This is one of those how-did-I-not-find-this-until-now books: Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman. Moran is irreverent and on-point, and I often laughed out loud while reading. She calls herself a “strident feminist” and puts forth several theories about feminism and sexism that I found pretty useful, such as:
- If you’re not sure whether something is a feminist issue, ask yourself if men are spending time worrying about it.
- Treating other people with courtesy goes a long way toward enacting a feminist world.
- Responding to sexism by noting that a person has been “uncivil” is often an in-roads to a better conversation.
In short, Moran articulates a feminism that is both persuasive and possible–and it’s fun!
Oh, and if you don’t follow her on Twitter, you’re missing out.
I recently read an interesting New Yorker piece that sets up a debate between radical feminists and transgender women. The arguments basically go like this: Transgender women say they have a right to be whatever gender they want, while radical feminists say that someone who has reaped male privilege for years (and perhaps continues to do so in some contexts) can’t just suddenly decide to take on the title of “woman.”
The radical feminist position here made sense to me at first. Men presume to speak for women in a lot of contexts; it seems there may be danger of that here. “Trying on” womanhood could be seen as a form of extended male entitlement. But the more I think about this, the more I’m not sure how welcoming a transgender woman to the fold in any way decreases my own claim to the term “woman.” Having additional voices doesn’t mean mine will be covered over. In fact, ostracizing trans women on the basis that we don’t have shared oppressions implicitly makes the case that all people born as women DO have shared oppressions. As a very privileged, white, Western woman, I am keenly aware that that is not true.
Obviously, the positions represented in this post are generalizations. However, article author Michelle Goldberg does a really nice job of providing more complexity and illustrating how this debate has played out over years, as well as what it means to consider intersectionality in this context. Perhaps my favorite line is this clever little shift: “In this view, gender is less an identity than a caste position.” Whoa.
Read the full article here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2
I’ve found another response to Women Against Feminism, one that is better than anything I could have written myself. This article by Emily Shire approaches the situation as a conversation. She takes the women behind WAF seriously, and as a result, she really gets to the heart of why this whole conversation is so disturbing–and so necessary. She says:
“As the Women Against Feminism posts show, many of the declarations stem from a place that feminism conveys preferential [status] for women at a loss to sons, brothers, fathers, and friends. That isn’t feminism, but many people falsely believe that is the effect of it.”
As I said earlier this week, I want to see WAF as the beginning of a political conversation. The conversation, it turns out, is about why women (especially young women) interpret feminism the way they do–that is, as a campaign that forces women to be and think certain ways, that hates men and women who don’t identify as feminist. While it’s tempting to dismiss these women out of hand since they so obviously haven’t done their homework on feminisms, this is really an issue feminists should be paying attention to. After all, these women had to have encountered feminists–or portrayals of feminists–at some point in order to think these things and in order to be as vehemently “against feminism” as they are. Why is it that the impression they came away with was this one? We need to figure that out. The existence of WAF means that feminists have some work to do on communication strategies. Somehow–I’m working on ideas, and I hope others are as well–we need to do a better job of explaining what a feminist is.
As Shire says, “Mocking Women Against Feminism validates their argument that they don’t belong in the movement and affirms their belief that feminism has no space for them. We—and by “we,” I mean feminists—need to be the bigger person in this battle. We need to make every effort to promote feminism as a big-tent movement, and we need to admit that it doesn’t always appear so welcoming.”
Read more at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/24/you-don-t-hate-feminism-you-just-don-t-understand-it.html#sthash.qdMCRWdA.dpuf