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12.11.05

About Feminism

This summer ApL asked a few questions about feminism. I'm reposting my reply here so that I can more easily refer to it later on.

(1) Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
I don't consider myself a feminist, and I don't consider myself not a feminist. There are some feminists who would say I as a man can't be one, and it's not worth my time to argue. I believe what I believe, and everyone can decide for themselves whether I meet your own definition of feminism.

(2) What are your opinions/impressions of feminism today?
It's in the same boat as all the other progressive movements (environmentalism, labor, etc.) -- on the defensive because of a conservative shift in our culture and government. And like the other progressive movements it has an image problem because it's been relentlessly tarred with a caricature of its extremist fringe elements.

(3) What issues do you see being tackled by the feminist community today? Which issues do you think *should* be addressed?
I won't claim to have a comprehensive list, but I think there's a wide variety of things that feminists are fighting for both on a policy level and on a cultural level.
* Defending and improving access to abortion is without a doubt the top priority
* Connected to that, access to birth control
* Getting more women into positions of power, so our nation's boardrooms and legislatures and so forth are gender-balanced
* Attacking sexism in the media -- sexist characterizations/plots, the use of sexist themes in advertising, biased decisions about what issues get priority in the news, etc.
* Combatting the causes of body image problems and eating disorders
* Equality in relationships and dating -- getting rid of double standards, men who feel entitled to sex but aren't concerned about their partner's needs, etc.
* Eliminating the wage gap. This means not just paying women the same amount for the same work, but also addressing the overt and subtle ways that women are pushed into lower-paying and less prestigious careers, and the factors (like lack of child care and inflexible hours) that make it difficult for women to compete on a level playing field with men
* Equality within the household -- on average men still do less than their fair share of cooking/cleaning/childcare even when both spouses work
* Working to eliminate rape, both in the justice system (aggressively prosecuting rapists and not portraying rape victims as sluts who were asking for it) and on a cultural level (rooting out the sick views of sex and power that lead some men to rape)
* And I think American feminists are also very active in doing what they can to prevent some of the really egregious abuses of women's rights in other countries, like the imposition of strict Sharia law in Islamic countries (including, increasingly, Iraq) and female genital mutilation in Africa.

Also, I'd say GLBT rights are a feminist issue, since opposition to GLBT rights is usually based on defending traditional gender roles.

Aside from abortion (which I refuse to take sides on), all the battles I've listed as feminist agenda items are ones I'd love to see won. I could quibble with how they're prioritized, but I think the list is pretty good.

(4) If you consider yourself a feminist, what does that mean to you in your life? How does it influence your daily thinking and/or actions? If you don't consider yourself a feminist, do you see feminism and/or feminists playing any part in your life (either positive or negative)?
Feminists definitely play a role in my life, if for no other reason than that I read a number of their blogs every day. And I'm not a fan of traditional gender roles (to put it mildly), so I'm glad that feminists have opened up space for me to discard those roles in my own personal relationships.

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