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Ask a question

Here’s a thread for readers/lurkers to ask a question about some issue that just really confuses them. If you’re just not “getting” why some event, action or statement is riling feminists, and/or why is it that something which seems trivial to you seems to be a feminist big deal, ask here and I’ll do my best to give a short explanation and then direct you to detailed readings on that subject.

I sometimes might take a while to see comments and then respond. I invite other feminists lurking to respond to questions when I’m not around. Just everybody please keep in mind that this blog is a flamewar-free zone, and trust me to moderate any obnoxious/offensive comments strictly.

Also, if you are a pro-feminist lurker who wants a simple and clear explanation of an issue for someone who keeps on asking you about it, run it up the flagpole here and see if we can brainstorm a good response. It might even become an FAQ!

UPDATE: due to the arrival of disruptive commentors, I’m sad to be required to point out that asking a question without demonstrating that you’ve at least attempted to find (and read) an appropriate FAQ will not fill others here with goodwill towards such questioners. This site offers a smorgasboard, not spoonfeeding.

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writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

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215 comments on “Ask a question

  1. I would also be interested in a definition of sexism that is not so subjective and can be used with some degree of objectivity to judge a given situation.

    • To me it’s fairly clear and not especially subjective, asehpe. When examining a statement or action for sexism, the basics are whether it
      (a) expresses a double standard applied to the same behaviour depending on whether it is exhibited by a man or by a woman; and/or
      (b) is premised on a gender apartheid of “what men are” and “what women are”.
      Many sexist statements/acts are based on both (a) and (b), there’s no clear either/or divide.

      e.g. the idea that promiscuous men are admirable “players” and promiscuous women are contemptible “sluts” is a sexist double standard, while the idea that it’s unmasculine for a man to want to be a stay-at-home parent is sexist gender apartheid.

      There are plenty of other examples, and there are certainly more nuances and some grey areas which are more subjective than that, but that pretty much sums it up. There are a lot of people who say “I’m not sexist, I just believe that God says women should be the homemaker because my religion says so, not because I think women are inferior” but religion is not a get-out-of-sexism free card: such people just have to be intellectually honest about the fact that their religious beliefs are indeed sexist.

  2. Your definition is the one I myself have always used, tigtog. I am quite happy to see it put in these words. What prompted me to ask the question was seeing situations such as David’s and Hershele’s above–in which the word ‘sexist’ is used in a way that deviates from objective definitions (such as the one you provided) and wanders into subjective areas. This is a development which I feel uncomfortable with (though one might say it is inevitable; overusing words is a normal phenomenon — it seems to be occurring with terms like ‘fashism’ (especially in the Russian media), or ‘genocide’ or even ‘holocaust’).

  3. tigtog, a question: I suppose the ‘maybe’ in your reaction to Hershele’s post comes from the idea that a monogamous assumption in a committed relationship is often automatically made by both parties involved (i.e. Hershele’s girlfriend might have equally objected if s/he also had ‘cheated’ on her). I myself have a problem with ‘automatically made assumptions’, but I cannot fail to notice that they are often made, and it may be in many cases necessary to explicitly deny them in the beginning of a relationship rather than presuming that what was not said cannot be assumed. So much of our daily lives is based on assumptions made because of social conventions that are not repeated overtly at the beginning of every new interaction…

  4. Tigtog – you seem to be getting asked a lot of questions here, so sorry to add to the queue, but could I ask you to clarify why assuming someone should not not be sexually active with more than one person is obviously non-feminist? Did you mean if this principle was directed specifically at women or something along those lines?
    Sorry if this is nitpicking, but I’m interested in how feminism seems to get conflated(cool word, by the way) with progressive and liberal attitudes and wonder if there might be more to your statement than I’m realising.

    Hugh.

    • could I ask you to clarify why assuming someone should not not be sexually active with more than one person is obviously non-feminist?

      Assuming that another person is invested in the heteronormative serial monogamous view of relationships (to get the jargon out at you) is non-feminist. There’s absolutely no reason that everybody has to buy into that, and many people don’t. Don’t assume that your partner does.

      Now, there’s long been a double standard that it’s “OK” for men to be “players”, and that if a woman just expects a man to be faithful without him having made a promise then she’s a fool, but that at the same time that adulterous man is justified in automatically expecting a woman to cleave to him alone. Double standards are always non-feminist.

      Blaming someone else for assumptions that come back and bite one in the arse is immature. If an understanding has been breached, and deception has taken place, that’s a different thing entirely. I don’t know what the situation was in Hershele’s relationship, I was just making the point that one person’s assumption is never an adequate replacement for an actual discussion and mutual understanding.

  5. I think it’s the relationship between the “heteronormative” and serial monogamy which is bothering me. Surely the assumption of monogamy itself isn’t the problem, it’s the double standard you’re extrapolating to?
    I mean, given the social context, as you say, it’s not unreasonable to think this might be unequally applied, but is it ok to assume that it will be and denounce all assumptions of monogamy as anti-feminist?
    Does feminism necessarily imply sexual liberality, or acceptance of sexual liberality in other people?

    • Assumptions of monogamy are stifling. Monogamy is one of a range of sexual practises: a valid one, but not necessarily more valid than other choices just because it’s more traditional.

      It’s fine to decide that you personally prefer monogamy and that your own emotional health requires a partner who also values monogamous fidelity. It’s not fine to assume that someone you’re seeing shares your monogamous preferences without actually discussing where you both stand on this. Once you’ve declared yourselves to both be on the same page, then continued fidelity is a justified assumption, and a sense of betrayal if infidelity occurs is also justified. If you’ve never discussed it, then caveat amator.

  6. I was referred to this site after discussing image issues on the role-playing game website

    [snip long question that now forms the body of its own post - read here ~ tigtog]

    Thank you for hearing me out.

  7. Mmhmm, these are all good arguments, but I think someone could easily and reasonably have a very different opinion, and this wouldn’t have to be un-feminist or detrimental to gender equality?

    I guess what I’m worrying about is that while you can say feminism is ‘advocacy of women’s rights’, it’s also a whole community with it’s own history and culture, and it’s own assumptions(like that monogamy is just one amongst many equally valid forms of relationship, for instance), and that being a part of that community means first accepting those assumptions.

    (also, ‘caveat amator’ is an awesome phrase, and I hope you don’t mind if I steal it at some future point.)

    • Someone could easily and reasonably have a very different opinion about how they want to conduct one’s own relationships. So long as one doesn’t demand that other people cleave to the same opinion with regard to how they conduct their relationships, then someOne’s opinion is not un-feminist.

      It is unfeminist to assume that monogamy is the only valid form of relationship. In terms of the larger boundaries of one’s feminist consciousness, this may be a relatively minor stumbling block. However, a stumbling-block it certainly is.

      Accepting that other forms of relationship are valid does not mean that you personally have to become a partner in a non-monogamous relationship in order to be a feminist. Just that you need to accept that this is a valid choice for others, and that one shouldn’t assume that anyone you find yourself attracted to will necessarily share your monogamous outlook, in which case you may find that you need to walk away from pursuing that relationship to be content. Walking away is not un-feminist, but demanding that your inamorata become monogamous just for you could well be.

      • This discussion regarding the assumption of monogamy and its role in feminism is really interesting.

        I agree with tigtog that there is more acceptance of men being ‘players’ than women but only amongst those not in a relationship with them. I think the vast majority of women who enter into a ‘serious’ relationship with a man have an assumption of monogamy. I would argue that it is only in the realm of casual relationships that the double standard exists. Deciding what is a serious relationship and what is a casual one may sometimes be tricky but most of the time it is not.

        In any relationship that involves one partner with an assumption of monogamy and one with an assumption of polygamy, only the partner assuming monogamy is ever going to be hurt. So there is an inequality here but if the relationship is serious then it doesn’t strike me as a feminist issue. It’s still an issue regarding societal assumptions but I think it’s only a feminist issue as relates to casual relationships.

      • Sorry, just to clarify my previous post; it relates to western culture. In said culture, it appears to me that in serious relationships men and women equally seem to have the expectation of monogamy. So, from this point of view I don’t see how the assumption is a feminist issue – it favours neither men nor women (and the only minority group it disadvantages is polygamers – is this alone enough to make it a feminist issue, feminism being an encompassing minority movement?). Clearly this is not the case in some other cultures. Is it possible to make an assumption that is sexist only in some cultures and not others?

        That’s not to say that an ‘open relationship’ is wrong, nor that you can’t be committed to more than one partner. However, I’m having trouble seeing how you can _fully_ commit to more than one partner (there must be situations where a choice has to be made). For that reason anyone fully committing themselves to one partner is likely to feel hurt if they discover their partner does not share that commitment. Nobody wants to hurt their partner(s), and this is why a lot of people seem to think that the onus must be on the partner who favours an open relationship to bring up the issue. The monogamous partner is incapable of hurting their partner through monogamous actions, the inverse is not true.

    • (is that the right button to press?)

      “It is unfeminist to assume that monogamy is the only valid form of relationship.”

      I’m still not seeing why this is? Does the same go for other types of relationships – would it be equally unfeminist to disapprove of relationships with very large age differences, for example? Or relationships conducted entirely by email?
      Is this a more general issue of society at large disapproving of choices individuals may make? And how does this relate to women’s rights?

      Thanks,
      Hugh.

  8. Really, I find nothing wrong with an assumption of monogamy. By far, (at least in the places I’ve lived), it’s the default. When someone says they’re looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend, they’re usually meaning a person to be in a committed relationship with. Not that they’re looking for someone that will endlessly cheat on them and call it romance, or that they want to do the same to someone else.

    Really, I think the burden should be on the partner with non-monogamous intentions to announce themselves. As I said, most people assume monogamy, and would require someone to say otherwise.

    It would be different if most people assumed that their partner would just sleep with half the city, and then they would require intentions of monogamy asked/stated up front.

    When one is the standard/default, and the other is the fringe, that’s not practiced in nearly the quantity, the one that’s less common needs to be the one announced.

    • When one is the standard/default, and the other is the fringe, that’s not practiced in nearly the quantity, the one that’s less common needs to be the one announced.

      Do you have the same opinion towards religious views? If someone you work with belongs to a minority religious affiliation? If not, why not?

      Suggested reading: a metric buttload of stuff on the concepts of privilege and entitlement.

  9. When one is the standard/default, and the other is the fringe, that’s not practiced in nearly the quantity, the one that’s less common needs to be the one announced.

    What this comes down to is saying that you don’t need to actually get to know her views on the matter. You’re treating her, in this respect at least, not as an individual, but as a generic fiancee/wife, whose characteristics you can assume based on her membership in a category.

    This is a reasonable way to treat 40w light bulbs, but not human beings. Least of all someone who you supposedly have a close personal relationship with.

    This is the basis of sexism, racism, etc.: the idea that we males/whites/etc. are individuals, but those non-males/non-whites/etc. are just an undifferentiated mass of equivalent clones.

    Suppose she assumed that you must love football because you are male, and kept giving you football-related gifts, without ever bothering to notice whether or not you like football. (If you happen to like football, replace “football” with some other stereotypically male taste that you don’t happen to share.) Wouldn’t you feel pretty insulted, or at least unloved? Like, why doesn’t she notice that I’m not a football fan?

    A second aspect is that the default assumptions in our society are mostly sexist, so if you just go with default assumptions, you can be pretty sure you’re going to just be perpetuating sexism.

  10. To the community of the Finally Feminism Blog,

    I have been reading this blog to help change my view on feminism. I have never had a negative view on feminism, but I seem to not be able to be motivated, or overly-enthusiastic about it, the same way I feel about humanitarian work I’ve been involved in. My close cousins and I have been on trips to El Salvador, raised money for delivery blankets, helped build schools, and all that wonderful stuff, and I feel amazing being a part of it.
    I’ve been thinking it’s an emotional attachment I’m lacking.

    Say I never become emotional, or involved with feminism, is it a bad thing? Even though I have suffered sexual abuse from men, I find it hard to relate to women who have unfortunately experienced the same thing. I don’t know weather this is the result of not knowing much about feminism, or my own personal problems. Either way, it is still unnerving, and it would be great to hear some of your thoughts.

    Sincerely,

    André H.

    • Say I never become emotional, or involved with feminism, is it a bad thing?

      You can still be an ally, even if rather a neutral one. That’s better than being anti- feminist.

  11. Do you have the same opinion towards religious views? If someone you work with belongs to a minority religious affiliation? If not, why not?

    Suggested reading: a metric buttload of stuff on the concepts of privilege and entitlement.

    I don’t see how religious views even relate to this discussion. I purposely avoid religious entanglements in the workplace.

    Secondly, what does privilege and entitlement have to do with it?

    Monogamy is the standard here, and both men and women assume it. Like I said, since monogamy is the standard assumed by the majority of people, if your intentions are non-monogamous, it should be up to you to make that clear, not the inverse.

    What this comes down to is saying that you don’t need to actually get to know her views on the matter. You’re treating her, in this respect at least, not as an individual, but as a generic fiancee/wife, whose characteristics you can assume based on her membership in a category.

    I fail to see what you mean. Are you attempting to say that if she wants to cheat and sleep around, I need to make an effort to “get to know her views”? No. If those are her goals, she should be up front with them. Same with a male who wishes to do that to a female.

    Like, why doesn’t she notice that I’m not a football fan?

    So someone should just “notice” that their partner likes to sleep around? Yeah, no.

    I make it very clear that I’m not a sports fan whatsoever. Why? Because the majority of males in this country are, and as I differ from that default, I make it clear.

    A second aspect is that the default assumptions in our society are mostly sexist, so if you just go with default assumptions, you can be pretty sure you’re going to just be perpetuating sexism.

    So it’s sexist to assume your partner won’t be endangering your physical and emotional health by sleeping around? Interesting.

    And people wonder why I generally don’t mess around with relationships, lol.

    • David, I’d like to point out that there’s an important difference between open or polyamorous relationships and cheating.
      Cheating implies there’s an agreement that’s been broken, that the ‘cheater’ had committed to monogamy and broken that commitment. In an open or polyamorous relationship there is no commitment of that kind.
      (You might want to be a little careful about the phrase “sleeping around” too.)

      I don’t think this alters the rest of your argument.

  12. David, I’d like to point out that there’s an important difference between open or polyamorous relationships and cheating.

    Not to me. Both are emotionally unhealthy, and physically risky.

    (You might want to be a little careful about the phrase “sleeping around” too.)

    Nope. That’s what it is, that’s what I call it.

    Besides, I don’t believe that an “open” relationship is a relationship. You’re not committed to any one person, you’re just having sex with whomever. There’s no romantic relationship there. There’s just casual sex.

    • If you want to draw a moral equivalence between cheating and open relationships that is one thing(*), but to say they are the same is just factually inaccurate. To be cheating the person needs to be breaking the rules, open relationships are just playing by a different set of rules and however much the disapprove of those rules, they haven’t been broken.

      And ok, if that’s what you were intending with the phrase “sleeping around” caution is not needed. But again, this is just inaccurate – open relationships, and I think polyamory in particular, are not about “having sex with whomever”, they’re about having committed, and often long-term, non-exclusive relationship(s).

      Again, I think this is a side-issue to what you were actually asking, but I feel it’s important to correct this.

      (* – in fact whether feminism and the feminist community can/should accept this kind of opinion is very much what I was asking about)

    • Really? The fact that I’ve been in relationships with both of my partners, to the exclusion of others for four years each is just casual sex? So anniversaries, them visiting me in the hospital when I was sick, and oh, living with one of them was just casual sex? Jesus. One of us is Doing it Wrong, and I don’t think it’s me.

      • I’m sure it will be no surprise to you that David judges you harshly for your relationship choices, BeccaTheCyborg.

        As his assertions are just getting repetitive now, I’ve deleted them. But lurkers note: insisting the your particular way is the only right way is textbook entitlement. David’s refusal to see that societal norms are privileged behaviours is textbook denialism, too.

  13. And ok, if that’s what you were intending with the phrase “sleeping around” caution is not needed. But again, this is just inaccurate – open relationships, and I think polyamory in particular, are not about “having sex with whomever”, they’re about having committed, and often long-term, non-exclusive relationship(s).

    You can’t really be “committed” to someone if you’re with multiple people at once. That’s not committing.

    • Assertion without evidence.

      You have an alarming lack of self-knowledge and self-examination regarding your privilege and entitlement issues all tied up in “monogamy is the standard”. Monogamy is a common tradition, but expecting others to honour your tradition above all is the very essence of privilege and entitlement.

      You are becoming tedious, and if all you can do is stamp and say “is so is so is so” then please don’t comment any more.

    • You commit to several people. It’s still commitment.

  14. To the ranter who just posted on this thread with long-refuted garbage about the gender gap in wages, there is a dedicated thread on the gender gap on this site. Your comment belongs there.

  15. Oh, on a only-tenuously-related topic I should’ve asked feminist folks about a while ago:
    I came across the “pro-ana” ‘anorexia as a lifestyle choice’ movement a while ago, and it struck me that this is very much using the kind of ideology feminist folks talk about – about individual choice being paramount and society having no right to judge or intervene or disapprove?
    So I guess my question is this: (Assuming you folks would not support thes ‘pro-ana’ type things) Is it valid for society to disapprove of people taking these positions, and try to intervene to change their minds? Is this not another form of privilege?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hugh, I would argue that yes it is valid for society to be concerned (disapproval isn’t a word I would use in this case, understanding is more important) because anorexia is a disorder, characterized by changes in brain chemistry. Enabling anorexia is akin to standing back while a person with a broken leg keeps walking.

      Anorexia is not a lifestyle choice. It is a disease which is more prevalent in cultures that value “thinness” (btw the quest to be thin is not the only contributing factor in anorexia). If we truly want to combat anorexia we need to shake up our thinking in regards to what is and isn’t attractive. Women should not be held to impossible beauty “ideals”

      • Hi Alexa, thanks for your answer.
        These arguments make sense, but aren’t they the same arguments people would use to support homophobia?
        There’s some evidence to suggest homosexuality involves measurable differences in brain chemistry, and homophobia supporters would say it’s harmful to the individual(if, say, a person wants to have children, being homosexual would make this more difficult for them). So they would say homosexuality is a disorder, and supporting and affirming it’s “sufferers” is harming them, in much the same way you liken pro-ana to watching someone walk on a broken leg.
        There I think we would all say that this is obviously wrong, that it’s a gross invasion of freedom to want to impose these views on a gay person, to try to tell them they are wrong, and ill, and need help to be ‘cured’. And I believe pro-ana supporters would say much the same thing – that if they don’t feel anorexia is an illness then we have no right to contradict them.
        So what’s the difference here? Isn’t this a systemic flaw in this whole ‘progressive’ model of lifestyle choices and the relationship of individuals to society as a whole?

        (Also, I think I should clarify that when I say ‘disapproval’, this is directed at pro-ana, not anorexia itself.)

        Hugh.

  16. Does anyone here know about the company called Renaissance Learning that publishes a reading guide that is used by many schools now to grade a students reading level? There is a search engine for suitable grade level books called http://www.arbookfind.com/.

    You probably know about this if you have a student in a public school. However, I have found that my daughter, who is an advanced reader (moved up during year from 7th to 8th grade), has a difficult time finding books that interest her.

    For example, if one were to do a general sort of upper grade level books (7th to 12th), there are 477 pages (20 entries per page). But if one narrows the search to only fiction, there are only 17 pages. All the rest are non-fiction.

    Furthermore, many books that would definitely have been upper level (college say?) with a feminist leaning (Mists of Avalon for example) have been downgraded to 6th grade or lower. Other authors such as Ursula K Leguin or Doris Lessing (Nobel Prize Winner, HELLO) are conspicuously absent. Huck Finn is a 6th grade book, while Tom Sawyer is a much higher level. There also seem to be a lot more Christian type books appearing over the last couple of years. Whats up with this?

    Who runs this company, and who decides what books will be included in any particular grade level? Does anyone any information about this? Am I just imagining a bias here?

  17. Hello, I really need some advice on proving to my boyfriend that girls “covering up” and “staying indoors” will decrease incidents of rape. I told him how 70% of rapes are committed by somebody the victim knows so “staying indoors” wouldn’t help and that the way a women looks makes no difference because rape is about violence and control (and that women of all ages, shapes and sizes have been raped). However, he argued that sexual attraction is sometimes an influential factor (I didn’t want to believe this but also found this claim on a rape myths website).

    I find it really hard to argue when someone says that a woman could reduce risk by not being drunk, dressing “provocatively” and by not walking around at night. I usually say that women should not have to limit their freedom but he replied that because rape exists, we should limit our freedom. How can I successfully argue against this? I think its victim blaming but he equates it with not leaving your car unlocked in a bad area.

    Please help, I feel so frustrated trying to articulate to my boyfriend and others why what we wear or when we go out doesn’t reduce our risk of being raped!

    • There are plenty of very appropriate comments below (by tigtog) that answer your question re going out and chosen form of dress.

      Not being drunk probably does reduce your chances of being raped though. The reduced awareness, impaired judgement and slowed reactions you have when you are drunk makes you more susceptible to a whole host of crimes. When you are drunk it is easier to find yourself in a dangerous situation and harder to fight off an attacker. It doesn’t matter whether the crime is being mugged or being raped this applies.

      Drinking is inherently dangerous because there are predatory people about. But base jumping is inherently dangerous too. Does that mean you shouldn’t do either, no it doesn’t. You should however consider the risks first.

      Does you being drunk make these crimes any less wrong: no. A car thief is given the same sentence whether the keys are in the ignition or not.

      Disclaimer: I never have and never will take a substance that impairs my ability to think, including alcohol, unless there is a good medical reason for it. My philosophical objection to alcohol may bias my comment here.

  18. Alexa: That’s a tough one, and has always been a tough one, because speaking completely objectively, it *does* reduce the risk of rape. However, that is a problem with society and the violent culture we live in, rather than a problem with the way women act or dress.

    • G, what evidence do you have that women restricting their behaviour (staying indoors etc) does actually reduce the risk of rape?

      • Adding more here: to posit that women sequestering themselves does actually reduce rape sees rape as purely a crime of opportunity, an impulsive act that occurs because a man is tempted and falls to temptation. Do you really think that is how rape happens?

        The experience of rape survivors gives us tales of deliberate predation, including all those date rapists who “just” block an exit and won’t let their date leave unless she has sex with them. What do predators do when their targets aren’t out in bars or returning home from work late at night? They hunt them elsewhere, including in their homes (and if you think your home isn’t easy to break into for someone who really wants to break in, you’ve not thought about it enough).

  19. Hi, Thanks for your reply. That makes a lot of sense. I knew it wasn’t the case that staying at home would be safer. As an aside even if it were true, it is a ridiculous presumption – do we tell car crash victims they deserve it for driving or mugging victims they should have stayed at home instead of walking to work?

    I also figured the fact that 70% of rape is committed by someone the victim knows (presumably in a place we would consider safe, like home), so staying at home isn’t safer at all.

    I’m so happy I found this website!

  20. All of my life, I’ve assumed I was a feminist. I’m a male who doesn’t fit into the ‘this is what a male is and these are the interests males have’ category so I’ve always identified and been close with women. I believe in gender equality and actively call out instances of discrimination when I come across them. Recently though, I’ve started reading more feminist literature and have been checking out feminist blogs, and much of what I’ve read recently I disagree with or find alienating. I guess my question is: Can I actively disagree with what appears to be the dominant opinion within the Feminist community without be anti-Feminist?

    Also, I’d love to find someone who is well versed in feminism to discuss some of the individual issues with which I’ve taken issue, but don’t really feel comfortable doing it on a public forum. Would it be appropriate to use the contact email for this site to start a have a dialogue about particular issues?

  21. I’m not sure whether this counts as “Feminism 101″, but I’ve always wondered:

    Men’s concern with “masculinity” is all over the media — whole magazine articles, books, movies, etc. get devoted to male agonizing over whether they’re maculine enough, or what is masculine, etc.

    I don’t see much space devoted to women agonizing over their “femininity,” and I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from this:

    1. Women just aren’t so worried about their femininity, or

    2. It’s there, but it’s different enough that I don’t recognize it, or

    3. Since such agonizing doesn’t impact Teh Menz, the Media, being a patriarchal institution, don’t consider it worth devoting much space to.

    I do notice a lot of the advertising directed at women seems to include some sort of reassurance of femininity in their pitch; I’m not sure where that fits in all this.

    • AMM: I’m sure there is a media bias and lack of awareness of agonising over femininity but I would say the main reason is the first you’ve guessed at.

      Greater agonising over masculinity by men is an inherent consequence of a patriarchal society. In a patriarchal society the traditional traits of masculinity are considered, by definition, to be more desirable than those of femininity. Thus if a man forsakes any of those traditional masculine traits he is seen as weak. In pursuing traditional feminine traits he gives up part of the power gifted him by the patriarchy.

      Contrast this to the inverse: Resistance to women taking on masculine traits (among other reasons) comes in the form of men not wanting to share their power, and women who don’t see why other women should exert masculine power.

      Thanks to the good work of the feminist movement, when we see a woman in a non-traditional role we are more likely to see her as someone attempting to improve on her ‘station’ in life. But reconciling a man displaying a ‘lesser’ trait is harder. So why would they desire femine traits you ask?

      Well, because traditionally feminine traits aren’t inherently weaker, that is just the impression that a patriarchy enforces. For instance, women are seen as being more emotional, but being more emotional is not a bad thing! Research suggests that more emotive people form better relationships with those around them, and in doing so create a support structure for themselves. For this reason, men are much more likely to suffer from social/mental illnesses later in life as a result of social isolation. They are detached from their family and friends on an emotional level. To some degree wearing your heart on your sleeve is actually a desirable trait.

      Yet, should a man display a heightened emotional state he is seen as weak, his associates by association are also seen as being weak, and so he is ostracised.

      Because of this men actually agonise more. It’s not that women don’t agonise just that a patriarchal society by giving a greater status to masculine traits actually makes it less acceptable for men to strive for feminine ones than the other way around.

      Of course a patriarchy saves most of the desirable traits/positions for men, but where this is not the case, greater agonising results.

      It might also be worth noting that the Victorian idea of ‘spheres of influence’ can be seen as a compensatory tool for the patriarchy, used to keep women happy with their station. This tool, while considering the sphere less important gives women more power within that sphere. This helps explain why there may be some positions of value that the patriarchy hasn’t claimed exclusively for men.

    • Very belated answer to AMM here:

      I don’t see much space devoted to women agonizing over their “femininity,” and I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from this:

      Every second ad is devoted to telling women that they’re not feminine enough unless they buy product X and why not buy product Y just to be on the safe side. Every second magazine story is either lauding a celebrity for her feminine perfection (subtext: you should do more to be like her) or shaming a celebrity for failing to meet the beauty standard (subtext: you should do more to avoid being like her).

      With all this constant media attention paid to ways in which other women are better than you, or showing you how much scorn is poured on women who don’t measure up, no explicit agonising is required – it’s all taken care of implicitly as part of the consumerism parade.

  22. A coworker whose wife is a feminist said that “because she’s a feminst there are certain things she won’t do”. I’m not sure if he meant in the bedroom, in general domestic life, work life, or all of the foregoing.

    Can someone tell me what he may have meant (i.e., what she likely won’t do)? I don’t know much about feminism, but I’d like to learn, since many of the ideals seem to resonate with me.

    I’ve read the FAQs and other materials discussing what feminism is, but none of them boil it down to this level of specifics. I’m an accounant, so perhaps that’s why I have trouble conceptualizing things without examples put in specific terms, but I do, so I’m stuck in my prgression until I can wrap my brain around some specifics like understanding my coworker’s statement. At this point, let set aside any value judgments regarding the apporopriateness of his staement. ( have my own thoughts on that topic, but that’s not the question I’m asking here).

    My coworker referred to his wife as “an unreconstructed feminist”. I don’t know what that means. The only things I know she doesn’t do (that may or may not be related to feminism) are: she doesn’t carry a pocketbook, and she avoids attending his family and work social events.

    I’m truly not trying to offend anyone, just seeking to understand. Can anyone help?

  23. C’mon. Somebody must have an answer to this question.

  24. Actually, nobody knows what your coworker means except your co-worker.

  25. I’m afraid the lack of answers to your question springs from (hang on, can an absence spring from something, or only a positive presence? Anyway – ) the lack of concrete detail provided. I suspect your coworker was making what he regarded as a humorous throwaway line, probably designed to be puzzling (or am I ascribing him too much wit?).

    If we are to address as a serious question: “what things will feminists not do?” we first have to allow for vast variation between individuals based on what they think is important, then factor in the sad truth that we all do things that compromise our principles in order to get by in a patriarchy, and the degree of that compromise will be influenced by how much personal power and agency we are able to accrue to ourselves from other advantages we might have (class, race, education etc.). It might then, broadly speaking, be that a feminist will not defer to a man merely because he is a man, nor value him, his work, his time, his rights, his wants or his opinions, more highly than she would were he a woman.

  26. Orlando, Thanks so much for your response. Sadly, it is likely you do ascribe too much wit to my coworker. I could tell from his tone that he was serious and even annoyed by these perceived “shortcomings” on his wife’s part. The comment was couched as more of a complaint than an observation. And I thought, “how can he love this woman and not respect her values?”

    He truly is a nice man, so I was surprised at the venom of his tone when he shared this information. It was out of character. So I thought perhaps I was mis-understanding what it means to be a feminist, or perhaps she takes what are otherwise valid feminist ideals too an extreme? For instance, if she refused to do any domestic chores (cooking, cleaning, etc.) leaving him to do them all, that would be a valid complaint in my estimation. Or if she was selfish in bed, to the exclusion of his pleasure – also a valid complaint.

    Am I off base here?

  27. The trouble is that, very often, an adjustement to an equal balance is so far from what people are used to that it is perceived as according the woman ‘special’ or ‘greater’ rights. There are posts that go into this in detail on and linked to this blog that you would be as effective as me at digging out, but just as an example: I remember writing a cross letter to a magazine once that had printed an article that said men were ‘disadvantaged’ because they were now making up only 52% of places to study medicine at university. Now, how do you think a man feels if he is asked to go from doing 10% of the housework to, say, 40%? Like that’s only fair? Like he should actually do a bit more if it’s going to be really fair? Or cheated and resentful?

  28. Lauren, here is an article regarding what orlando is talking about, which I found from the “What Is Male Privilege?” article in the FAQ here. The thing about married women who don’t change their name is especially telling, in my opinion.

    http://www.trickster.org/symposium/symp181.htm

  29. My new question here is this:

    I see many, many feminist websites trying to push the view of “Feminism is good for men, too!” without ever providing a single example.

    I see, however, tons of examples of how it DOESN’T benefit men, such as the attempts to eradicate stereotypes that feminists deem harmful to women, while simultaneously upholding stereotypes that are harmful to men. Or, situations where what’s “good for the goose” is NOT “good for the gander”/double standards/etc.

    So, my question is, how can one say that feminism has any benefits whatsoever for men?

    • Feminism isn’t man hating. It’s saying that both sexes can be treated fairly. A woman doesn’t have to be sh*t on in the workplace and called Ilsa of the SS because she wears a skirt to her CEO office. A man doesn’t have to be sh*t on in the kiddie park because he has his kids on a leash and spit up on his shoulder.

      Since we live in a patriarchal culture, feminism is like the alternative voice. There’s TONS of stuff in patriarchy that is bad for both goose and gander (e.g. Man strong! Man not man if man not win bread! Man only eat hamburger!), if only cuz it’s so terribly outdated and limiting.

      Feminism is more expansive.

  30. Aha! A few lights just wet on. (1) Kandel, you state the obvious that I have overlooked – just ask him.
    Lala: I kept my name when I got married and didn’t even realize there were any “feminist” aspects to that choice. The choice simply felt right.
    Orlando: You may be right about his perception vs reality. Thanks all for reching out to help me. I think I’ve got a path now.

  31. Aha! A few lights just wet on. (1) Kandel, you state the obvious that I have overlooked – just ask him.
    Lala: I kept my name when I got married and didn’t even realize there were any “feminist” aspects to that choice. The choice simply felt right.
    Orlando: You may be right about his perception vs reality. Thanks all for reaching out to help me. I think I’ve got a path now.

    • Lauren, I don’t understand. Why are you telling me that? I don’t see how that’s relevant to the issue?

  32. Why do you talk about gender so much?

    OMG this is the bane of my existence when interacting with groups of men or mixed groups. Why do I talk about gender so much? Well, because I see upsetting perpetuation of gender roles so much. The worst is the males talking loudly about things that no one else cares about and the women just sitting an listening, then a reversal happens where the women talk about something of interest to them and are made fun of by the men.

    I talk about gender issues a lot because I see them a lot and I see them used to discriminate, denigrate, and otherwise negatively impact women. Can there be an FAQ post that elaborates this and addresses why feminist care about this stuff so much? Ideas from others would be a benefit to me and, I assume, many other women.

  33. I’ve been meaning for a while to ask about making feminism attractive to non-feminsts.
    I’ve seen a few times feminist folks saying that they have no obligation to make feminism attractive or to convince other people. And a lot of the time I can see why, that anti-feminist people are using this manipulatively, that it’s very much “I’m not part of your movement so you must do whatever I say in the hope I will join”. But at the same time it seems to me that there *is* a point there, that since feminism is a political movement if you support it there is some kind of an obligation to help it grow, to convince other people that it’s the right thing to do. Maybe no on everyone else’s terms, and maybe not at *every* opportunity, and definitely not if it means watering down the principles you’re arguing for in the first place, but still.
    So, am I entirely wrong?

    • I don’t think you are entirely wrong, but I also don’t think that there’s One True Answer here.

      The appropriate response to tone arguments (“but why can’t you be less angry/less scary/less confronting”) is going to vary depending on who is making the argument.

      if it’s a disingenuous anti-feminist, often the response that best limits the intended energy-draining of the distraction is simply a raised middle finger.

      There’s lots of positive feminist outreach happening all the time. But here we tend to get a preponderance of aggressive accusers, so that’s not going to be our zeitgeist .

  34. Can a feminist also be a patriot? It’s a difficult questions for me to answer. Personally, I feel my feminism excludes any feelings of patriotism, but I’m sure there are others who disagree.

    Since many institutes which constitute a nation are inherantly patriarchal, and many of the elements of national identity are the same, it’s very hard for me to imagine how the two, feminism and patriotism, can be reconciled.

    I’d appreacite links to further reading on this subject.

    • Can a feminist also be a patriot?

      I’d have to say… no. Being a patriot requires being proud of your country. I’m certainly not proud of America or it’s infamous history.

      Feminism is opposed to all forms of oppression (well, it’s supposed to be, anyhow)… and this country was established by means of oppression.

      • I’ll say yes. It depends on what country you live in.

        I’d like to think that one day the US (my country as well) will be in a place that makes me feel patriotic more of the time. Sure infamous history but good things too: Civil Rights movement, Feminism, Flappers!, old Hollywood … there are lots of things that are good, lots of things that are bad.

        I still feel that the heart of feminism is concerned with tolerance and giving others respect to be themselves. It’s not that women and men are exactly the same, it’s that individuals from both sexes have a right to whatever gender identity they like / equal rights / equal treatment, etc.

        That fluid nature means that there’s no, “I’m a feminist, therefore I won’t … ” or “I’m a feminist, therefore I ALWAYS …” Every feminist, like every stoner, is different.

        So my answer is YES. Yes, a feminist can also be a patriot if s/he wants.

      • I’d like to think that one day the US (my country as well) will be in a place that makes me feel patriotic more of the time.

        We’re living on stolen land that once belonged to Native Americans. The concept of “American Patriotism” is a joke. What’s to be proud of? Theft? Slaughtering of innocent people? Slavery?

        Sure infamous history but good things too: Civil Rights movement, Feminism, Flappers!, old Hollywood

        Firstly, the Civil Rights movement would have never been necessary, if the patriarchy had not been abusing minorities to begin with. Much suffering was endured, for many years, before any crumb of justice was realized.

        Secondly…. old Hollywood? Isn’t that the same Hollywood that liberally sprinkled their productions with exaggerated stereotypes of African Americans?

        It sounds to me as if you are speaking from a position of white privilege. I’m white too, but I do my best to see things from the perspective of other minorities. That’s important, ya know.

    • Can a feminist be a patriot?

      As replies above indicate, opinions vary.

      I think it also depends on how you define patriotism. “My country right or wrong” is obviously ethically indefensible, but that doesn’t mean that feminists wouldn’t fight to protect their neighbours from attack. So where does the line fall between repellent jingoism that only furthers the interests of the elite, and pragmatic self-interest and social obligation to one’s own community?

  35. I’m trying to explain to my 64 year old step-father why calling a women on tv (Paula, I think, from Top chef) a slut, is not helpful (or appreciated, tolerable, etc, etc,) even if he’s doing it because, quote, she dresses, talks, and behaves to be sexy and attract viewers, and ‘it’s an insult to women’ since it’s totally unnecessary and unrelated to the show, unquote.
    I’m looking for a simple, direct argument to use on a mildly feminist man who doesn’t get the idea PC language. Any suggestions?

    • 1. The word “slut” in this context is like slag / bitch / ho / tramp / whore / skank / girl / chick / woman / wife; it functions as an umbrella term that strips a woman of her unique characteristics and flattens her into nothing more than a ratings-bumping object.

      So while television exploits women (well, everyone), what’s happening here imho is that something about Paula’s sexiness is triggering feelings of enticement and guilt in your step-father, causing him to react aggressively. Of course, he could just be casting his net wildly, trying to find his feminist fish. Ain’t nuttin’ wrong w/ dat.

      Ergo, he’s buying the idea that Paula’s sexiness gives her value. Why focus on how she is marketed when she’s up there cuz she can hold her own in a kitchen show???? And a KITCHEN which is a hella boys’ club to begin w/ (can vouch, I work in one). And she’s exec sous chef! Damn!

      So in calling her “slut”, is he ragging on the network for for exploiting her, on her for allowing herself to be exploited, or on himself for buying the exploitation?

      2. The clincher is this. When he calls her a slut, he sends the message to you, his wife, his mothers, sisters, girl friends, and all the males in his life that there are limits to how women can conduct themselves “respectably”. Men, too (and all the genders inbetween), but we’ll stick with women here.

      In what arena can a woman be herself without worrying that she is going to be (mis)judged?

      If you wear a certain outfit for a night out w/ your ladeez, does it make you a slut? If you come on to a dude (or chick) and use your sex appeal to turn his/her head, does that make you a slut? If you win a television competition and get your own show, make bank, open your own restaurant and get a merch line, does that make you a slut (she hasn’t done all of the above yet but you know)?

      Objectification happens on the viewer’s end. Not the object’s end. She’s not a slut.

      He makes her one the minute he slaps that label on her fine-cheffin’, last-round makin’, boys’ club infiltratin’, sklilionaire ass.

      Also, Gordon Ramsey doesn’t d*ck around though he does slag off when provoked. HA!

      • To add: Strong women are sexy. Strong women can be intimidating. Strong + Sexy + Skills = Slut? How does that equation work?

  36. I’d like to see a few posts on the main differences of opinion among feminists.

  37. So, I was on some feminist site/blog/whatever, I don’t even recall which now.

    There was a discussion going about unwanted touching in bars, and quite a few women (feminists) there remarked that a man grabbing a woman’s ass in a bar = sexual assault, if not outright rape.

    I pointed out that the last time I was out in a bar, a woman grabbed my ass, and do they also find that to be sexual assault, if not rape.

    Response? Overwhelming “shut up, ‘mra’ “, “it’s not the same”, “you’re showing your fear of empowered women”, “another mra that hates a sexually autonomous woman”, and more in the same vein.

    So, I’d like to know why it is, that a man giving unwanted physical contact to a woman = rape, but when a woman does it, it’s “sexual empowerment”.

    • 1. Traditional internet response: cite (link) or it didn’t happen
      2. Any unwanted physical touch meets the legal criterion for assault (and also for battery in the UK/Commonwealth). That most uninvited social touching is not the grounds for a police complaint that might lead to prosecution is due to the complicated nature of our social interactions, but the fact remains that potentially slapping a friend on the back could, in certain circumstances, constitute assault. More people should be aware of this.
      2a. Physical touch around either the primary or secondary sexual organs or the buttocks is considered sexual touching and if uninvited/unwelcome then that constitutes sexual assault.
      3. There are degrees of sexual assault, but rape has always been held to mean penetration of a bodily orifice, so if someone said that grabbing an ass was rape, they were simply wrong. It happens.
      4. Most feminists would view grab-ass as minor sexual assault and be more concerned about the sexual harassment aspects of the action. Like many actions which can constitute harassment, it’s not harassment until the perp has been asked to desist and refused to do so, and the same act can possibly be welcomed from a different person who has a different relationship to the subject. So, grabbing an ass can possibly be playful or flirtatious, or it could be a domineering and intimidatory action – it depends upon other factors in the relationships and motivations of the people involved.
      5.That the same act can be viewed differently depending upon the implicit relationship between people is not at all unusual under the law – a family member taking money from a wallet is assumed to be borrowing unless the owner of the wallet specifically objects, while a stranger taking money from a wallet is assumed to be prima facie theft.
      6. Uninvited, unwanted, unwelcome physical contact is assault no matter who is contacting whom. Flirtatious, welcomed physical contact is not assault no matter who is contacting whom. The difference lies not solely in the intention of the toucher but primarily in the perceptions of the person being touched.

      • Could I ask more about your point (2)?
        Doesn’t this strike you as rather problematic, that the law of assault is so broad that most of us are guilty of it several times a day and just choose to ignore it? It seems to me that one consequence of this is that it means people’s understanding of what’s acceptable needs to be completely divorced from the actual legal position, and then it’s hardly suprising that people don’t understand, or even care about, the legal definition?

      • Doesn’t this strike you as rather problematic, that the law of assault is so broad that most of us are guilty of it several times a day and just choose to ignore it?

        People are only guilty of assault if the physical contact is unwelcome. If your friend welcomes you slapping them on the back, then it’s not assault.

        Think about it. Professional boxers have entered into an agreement to hit each other hard and hurt each other to decide a sporting contest. None of the punches thrown in a boxing ring constitute assault because they are welcomed contact under the rules of engagement.

        Assault has always been about whether the contact is welcomed by the person being touched by another person. (eta) I certainly haven’t touched anyone today in a way that wasn’t welcomed by them. Have you really done that several times in an average day?

      • Well, I was thinking more without explicitly asking permission beforehand. I wouldn’t touch someone in a way which I would *expect* to be unwelcome, but I might sometimes tap someone on the shoulder to get their attention, for example. It’s unlikely anyone would object to this enough to consider it assault, but that’s entirely beyond my control.

      • Hugh, this is around the point where the legal phrase that goes something like “usual expectations of a reasonable person” comes in.

        A reasonable person would expect that someone with whom they had an ongoing personal relationship with (relative, friend, neighbour, colleague) would generally not be likely to object to being tapped on the shoulder to get their attention. It is also reasonable to expect that if a stranger dropped something and you picked it up and tapped them on the shoulder to get their attention so that you could hand it back to them, that most reasonable persons would not object to that touch. When that is likely to be the finding of a jury, and is very obviously likely to be the finding of a jury in the eyes of the prosecutors, then it is unlikely that a prosecution would ever go ahead even if the touched person did make a formal complaint and even if that complaint did lead to the initial laying of charges.

        By contrast, if the person objects to being touched (whether on the first or a subsequent occasion), and then the other person continues to touch them anyway, that is unambiguously assault (and probably also harassment).

        Touch on the parts of the body considered sexual is a special case – it is considered ipso facto offensive/invasive and generally expected to be unwelcome unless the two people have an especially close relationship. Thus a stranger touching someone on a part of the body considered sexual doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt that a stranger touching other parts of another person’s body would get.

      • Sure, you won’t be prosecuted for assault if you tap someone on the shoulder, but then you’re already employing a very different standard than the one the letter of law is setting. That’s what I have a problem with – because the law is absurdly broad you (and all reasonable people) are forced to make up your own standards of behaviour.
        So then, on the one hand, if you point out to someone that their behaviour constitutes assault (or, y’know, something portrayed in a film or on tv) you can’t expect them to accept that this automatically makes it unacceptable.
        And on the other hand, if someone *does* greatly take offence at being tapped on the shoulder (by someone they haven’t previously told not to, etc.), what can you tell them other than that they are being ‘unreasonable’? Obviously it’s pretty improbable, but it seems like a very dangerous precedent.

      • but then you’re already employing a very different standard than the one the letter of law is setting

        No, I’m not.
        * Any unwelcome physical contact is potentially assault.
        * Only the person being touched can determine whether they find the touch unwelcome.
        * If the person who made the contact immediately backs off when told that the touch is unwelcome, I submit that you wouldn’t find a jury anywhere who would find that person guilty at trial, unless the touch is blatant sexual groping, when even a single contact is considered grossly invasive and unacceptable to many community standards (and would likely be prosecuted as sexual assault rather than general assault).

        So then, on the one hand, if you point out to someone that their behaviour constitutes assault (or, y’know, something portrayed in a film or on tv) you can’t expect them to accept that this automatically makes it unacceptable.

        Sure, what should make it unacceptable is that the touch is unwelcome. That should be enough, but we both know that for some folks it isn’t.

        And on the other hand, if someone *does* greatly take offence at being tapped on the shoulder (by someone they haven’t previously told not to, etc.), what can you tell them other than that they are being ‘unreasonable’? Obviously it’s pretty improbable, but it seems like a very dangerous precedent.

        How about a simple apology for making them feel uncomfortable/threatened? Why do you need to tell them that you feel they are being unreasonable? Who are you or anyone to be the arbiter of what sort of touch another person should find acceptable?

      • Ok, attempting some quote-y mark-ups:

        [quote]* If the person who made the contact immediately backs off when told that the touch is unwelcome, I submit that you wouldn’t find a jury anywhere who would find that person guilty at trial,[/quote]

        Absolutely, there’s no way this is going to get prosecuted, but again this is a different standard — you can have assaulted someone but not have reasonably expected the contact to be unwelcome, and you might well not face criminal prosecution or conviction over it, but that’s not the same as not having assaulted the person.

        [quote]Sure, what should make it unacceptable is that the touch is unwelcome.[/quote]

        But also that it could reasonably have been expected to be welcome? Because otherwise we’re just saying “well you’ll know not to do that to that person next time”, but not really expect the shoulder-tapper to modify their behaviour in general — we don’t think they’ve actually done anything *wrong*?

        [quote] Why do you need to tell them that you feel they are being unreasonable? Who are you or anyone to be the arbiter of what sort of touch another person should find acceptable? [/quote]

        Sorry, I wasn’t very clear there, I meant ‘say’ in a more vague nebulous sense. Of course people can find whatever they like unacceptable, but what might be considered unreasonable is their taking offence at other people (who don’t yet know this) making what they, and society generally, considers reasonable judgements of what is likely to cause offence. Isn’t that rather the judgement your hypothetical jury is making?
        …is that at all readable? Let me know if it’s not and I’ll try to reword it a bit.

      • Hugh, this is how lots of laws work, not just the laws on assault. One doesn’t tend to complain to the police if a friend takes your pen to use, and maybe not even if a very close friend “borrows” something far more valuable (money from your wallet taken by your sibling?), but if a stranger does so one yells “Stop Thief!”. The friend and the stranger are doing exactly the same thing, yet one reacts differently. One might also react differently to a friend/sibling at one time of one’s life than one does further down the track (“tough love” for someone stealing from friends and family to support an addiction, for example). People, law enforcement and the courts apply exactly the same class of social filters to assault as they do to theft. What is the alternative?

        As to the difference between personal reactions and the “reasonable judgement” of the jury – the jury has been tasked by the court with sober consideration of all the facts laid before them, and have sworn an oath (or affirmed their commitment) to do so. People with a strong emotional reaction to the facts of the case have been subject to challenge by the lawyers for both/either the defence and prosecution before the trial begins. The two situations are hardly comparable.

        PS use basic XHTML for text markup

  38. 1. Traditional internet response: cite (link) or it didn’t happen

    I just said I don’t even recall which it was. This is “Ask a Question”, not “Demand 500 pieces of e-vidence for what prompted this question”. I’m not going to dig through a couple weeks of internet history in an attempt to find the exact site, column, and comments thread it occurred on. I’m just not. Sorry.

    3. There are degrees of sexual assault, but rape has always been held to mean penetration of a bodily orifice, so if someone said that grabbing an ass was rape, they were simply wrong. It happens.

    I have to ask: You don’t find that a problem in any way? The stereotype it generates? That only men can commit rape? Even you putting it into print makes me uncomfortable.

    Though, sadly, what I gather you’re saying here:

    Man grabs ass, obviously unwanted assault. Woman grabs ass, obviously wanted flirtation?

    All that did was put you in agreement with them, not explaining WHY there’s this distinction.

    • (a) Well, ask a traditional troll question and get a traditional troll response. Perhaps you’re not a troll, but if you haven’t done enough reading around to realise that your question looks typically trollish, perhaps you ought to think about some of your assumptions.

      (b) You really do need to rethink some of your assumptions. Penetration does not have to be penile – it can be digital, oral or using an object, so obviously the definition of rape as penetrative does not in fact imply that only men can commit rape. Also, the definition includes all forms of penetrative sexual contact, so unwanted penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex is rape even when the person who doesn’t want the sex is the person possessing the penis. (edited to add – some of the “loaded baggage” around the word rape is what has led to revisions of criminal codes to instead have crimes of various degrees of sexual assault – a very good move in my opinion as more precision in this area is helpful)

      (c) Reread what I wrote (emphasis added).

      Uninvited, unwanted, unwelcome physical contact is assault, no matter who is contacting whom. Flirtatious, welcomed physical contact is not assault, no matter who is contacting whom. The difference lies not solely in the intention of the toucher but primarily in the perceptions of the person being touched.

      I really didn’t think that I needed to add “therefore unwanted grabbing of a man’s arse by a woman is assault” after writing that. It seemed kinda obvious.

      • [ Alert: Potentially PTSD-triggering content below]

        *

        *

        *

        P.S. more on the loaded language values attached to the word rape – because the word originally meant “theft” and there is a wide range of common usage variations in what the word rape can be taken to mean (for just one modern slang example, defeated gamers talking about having been “raped” when their character is killed or “dude, I totally raped you” when they defeat another player), this is exactly the reason that the term sexual assault is preferable not only in criminal codes but in general discussion.

        Some legislation traditionally has defined rape only as penetration of the vagina with a penis, and I agree that not only does this create a pernicious stereotype of only men as rapists but it also allows any rapist in those jurisdictions who chooses anal penetration or rapists who use objects to be charged only with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm which typically does not result in as lengthy a sentence as a rape conviction (and when the defence can plausibly argue that the bodily harm was just part of “rough sex” it might well result in no conviction at all).

        I particularly applaud the legislatures who have defined degrees of sexual assault depending upon whether or not penetration occurred and/or whether bodily harm (grievous or not, and including the administration of incapacitating substances) was inflicted. All unwanted sexual contact is a violation of bodily integrity, but the harm done does depend upon exactly how that unwanted contact took place, and the law should take into account both the degree of harm done and the level of premeditation involved.

  39. a) Well, ask a traditional troll question and get a traditional troll response. Perhaps you’re not a troll, but if you haven’t done enough reading around to realise that your question looks typically trollish, perhaps you ought to think about some of your assumptions.

    Well, how is it “trollish” to ask a question, about a personal experience?

    Also, dumping any male that has a male view, or a question about a male experience, into the “MRA TROLL” pile is pretty damn dehumanizing.

    It doesn’t help when one side tells us we’re “unmanly” for finding unwanted sexually-tinged contact to be, in fact, unwanted, and the other side, that should be embracing us for it, also sends us away, just, instead of calling us unmanly, they just call us “troll” or tell us we’re lying, and made it up.

    Yet, people wonder why men DON’T want to speak up about being victims of unwanted sexual contact.

    Sorry for the tangent, but it bothers me.

    (b) You really do need to rethink some of your assumptions. Penetration does not have to be penile – it can be digital, oral or using an object, so obviously the definition of rape as penetrative does not in fact imply that only men can commit rape.

    It still says it without directly saying it.

    Still, it never really addressed my question. Why a distinction is made? Why is it, that they’re more likely to refer to a woman doing a bit of grabass as “flirting”?

    I am really, honestly curious for some kind of insight here.

    • Hm – thought I replied to this yesterday, but it’s not here.

      Well, how is it “trollish” to ask a question, about a personal experience?

      Strawman. That’s not what was trollish. What is trollish is you expecting that this group of women here explain and justify to you what another group of women somewhere else said/did, as if feminists are some sort of hivemind.

      I never called you an MRA, either. Do try and actually interact with me, personally, instead of the hordes of feminazis apparently wandering across your screen.

      It doesn’t help when one side tells us we’re “unmanly” for finding unwanted sexually-tinged contact to be, in fact, unwanted, and the other side, that should be embracing us for it, also sends us away, just, instead of calling us unmanly, they just call us “troll” or tell us we’re lying, and made it up.

      I agree that you are in a difficult position. You’d get more sympathy for it if you weren’t demanding that we explain someone else’s opinion offered at an occasion where we were not present.

      (b) You really do need to rethink some of your assumptions. Penetration does not have to be penile – it can be digital, oral or using an object, so obviously the definition of rape as penetrative does not in fact imply that only men can commit rape.

      It still says it without directly saying it.

      Bullshit. There are other things that can be used to penetrate orifices other than penises, and women can use them just as well as men. You appear to be hooked up on penetration=penis, but not everybody else is, especially not legislators who have carefully included language about digits, mouths and objects in the letter of the law.

      Still, it never really addressed my question. Why a distinction is made? Why is it, that they’re more likely to refer to a woman doing a bit of grabass as “flirting”?

      I DON’T KNOW BECAUSE I’M NOT THEM AND I WASN’T THERE.

      • I believe the problem the poster was alluding to was to do specifically with the loaded nature of the word ‘penetrate.’ To the layman penetration implies that the wrong-doing is necessarily on the part of the penetrator rather than the penetrated. While this is true in general, your clarification above, “so unwanted penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex is rape even when the person who doesn’t want the sex is the person possessing the penis,” does indeed indicate that is not always the case.

        I think the problem the OP had was that the language encountered in the first instance implied that as far as PIV was concerned only one party could be at fault. The flip-side would have been if the line had read something like, ‘unwanted envelopment of one sexual organ with another.’ Mechanically both things describe the same situation, but the inference as to which party is the aggressor is reversed.

        I understand that PIV isn’t the only form of rape, but since it is what is generally thought of in the first instance, I believe that is why the OP found the language problematic.

  40. I am trying to locate information on my rights in the work place and if I have a legal complaint about a boss that continually refers to me as a “girl”. For example “the girls can do it” or “have one of the girls blah blah”. I am 54 years old, I have mothered three children, earned a degree as an adult working full time and raising my children alone. I am not fluff. I am a woman. Does anyone know- do I have legal recourse???

    • Oh dear, I’ve just realised I’m late with replies to some of the questions in this thread. Apologies all.

      @Kay, that sounds like potentially the building blocks for a harassment case based on your boss creating a “hostile workplace environment” but those condescending phrases alone may not be enough to make a substantive case. You would need to check with an appropriate legal expert. Your national feminist organisation can probably recommend some.

      @me, we don’t have anything like that as yet. A related style of communication is described in several wonderful posts dedicated to the phenomenon of “mansplaining” – start at Zuska’s series: You May Be A Mansplainer If…, Men Who Cannot Follow Clear Directions From Women, The Thread That Keeps On Giving… and You Femsplainers Just See Sexism Everywhere. You should find some solidarity with other women posting there and perhaps some good ideas for explanations in clear and simple language.

      @Nessie, right now my brane is rather fuzzy and I can’t think of anything useful. I know I’ve read good arguments against that kind of thinking, I just can’t think of where.

  41. Hi, I looked in the FAQs but I didn’t see anything that looked relevant… Is there an article here for a guy who has to be always right, who says “i love women” the way most people say “i love chocolate” or “i love kittens”, who absolutely cannot think of a woman as a person whose opinions need to be respected or even listened to? I’m sure there’s stuff on here about male privilege but I think even that is too advanced a theory for him to be starting out with and honestly I do not have the time or energy to waste on educating him. plus if it only comes from me then of course I’m making it all up and imagining things.

  42. Hey,
    sadly i could not find an answer to my question:

    The argument people tell me most is:
    Talking about female rights just reinforces the inequality because you keep talking about the differences and keep them alive while talking about them.
    The best thing is to act as if there were no differences because only then they can disappear.

    Of course I understand what people mean with this. But still I totally disagree. Because ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. But if these people say, that they don’t make a difference and that their refusal to keep talking about the existing differences confirms that, I don’t know what to answer.

    This question is not if inequality still exists. It is how to argument against the opinion that inequality will never be overcome if we keep talking about (and hence emphasising) the differences.

    Thank’s for your help. (I hope.)

  43. A discussion over at Geek Feminism made me notice that we don’t have anything about affirmative action or any conscious decisions to try and correct institutional or personal biases against less privileged people. I guess the question would be something along the lines of “but doesn’t feminism hurt deserving men who will be rejected in the name of equal opportunity?” or something like that.

    • @Mary, great idea. Anybody want to volunteer to get that one started?

      @Sinead, I’m not sure that there’s a quick and simple way to explain to your sister about the sexual intimidation aspects of what is brushed off as just male admiration. It’s something that one needs some basic feminist grounding first to appreciate, I think. Perhaps talking about more obvious examples of sexist stereotyping and how they are harmful for a while (weekss/months sort of a while) could get her ready to see more what you mean?

  44. My 18 year old sister recently got checked out by two guys in a very
    obvious, sexual way. They just walked past us and made “appreciative”
    gestures etc etc. They also seemed like the kind of guys who only want
    women for their bodies (I’m pretty sure they only started to become
    interested when they saw her from behind…)
    However, nothing out of the ordinary and it wasn’t particularly
    offensive, but it made me somewhat uncomfortable. I tried to tell her
    why I thought these guys were out of order but I really didn’t know
    how to explain why and we ended up having a really pointless argument.
    They didn’t do anything to her, they didn’t do anything other than
    IMPLY that she was something they liked, so why was it wrong?
    It just seemed that to me this action of theirs was a sexist display
    of male power, but I’m not quite sure why.

    I often have this dilemma with her, because she is a very typical
    short-skirt-low-cut-top-fake-tan-grind-against-men-in-clubs-judge-girls-who-don’t-shave
    type of girl, and i never know how to pose a sensible argument about
    why what she enjoys doing isn’t something I agree with.

    Any ideas how I can put forward a logical explanation for my opinion
    without sounding like the crabby older sister who just wants to spoil
    her fun?

  45. Hello everyone,

    I’m a pro-feminist beginner and I’d be grateful for some help with terminology. Can anyone point me to an explanation of the thinking behind respellings like ‘herstory’ and ‘persyn’? I’ve done a fair bit of googling but it only seems to bring up uses of such spellings and occasional off-hand criticisms of them, not explanations. I’ve also done my best to search this site, of course, but I haven’t found anything (though it’s possible that since the recent changes to the layout there’s some mis-match between instructions on where to look for things and where those things now are). If I’ve missed it, could someone very kindly give me a pointer?

    In particular what I’m wondering is this: I understand ‘womyn’ / ‘womon’ because there’s patriarchal thinking embedded in the etymology of the word ‘women’ / ‘woman’: making a word for ‘female human being’ out of an old word for ‘female human being’ plus an old word for ‘human being of any kind’ implies that the normal type of human being is a male one, and so a female one is an odd variant requiring a modification of the gender-neutral term; but words like ‘history’ and ‘person’, although they happen by coincidence to contain collections of letters that also make the masculine-gendered words ‘his’ and ‘son’, have no misogynist assumptions built into their etymologies, so the alternative spellings must have some other rationale, and I’d like to find out what it is.

    Many thanks.

    • Herstory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herstory

      I’ve not come across persyn before. I assume that, like herstory, the idea is to eradicate the male pronoun from within the word. I’m a believer in gender neutral language, I think using ‘their’ as the default instead of his is important for instance. However, I’m rather against changing language when no such bias actually exists from the etymology of the word. The his in history does not have a male origin, it comes from the latin historia.

      I tend to think when we change language in this way we artificially enhance the perceived sexism of the past. Creating folk etymology in this way can turn someone’s innocent comment into something hurtful and patriarch reinforcing. I think we all have a responsibility to properly educate ourselves before turning every instance of three letters occurring together in a certain order into sexism.

      • I think that respelling “Herstory” is different from “womyn” or “persyn” – the respelling emphasises satirically the rhetorical point to be made about how the methodology of formal history has meant the erasure of women’s lives in the scholarly literature that is quite worthwhile, and has led to many women’s historians making new ground for themselves as scholars by seeking out material that shows how history was for the women who lived in it and not just for the men.

        Womyn and persyn, by contrast, are rhetorical but not satirical in the same way, largely because when spoken there is almost no difference in sound to the original word.

    • Thank you both for your answers!

  46. what does TAB stand for

    when people describe themselves, they sometimes say TAB

    • TAB is the abbreviation for “Temporarily Able-Bodied” – it acknowledges that disability could be part of anyone’s identity tomorrow even if it isn’t the case today. You might sometimes see CND for “Currently Not Disabled” used in the same way.

  47. Ignorantly posted this to the suggestion thread two months ago, just noticed my mistake.

    It would help me, and therefore, I arrogantly assume, others, if someone took an anti-feminist bingo card and explained each square, or more realistically linked each square to an extant post that explains it. I was looking at the ones from Hoyden About Town in April, and there were items I’m unclear on the problem with, and others I think I understand but wouldn’t want to be on the wrong track.

  48. Apologies, I think I put this question on another page before I realised there was a ‘just ask’ page.
    I consider myself to be a pro-feminist/ally male, politically, but I have been wondering about my own feelings on this issue. In my ‘fantasys’ as it were, I lean towards D/S. Why? I feel deeply for the inequalities that exist, and would never even consider touching a woman without her permission. I go with the ‘no is default’ idea, in that a person doesn’t consent unless they say yes.
    But yet I still have fantasys about control and dominance. Does this make me bad? What’s more, why do I have such fantasys if my politics and ethics find it so repugnant?

  49. A while ago I made a lewd comment to my friend. She responded by stating that the comment was sexist. After I got her response, I thought about it and realized that (a) I didn’t used to make comments like that because it felt like a negative stereotypically masculine thing to say (b) I probably felt more okay making comments about wanting to sleep with a lot of women because I spend a lot of time conversing with women who will talk about wanting to sleep with a lot of men, and (c) I still don’t want to be the type of person who says things like the one I did. I replied with part (b), and she replied that my second comment was also sexist.

    After receiving a fairly condescending admonition to “brush up on my feminist theory,” I’ve gone and looked through a lot of sources (including a lot of this blog) and still have not found anything to tell me why my statements would be viewed as sexist. So, can someone either explain to me why the second comment is sexist (or why the first is sexist, despite the second not being sexist, if that’s the view you take)?

    tl;dr: Why would it be considered sexist to make a comment along the lines of “I want to have sex with a lot of attractive members of the opposite sex,” if, among almost everyone I know, it’s perfectly okay for women to make such comments too?

  50. Recently, I’ve entered into a debate with Dick Masterson followers. The male commentors are easy to deal with as their arguments basically come straight out of the FAQ. My problem is the anti-feminist female debators (not to mention ALL female ant-feminists). I mean, it’s not like I can point out their blindness due to male privilege. I’ve looked but have not found anything substantial enough in the FAQ to deal with them. (sorry ahead of time if I overlooked something).
    ex. of Female anti-feminist=

    Right on.

    Most women want it both ways, they want men to treat them like fragile creatures and at the same time be considered equals. Holding doors open for women, pulling chairs out etc, is chauvinistic behaviour. Women who don’t get that are retarded. You don’t get that treatment if you’re an “equal”. I personally wouldn’t date a man that wasn’t a chauvinist as we’re biologicially programmed to want a protector, not some pathetic wiener who goes around calling himself a feminist.

    I guess my question is: How does one debate with a female anti-feminist?

    • Hi Calamity,

      Firstly I personally think the statement “I personally wouldn’t date a man that wasn’t a chauvinist” is insanely stupid, and can understand how infuriating it is to debate/argue with someone who has such opposite ideals; but anyway, I thought I might be able to answer your question by outlining some theories I find really useful when debating with people- sorry if you already know all this. I recently read: Female Chauvanistic Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, by Ariel Levy, which looks at some examples of anti-feminist females and (in my opinion) similar females, who see a rise in lapdancing clubs and playboy as evidence of the sucesses of Feminism… It’s a really good book, easy to read, and it gives you alot of information about all the reasons feminism is still needed. She also makes a really good point (which I’m unsure is exclusively her point) that there are other types of power other than sexual power, such as political and economic power which is really interesting.

      Aside from the book I think that in alot of debates with female anti-feminists you can find common ground somewhere as sexism will affect most females in their lives, but I think a major hurdle is how alot of people are unconscious to how they’ve accepted gender roles, i.e. men are protectors, women are submissive, but at the end of the day, the characteristics and personalities of people vary regardless of gender and this is reinforced as people often focus on certain aspects of people to fit in with their gender, i.e. females are seen as more intuitive to the feelings of others and caring but little attention is paid to how physically strong females can be, and vice versa.

      Also the fact that we’re taught how to behave is a good come back to comment such as “we’re biologically programmed to want a protector”, where is the evidence for this biological programming. If anything we’re taught to want a protector just as a lot of males are encouraged to protect others, and relating to my point above, can’t caring for others (a feminine trait) also be protecting them?

      At the end of the day, if you have a logical arguement, (e.g. the majority of gender differences are biological) and you have evidence to demonstrate your arguement (e.g. due to the similarities in the genes of the X and Y chormosomes females (XX) and males (XY) share roughly 99.8% of the same genes- which seems like very very few genes that would account for all the apprently ‘biological’ differences between males and females- [reference] pg. 8, Pink brain, blue brain: How small differences grow into troublesome gaps- and what we can do about it, by Lisa Eliot), and explain your points clearly, and try not to get angry– maybe the most difficult one.

      But I think the most important thing to remember is that some people don’t want to listen, and won’t admit their wrong, my flat mate is one of those people, no matter what you say she won’t listen, and as I’m sure you know, no matter how utterly infuriating these people are they aren’t worth your time.

      I hope that helps in some way!

  51. I am looking for a place to live with other feminists. Are there feminist communities? Feminist cooperatives? Whether a house together or an apartment building, etc. I’d like to know if any feminist organization maintains a database of all such places.

    If that is not possible, I’m interested in living in a lesbian community or a women-only community. Are there databases of these types of places to live? I’m not interested in conservative women-only communities and not interested in religious/spiritual communities.

    How can I begin my research? I’m not getting results on my Internet searches. I’m mostly getting religious organizations, colleges, and women’s shelters.

  52. hello, thank you for this blog.

    on the site reddit.com, there is an ‘anarchism’ subreddit, among others.

    recently an “anti-opression” policy was drafted by certain feminists who felt it was necessary, as guidelines for the moderators to deal with some users whose speech they wanted to restrict (i’m basically ok with this). It can be viewed at the following link:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/Anarchism/comments/d96li/a_proposal_for_an_official_procedure_for_banning/

    However, recently a few more sentences were added, one of which is the following:
    “Practical examples of oppression: “Women are b#tches” is oppressive because it reinforces patriarchy. “Men are pigs” is not oppressive because men, as a group are not systematically oppressed.”

    To me, thats like saying “Canadians are pigs”, isnt it? to me its especially 1) logically indefensible and 2) reverse sexism 3)gender apartheid?

    what do you think?

    thanks for your input

    • Not all insults are oppressive. Oppression is a system that can be reinforced by certain insults that echo the status quo, but if you’re not a member of an oppressed class, then the worst insult in the world is just insulting you, it’s not oppressing you.

      There is absolutely no doubt that “men are pigs” is just as insulting as “women are bitches”. That doesn’t mean that both insults are equally oppressive.

  53. This is an especially good answer Tigtog. Perhaps you might consider using it as the basis for an FAQ. Something like: When is an insult oppressive?

  54. I think this blog is great but, i hope this was mentioned before, are you aware of the google adds put on your site?

  55. Hey. I’ve become much more interested in feminism as of late (I’ve always considered myself a feminist, but I had no idea how bad things really were until I saw the kind of shit that comes out of the woodwork on skeptical blogs when feminism comes up) and have been trying to do my part to educate those I know. Most of the people I associate with in meatspace are nominally feminist (the true feminists all seem to be in cyberspace, sadly), but the one thing that keeps coming up is that age-old argument spouted by men in bars everywhere and reinforced by television shows and movies, especially the tripe known as “romantic comedy” (that new ‘Friends with Benefits’ film comes to mind…ugh! But I digress…): women are the gatekeepers of sex, which makes them inherently powerful.

    Now, I can understand the goal-oriented thinking and how it may be bad, and I can understand the implied “we poor men can’t control our impulses”, but the former is mitigated by setting rules (such as, say, mandating clear and enthusiastic consent) and the latter is an outright falsehood — so the point still, at least nominally, stands. I poked through some of the FAQs and categories that seemed relevant, but wasn’t able to find anything even though this is such a common canard…have I not been looking hard enough? If so then I apologize for wasted time, but if not then a premature thanks to whomever directs me to the right information — in either case, perhaps this should be added to the FAQ Roundup?

  56. I have a question about sexuality, from a hetro sexual perspective, if/when gender is expressed on a spectrum rather than feminine vs. masculine.
    I was talking to someone on the train about the idea that gender is on a spectrum and isn’t polarised, and he asked a question that I found really interesting:

    “How would you know who to pull [kiss/sleep with] in a club?”

    I know it sounds crude and I don’t mean this in anyway to discredit this perspective but just to visualise how it could change our society, how would you?
    I understand the idea that gender is on a spectrum, I know sex and gender are different things, but, correct me if I’m wrong but, sexuality is based on sex so this wouldn’t change if gender was expressed within society on a spectrum, and as a hetrosexual female how would you differentiate men from women, if we didn’t dress/act more feminine or masculine?

    Would we just learn?

    Thanks,

    Emily

  57. Hi,

    I came here looking for suggestions for how to reply to certain common “jokes” by men – such as “Can I watch?” (to lesbians), or “But it’s true, she *does* have a fantastic arse!” when called on their objectification of a stranger. The “But don’t you like to be objectified sometimes?” link is dead (goes to a holding page) – do you have any other suggestions, please?

    Ideally, I’d like to be able to explain *why* such things are wrong, but immediate comebacks would be very useful for people I don’t know as well, or trust to pay attention & try to learn.

    Thanks,
    Jenny

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