FAQ: I’ve got nothing against equal rights for women, but we’ve got that, so isn’t feminism nowadays just going too far ?

Updated: 2010-07-06

aka “Why do we still need feminism?” (see “Does feminism matter?“)

Simple, basic legal equality regarding the right to own property, sign contracts or vote does not always translate into social equality in work, the community or the home. Feminists who point out residual cultural traditions and reactionary business practises that disproportionately disadvantage women are not making it up (see FAQs on Patriarchy, Gender Gap and Objectification).

This FAQ is mostly clarifying-concepts rather than introductory. If you haven’t read any of the basic level FAQ posts (See FAQ roundup here) then I suggest you start with some of those before reading these posts.

I’ve been seeing a lot of “Why we still need feminism” posts around lately. Here’s a few I’ve found powerful. Please add links to other posts on the same theme that I’ve overlooked in comments.

Natasha Walter (orig. in The Guardian): We Still Need Feminism

The suggestion is constantly put out that women must be “free” to choose their own way of life, even if it is clear that many women whose choices are shaped by discriminatory workplaces and poor childcare provision do not feel very free at all. Indeed, even if few people choose to identify themselves as feminists, it is hard to find a young woman who would not sign up to the feminist goals that are meant to be so outdated, such as being treated equally at work and being able to share family responsibilities with their husbands. But even if the desire for equality remains, it is still unmet.

Rad Geek (Rad Geek People’s Daily): Atrocious Dating Violence Against Young Women: We Still Need Feminism

If anyone asks you why we still need an organized, agitating feminist movement, tell them to think of five women they know. Ask them whether they want one of those five women to be tortured by someone she should be able [to] trust. If the answer is no, we still need feminism.

Mr Shakes (Shakesville): Feminism benefits us all

Men need to get it through their heads that they, too, are under the heel of power structures that have no interest in promoting their welfare. They must understand that the rights and privileges that they have hitherto been enjoying fall far short of the privileges they could enjoy were they to try and achieve them. The internecine warfare that occurs between women and men, people of color and white people, straights and gays, as they all squabble like schoolchildren in an attempt to gain or deny rights, is exactly what those in power want.

Aunt B.(Tiny Cat Pants): Remedial Feminism

Does Ivy hate men and want to mock and belittle them at every turn? No. Ivy wants to be able to walk into McDonald’s and get for her daughter a toy without it turning into a lesson in how either 1. Boys get all the cool toys and girls have to learn how to put up with shit. Or 2. Because you’re a girl, you usually only deserve the girl toy, which sucks, but because someone has pointed out that you are “exceptional,” you might be able to get the boy toy.

See how nothing about this has to do directly with boys? This isn’t an anecdote about boys. No one is suggesting that any boy should have to suffer or put up with a shit toy. There’s nothing in this story directly about boys.

(nb a lot of the attitude of the questioner for this FAQ overlaps with “I’m not a feminist, but…”, which is a common utterance by those who notice and are disturbed by instances of sexism, and totally agree that something should be done to combat such sexism, if only they could argue against such sexism without perhaps being mistaken for one of those humourless, hairylegged, manhating feminists)

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

24 comments on “FAQ: I’ve got nothing against equal rights for women, but we’ve got that, so isn’t feminism nowadays just going too far ?

  1. […] FAQ: I’ve got nothing against equal rights for women, but we’ve got that, so isn’t feminism no… […]

  2. […] remain tipped in favor of men in general (if you disagree with that statement, please go read the Why do we still need feminism? FAQ entry first before […]

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  4. […] “I’ve got nothing against equal rights…” at Feminism 101 — explains why the belief that gender equality may be achieved sans feminism is pure phantasmagoria […]

  5. I find that a good post about why we have still NOT got equality today is this one by tekanji at her blog, Official Shrub:


    It’s a list of proof we are still not equal, complete with links. If anyone’s still in doubt, check it out. It’s eye-opening.

    • At this time and age it is very sad that we are still talking about equality and inequality of women,but since its still a sensitive issue,its important for both men and women to realize that feminism is not for aggresive and violent women…’FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYBODY’ and it tries to bring equality for all not just for women but also for men.it is belief in social,political and economic equality of sexes…If all would see the sense in this, we would all view feminism differently

  6. Even in Canada today, womyn make 70 cents to every man’s dollar for the exact same work. Womyn and girls are sexually abused, raped, abducted, and murdered with alarming frequency and it is still taboo to discuss it. Aboriginal womyn in Canada, especially, are going missing every day and no one is doing a damn thing about it. We are not “post-feminism” because we are not “post-sexism”.

    • Wow, Kelsey. Still mouthing those debunked old feminist myths.

      I challenge you to name one, just ONE, employer who pays women less than men for “the exact same work,” one that hasn’t already been sued and sanctioned, that is.

      Oh, you might be able to provide some statistics based on biased and generalized data that feminists use to milk more money from the government for their bogus cause….data that conveniently ignores the job CHOICES women make, as in softer/safer work environments, maternity/sick time off, less seniority, and even then, your 70 cents figure is eye-rollingly, head-shakingly absurd.

      But WON’T name a business, company, or institution BECAUSE THEIR AREN’T ANY except in your “poor-me-victim” mind.

      • Joe, despite your beliefs, feminist researchers are not actually either fools or liars. The various “choices” you mention are accounted for as explainable factors, and even when they are taken into account, an unexplained gender gap in wages remains – unexplained, that is, by other than discrimination against female employees. e.g.

        By looking at a very specific and detailed sample of workers – graduates of the Michigan Law School – economists Robert Wood, Mary Corcoran and Paul Courant were able to examine the wage gap while matching men and women for many other possible explanatory factors – not only occupation, age, experience, education, and time in the workforce, but also childcare, average hours worked, grades while in college, and other factors. Even after accounting for all that, women still are paid only 81.5% of what men “with similar demographic characteristics, family situations, work hours, and work experience” are paid.
        Wood, Robert G., Mary E. Corcoran, and Paul Courant. 1993. “Pay Differences Among the Highly Paid: the Male-Female Earnings Gap in Lawyers’ Salaries.” ‘’Journal of Labor Economics’’. 11:3, pp. 417-41

        Stanford University professor Shelley Correll and colleagues (2007) sent out more than 1,200 fictitious résumés to employers in a large Northeastern city, and found that female applicants with children were significantly less likely to get hired and if hired would be paid a lower salary than male applicants with children. This despite the fact that the qualification, workplace performances and other relevant characteristics of the fictitious job applicants were held constant and only their parental status varied. Moreover, Correll et al. found that the disadvantages were not limited to pay and hiring prospects. Mothers were penalized on a host of measures, including perceived competence and recommended starting salary. Men were not penalized for, and sometimes benefited from, being a parent.

      • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to think the wage gap exists (the U.S. anyway). Since statistics are what they do and they ARE the ones that collect the data on how much people earn for different professions, I tend to trust that they’re not incorrect. Enjoy!

        (first time ever commenting here and trying to html a link properly. Let’s see if that worked…)

      • drat- the html in the last one did not work. Here’s the article I really wanted to link to:


        the other is more about general wage inequality and probably shouldn’t be in there- serves me right for just skimming and not reading carefully.

  7. although there has been great progress there is even more to be made. first of all just because things may appear equal on the surface in some countries many less developed countries are a very long way from getting there.

    also just because there law treats men and women equal the social institutions are very far from being equal.

  8. The concept of equality is traditionally understood to mean “the right to be equal to men”. This becomes problematic when it is extended to the understanding that women must be treated exactly like men if they are to gain equality with men. It implies that women must be treated according to male standards, obscuring the ways in which women are different from men and how they will be disadvantaged because of these differences.
    Initiatives for the realization of women’s rights need to compensate for or cater to the difference, disparity or disadvantage, rather than a “one size fits all” approach. It means taking into account the ways in which women are different from men, and ensuring that these differences are acknowledged and responded to by State measures toward achieving equality.

  9. mariz –
    You mean differences like women can have babies and men can lift heavy things? I don’t see why those differences would account for, say, pay disparity or women’s under-representation in Congress and the Supreme Court or the abysmal incarceration rate in rape cases or why toy dishwashers and ironing boards are marketed to girls . . . and on and on and on . . .

    • I’m still waiting for some hard evidence on that ‘pay disparity’ thing. In feminist Canada?? Nobody seems to be able to name one employer who pays women less then men for the same work. If it were true, why would anybody hire men when they could save on labor costs by hiring women?

      I prefer to think about the abysmal incarceration rate of FALSE RAPE ACCUSERS, which are epidemic.

      Finally, is there some law or something that prevents women from running for public office?

      • If it were true, why would anybody hire men when they could save on labor costs by hiring women?

        (a) Because the reason for the discrimination in the first place is a fundamental belief that women are not as competent.
        (b) Many employers only hire women in lower-paid pink-collar positions even when women apply for better-paid blue-collar positions. As to why, see (a).

        I prefer to think about the abysmal incarceration rate of FALSE RAPE ACCUSERS, which are epidemic.

        Accusers who are later found to have committed perjury etc are charged and penalised accordingly, which is usually a fine and a bond. False accusations of murder do not generally result in incarceration, why should false accusations of rape be treated more severely than false accusations of murder?

        Finally, is there some law or something that prevents women from running for public office?

        Not a law, exactly, but in most places unless you run for an established political party you are far less likely to be successful in your attempt to gain office, and if you want to run for an established political party you have to gain pre-selection (or whatever the equivalent is called in your country). Pre-selectors are mostly male, and mostly select males as their candidates. Coincidence?

      • How about the rate of FALSE MUGGING ACCUSERS? Because they’re just as “epidemic.”

      • “Joe” won’t be back to answer, snobographer, because he was sockpuppeting with different commentor details (so “Mike” won’t be around, either).

        a graphic of a sledgehammer with the word BANHAMMER on its handle superimposed over a weather graphic of grey clouds, with text saying TODAY'S FORECAST: CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF BANHAMMER

      • P.S. To “Joe”/”Mike” – do learn to internet, there’s a good chap. You control your own subscriptions to any website hosted on wordpress.com. Just follow the instructions that are Right There in the emails and cancel the subscription.

    • Why are toy dishwashers and ironing boards marketed to girls?

      My guess would be because it makes money, not because those evil toymakers are misogynistic. That’s because that’s generally a Mom job. Fixing the car is usually a Dad job. Unless Mom really wants to fix the car or Dad really wants to do the dishes, I don’t see a problem with that setup in general… unless you feel that dishwashing and ironing is degrading ‘women’s work’ compared with fixing a car? My self esteem isn’t so low as to believe that the fact that a job has traditionally been for women makes that job degrading.

      Do you believe that making a home for your family and taking care of your children is less important than being a breadwinner? In a stereotypical family setup, the man works outside the home and the woman works within the home. Would you begrudge her, or think less of her than her husband, for that? I wouldn’t. Just because a woman doesn’t have the same job as a man does not make her by default any less important or useful than one, and while a non-traditional family setup (eg the woman works outside the home, the man works within the home, or both work outside the home) is ok by me, I’m also not closed-minded enough to suggest that the way it has been working for thousands of years is ‘wrong’.

      The abuse of women is a serious concern for both men and women. The fact that little girls would rather play mom than dad is not. If feminism, which I believe to be a truly legitimate cause in some areas and cases, is going to be considered more than a joke, we can’t complain about the insignificant things that are simply harmless differences between men and women.

  10. There’s a critique of this answer on Geek Feminism in our comments.

  11. I always liked the girl toy and thought it was better than the boy toy. Why are those the only 2 lessons Ivy can get? What about lesson 3 – being a girl means you get the awesome girl toy which is prettier and better than the boy toy.

    Someone linked me to this site because of my views on feminism and what I was saying in that discussion was the same – rock on with the girl toys, I wouldn’t change my gender for anything.

    • Prettier and better? I understand what many commenters suggest about approving women only through traditional masculine life choices (“female exceptionalism”), but I resent these defenses framed in terms of alleged differences between men and women — instead of interests and decisions made by individuals. I am not less of a woman because I enjoy traditionally male pursuits, like math and science. I am not ashamed of my gender because I’ve always hated pink. Etc. Please give rational consideration to the effect of social conditioning on children, and what happens when they grow up to raise kids of their own who watch them.

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