December 6th, 2004


More on feminism

I'm posting this partly because I want to reanimate the discussion on feminism that's probably long ago fallen off friends pages by now. There's lots of interesting stuff going on, and I do intend to get back to all the ongoing discussions. But also I wanted to note that I've happened to come across while surfing an example that really illustrates some of the stuff I was complaining about (and is also interesting in its own right).

Backstory: I was browsing ginmar's journal when I came upon some Drama. And I'm the sort of person that can't abide having incomplete information about anything (as well as, I will admit, being a bit of a rubberneck) so I followed up links here and there to try and piece together what the row was about. My understanding is that ginmar posted a rant about a feminist topic, and some people took offence at her rant, and ginmar felt got at by all the people who misread her post as an attack on them when it was really an attack on society's sexism. There was a bit of a classic pile-on effect and it all seems to have turned nasty. Flamewars happen; they're not a characteristic of feminists, but rather a characteristic of internet discussion groups, and LJ I think exacerbates the problem compared to many other kinds of discussion forum. I suppose the difference with feminist flamewars is that the main insult being thrown around is 'misogynist', but hey, now that I've satisfied my curiosity I'm not interested in the Drama any further (and certainly don't want to take sides).

Anyway, in trying to work out what was going on, I came across a very interesting person called elke_tanzer. elke_tanzer's response was to try to figure out a way to use LJ for discussions about emotive feminist topics, in a way that would promote activism rather than degenerating into flamewars. I have a lot of respect for that approach, and I'm interested in the way technology such as LJ can shape communities and interactions. So I started reading through some of the stuff that arose out of this idea of elke_tanzer's, and there's some very interesting discussions going on. At the same time, and thinking about the discussion I started, I'm trying to observe feminists in their natural habitat, as it were.

Then I found this discussion entitled What is sexism? And I remembered exactly why I find so much of feminism so offputting. A few women, including the person who started the discussion, said that they didn't experience sexism in their own lives. And suddenly they're the enemy; the feminist home crowd aren't pleased to find women in good situations, they simply refuse to believe that it's possible to be female without being oppressed, and if you think your life is good, then you're either deceiving yourself or deliberately anti-feminist. So I joined in, just to see what would happen: I posted saying, yes, me too, I'm a woman and I think my life is pretty good.

Some people were polite to me, some people were rude to me. There were a couple of others taking the same view who got more stick about it than I did. That's just people, not feminists; some can handle polite disagreement and some are obnoxious (and there's also overspill from the original flamewar). But the basic message was the same: if you are female, you are ipso facto oppressed, and if you deny this you are anti-feminist. There's also quite a lot of feminist jargon and so on going on here; in a way that's to be expected given I gatecrashed what was basically a feminist discussion, but I get the impression it's being used deliberately to exlude those who, like me, are not on message.

Does anyone have any suggestions how I can dialogue with these people? I'm not prepared to give up holding my own opinions, but I'd really like to find some common ground if possible. I mean, I basically agree with the people in this discussion that oppression of women is a bad thing.
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