Being a feminist
Recently I had a fascinating discussion about feminism with a reader of this blog.
He expressed the view that belief in feminism meant believing (doubtless among other things) that women should have the same opportunities as men. What are these opportunities, he wondered? Following the Lionesses’ victory in the European Cup, should the appropriate media and government response be just to give women’s football as much attention as men’s… or, perhaps in addition, to give more attention to traditionally female sports such as netball, hockey and lacrosse? Women shouldn’t have to play football in order for their sporting prowess to be recognised.
I am less of a sports viewer, so this hadn’t occurred to me, but my friend is surely right.
Googling the definition of feminism brought this up (described as “Cambridge dictionary”): the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state: (my emphasis.)
This one I would partially reject, for its implication that what women need is to be levelled up to the currently desirable privileged position of men, and to be encouraged to behave like men. We’re back to the idea that woman’s football should be promoted because football is the greatest game (men say so; it must be true!) Or that we should encourage women to be more assertive at business meetings by talking over other people, rather than suggesting that everyone should listen to each other.
My own private, not so private now, definition of feminism, is about value.
I am a feminist. To me this means that I believe
- that both genders are of intrinsically equal value;
- that although many men respect women and treat them well, during the centuries women have generally been subject to oppression, due to their physiological differences, and to gender stereotypes that ironically damage men too;
- that although progress has been made in combatting this oppression and these stereotypes, there is still work to be done, by women and men, and I have part of the responsibility for doing it;
- that although equal men and women for various reasons have some different needs and vulnerabilities, which need to be catered for and respected.
You will see that this definition has not yet been adapted to take into account the non-binary.
It allows me to believe that the fundamental differences between the sexes are physiological or society-induced, while allowing me if necessary to admit innate psychological differences, when and if I become convinced that they exist.
It also allows me to sidestep the “women’s bodies are their own, therefore any attack on abortion on demand is an attack on all women” argument. While sharing the widespread dismay at the US Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v Wade, I do not accept this argument, which I suspect makes my feminism suspect in the eyes of some.
Problematically perhaps, my definition might also allow me to be a “complementarian,” ie someone who interprets the New Testament as saying that women are equally valuable to men, but also inherently different in ways that mean they shouldn’t be permitted to exercise leadership, especially leadership over men. One would think it would be quite difficult to believe that women can’t lead but are nonetheless equal, but some people do manage to argue this.
I do not, but this perhaps brings us back to the “opportunities and rights” aspect. Women should have the opportunity to become Prime Minister, or Archbishop of Canterbury.
I don’t want “equality” to be all about “opportunity” because not everyone has the capacity to make good use of their opportunities, but yes, my “equal value” does include the implication that women shouldn’t be deprived of chances because of their sex.
I wonder what I’ve missed out?
Love from the PPI Blogger