Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Unfair impressions

I have a problem with the word "feminism" and the associations it has for me. Recently I went over how it's exactly the same problem many people I know have with Christianity, and probably equally unfair; and perhaps equally fair.

Almost anybody will say that Christianity says lots of good things; but they think those things are or should be obvious. Certainly Christians aren't the only ones who say them. So when Christians are saying good things, they don't stand out. That's one of my reactions to feminism; the good things it says tend to be obvious.

One really stands out when one is saying things that are different or objectionable. And that space is crowded with the lunatics and the hatemongers. Which is why feminism is associated with prudery, repression, sexism, and guilt in my mind, just those things that people accuse Christianity of promoting.

Prudery, repression, sexism, and guilt. The idea that virtually all heterosexual sexual expression is predation by entitled men. The idea that a man may not be dominant without being evil and a woman may not be submissive without being victimized; and that even if it's the other way around it's probably fake domination to fill his submissive kinks. The idea that a man is doing a woman wrong by any expression of sexual interest. The guilt of still wanting those things. The guilt of having been born a man, and therefore always suspect. Born someone excluded by the very name "feminism". Catch-22, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't, unavoidable guilt. If I spank her I'm exploiting her; if she spanks me I'm still exploiting her.

I'm not providing any links here because I don't want to assemble a case and provide evidence; I'm intending to report a perception not bring an accusation. I can tell this is perception is false from the self-identified feminists I read all the time. On the other hand I can tell it is true from other self-identified feminists who I don't read very much. Or self-identified former feminists. Or things like reading a female bisexual who only applies sadism to men because of feminism (sorry, that's sexist).

Christianity has an advantage here, if you want you can go back to the Book to see which Christian is presenting the true face. (Hint: it may be the one saying "I may not participate in this", it's never the one saying "You are horrible for participating in this.") Feminism doesn't have one central reference you can check things against. Maybe if it did I'd find I could call myself a feminist.


  1. It's not just the impression the haters give, it's also the degree to which you're familiar with the culture and community and thus used to automatically filtering known cranks or putting things into context out of long familiarity and deep knowledge.

    To this outsider (raised Unitarian, learned the Bible basics as a child but did little independent reading), the Bible actually isn't that comforting a face. I mean, it contains instructions on how to sell your daughter. You can and should respond with the context of the passage, the history of the Hebrew people and how slavery was a global human norm for ages, the bit about how it's the Old Testament and not the new covenant, and I will still be sitting here going IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THE DIVINELY GIVEN SOURCES OF MORALITY AND IT CONTAINS INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO SELL YOUR DAUGHTER SERIOUSLY WHAT IS THIS.

    I don't actually regard the condoning of slavery to be the "true face of Christianity", I'm just pointing out that you're applying a tremendous amount of learned context- which is good, if you believe a document to be the word of God it demands very serious study!- even to that back-check.

  2. Christianity is also like vegetarianism. Both practices are essentially about doing what you think is right and being moral and kind to others (with "others" in the latter case meaning "farm animals"), but laymen often think both groups are inherently judgmental and pushy.

    Lemme tell you, when I was vegan, most people didn't even know. I didn't wear PETA t-shirts or so much as look at someone else's hamburger with distaste. I just ate my tofu and STFU unless people specifically asked me stuff - my philosophy is that I can't control other people, only myself. I was doing the Ghandi thing and being the change I wished to see in the world.

    Some vegans/vegetarians may be pushy and judgmental (although I've never met one) and some Christians are, too (definitely met some of those) but those negative qualities are coming from the people, not the practices. I wish more folks would understand that.

    Christianity has an advantage here, if you want you can go back to the Book to see which Christian is presenting the true face.

    The "book" here would be the dictionary, which simply defines feminism as " the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes". If (for instance) someone starts advocating that men suck and should be castrated but women are awesome and should be revered, you can go back to that definition and determine that this person is emphatically not a feminist.

  3. In college I was sitting alone in the college grill eating a hamburger when some strange woman came over, sat down at my table, and said "Eating too much red meat causes impotence, you know." I must have glared because she immediately got up again and left. We've all got our embarrassing fellows.

  4. Hint: it may be the one saying "I may not participate in this", it's never the one saying "You are horrible for participating in this."

    This is beautiful, Mousie. You have a good soul. I'll admit that, because of my experiences (Christian missionaries among Indigenous groups in South America), I sometimes forget that Christians can have beautiful souls too. Thank you very much for reminding me of that. May I never ever forget it again.

  5. Thank you very much, Aeshpe! I'm sorry for your other experiences. I was actually looking into working with a wheelchair-building mission in Chad about a 2 years ago, but a job offer I couldn't refuse came up. The mission was less talking and more making specialized wheelchairs.