A Year of Feminist Classics

Because they're better together :)

Why is there a Stigma Attached to the Feminist Label?

We thought that to celebrate the half year mark we would talk a bit more about ourselves and about what feminism is to us – expect to see a post where we answer a question for the next four Fridays. We will share our thoughts and we are hoping that you will chime in with your answers either on your own blog or in the comments.

On July 1st we asked why do you identify as a feminist? We followed up on July 8th asking why do you think it is important that others identify as feminists as well? This week we want to know, Why do you think there is a stigma attached to the feminist label?

Amy:

Think about it, the only way to get real action is to work together, and those in power are the ones who keep reinforcing the anti-feminism message. Did you know that women never actually burned their bras? Did you know that many (most) early feminists were happily married with children? Did you know that even those feminists who are lesbian or queer usually don’t hate men? Did you know that there are many men who are feminists? Despite the fact that none of it is true, we have this cultural stereotype of the feminist as a bra-burning, man hating, ugly woman who is just bitter because she can’t get a man. It is frustrating to know that the lies and rhetoric actually work. The stigma is there because we are lied to, the stigma is there because those with power like having power and like abusing power.

Iris:

The stigma attached to the feminist label frankly baffles me. It was only when I first started to question my aversion to the term that I realised how ridiculous the stigma is. What I was trying to say, back when my favourite line used to be “I’m not a feminist, but..”, was really: I don’t want you to associate me with all the prejudices surrounding this term, but yet, I am for gender equality. But when I think about it, it is hard to give even a proper description of this vague notion of the stigma attached to feminism. What is it really? Is it the fact that I don’t want to be a bra-burning person, like the movies we had to watch when we very shortly dealt with feminism in high school? Why do I even mind that people who called themselves feminist burned their bras? Or is it the notion that as a feminist gender equality is your only focus, forgetting other social injustices in the process? But back in high school, I am not sure I even considered that part of the prejudice. I guess for academics, that is one reason they turned to the term gender instead of feminist studies: wanting to take away the idea that other inequalities did not count, as well as the idea that masculinity could not be studied as part of a feminist agenda. But I wonder if the change of term wasn’t a matter of ascending to this dominant “stigma” (whatever it entails, really). I am hesitant to say that this very vague notion of a stigma that so many conjure up as soon as the word feminism is used, that I so often felt the need to defend myself against, is really a way of “structures” in “society” resisting gender equality? Hesitant because structures and society are such vague terms too. But part of the reason that this stigma is still attached to the term must be because it is an easy way to minimize the “threat” feminism poses? And part of it, I think, is part of the history of feminism itself. But that does not mean that the stigma is relevant today – it just means that feminism took different forms in different situations and where we allow for that kind of change in other terms for groups, apparently it is hard to let go of them in this context. See, I have no answers, just questions.

Emily:

I think the stigma against feminism comes from the misunderstanding that elimination of male privilege means the elimination of men or, less dramatically, that since we live in a gender-binary society, feminism is a zero-sum game which must empower women at the expense of men. This is false. Because we live in a society that understand sex and gender as binary, sexism is a double-sided coin. Feminism doesn’t flip the coin, though: it simply gets rid of it. Feminism liberates both men and women from sexism, not by creating some sex or gender-free imaginary landscape, or post-feminist gender-blind society, or whatever, but by opening up more space in terms of what is deemed socially acceptable so that everyone is presented with more options for self-expression, behavior, and opportunity, regardless of their sex or gender. The process of liberation does take work, however, and people who are privileged by the current system are loath to see it crumble. This is why all outbursts of feminist action are followed by extreme backlash and, unfortunately, anti-feminists have been really effective at negatively branding what they see, rightly, as a serious threat to their positions of privilege. By demonizing feminists on account of their real or perceived looks, career choices, family status, or any number of silly judgmental things, they focus attention away from what feminism is actually about; the dismantling of unfair systems of privilege.

Ana:

I think it’s a mix of ignorance and fear: some people genuinely fear everything feminism stands for due to their attachment to what is to them a very comfortable status quo; others actually do believe in some if not all the core principles of feminism, but they’re not clear on what the term actually means. There are many myths surrounding the word “feminism” – that it’s about hating men, that it means you have to give up or actually shun anything associated with traditional femininity, that feminists are all humourless, etc. – but perhaps the most insidious and bizarre is the notion that to draw attention to gender inequality is to reinforce it. People often make arguments that mirror the notion of “colour blindness” is discussions about race: they seem to think that if you truly believe in equality and reject gender stereotypes, then you should never focus on issues that affect women, or in any way acknowledge the very real ways in which the construct of gender constrains people’s lives. I look forward to a world where this is possible, but that world, my friends, is not the one in which we currently live.

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102 responses to “Why is there a Stigma Attached to the Feminist Label?

  1. ignatiusloyola July 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Just a thought here – but maybe it is because feminist groups have used unscrupulous tactics, like lying and fabricating data, to justify their positions?

    Here is a very biased website, but the information is interesting: http://exposingfeminism.wordpress.com/the-ten-most-common-feminist-myths/

    The author seems to have done their research pretty well.

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      Unfortunately lying and fabricating data doesn’t seem to hurt causes, just check out the attacks on Planned Parenthood. There are numerous studies around by a variety of very reputable sources that confirm many of the claims. Yes, new studies are always coming out that update data and refine assumptions and findings. Just like in any other field, things are always changing, new data is always coming up, and more. But unfortunately there are still a lot of issues.

      • bookgazing July 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm

        Oh my goodness the rhetorical holes in several of those data arguments are so huge and clearly biased it is just…words fail. Just an example:

        ‘a growing body of research in neuroscience, endocrinology, and psychology over the past 40 years suggests there is a biological basis for many sex differences in aptitudes and preferences’

        and much of it has been debunked by feminist scientists – Ana will be able to tell you more about that from her reading. Just because there’s a body of research for something doesn’t make the conclusions reached are correct or unbiased.

        • Nymeth July 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm

          YES. I’d recommend reading Anna Fausto-Sterling or Cordelia Fine just to get started. Yes, such research does exist, but peek behind the curtain at the methodology and what you find out is very revealing.

        • BobSutan July 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

          “debunked by feminist scientists”

          Uh huh, right. If you believe there isn’t any bias with that one I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm

          BobSutan, read the books and then make a call 🙂 Most of the science quoted by those on the other side is incredibly biased. Read it all, then make a decision.

          But please either join the discussion on this site – we discuss literature and have varied opinions – and contribute constructively or not at all. We do not welcome personal attacks.

          Thanks!

        • Nymeth July 15, 2011 at 6:21 pm

          I confess I’m at a loss as to how continue a conversation when the assumption is that a scientist that identifies as a feminist will be biased, but a scientist who identifies as a believer in gender essentialism will be objective and neutral and have no agenda or invested interest in their results.

          In other words, what Amy said!

  2. Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Look to some of the message from the feminist movement. I grew up with a feminist mother, and was raised in a mostly hippy leftist society. I was given all of the usual speeches about gender roles and equality, and then I started to see the world around me. I am not anti-woman, or anti-equality, but I am treated as if I were by simply questioning some of the base assumptions that feminist theory makes. I didn’t get interested in the men’s rights movement until I was the victim of spousal abuse, went through a divorce and was unable to get even shared custody of my son despite my ex having been found guilty of abuse… to this day the assumption that the man is the abuser is so strongly embedded in our culture that she gets letters warning her about the dangers she might face by interacting with me as there was domestic violence involved in our relationship, as if she were the victim and I were the abuser. That kind of base assumption is rife in society,

    Read the work of Erin Pizzey (the woman who created the first women’s shelter) for a brief glimpse into why the domestic violence stats are flat out wrong. Basically, the world has changed but many feminists who grew up in the old world haven’t realized that, and many of the women in the feminist movement now are being taught by that battle weary older generation, which leaves them not realizing that in today’s world being a feminist often means being anti-male, and that it has reached a point in many of the battle grounds where they are no longer striving for equality but for supremacy (School is a big one, in Canada at least boys are punished and girls are encouraged for the most part… that’s without even touching things like different communication styles and which ones get rewarded and which ones get squashed). So, there it is. Feminism is not irrelevant but unless many of the people in the movement can realize the progress that has been made and how things have changed they will be subject to increasing resentment from men, especially men who have grown up with no other world than the current feminist age, men who are increasingly disenfranchised.

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      You are right Traverse, there are assumptions and although those assumptions are sadly based on a lot of truth, that doesn’t make them OK. I don’t know a single feminist who hates men, in fact the ones I know are usually talking about how current gender roles harm both men and women – including the assumptions that society makes that men are always the abusers. That is one stereotype that existed long before feminism I would suspect, because gender expectations tell us that women are weak, right. I think again we’re falling into the trap of looking at the big promoted view which isn’t what most people actually in the movement – the younger generation especially – feel and do. We have to get beyond the praising one and harming another for the same behaviors and only when we reach equal opportunity will we get there.

      I mean, when you say men are disenfranchised, you give your example which is valid, but men as a whole still have more rights and power than woman as a whole and that is where we need to find solutions. Solutions that help both and put both on level playing fields. Yes we’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t mean that things are OK, as your example shows. We still rely on these assumptions based on gender, and that hurts men and women.

      • ignatiusloyola July 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm

        Your experience of not knowing a single feminist who hates men doesn’t necessarily invalidate the perception. It is almost an issue of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm

          You are right, it doesn’t invalidate it. It just makes me question where the perception is coming from, you know? If the books I read, the people I know, the blogs I read, none have men-hating, then where is it coming from? And then I read about how perceptions have been changed and the movement gets maligned as something other than it is, and I can’t help but think it is related. Thinking that women should get equal pay, erasing glass ceilings, etc isn’t man hating but to those at the highest levels of power it can seem like it if you think you’ll lose a perk, not get the promotion because now there is competition for it, etc. Not saying there isn’t some truth, I just think there is a lot less truth to it than we are led to believe.

      • gingernutninja July 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm

        I, woman, (hear me roar) avoid the term because instinctively I associate it with people I’ve met (I’m not talking about mythical hairy women who are a product of terrified male imaginations) who are man hating. Who take a belief in equality to such an extreme that it’s embarrassing. Who seem to want not equality, but exactly the same-ness (you’d never know I work with words). Generally, such women announce themselves as feminists very loudly, and also are offended when men hold open doors, or pay compliments, or offer to carry things. They dislike women who want to be housewives, have children, raise them, not work. These people are exceptions, but they are loud. They have stained a term. They also dislike women, which seems hugely unfeminist to me.

        I prefer to simply think that I’m ‘sane’. And that the sane position from men or women is that ‘of course there should be gender equality’ – and that any position aside from this requires justification or labeling. Feminism/feminist feels too much like a political label. I don’t like labels. Particularly one that’s brandished (on rare occasions), by loons. All my friends, regardless of sex, are ‘feminist’, if all it means is believing and being willing to support it.

        Surely the time has come to try to make gender equality so normal that there doesn’t need to be a term for people who fight for it? Having a term automatically puts it on the outside. Give the term to those who don’t believe in gender-equality instead. Is there a word for believing that colour of skin shouldn’t determine status? Sexuality? (There may be, I’m having a tired morning.)
        I do know that racist, and homophobic jump to mind far easier than a term for people who fight for the relevant rights. Sure, we have sexist, but… why feminist.

        ~I’m waffling. Can’t remember the point I was making. Be happy, it’s a sunny day. At leastit is where I am…

        At this point I realist

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm

          Hmmm very interesting points gingernutninja! I think that is the issue, the people who go so crazy with the label are the ones that get the media attention and the ones that we remember. But we don’t associate all Christians with the most extreme fundamentalists even though they get more publicity than regular churches often, so why with feminism? i think because so often we shy away and don’t realize that most of us really do believe in equality and the tenets of feminism.

          I would LOVE to get to that point you talk about where we don’t have a group for people who want equality but rather for those who are against it… but sadly I think we are far from there. Rights keep diminishing and we seem to be slipping away. For the short term unless we get together will we ever be able to accomplish change, especially when the sexist ones are the ones who more often have power? I don’t know. There is no easy answer. But I do love this point. Will definitely be thinking on it!

      • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm

        When I say men are increasingly disenfranchised, I don’t mean that we have lost all power, but there are many ways in which women have more power, and many in which men have power. As to rights, there are no ways in Canada in which men have more rights (from a legal perspective). Any gender bias in law is currently in favour of women. That doesn’t eliminate social inequality, but it does at least require a change of rhetoric.

        I don’t know a single feminist who hates men, but I know of many of them (Adrea Dworkin comes to mind right off the bat). I know many feminists who make light of men, who view them as big and stupid and without any real sense. The man hating feminist is actually a dinosaur image, it seems that a more accurate one of the modern feminist is simply dismissive of maleness. There are things that none of my friends were raised to. Hell, my two best friends growing up are a good example of this, one boy, one girl. The girl (raised in a feminist commune filled with artists and film makers) became a fashion model. A real, honest to god, cover of major magazines, giant pictures of her on the side of buses fashion model. Now she does photo retouching for the fashion industry (she had a few kids, still models but never quite hit the point where pushing forty modeling is still a lucrative career) making women look less real. The boy went on to become a mountain man. He runs a wilderness centre for troubled youth in the mountains of BC. He was also raised in an environment that tried to ignore any differences between the sexes. I have seen this again and again and again. It isn’t absolute, it isn’t an iron clad rule, but girls and women tend to (in every single culture I have seen including the ones that are trying to not be sexist) value certain things differently than boys and men. The problem right now is that boys are being told that what we value isn’t of value (in some parts of society) and that we are wrong for holding those values. In other places women are told that what they value is unimportant. A crucial thing to realize is that here in Canada there are many, many different societies and gender roles are not the same in all of them. To say that I grew up with male privilege is to ignore that I grew up in a place where men were very much second class citizens, and that there are many people of my age and younger where that is true. It seems to largely reflect class divides, with upper class being beyond such things (if you have billions it doesn’t matter what class you are), middle class being weighted towards the feminine and lower class to the masculine.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm

          Oh gosh Traverse. Andrea Dworkin *shudder*. That is why I say I think it’s an older generation that is more man hating. We younger kids these days I think are, for the most part I hope anyway, better. The environment in which you grew up sounds very different from the norm, and interesting for sure.

          While rights may be equal… they still really aren’t because of stereotypes. In the same way that you suffered, many women suffer in other areas. I’m thinking of things like rape and sexual assault where being drunk can either mean giving consent or that you won’t be taken seriously, where if it’s an ex why wouldn’t you sleep with him again? (shocking yes but Charlottetown City Police told me just that), where what I wear gives men a ‘right’ to harass me on the streets and in the subway, where what we wear determines if we will be taken seriously. So sure, there are laws against sexual assault but most women are scared to report and then when we do report we’re further victimized. So I think there are definitely things that hurt both men and women in our current culture and feminism for me is about combating that.

          Women are seen as sexualized, boys are supposed to be tough, we all aim to a perfect image of beauty and actions, and we all suffer. Different communities have different ideals but I think we all suffer in some way wherever it is that we grow up. Very interesting about the class too, thinking about it does rather make sense and I think it has been like that through history too… Interesting!

  3. gingernutninja July 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    snork. Pity you can’t edit replies. *sigh*

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      Heh I got the general idea I think 😉 It is one of those days today isn’t it?!

      • Evil Pundit July 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm

        Speaking of typos, in Paragraph Three: “Did you know that even those feminists who are lesbian or queer usually don’t have men?” 🙂

      • gingernutninja July 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm

        Why do we have to be labeled to fight for change? If something is sexist, I’ll say so. If something is racist, I’ll say so. Can’t we just fight for equal rights, for people, as other people?

        Btw… If someone announces themself as Christian, I do have to crush a small piece of me that goes ‘oh ho, one of those’. And I have a lot of trouble preventing myself from baiting. People who label themselves attract attention…

        <– bad person.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm

          LOL not going to lie, I’ve had that thought as well occasionally so we can be bad people together. How do you see political change happening if there are no umbrella groups? Or do you envision groups under different names gingernutninja? I’m intrigued and want to know more 😀

  4. Catherine July 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Because two people mentioned bra-burning, I’m curious–why is it that the idea of bra-burning touches a nerve? As Iris said, “Why do I even mind?” But it’s such an enduring stereotype and really seems to turn a lot of people off. Is it that women who find bras to be beneficial have a gut reaction to something being taken away from them? Do I just not get it because I’m too young to remember the no-bra fashions of the 70s, which must have seemed really different after the previous two decades of heavy-duty undergarments?

    I rarely wear a bra and never wear make-up. No one has ever seemed to notice. I don’t get any comments when I don’t wear panty-hose and high heels–but I DO get comments when I wear them, from women who can’t imagine doing so. So…fashion has changed; I’m hoping culture has changed, but why are is there still talk about bra-burning? Is it just such a deeply-ingrained knee-jerk stereotype, or is there something about the idea of bra-burning itself that has caused it to cling so tenaciously?

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      When people shockingly ask me ‘you’re not a feminist are you??’ that is what I usually get for some reason. Bras and man-hating. I can’t quite figure out why that is, but yes, I’ve been known to go without Catherine and I really rarely wear any makeup. I do wear panty-hose and high heels though so go figure, I get comments on them too. Though more often sexist harassment from men on the subway than questions as to why I’d wear it as a woman… 😛

      I think for me it’s a clear sign of how the truth has been distorted and used for anti-feminist means. I don’t know why it holds such power but it is often used to denigrate the movement for sure. What the wikipedia article says is “By being associated with an act like bra-burning, feminists may be seen, by those less knowledgeable of the movement, as law-breaking radicals, eager to shock the public.” so maybe it is because it is seen as so shocking and not really related to many of the things that people see as key causes?

      • Catherine July 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm

        The closest thing I can relate it to is flag-burning, but in my mind that’s different because the whole point of a flag is to be a symbol of something and there is a clear, serious statement being made there. Whereas a bra merely has practical use, even if it is used as a sometimes symbol. I guess I have always thought of the shockingness of bra-burning having more to do with tackiness (taking off or waving around undergarments in public), but now I am thinking that maybe some people really do see a bra as a symbol of womanhood? So that burning would mean, “I don’t want to be a woman anymore”? I can see why that sentiment would be shocking to many people, if it were interpreted that way. Maybe that’s how it would get so caught up with idea of man-hating.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

          It was actually compared to draft card burning in the Vietnam war Catherine. I recommend checking out the article I linked in my response. It gives a bit of information on why and how it wasn’t just bras it was a protest against forced arbitrary standards or womanhood and beauty. Not against womanhood but against having only one form.

    • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      First, bra burning is mostly a myth, although bra’s did lose some of their importance to our society in the feminist movement of the sixties and seventies. I spent some time living in the Solomon Islands. Women there rarely wear tops at all, and most breastfeed a large number of children (between six and twelve is normal). Most also work in the fields from time to time, and the introduction of the bra is seen as a very positive thing for them, as it prevents machete nicks! I know a girl here who has very large breasts and is active in Taekwondo. The bra helps her a lot with movement, for the same reason that I prefer undergarments with some support when I am practicing TKD… things move less and that’s just more comfortable. As to why it’s such a major issue for so many people, it must have been a real shock to the men of the fifties to see their world change like that. Women no longer wearing bra’s was a symbol of that change (never mind that the world of the fifties doesn’t have the kind of established tradition people think it does and even then it only represented a very narrow slice of people). Couple that with titillation (again, something I find weird… I have lived in a place where the women are mostly topless, as are the men and it totally changes your perspective on the whole thing) due to their being less between the parts of the woman that they aren’t supposed to see and themselves…

      • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm

        Yep I’m not going to argue against the usefulness of bras in general Traverse! I think many people find them useful things. The wikipedia article I linked to in my answer above talks about how it was a protest against beauty stereotypes and the beauty industry that has been taken as an anti-bra thing when really that is distorting the message. Interesting to read.

        • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm

          I wrote that before I read your reply… I was more trying to point out that there is a huge cultural element to bras and that element is largely responsible for the weight that myth carries. It seems to me that the naughty aspect of it is a big part of the enduring power the myth has… and that when you remove that naughty aspect (it’s not that men in the Solomon Islands don’t look at breasts, merely that they are give far less importance than here… while legs are not shown there and take on much the same status breasts do here) the bra becomes nothing more than a practical thing to use when it makes sense.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

          Hmmm yes. The way it is shown as a sexualized item keeps it as a big thing you mean? Interesting point Traverse. Another area where our culture needs help 🙂

      • Catherine July 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        Even though bra-burning is largely a myth, what interests me is why the idea has taken such a strong hold. Is feminism somehow “safer” if feminists never burned bras?

        Your experiences in the Solomon Islands are an interesting perspective. I know there are definitely many daily tasks that I would not want to do nude.

    • gingernutninja July 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      I’d say ‘bra burning’ is a sign of a stupid gesture. A cutting off nose to spite face thing. That’s why it would be looked on with scorn – women removing bras to show liberation from male-kind or whatever – when (if endowed anything remotely like me) all it would do would cripple movement.

      So… touches a nerve because it’s a sign of a gesture for gestures sake, and one that’s ultimately meaningless with a negative, if any, outcome.

      • gingernutninja July 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm

        obv – for my point it’s irrelevant whether is myth or not – if people believed women did that, then it suggests they believe women are that irrational.

        I love my bras. LOVE them. And the prevent me from black eyes when training. Except the ones I deserve. (Jiu-jitsu-ka)

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm

          Again, bra-burning has been taken way out of context. I’d really recommend reading the article as to why it was done and how it got twisted into something else gingernutninja.

  5. Eoghan July 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    There is also the extreme censorship of other POV’s that feminists are known to engage in…

  6. bookgazing July 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I like all your answers above because to me they show that the stigma doesn’t just arise, it’s produced and reinforced by the propaganda from areas of society that like Ana says ‘ genuinely fear everything feminism stands for due to their attachment to what is to them a very comfortable status quo’.

    In my opinion, the original stigma that these groups feel about feminism and seek to pass on to other people comes about because feminism is a female thing that seeks to shake up established power structures. Conservative, established groups have a whole weight of anti-female history behind them reinforcing the idea that any female enterprise must be in some way wrong, or dangerous purely because it’s a female thing. Feminism…I mean you can’t get more female than that and so people feel it is an inherently stigamised enterprise for a variety of historically and societally enforced anti-female reasons.

    I’m not ruling out the idea that some feminists end up oppossed to my version of liberation for women (although context is always important in any kind of jdugement like that), or politically progressive in other areas and some people may meet these kind of women. Feminists can be flawed people, because they’re human (I imagine you all rolling your eyes now going *well duh*). However, I do always try to be careful if I find myself thinking a feminist (or activist from other communities) are being difficult rather than feminist. There’s a big prejudice towards ‘quiet protest’ and anyone who steps outside that formula and enacts angry, or loud protest can end up subjected to silencing tactics, like being called rude, or told they are taking an argument too far (I compare it to being told you’re over thinking something).

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      Hear hear Jodie. So true. There are so many ways to be a feminist and while I may not agree with all of their ideas or tactics there isn’t just one term, it’s not policeable – plus who would police it?? – and that is why we have this group where we are all contributing and discussing. I think people need to come to these things with an open mind and actually be involved rather than just spew ideas based on one or two things ya know?

      • Jodie July 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm

        I so know and to an extent I think I’m derailing your original discussion about where stigma comes from (because I’m pretty clear on where it comes from and it int all the fault of the women y’know)so I’m gonna step out now. I wonder where you got linked at to bring quite so many people here though?

        • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm

          Reddit for starters. Not just reddit, the Mens Rights sub-reddit.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm

          It’s here Jodie, and yeah… careful, there’s a bit of woman hating going on, what with our having low IQs and being emotional and all that 😉 http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/iqd18/blog_asks_why_is_there_a_stigma_attached_to_the/

        • Iris July 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm

          Oh Amy, that link is.. it made me so sad.

          Apparantly feminism equals more rights to women and less rights to men and as such, we are always playing victims. Of course, something called “men’s rights” could not be doing the exact same thing? Esp. considering the fact that in recent years feminist issues have focused on gender equality issues and not on “men are stupid, let women rule them”. Oh, I’m sure there are a few feminist like that around too. I just.. it’s so weird this lumping together a whole group and reading things into our comments that aren’t there, but that want to be seen because it is what peopel assume to be feminist.

  7. LMoney July 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I’ve never taken a class in feminism or anything, but I’ve tried to read up on it as best as I can recently. When I first wrapped my head around the patriarchy, I shortly found out that it was actually the kyriarchy. And there are things that I’ll ‘never understand’ because I’m a “cisgendered male”. Or if I bring up my life experiences to the table I’m “mansplaining”. And it seems the more and more I go on the more and more I realize that it’s just not meant for me to participate in.

    Which is fine.

    It’s certainly not ABOUT me, but people I love live it, subscriber to it, and believe in it. So other than smiling and nodding (which is condescending!) I pretty much look at it as something outside my frame of reference.

    • LMoney July 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      To steal a quote from my favorite ornery old man;

      “I used to be with it, but then they changed what “it” was. Now, what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me.”

    • bookgazing July 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      One really good way for men who are learning about feminism to participate is to listen to people who have been involved in it deeply for a long time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t speak up sometimes, but (much like I must do in discussions of racial privilege, because I am white and I am less knowledgeable about this area) sometimes listening and learning is the best way to participate in discussions with communities you’re not directly part of.

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      Yes yes what Jodie said LMoney. Like you I’ve never taken a class, only read on my own, but I have experienced tons of harassment as a women sadly. But I think ANYONE can contribute to discussions and mens opinions are just as valid, as long as they are listening and paying attention, you know? Like, men who tell me I should take it as a compliment when I get cat calls on the street – not helpful. Men who listen to why it bothers me and then keep that in mind and can take my experiences into account instead of telling me what I should feel – very helpful.

      I mean, just being cognizant (as I am in racial discussions) of what you don’t know and listening to the experiences of others is a huge thing and contributes hugely to equality.

  8. Eoghan July 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    A big reason is feminism’s deliberate covering up of the truth about domestic violence ( the truth is that its not a gendered problem) through terrorism and academic fraud and using the deception to stir up hatred of men a fund the movement and set up discriminatory abuse services.

    Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion
    of Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence
    V74
    Murray A. Straus
    Commentary on Gramham-Kevan “Domestic Violence: Research
    and Implications for Batterer Programmes in Europe
    Published online: 14 July 2007
    Springer Science + Business Media

    THE POLITICS OF RESEARCH: THE USE, ABUSE, AND MISUSE
    OF SOCIAL SCIENCE DATA—THE CASES OF INTIMATE
    PARTNER VIOLENCE
    Richard J. Gelles

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      Uhhhh. OK. I’m just going to put this out there. This group is all about discussion of feminism and feminist texts. ALL are welcome to participate, no matter your age, gender, sexuality, nationality, race, etc. We welcome all opinions and simply ask that you are considerate of others and not rude. HOWEVER this is not a forum for anyone to just post random ‘facts’ or opinions. Read through our archives, participate in the readings, and join in. This is a project not an opinion poll. I am going to leave this comment now in part because it is a tad over the top ridiculous (terrorism, really?) but just as a future warning…

      Participate, don’t troll. Thanks for understanding.

      • Han Jammer July 15, 2011 at 6:26 pm

        Hi there

        This is not trolling. You can read about the death threats and bomb threats, the dog that was killed and the academic fraud yourself. You are asking why feminism has a stigma. I’m giving you one very clear answer backed up by papers by prominent domestic violence researchers.

        But go ahead and define that as trolling and remove the posts if you like.

        • Nymeth July 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm

          A prominent researcher who rejects this interpretation of the data himself. There were also several methodological issues (pattern here?) with the original study, which the link covers.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm

          I call it trolling in that we have a community here that’s been discussing literature and we now have a ton of people coming in solely to argue rather than to discuss or participate. I would LOVE if everyone joined in on all of the discussions through the year but sadly I see this as likely being a today only to tell us we’re wrong as opposed to constructively participating in what this project is about Han Jammer.

      • Evil Pundit July 16, 2011 at 12:48 am

        You asked a question, and then got upset when you received an answer.

        Perhaps you should not have asked the question.

  9. ignatiusloyola July 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Considering the replies here, I am curious as to this community’s response to the concepts being put forth by the Men’s Rights movement. (Ignore the distaste for some of the members for a moment and let’s talk about ideas.)

    Equal Parenting – default custody being 50/50 split custody (not including cases of a single abusive parent)
    Financial Abortion – finding some solution where men are given some control over their reproductive choices, just as women are afforded with abortions
    Paternity Fraud – where a man listed on a birth certificate is financially the father, regardless of genetics, in fraudulent cases (not including those where the male chooses to take the father role and later recants)
    False Rape Accusations – regardless of the statistics of how often it occurs, it does – as in the Hofstra and Duke Lacrosse cases
    Universal Selective Service (or removal of selective service)
    Equal Education – where boys are continually underachieving (in literacy, for example) as compared to girls, though significantly more funding goes into education for girls (grade school)

    There are other issues, but this is sufficient to find out the general idea of people who frequent this blog.

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm

      Well ignatiusloyola… if we are to ignore the distaste for some members of the men’s rights thing isn’t that exactly what we are saying you should do of feminism? That everyone has their own ideas and it doesn’t discount the entire discussion or movement?

      Next… Men’s Rights movement. I’m sorry but this offends me in so many ways. We live in a society where men make more, men take the large majority of big jobs – Prime Minister, President, members of government, lawyers and judges, CEO’s, win the awards, they make up the majority of scientists and astronauts, women’s jobs are considered less prestigious than those that men hold, women are penalized career-wise for having kids, as a woman I have to deal with daily sexual harassment with very little recourse to justice, and I could go on and on. The default and ideal in our society is male and the whole idea behind the men’s right movement is just a little absurd to me. The privileges held by men are ridiculously enormous.

      As to the ideas you list… I would posit that many are all for better child care and abortion options where men are more a part of the decision. But the things you list are the vast minority of the other side of the coin. Like, do we not take rape accusations seriously because some women falsely accuse? What about the huge majority who can’t even report or be taken seriously when they do? Perhaps if people see rape accusations as valid charges that get handled professionally they will stop bringing up ridiculous cases. But then, people get falsely accused of other crimes like robbery and murder and etc and come out clean sooo… why is it any different? We don’t say that people can’t accuse others of robbery because sometimes people lie about it can we? And equal education, definitely. And how about women in math and sciences? We need to improve across the board for both genders not only for men in literacy. Clearly when we come to solutions for the things that the feminist movement is fighting for it will improve for both. What bothers me is this idea that women should just deal with the injustices we face and that we can only improve things for the men, leaving women stuck with the same issues.

      • Poul July 16, 2011 at 2:23 am

        You find the idea of men having rights offensive and at the same time wonder why there is stigma attached to being a feminist?

        • Traverse Davies July 16, 2011 at 2:40 am

          I don’t know that a deliberate misunderstanding and ridiculous cherry picking is useful here. Obviously from the context Amy wasn’t saying that she finds men having rights offensive. She was coming from the perspective that men have more rights than women (which is a highly debatable point… but not the same thing at all) and that for men to try and get more rights could be a very difficult thing under those circumstances.

    • Nymeth July 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      Amy made some excellent points already, but I just wanted to add that some of the things you sometimes see under the “men’s rights” umbrella (misinformation and plain erroneous claims aside, of course) actually ARE issues that feminists engage with. I don’t think feminism should have to apologise for not devoting half of its time to all the ways in which sexism affects men, but nevertheless there are feminist women and men out there who do devote a lot of time and energy to these issues. Very often, people who identify with the men’s rights movement simply misunderstand what feminism already is and does. The point you made about education is a good example. There’s a lot I could say about the moral panic that boys falling behind when it comes to literacy inspires versus the general acceptance of girls still being so under-represented in science careers. But even so, I am hard at work on a master’s thesis from a clear feminist perspective that deals with reading and gender and how the gap we currently see may have societal causes that aren’t at odds with the goals of feminism – quite the contrary. No longer policing how teen boys perform their gender and not implying that *of course* any self-respecting boy will stay away from any book deemed “girly” (or else) is a huge part of what feminism is all about.

    • Catherine July 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      I feel like I’m taking the bait here, but here goes. (And obviously, I do not speak for the entire community or for even part of it–just for myself.)

      Equal Parenting – Defaulting custody toward women after divorce helps to impoverish divorced women. But I don’t see how default 50/50 custody could work either–it’s my understanding that true 50/50 custody (meaning the child spends exactly half the time with each parent) is rare, and a judge once told me it doesn’t actually exist. I think that what would go a long way toward remedying this situation is for men to do a greater share of the childcare even while married, which would help to change cultural perceptions about the role of divorced fathers.

      Financial Abortion – I’m not sure what this means–a form of male abortion? Are you talking about forcing women to have abortions, killing the children after they are born alive, or divorcing children financially? I think I’m missing something here, so I have no comment.

      Paternity Fraud – If I’m understanding correctly, the man claims paternity because he believes he is the biological father, but in fact this is not true? In the only state with which I’m familiar with these laws, the legal remedy is already there–the father who is not the father seeks a court order, on the basis of mistaken fact, voiding his declaration of paternity. In cases where he would automatically be listed as the father regardless of biology (because married to the mother), he would have a short period after the birth to waive paternity without a court order or later would go through the same process if he chose to.

      False Rape Accusations – Just like any false accusation of crime, this is why we have the justice system.

      Equal Education – I have trouble understanding how the educational system can function well if groups of students are compared only to each other, rather than to an independent standard (i.e. boys as a group could be doing less well than girls, but both boys and girls could be failing or succeeding). Then, beyond that, I think the real test is whether their education was enough to support their future success. Gender disparities should, I think, be a hint toward studies that might point out improvements to the educational system, but the big story in this regard appears to be racial disparities.

      • Nymeth July 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm

        YES. There’s a lot I could say about how racial and socioeconomic disparities when it comes to literacy are repeatedly ignored because everyone is so determined to focus solely on gender and to look at boys and girls as uniform (and often essentialised) groups.

      • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm

        Equal parenting is a big deal to many in the mens rights community (before I get accused of mansplaining I have defended feminism on MRA blogs, it’s only fair that I do the opposite here…). Many men want to be more involved in their children’s lives, and are until the divorce. It often changes after the divorce as it did in my case, although my son and I are still quite close. In fact, there are many men who consider it shameful and ridiculous to be a sitcom parent, believing that men should be equally responsible for all things except giving birth and breastfeeding (and some of us even take up more of the other tasks to compensate). If we do this and are not SNAG’s we don’t really get a lot of credit for it outside of our homes. There are more of us than you think

        Financial Abortion is the concept that upon learning your partner is pregnant you can (and only up to the point where an actual abortion is possible) remove all claim to the child and disavow all responsibility, financial and otherwise. It leaves the woman with the choice to keep the child or not, but gives the man the same option. In the spirit of fairness I see this but on an emotional level I reject it completely.

        Paternity Fraud is a big one as well, and I understand why… sort of. In many states in the US there is now legal precedent that if you were the child’s acting father and thought you were the biological father you would be on the hook for child support even if it was subsequently revealed that the child was the result of an affair or similar. I don’t know how you can go from caring for a child to abandoning it as not yours because of a minor feature of biology, but I understand the anger I think (I haven’t been there myself).

        False Rape Accusations – If rape gets special status (a lowered burden of proof, which in some places it has an many feminists argue it should have more of) then so to do false rape accusations have to have special status, penalties greater than false accusations for other crimes for example. Now, that isn’t say that not having the accused found guilty of rape should be enough to trigger penalties, instead hold false accusation accusations to a high standard of proof (for example the woman admits it freely and of her own volition). Of course the problem with that is that it might result in less women recanting a false accusation… it’s a tricky one. I have a personal connection to this one due to some stupidity on my part as a young man (for details check out my blog… too much to go into here).

        The education thing has become a big deal lately. A lot higher percentage of girls are graduating high school and going on to post secondary education. The education system is actually massively failing boys right now, and has been since the 70’s.

      • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm

        Thanks for jumping in Catherine 🙂

  10. Quotable Feminism July 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    If Feminists do not hate men and truly support equality for all, you are doing a horrendous job of changing the attitudes of prominent Feminists.

    New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a bestselling book “The End of Men” questioning whether the male gender should be allowed to exist. Imagine if a male journalist had written a book called “The End of Women.” Despite her appalling bigotry, Maureen Dowd is still a prominent feminist with widespread support in your movement.

    Hillary Clinton stated that “Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.” Funny, but I would think the primary victims would be the guys that were killed? I guess Hillary doesn’t give a crap about them. Hillary Clinton is one of the world’s most prominent and powerful feminists, and enjoys widespread adulation in your movement.

    Jessica Valenti, prominent young Third-Wave Feminist and author of Full Frontal Feminism, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times demanding that men accused of rape be prosecuted as “guilty until proven innocent” thereby advocating bigoted gender profiling that resonates with Second-Wave Feminist claims that “All men are rapists.” Your movement continues to uphold Valenti as a respected young thinker.

    Amanda Marcotte is a popular Third-Wave Feminist blogger, and a notorious man-hater. Marcotte has a long history of horrendous bigotry against men. Amanda Marcotte has stated that
    -Men are only nice to women, ever, because they’re trying to get laid.
    -She has recently claimed that divorced men who commit suicide are terrorists, because the suicide hurts their ex-wives and children.
    -In her published book, Marcotte claims that women never commit domestic violence against men.
    -Marcotte became nationally famous for her bigoted and sexist rhetoric in attacking the Duke Lacrosse team and defending their false accuser. Marcotte continued the hateful rhetoric even after the young men were cleared of all charges.
    -Marcotte has claimed that the only reason why men talk about false rape accusations, is because they want to rape women and get away with it.
    Amanda Marcotte recieved no repercussions from Feminists for her bigotry, and still enjoys the support of your movement.

    If Feminism is undeserving of the stigma, why do prominent feminists prove the stigma over and over? And why do no Feminists call them out on it? It is not enough for you to state “Feminism doesn’t deserve the stigma.” You also need to back that up with actions. Calling out the bigots in your movement and arguing against them would be a start.

    The world is watching, ladies.

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Quotable Feminism, there is no policing in the movement and everyone is welcome to do and say their own thing. Clearly certain people get the most attention – as with any organization. The extremist opinions win out in media, always. Look at other organizations like, as I said before, the Christian church. Extreme fundamentalists are most often in the media and yet people are still welcome to call themselves feminists. They talk about the issues they see with the extremists in their own groups. Just like feminists do. The difference is that we have Christians in power to support the rights of the majority but not so much with feminists, so dissenting opinions don’t get as much attention.

      Ever wonder why only certain feminists get so much media attention…? And why only one soundbite and not their entire message and work is often quoted? And either way, a few comments or radicals hardly means equality and an end to discrimination isn’t something worth fighting for. Feminism is NOT what one person or couple people says it is, feminism is wanting to end discrimination. Simple as that.

      If you join the project and follow along with what we are doing here you will see that we have a large and varied group discussing opinions on a variety of classic books. You are welcome to join or not. But this is not an opinion poll and we are not saying anyone is right or wrong.

      • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 5:30 pm

        The name is an issue for many men. Feminism is not a word that supports the idea that equality is the goal… it is a very female centric word, and much of what is seen by the public fits that view as well. If I started a movement called masculinism there would be no question in peoples minds that I was trying to establish a male centred movement. I’m not trying to make claims about what feminism is, merely trying to help answer the stigma question. It’s a movement that is very strongly identified with one gender and that has made some missteps from a PR perspective towards gender bias in favour of women.

        If you put yourself in the shoes of a man, maybe a young one, who knows that he is less likely to end up in university than his female classmates, less likely to become a manager at a company (because management in most companies is more female than male, while the top position still remains largely male… although there is a thing with risk taking and evolutionary psychology that explains that) and that if you do get married you are likely to lose a large portion of your wealth and your children in the event of divorce… examine how that would feel. Don’t look at it defensively, since this isn’t trying to dismiss any of the (very real) problems that women face, it’s trying to show what it is like to not be one of the few males at the top of the food chain in the modern world. It doesn’t excuse societal sexism, it doesn’t make many of the things that have been done to women okay… Also Amy, I lived in Charlottetown for a bit. It’s a pretty backwards place in many ways (pretty though, just not a lot do in the winter). Even as far away as Halifax a lot of the attitudes are more modern… get to a bigger centre and it’s completely different.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm

          I can see the name turning some people off Traverse, but it does point to the fact that the majority of our cultural systems of inequality tend to favor males. NOT all of them, I realize, and less now than originally, but it has historic significance especially. Is another term necessary? Maybe. Is a term unnecessary as gingernutninja says above? Quite possibly. I wish we could turn it around like she suggests!

          But as to your examples… What about the women who can’t make CEO and knows she’ll never get to be president, face discrimination in her job and on the streets, will be penalized for taking time off to have a child, and etc? And if the woman makes more, she’ll lose out in the divorce too more than likely. I mean, it all comes down to gender stereotypes and cultural norms and values. Which we need to change for the better of both. The trade-offs right now for being a male far outweigh being a female… though I’m happy as I am anyway.

          And yes, PEI is lovely in the summer. I’ve moved to Toronto though which is a truly fantastic city! Though more harassment here, probably because I am outside of the home more and there are more people on the streets.

        • Traverse Davies July 16, 2011 at 2:48 am

          amymckie, I can’t respond directly to the post I want to due to comment depth, so responding to the same parent. You examples: A woman can make president or CEO, although it is rare it is becoming less so. It tends to require a style of risk taking behaviour that is more common in men, but when women do utilize it tends to be highly effective.

          Women will not be penalized for taking time off to have a child, they will lose opportunities… exactly the same as a man who takes that amount of time off will. It’s actually a pretty reasonable proposition. I do think more men should be encouraged to take time off for paternity leave, but the fact that a woman doesn’t advance as fast when she is taking a year off at a time is actually very, very fair and to not do that would be unfair to those that didn’t take the time off (just as much to women who chose not to have children).

          I don’t feel like in my life the advantages of being male have outweighed the disadvantages, but I also like who I am so I wouldn’t trade. It’s one of those things… if I had access to your memories as well as my own I might feel differently, but maybe you would as well. It’s impossible to know for sure.

    • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Right off the bat, what you are doing is flagrantly unfair. You answered the question about stigma, to some degree. You then tried to blame the people who are not guilty of these actions for not being strong enough in rejecting them. In fact, this is part of why feminism gets a bad name, because a number of feminists to exactly what you are doing (not all, absolutely not all). They blame all men for rape because they believe not enough men oppose rape (which to me is ridiculous). Judge the individual, not the movement or the gender… and that goes for the women too.

      • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm

        No Traverse, I am not trying to be unfair. I am trying to say that we have systems of inequality that privilege some voices over others, and that one voice isn’t allowed to dictate feminism as a whole. Individuals are blamed, as well as systems of inequality that continue to privilege some over others. So no, not all men can be blamed for rape, but our culture definitely has a big part to play, as does our justice system, and individual rapists. In fact, personally I pity rather than blame some rapists who are just living up to what they are taught through culture. What I think is unfair is saying that rape is fine and women are making it that how we react to it is an issue currently because we don’t agree with that crazy woman who made some stupid point that it is the fault of all men.

        Mostly in that comment and this discussion I am trying to remind people that we are working on a specific project here on this site and that it’s easy for people to jump in and disagree without actually joining in or participating in any way. If people want to jump in and say we’re wrong for this that or the other reason that is fine but not really what we are aiming for.

        We’re doing a post series (this is post 3 of 4) allowing those in our read-a-long (who may or may not be women, who may or may not identify as feminists) to explore these issues over a few weeks especially how it relates to the books that we’ve been reading. So this external discussion with those who aren’t at all interested in the project is cutting off the discussion that we had hoped to generate, if that makes sense.

        Part of me thinks it is an interesting discussion but the other part thinks that it just isn’t the place or time for it. If people want to join in, we’d love that… but we want people to join in for more than just telling us we’re wrong 😉 We want continued discussion on the books and how they relate and what is wrong or right in them.

        • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm

          Sometimes these wordpress comment things have spacing that makes things confusing. I don’t know if I replied in the wrong spot or if it was just hard to tell who I was responding to. I was responding to Quotable Feminism and his (I assume it’s a man) call for you and other women to decry feminists who you don’t agree with. It’s a bullshit request because you aren’t responsible for Maureen Dowd (who is a good writer even if I do disagree with some what she says). I entered this discussion with the spirit of answering the question asked, not trying to hang feminism. The stigma is there… does that mean it’s earned? I am not trying to answer that, I am merely trying to examine why it is there.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm

          Yes, agreed re the comment spacing being odd sometimes Traverse. And yes, that is what I’m trying to say. Can’t be responsible for anyone else. But how media gives attention just provokes / keeps up stigma. Sigh. It’s difficult isn’t it?

    • Jodie July 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm

      Yep it’s watching the feminist movement while the bigots and abusers in the male world go unnoticed and unpunished. Sounds about right.

      This is basically the Mrs Thatcher argument turned upon feminism. Whenever anyone suggests that it would be nice to see a female candidate for Prime Minister/ notices that there have been no female Prime Ministers since Thatcher everyone (I’m not joking, I’ve been in this conversation over and over) says ‘But what about Maggie?’ as if they’ve just uncovered some significant, relevant point that explains why women shouldn’t/couldn’t be given a shot at the role again. You get judged on the strength of one solitary female and don’t you forget it ladies. If you’re not all saints, then none of you deserves any opportunities.

      When feminism is discussed all the extremists get wheeled out by detractors (while the male gender essentialists are conveniently forgotten) to explain why feminism isn’t a good movement. Does anyone (apart from the feminists) turn around and say ‘Well the dudes have got some pretty shady characters in their camp, but they appear to be running the bloody world’? Does anyone turn around and take all the men to task and claim that they’re all like say V S Naipaul?

      Gender inequality – it’s right there in your argument. It’s your own partial focus that keeps the stigma in place across the whole of the (as Amy has so well explained) diverse feminist community, instead of concentrated where it should be (on individuals).

      • Jodie July 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm

        Oh damn that’s gone in the wrong place. Supposed to be in response to Quotable Feminism.

      • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

        Oh yes, it is very one sided. One ‘bad’ woman = woman can’t do it. Many bad men = meh, it happens. Because we have enough examples around to know it’s not the norm. But women don’t have the same opportunities sadly.

  11. Melissa July 15, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    I see the mansplaining MRAs have arrived. I don’t think anyone who starts with “I’m not anti-woman, but…” or ends condescendingly with “ladies” (as if only women can be feminists) wants to have a serious conversation. And all those names that have been dropped? PLENTY of feminists (myself included) have called many of them out at one time or another. There are tons of feminists who refuse to visit a lot of the major feminist blogs for a host of reasons. The Feminists aren’t one monolithic group with a handful of appointed leaders.

    Anyway.

    I think there’s a stigma because 1) it poses a threat to the status quo, 2) there’s been a lot of misrepresentation about what The Feminists have said/written/done (the bra burning myth, the “all sex is rape” myth, etc.), 3) a lot of the really out there stuff comes from second wave radical feminists, but people quote it as if it’s current, mainstream feminist dogma, 4) mainstream feminism has a history of alienating minority groups (not just POC, but lgbtq communities, poor people, etc, as well).

    That said, I think a lot of people who shy away from/reject the feminist label hold many of the same values as feminists.

    • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      As usual the truth is a bit more complex than that. Feminism is no longer a threat to the status quo, in many parts of society it is the status quo. Many of the issues that feminism faces are due to misrepresentation, and many are due to excesses on the part of particular high profile feminists. A number of fallacious claims that are widely accepted by feminism are part of it, and a fear of loss of power on the part of some men are part of it.

      Basically, there are a myriad of reasons, many of which actually come from feminism and many of which don’t.

      One thing that bugs me a lot is the simple act of separating genders where it isn’t warranted. For example, a production that raises money for heart disease in women specifically. Given that most disease based fundraising tends to help women over men, couldn’t this case be one where it’s just heart disease overall and not gender specific? That particular production was also guilty of the dismissal of minorities.

      • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:28 pm

        Oh, but umm… yeah, feminism is sadly still hugely a threat to the status quo from this side of the fence Traverse. And that is where things like ‘mansplaining’ get used. Though man I hate that term. I think the point behind it though which is that lived experiences are so often discounted does hold weight. Like, if I experience daily harassment and my coworker tells me to ‘get over it’, ‘its a compliment’, and that ‘it isn’t a serious issue’, he is refusing to listen and putting his own opinions over mine though he’s never lived it. Clearly this isn’t something that only men do though which is why I don’t like the term. I think we need a better way or saying can you please listen and then talk that doesn’t say it’s just men who do it? 🙂

        • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm

          I will never say that women don’t face issues due to their gender… it is hard to actually look at life and deny that fact.

          So, here’s the big sticking point as I see it. From my perspective I have seen a lot of upsides in life for women, and a lot of downsides for men. I have seen the opposite as well, but only because I was trying to look for them. Many of my male friends haven’t seen the upsides they themselves benefit from, because they aren’t obvious if they are something you have always had. Now, I also see that many, many women don’t see the downsides of being male very clearly, seeing only the upsides. This makes sense, they haven’t experienced those downsides for themselves. To me, the solution is for all of us to try and look at things as objectively as possible, to do the research (the 75 cents on the dollar thing isn’t exactly what it looks like form a casual glance for example – but it’s not as harmless as most MRA’s like to think either), to really look at each other with fresh eyes. If we can do that we can maybe find not only some common ground, but some ways to get past the bits without common ground (men and women are different, we have different biochemical makeups that mean things like different ways of communicating reach each of us better) and get along.

      • Melissa July 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm

        Well of course it’s more complex than that; volumes of books can be (and have been) written on the subject. I could have easily gone on listing reasons.

        “Feminism is no longer a threat to the status quo, in many parts of society it is the status quo.”
        And in many parts of society it isn’t. Also, just because an area is progressive/liberal doesn’t mean that it’s free of sexism/different forms of oppression.

        “One thing that bugs me a lot is the simple act of separating genders where it isn’t warranted.”
        Feminism isn’t about separating genders or promoting one gender above the other. It’s about advocating equality and trying to end systematic forms of oppression (personally, I prefer the term “kyriarchy” over “patriarchy”). It’s not like The Feminists are demanding that women get better education, medical care, jobs, etc. than men. I WANT my nephew and my brother and my male cousins to get good opportunities and an excellent education. I WANT my male relatives to be able to see their kids following a breakup or divorce. As a feminist, I demand it. But it’s equally (equally–not more) important to me that women get paid fair wages and have access to health care. It’s important to me that they don’t get treated like lying sluts when they report that they were raped. It’s important to me that they’re allowed to get an abortion if they need (or want) one without having to ask for permission.

        And as a woman of color (and feminist blogger) who has seen many of my fellow WOC feminist sisters get harassed online, belittled on major feminist blogs, or plagiarized by mainstream feminist bloggers to the point where they shut down their feminist blogs, it’s extremely important to me to hold people–feminist or not–accountable for their privileged BS.

        In regards to your comment down thread, if you’ve ever seen a feminist site that’s been descended upon by MRA trolls, then you’re well aware that “mansplaining” is an actual thing. Quotable Feminism? Mansplaining (and just being a general ass). Thread-hogging and going on and on with simplified generalizations about how men are right and feminists are wrong? Mansplaining.

        As for “check your privilege” (or “your privilege is showing”) being offensive? If you’re offended, then you probably SHOULD check your privilege.

        • Melissa July 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm

          Oh…and I forgot to mention that “mansplaining” and serious critiquing are not the same thing. Feminists SHOULD be critiqued when they screw up. But jumping in dismissively with no intention of listening to the other side: not cool.

        • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm

          Mansplaining is annoying because it shuts down discourse… although there are cases where shutting down discourse is a good thing, it’s an inherently sexist thing to say (how about “Stop being a jackass as an alternative?”) and has the implication that because it came from a man it is invalid.

          Check your privilege is annoying because you actually don’t know what my life was, what the privileges I experienced were and I don’t know for you either. I grew up among feminist hippies and had a mother who is to this day disappointed that I ended up a hetero male. I also lived in a place where there were only 28 white people… I know what being a minority is like. At the same time, I do know that since returning to Canada there are situations where my treatment was better due to the colour of my skin, and some where it was better due to my gender, and others where it was worse. I am probably more aware than most of exactly what my gender and colour mean in real terms. It seems to me that race is probably a bigger negative than gender in Canada (we are far more rascist than we like to let on up here) and that native Canadians really get the absolute worst of that equation (you can still say drunken indian in polite company and not be automatically shunned… it’s a sad thing). Thing is, most women I know are really blind to the privilege they experience, although I have also seen that it does tend more to white women than women of other races… the privilege that is. I don’t get offended by check your privilege, I just see it used far too often as a replacement for an actual argument.

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

      ❤ you Melissa 😉

      Sadly it usually is condescending (case in point, read the comments from where this is linked, saying we're emotional with low IQs, clearly). But yes, you make a really great point on how feminism has historically alienated so many groups. I love that it is being addressed now, with either new terms being used or staying under the same umbrella.

      And Traverse, good point about separating genders for research and etc. Breast cancer stuff especially. And even abortion rights, for example, affects more than just women. I really really love that so many younger feminists are pulling these things together and really being willing to take on the elders in the group and working from a truly humanistic approach encompassing everyone.

  12. ManBitesDog July 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I’d say it’s because there’s a disparity in what feminism is; between the every day feminism that most people ascribe too whether they realize it or not, and the radical feminism that seems to dominate the feminist narrative on the Internet.

    I used to think I was a feminist, until I started using the Internet more and discovered that if I brought up a point that countered the popular feminist narrative, I was “mansplaining”, If I pointed out when something that was said didn’t make sense, I was “speaking from privilege”. If I continued to disagree, then I’m a misogynist and on more than one occasion, from totally out of left field, a “rape apologist”! As a white, hetero male, I don’t often run into instances where my gender, skin colour or sexual preference are used as reasons to justify ignoring what I have to say, but when I do it usually involves the words “privilege” and “mansplaining”.
    (I’m not suggesting that privilege doesn’t exist, but that too often ‘privilege’ is used as a synonym for ‘shut up white boy’)

    I still feel like I’m for gender equality, I just don’t feel like I can contribute to that from the walled gardens that comprise the feminist Internet communities.

  13. Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    One more thing… terms like mansplaining and check your privilege do far more harm than good. They take someone like me, who is strongly pro equality (and sees issues on both sides of things) and tries to make them the enemy. It allows in men who are gelded emotional cripples with no ability to stand up for themselves and who are basically agreeing because all women are perfect goddesses who can do no wrong. Sometimes men are horrible to women, sometimes women are horrible to men. Some things that happen in society suck for women, some things that happen in society suck for men. As soon as you dismiss the very real distress a father is in over losing his child you have made him the enemy, even if a bit of kindness and courtesy could have made him a staunch ally. Not all men in the mens rights movement are assholes (although many are, believe me I have the death threats to prove it) and by tarring them all the same you are doing exactly what is being done to feminists. Try to see that justified or not, many men associate the feminist movement with the pain they feel over their children being taken from them, over being made to feel like they are less than people. Try to see that whether those men are right as to the causes, the pain they feel is real and by reacting to them with understanding you help them to understand as well.

    • Iris July 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      You see, the thing is.. using terms like “mansplaining” is something that bothers me. (I have to admit though, the term mansplaining is completely new to me – guess I learned something today). You see those kinds of reactions a lot in other equality groups too. Not everything is always about privilege, not every question mark placed at the door of some of the things raised in some brands of feminism is due to privilege, but how does that justify the reverse argument that “you’re all liars”? Because I’m sure most people in this group don’t use terms like that. Actually, if they had I’m sure I would have come across them before.

      Also, I personally would not say “my brand” of feminism would agree with women always receiving the rights to childcare. Look at our discussion on A Doll’s House and you will see that this is exactly what we discussed there.

      I have followed all the comments and the thing is. As much as Amy, Ana, Emily and I say that this is a blog where we discuss and organise group discussions of books that deal with what we consider to be questions of gender equality, or say that the very thing we are trying to discuss here is how the stigma came to be there, trying to focus on the diversity of the label “feminism”, the turn-around is that we get comments on “how the stigma is there because feminism is bad”. I see that you, Traverse Davies, may not be doing that and that you’re trying to find some middle ground. But frankly, I am a little tired of this whole discussion. This is us discussing why we, the people who are discussing books monthly, think the stigma to the label is there and yet decide to participate in a project that calls itself “Feminist Classics”. It was never meant to be a discussion between two sides screaming “feminism is good” and “feminism is bad” at each other. Our whole point was to try and understand what has happened to people of our generation(s) (and for most of the organisers that’s around the age of 25) and how scared teenagers often are to use the term feminism or gender inequality even, because of the media stamp. And quite frankly, some of the comments here are not helping moving forward from the prejudices to a constructive discussion at all.

      • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

        It’s a problem with opening up a discussion on something like this to the public. It wasn’t spelled out at all in the top post that this was meant as a mostly closed discussion. The question was what lends the stigma to feminism… it is likely that nobody ever gave a thought to the idea that this post would hit reddit (and even worse the mens rights subreddit). I personally subscribe to the mens rights subreddit and have used it as a way to work through some stuff that has happened in my life (nothing that makes me hate women or anything stupid like that, just some personal issues). However many of the men on that subreddit are pretty vitriolic, and this thread is going to be one where they are drawn in large numbers. I’m actually surprised it has remained as civil as it has… and I hope it doesn’t get worse.

        • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm

          Heh I appreciate that at least you can recognize that Traverse. I was a little put off reading what was there and thinking wait… aren’t we being told there is a stigma and we are man-hating as if it’s a bad thing?? But yes, we haven’t had this many hits before 😉 I think for ALL of us it’s important to think about where others are coming from and try to see it from their point of view.

  14. Evil Pundit July 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    This comment thread is a fine example of why the feminist label bears a stigma.

    • Traverse Davies July 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Personally I found a lot of the replies in this thread quite thoughtful and generous of spirit. It’s hard when someone comes into your space and starts to question the things you hold true… there are a couple of posts from feminists that were a bit sketchy, but equally many from men being anti-feminist. It’s a pretty mixed bag, with people like Melissa reinforcing the negative stereotypes about feminism and people like Quotable Feminism and yourself reinforcing the negative stereotypes about mens rights people.

      • Felidaeus July 16, 2011 at 12:23 am

        Traverse

        I’m curious why you would say Pundit is reinforcing a negative stereotype. You yourself have noted (and I personally find) that terms like “mansplaining” and “check your privilege” are overused and alienate possible allies. I’ve seen it taken to further extremes in Canadian universities, where if you don’t toe THE feminist line, you’ll be LITERALLY (I really, really, wish I didn’t have to use that word, but I do) excommunicated from the student discourse.

        As such, simply saying that “this comment thread is a fine example of why the feminist label bears a stigma.” is absolutely true. You have noticed it yourself. True, he doesn’t add much else, but it is a correct, if blunt, observation.

        And mens rights comment threads will often bear the same stigma.

        • Traverse Davies July 16, 2011 at 2:55 am

          Because he didn’t actually contribute anything at all. He didn’t say what about the thread was a problem, just threw out a quick note that made it seem as if all of the thread was the same. Even when Melissa used the term mansplaining she came back and tried to offer justification when challenged on it, and while I don’t agree with her I did feel that she presented a reasonable and intelligently argued case instead of the knee jerk response that I have seen in other gender based forums (on both sides). Presentation also matters. If come to /r/mensrights and start talking about not being gender normative.. expect to get slammed. If you come to a feminist literature blog and don’t communicate in a way that works in that venue, expect to get slammed. Expect more than that to be a barrier to communication and not an advocate of it.

        • Felidaeus July 16, 2011 at 8:02 am

          Eh, I guess I can’t really argue with that.

  15. wolfshowl July 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I actually wrote a whole post about why I identify as a feminist. Here it is: http://opinionsofawolf.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/feminism/

    Now, as to some of the commentators here defending the men’s rights movement, you do realize you’re sounding like white pride groups whining about reverse racism, right?

    • amymckie July 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      *snort* Thanks for the link Amanda. Off to check it out.

    • Evil Pundit July 16, 2011 at 12:45 am

      To me, some feminists talking about men sound like white supremacists talking about blacks.

      • Traverse Davies July 16, 2011 at 2:57 am

        Which ones? In what context? I am not saying you are wrong, but that should actually not be the deciding factor for the rest of them. Keep in mind that most feminists (despite the name) are part of a movement that they believe is in favour of equality, not female supremacy.

  16. Chrisbookarama July 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Sorry I haven’t been following the reading schedule but I do plan on reading some of the books. Hard to believe it’s half a year already.

    I will attempt to answer the actual question. I don’t know anything about politics and I’m not getting into that. From my own point of view, I would say there is a stigma in the minds of women that feminists only come in the loud, man-hating variety and they do not wish to be associated with that idea. They don’t want to be seen as a trouble maker, though I don’t think asking for what you need is looking to make trouble. I’m a mother (I stay at home) of a girl and I want her to live in a world that she feels safe in and one where I don’t have to worry about her every second of the day no matter where she goes. One where she can go as far as she wants to without being limited by her gender. I want that for all women.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the discussions around the classics.

    • amymckie July 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      It is hard to believe isn’t it Chris?? Thanks for following along the site anyway 🙂 Such a great point about your daughter. I dream of such a world!

  17. Felidaeus July 16, 2011 at 12:34 am

    If I had to give a big reason for the feminist stigma, it would be one that very many ex-feminists have also voiced:

    Feminism purports to speak for “women” (who?) and there is very little room for dissent in “mainstream feminism” about what it means to be female, and what male/female relationships should be. I have seen it in colleges, I have seen it in the media, and it is frightening to see. It may be hard to see from inside the feminist bubble, but from outside, I see women being pushed away, every day, because they have an opinion or voice an idea that is “verboten”.

    Ask yourself if you think that you can be pro-life and still be feminist. Or be a stay at home mom and still be a modern woman. If your gut reaction is “no”, you’ve found a part of the problem.

  18. Melissa July 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    I’m reading bell hooks’s “Feminism is for Everybody” right now, and it’s so appropriate to this conversation:

    “By the early ’80s the evocation of a politicized sisterhood, so crucial at the onset of the feminist movement, lost meaning as the terrain of radical feminist politics was overshadowed by a lifestyle-based feminism which suggested any woman could be a feminist no matter what her political beliefs. Needless to say such thinking has undermined feminist theory and practice, feminist politics…

    Feminist consciousness-raising for males is as essential to revolutionary movement as female groups. Had there been an emphasis on groups for males that taught boys and men about what sexism is and how it can be transformed, it would have been impossible for mass media to portray the movement as anti-male. It would also have preempted the formation of an anti-feminist men’s movement. Often men’s groups were formed int he wake of contemporary feminism that in no way addressed the issues of sexism and male domination. Like the lifestyle-based feminism aimed at women these groups often became therapeutic settings for men to confront their wounds without a critique of patriarchy or a platform of resistance to male domination.”

  19. Violet July 17, 2011 at 8:44 am

    There is a stigma attached to the feminist label because feminism is misunderstood by a great many people. That’s it. People are often afraid of what they don’t understand. Some people choose to become informed, and others choose to keep their eyes shut to reality and live in willful ignorance. But you know what? We feminists are not going to sit down and shut up. We are going to keep on doing what we do, and hopefully, one day, there will be equality of opportunity and responsibility for everyone, everywhere.

    I don’t think there is much point in engaging in nit-picking discussion about such things as bra burning: there are larger, more important issues at stake, and real problems to be tackled. To those who think feminists are misguided in our beliefs and actions, then I say, “Take another look at the world and tell me that the majority of people in the world have opportunity and status equal to white males”. Until they do, until the system of white male privilege is no more, until men give up their sense of entitlement, until the institutionalised white patriarchy ceases to exist, then feminists have much work to do.

    Rise up, sisters and brothers! 🙂

  20. Richard Aubrey July 21, 2011 at 2:31 am

    Had thought a lot about feminism one way or another for a long time. What fixed if for me was the feminists’ response to the Duke non-rape issue. They howled and condemned and demonized. No matter how weak the evidence got, they never gave up. Cooper’s investigation resulting in rare assertion that the accused were innocent did nothing to quiet the feminists. Saying “they didn’t do it” was likely to bring an accusation of “rape apologist”.
    Then there was a real rape. All the horrid things that supposedly happened to Mangum, but didn’t, really happened to Katie Rouse, raped in a Duke fraternity house. From the feminists…crickets.
    Tammy Bruce said the feminism is designed to support progressive causes and if a woman’s issue doesn’t support a progressive cause, it doesn’t exist. Perfect example at Duke.
    That fixed it for me.

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