Posted by That Other Mike on 10/08/2008
There are some topics on the internet which arouse a lot of ferocious argument. They tend to be pretty obvious – people’s hot buttons are pretty consistent in most cases, whether on the net or off.
The subject of politics figures pretty highly, of course, as does religion, in all its aspects. As an example, the consistently-busiest tag categories on WordPress seem to be on politics, religion, atheism and similar.
Searches for politics and atheism (including the term “atheist”) on Google’s blog search yield nearly 55 million and 5 million results respectively; although this is obviously a very rough and ready measure, I think it’s helpful in determining that there is a lot of thinking going on about these subjects.
The same topics come up again and again: in American circles one sees over and over the issues of abortion, the Constitutional legitimacy of income taxes, the limits of Federal power, and associated sub-themes. And, of course, the coming election, with its associated nonsense.
Popular subsets of Atheism as a topic include whether Atheists can be moral (being popular does not, after all, make it a sensible question), the intellectual justifications for Atheism and so on. Most of it’s predictable and becomes tiresome after a while; there are only so many times you can hear the same fallacies before it starts to become boring. And I don’t mean boring the way a tax seminar might be boring, but boring in the sense that you would rather take a nailgun to your eyeballs than see it again.
Most topics get this way after a while, if you continue reading them. One of them is the topic of feminism. I generally read about it with interest, but like every other topic, it has its share of bores and repetition; generally speaking, I’ll see a mangled version of the famous Cheris Kramerae quote every other week or so, plus there’s the usual, ongoing spats between the sex-poz and radfem camps which oscillate between hostile silence and full-on war, as well as that perennial favourite: is teh pr0n evol?
This is something which rages back and forth every once in a while; endless pages of cyber ink have been spilled by women feminists debating back and forth, sometimes civilly, sometimes not. Opinions seem to run all the way from Eww, boy cooties! to Get off my feminism, you yucky men! to Who the hell knows? to Of course!
It seems that the online feminist community at least is divided over this issue: some feel that men shouldn’t call themselves feminists and that only women can claim the title, and some feel the exact opposite.
After some thought on this, I have come to a conclusion. It’s not going to be popular, I think, so I might as well do the bandaid thing and just go ahead and say it.
What makes you think that you have a say in this?
My rationale for saying this is not because it’s women saying this. I mention this just to head off the inevitable griping that some individuals will come up with simply because they’ve been challenged on something. If I were saying it because it’s women, what I’m going to say in a minute wouldn’t make a lot of sense.
No, my underlying principle is that feminism is like any other ism: it is a thing of the mind, a set of principles and ideas, a way of looking at the world. Fundamentally, to me it means that a belief that women should not be disadvantaged for being women, that they deserve a certain fundamental minimum of respect and autonomy as a result of being human beings, and that they should be equal legally, personally and socially to men.
As an ism, it isn’t dependent upon what’s between my legs or what my chromosomes are. Ideas don’t stop being applicable or become impossible to hold because of who holds them.
So I say again, what makes you think you get a say in this? You don’t get to tell me what or how to think; nobody does. I’m an adult human being: unless I do something which hurts you or otherwise directly affects you, you don’t get to complain.
This may leave some women feminists spluttering. Sorry. There’s not really any way to say it that doesn’t sound confrontational, because, well, I have to be confrontational – what on earth gives you the idea that you can tell me or any other man that we can’t think in a particular way?
But I do know, really – people are confusing feminist with member of the feminist movement.
In that sense, yes, men can be kept out of feminism the movement. It’s a short-sighted and generally quite shitty and stupid thing to do, but then again, I’m not after being included in any movement.
It’s your treehouse, and you get to decide who comes in. That’s fine – but you don’t get to decide how I think.