A Little Bit Pregnant… A Little Bit Feminist?

The other day, I ran across an article at National Review Online that discussed the current online “thing” called “Women Against Feminism.” Today a Facebook friend and colleague of mine had a post on the same topic (apparently, the Today show had a feature), adding, “Crazy thing is that the women posting seem to have no clue about what feminism is. Sad.”

After I read the NRO article, I asked the Spawn (who was unaware of the article, having spent the day at band camp) whether or not she considered herself a feminist. I thought her answer was interesting. Basically, she identified herself as what we might call a “first-wave feminist,” with aspects of the second wave. From the NRO piece:

First-wave feminism (from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries) was characterized primarily by the fight for women’s suffrage. The sexual revolution and abortion rights came during the second wave, in the 1960s and 1970s. Contemporary feminism, the third wave (from the 1990s to the present), has incorporated post-colonial and post-modern thinking, treating what used to be considered biological facts or innate tendencies as arbitrary social constructs.

Now in fact, there’s a decent case for suggesting some overlap between the second and third waves here, but ultimately, that may be moot.

The Spawn specifically noted that there is a difference between supporting women’s suffrage and believing in “rape culture.” She went on to say that she’s weary of what she sees as specious arguments like the “pay gap” — which she attributes to such factors as hours/years worked and women departing the work force for stretches of time that men typically don’t — as part of the feminist package. Meanwhile, she has no problem with so-called “slut shaming”; the distinction she draws is that sluttery is not gender-specific. But she argues that promiscuity is indeed something of which to be ashamed. She also sees choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom as a legitimate, feminist option — but not as an option treated as legitimate by present-day feminists.

So, where does a young woman like the Spawn fit into things? More to the point, can one be a feminist while disavowing what one sees as latter-day excess? That really seems to be what many of the “women against feminism” are doing; while they value and respect the work of the Susan B. Anthonys of the world, they aren’t so keen on the Mary Dalys.

And the flip side of the question, I think, may be this: In order to be a feminist, is it necessary or expected that one support the full panoply of the current movement, “wage gaps”, “rape cultures” and all? Are the so-called “women against feminism” apostates, or merely commonsensical brakes on excess? And if it’s the latter, what does it say that the movement seems to have become the territory of the extremists, to the point that it’s alienating its own future?

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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4 Responses to A Little Bit Pregnant… A Little Bit Feminist?

  1. ricki says:

    I’ve also seen it phrased as “equality feminism” (as in: women’s suffrage, no preferential hiring by gender, no preferential pay by gender, etc.) vs. “gender feminism” (which is more the “all men are potential rapists” mindset). Gender feminism seems to be the far more politicized, and politicized into wacky-land (wanting to change the word “manufacture” to “personufacture” but seemingly blind to the horrible ways women are treated in some dominant-Muslim cultures)

    I would consider myself an equality feminist (or rather, a person who believes in equality of opportunity, regardless of the various categories people put others into) but DEFINITELY NOT a gender feminist.

  2. Jimmy Huck says:

    Greetings, Prof. Mondo! It’s been a long time since I dropped in; but you are as sensible and provocative as usual! I was just having a conversation on this topic with my own daughter, who is entering her junior year of high school. We were basically discussing it in terms of the polarity that ricki mentions above, which I think is extremely on the mark. The thing that bothers my daughter and me about the “Women against Feminism” movement is that it has a fair bit of “throw the baby out with the bathwater” tinge to it — often times seeming to justify a social order that seems to express a certain fondness past practices that are rooted in and rely on gender inequality. My daughter finds it curious that the “Women against Feminists” seem to be projecting a power and confidence that they have that actually was built on the backs of the very feminist movement that they seem to be denigrating. The ability to reject “gender feminism” really, to my mind, represents an actual choice in self-definition that I think is actually a big part of what I understand gender feminism to be. You can’t have third wave feminism without first and second waves, and it’s not coincidental that “women against feminism” trend is emergent in the third wave along with other kinds of feminist trends. The “women against feminists” are not apostates, nor are they “brakes on excesses” — but they are actually products and examples of the success of the gender feminism of the third wave.

    • profmondo says:

      Hey — great to hear from you! Unsurprisingly, your comment is thoughtful. I think that we might both be right in some regards on this one. I think this sort of movement might be both the product/example you describe, and perhaps a recognition that some aspects of the movement have gone off the rails.

      Best to your daughter, and don’t be a stranger!

  3. Pingback: Mottes, Baileys, and the Contemporary Scene | Professor Mondo

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