satisfies me.

#259 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:31 AM:

TomB@255:
But if asafoetida, with tones of garlic and onions, is attractive to wolves, wouldn't that mean garlic attracts, not repels, vampires?

In wolf form, anyway. Who knows what you find repulsive in the form of vapor? (Show of hands, people. In this crowd, I'm pretty sure there's at least one of us with a vaporous form of one kind or another.)


CHip@250: I recall a time when that was a common suspicion, since "I am a feminist" (in one-on-one) had become for some people a slightly less blunt version of "We are revolutionary spirits not bound by tired old mores".

As obnoxious as any cliched pick-up line is, and while fully realizing that if it was being used in that way, it probably wasn't actually true, I have to admit (in this day, when most men and women I have contact with outside of cyberspace hasten to tell me, "I'm no feminist") to a little nostalgia for a time when "I am a feminist" was considered a desirable enough thing to be to be used as a pick-up line.

#260 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:38 AM:

a little nostalgia for a time when "I am a feminist" was considered a desirable enough thing to be to be used as a pick-up line

Aconite, that reminds me of a comment once made by comic-book artist Howard Chaykin in an interview whee he said that, when he was younger, he used to be a Democrat because the Dem girls were easier to pick up. That pretty much got me disgusted with the jerk.

#261 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Serge: Sleazy, yes, in both cases. And I understand all the stuff about motives and truth and lack of resect for principles and all. All I'm saying is, it makes me a little wistful to think of a time when it was considered a favorable enough thing for people to pretend to be it even if they weren't, considering how many people I know who quickly reassure me they're not one of those people.

#262 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:53 AM:

Serge (#247): Next, someone will say that 'Faren Miller' is called Faren Miller out in the real world.

In some cases, it's my married name Faren Hanscom, but I tend to use Miller most of the time -- just so I don't have to spell out both names for those who don't know me! ("Like Karen, but with an F on the front" is second nature to me now, but I don't have any handy guide to Hanscom.)

PS: Do you think we can hijack this entire thread for the greater good of Feline Nominalism?

#263 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:15 AM:

Yes, Faren, we can. Not just feline nominalism. Human too. For example, I presume that 'Miller' is easier to spell than 'Hanscom', but it's amazing how even simple names can get mangled. One of my Toronto buddies was named Martin Miller and I don't know how many times F/SF masquerades refered to him as Martin Milner. As for the spelling woes caused by 'Faren'... Sue's middle sister has been picking on their mother for a long time because of her given name and even their mother can't remember why she chose the spelling 'Lauran' over 'Lauren'.

#264 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Serge #247: Exactly.

#265 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:34 AM:

Fragano, one of the Pirates of Penzance...

#266 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Aconite @ 261, I generally regard anyone who labels themselves as anything out of context with scepticism. I wouldn't fall into bed with someone who told me he was a dancer, either, at least not until I'd danced with him and seen how our bodies work together.

However, a guy who espouses feminist ideology, who can intelligently discuss gender issues, who consistently makes an effort to bring about the kinds of change that will allow men and women to interact as equals, who does the self-examination, who gets the jokes?

OMG HOT.

I'd date that guy.

...oh wait! I am dating that guy. Lucky me!

#267 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 05:42 PM:

#260:

Surely the existence of men willing to associate with some political or social or religious movement to be around attractive and interesting women isn't some kind of shock to you, right? Maybe you've noticed what beer commercials and technology expo booths look like? Organizers of religious and political events certainly aren't surprised by this phenomenon! (Note how many churches have special activities for single young adults.)

I suspect a lot of us here take ideas very seriously indeed. So changing our expressed ideas to appeal to someone would seem really slimy. But most people don't take ideas all that seriously. They mostly mirror what they heard growing up, what's socially acceptable, etc. That's not because they're bad people, just because it's not that important to them.

Some people join their fiances' churches. Again, to a certain kind of observer, this seems like an amazing act of intellectual and moral dishonesty--don't they know that Baptists and Episcopalians have huge differences in doctrine and belief? Yet, it's pretty common, because many people don't find theological differences interesting or important. Just going to a different church on Sunday.

And most of us are pretty flexible on stuff we don't find important. My wife wants to have Early American furniture, or likes me with a mustache but no beard, or prefers romantic comedies to shoot-em-ups? Okay, it's just not that important to me one way or another. Your girlfriend can't abide owning an SUV? Okay, you may not have much objection to it, but it's probably not enough of an issue to end the relationship or keep from getting married.

I assumed that the woman in the story was probably telling him the truth as she'd experienced it--lots of guys worked out that by identifying themselves as feminists, they had a better shot at ending up in bed with her. Presumably, this was a strategy that they'd found rewarding. And for many of them, which ideas they espoused probably just wasn't that important to them.

#268 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:04 PM:

Serge #265:
You mean:


When the Fragano's not engaged in his employment,
Or maturing his fraganoish little plans(little plans);
His capacity for innocent enjoyment ('cent enjoyment)
is just as great as any honest man's.

#269 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:12 PM:

re 268: Or perhaps:

Fragano's lot is quite a happy one.

#270 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:15 PM:

TexAnne #269: Having volunteered for a six-course load this semester, that might not be the case.

#271 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 07:36 PM:

Fragano... What is the average age of the kids in your courses?

#272 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 07:50 PM:

Fragano #270: Ah, but is one of your overload classes at 8am M-F?

I console myself with this thought: I'll be too tired to spend my extra money, and thus I'll be able to really enjoy my summer.

#273 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:11 PM:

Fragano Ledgister: Is that the kind of "volunteering" that happens when:
A) one misses a staff meeting, or
B) there are compromising negatives involved, or
C) one's house is filled with free-roaming carnivores whose regular satiation requires a steady and substantial income lest one fear to sleep?

#274 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Serge #271: About 21 for undergrad classes.

TexAnne #272: I have a regular MW 8 a.m. (Mondays and Wednesdays I end the day at 8.30 p.m.).

Aconite #273: It's the kind of volunteering that occurs when

(a) you're doing a favour for a colleague who has been of great help in the past; and

(b) another colleague has committed some f**k-ups of Biblical proportions, and your chair has dumped the problem on you; and

(c)you weren't in the room when the fit hit the Shan.

#275 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Which is worse, Fragano? 21-year-olds or 18s?

#276 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Serge #275: 18-year-olds. Twenty-one year olds are all worried about what happens when they graduate.

#277 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 07:46 PM:

Fragano #276:
19-year-olds. They have no worries, and they've gotten over being in awe of the instructor/professor. They've also figured out how to goof off creatively, and their life crises tend to be a bit less standard.

#278 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 08:21 AM:

Greg: go back and look at your post where you compare declaring oneself a feminist and using mouthwash; then note that I was addressing your comments re that specific young lady, not trying to deal with your Five-Year Analysis Plan.

#279 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 09:42 AM:

joann #277: That's true, I suppose. I see relatively few 18-year-olds (most of my American government students are non-traditional).

Among the crises I've had, though, have been injuries to the penis, being thrown out by husband/boyfriend (this is a recurrent problem), being thrown out by wife, burglary, imprisonment, rape, abortions, pregnancies coming to term at the same time as finals, and -- this is by far the commonest -- incapacity to juggle the needs of work and school.

#280 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 10:04 AM:

where you compare declaring oneself a feminist and using mouthwash

CHip, are you talking about my post at 252? I ask because I didn't bring up the mouthwash thing, and someone else already got me mixed up with another person on this thread. just checking.

I was addressing your comments re that specific young lady

Which comment? I said a couple things about her. I said her "When a man tells me he's a feminist, I always know he's trying to get into my pants." assertion is a false generalization. It may be her past experience is that the three times a man said that to her, they wanted sex. But no matter how many times it happens, it is not true as a generalization for all men, all the time.

In the "words" versus "deeds" thing, her words were an absolute statement about all men, and that doesn't line up with the physical reality. If she wants her words to match her specific deeds and experience, she can say something that reports past events, but she made an absolute statement that applies to all men that doesn't hold true.

So, I'm mindful of the difference between words and deeds. It was the basis for my objection in the first place.

match: "Every time a man told me he was a feminist, he wanted in my pants"

mismatch: "When a man tells me he's a feminist, I always know he's trying to get into my pants."

I don't know if that was the "comments re that specific young lady" that you were talking about, but that was one comment I made about her.

#281 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 12:25 PM:

CHip@278: I think you may have conflated things I said with things Greg said. I mentioned mouthwash, although I'm not sure I mentioned it in the context you believe I did, if I follow your reasoning.

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