I really didn’t expect this controversy about feminism. I know it’s hard for some to take things I’ve said as sincere and no suprise since some of what I wrote at the Best Feminist thread this year was sharply partisan – like “may I never be called reactionary by liberals again”.
I’m certainly not going to apologize for obliquely reflecting an insult (“reactionary”) that I’m used to getting head-on as a conservative but as I say, no suprise that it makes people think I’m not sincere. As I commented here, what many see as conservatives trying to disrupt the Best Feminist category I see as people responding to insults – conservative men and women making the point that one definition of feminism often argues that they are anti-woman or male or “mentally colonized” as Antonia put it. They’re saying this feminism doesn’t speak for all women and it doesn’t have the legitimacy to call them these things.
Coming from that, I have a similar message but the difference is that I’m not trying to deligitimize feminism but making the claim that it does or at least should speak for women in general. It’s controversial because, as I’ve learned, there are people who’s definition of feminism has a specific political content such as supporting daycare as opposed to a child tax credit, or abortion – things they believe are crucial to equality. And if feminism were to include women who oppose abortion or daycare then it would lose its political potency.
So why wouldn’t I, as a conservative, just want to deligitimize feminism if it’s often used to oppose my politics?
We need it. I think we need feminism to mean pro-woman before particular politics. If feminism cuts itself off from speaking for women in general our culture will lose part of the ideals associated with it, and that will deligitimize feminism in itself. Kate McMillian rejects feminism because feminism rejects Margaret Thatcher. Why wouldn’t Thatcher be respected by feminists? I put my post about her in a category called “I’m a confounding bastard aren’t I?” Am I making fun of people? No, I’m protecting myself from hostility by putting people on guard. Because while I share the conservative critiques of “radical” feminism I still see value in much of it and I’ve always had what I’ve thought of as a feminist perspective.
I say this as someone who grew up with a strong sister who imposed her viewpoint as a woman on me and my brothers. (see “feminine empathy“) I’ll always have that whether or not I think of it as feminist but I believe I’ll lose some of it if I don’t and I don’t want that. By writing these posts as a feminist I’m claiming what I don’t want to lose. I also say it as someone who knows a similarily strong woman who also recently told me she had an eating disorder for years. It’s so hard to believe it of someone so strong. And that’s why we need feminism. Margaret Thatcher was one of the most successful leaders in British history and that should be celebrated but even strong women, today, must fight these things imposed by our culture. If feminism loses legitimacy in speaking for women like these who will?
This is not the person I refer to above. I know her and I know her as someone that wouldn’t fit into the feminist category as defined by everyone but me in the Best Feminist comments. And I doubt she’d call herself feminist. At this point for Canada I think she and women like her can speak for themselves without a feminist label, but I wish feminists would also speak with her.